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Brandon proclaims its innocence to the FHSAA

Four days after the Florida High School Athletic Association began an investigation into allegations of recruiting violations by Brandon's wrestling program, the school's administration responded.

The short answer: We did nothing wrong.

The investigation began Monday when the FHSAA received a letter from Countryside High saying the Eagles recruited wrestlers Franklin Gomez of Puerto Rico and Miami's Marco Toledo at a club tournament over the summer in Fargo, N.D.

Two weeks after the Fargo tournament, the Countryside letter said, Gomez and Toledo transferred to Brandon. The information in the letter was supplied by Countryside coach Dave Frayer, though he, his assistants and their top wrestlers were not at the meet in Fargo.

In Brandon's reply, principal Denny Oest denied all allegations in a cover letter, followed by 12 pages of questionnaires and interviews conducted by athletic director Sonny Hester. Brandon coaches, wrestlers and wrestlers' parents repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Brandon coach Russ Cozart wrote: "At Fargo, N.D., I was there to coach my son (Rocky), (Cesar) Anthony Grajales, Sean Joyce and David Craig. This is the largest wrestling tournament in the world with 3,500 wrestlers from 49 states with 28 wrestling mats laid down. Again, at no time did I seek to make contact or talk to (Gomez or Toledo) at this tournament."

Joyce's father, Mike Joyce, and Grajales' father, Cesar Grajales, each wrote two-page replies, partly to address the Fargo tournament and partly to re-address the fact Gomez is living with Joyce and Toledo is living with Grajales.

An FHSAA appeals board heard the hardship cases involving Gomez and Toledo and allowed the students to play sports at Brandon.

Hester said Toledo came to live with Grajales through friendships between relatives that go back to Colombia; Gomez came to live with Joyce through contacts of a mutual friend in Brandon.

In the cover letter Oest addressed the fact the Fargo tournament wasn't raised during the appeals board meeting, writing: "The reason the summer tournament was not brought up at the hearing is simply that it had no significance towards the policy from which we were seeking relief."

FHSAA associate commissioner Dan Boyd said that whatever comes from the investigation, Brandon's national-record, 30-year-old, 380 dual-match win streak is not in jeopardy.

If Brandon is found at fault, any points Gomez and Toledo scored in this season's matches will be forfeited. But the loss of their points would not be enough for Brandon to lose any dual matches.

Boyd said the investigation could take several weeks, "but there is no timetable set in stone."