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Bring it on, say dual-match masters of Brandon High

It's well known that Brandon wrestlers have little, if any, knowledge of losing. And that's what makes this week special. For a program that has won 397 consecutive dual matches in the past 31 years, this weekend's Jim Graves Challenge the Streak Tournament puts those numbers on instant fast forward.

Brandon will act as host and take on all comers during the 16-team, two-day event that will pit teams against each other bracket style in a dual format.

This is the third year for the tournament, which hands out invitations to all Florida teams, a few of which have said for years they want a shot at Brandon.

"This is exciting for us," Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. "It's exciting to showcase this event. It really puts forth a great team atmosphere, and it's like a big home meet for us."

After two regular season meets (wins, of course), a trip to the Beast of the East tournament in Delaware and the holiday break, the Eagles are looking forward to the match.

"These guys have been working so hard," Cozart said. "They're really looking forward to getting into the gym with all the other teams in front of the crowd."

Four Eagles will take center stage: Franklin Gomez, Cesar Grajales, Rocky Cozart and David Craig.

Gomez, a senior 119-pounder, is coming off the individual championship at the Beast tournament. Gomez moved up a weight class last season and placed third at the state finals.

A 125-pound senior, Grajales lost just once in 50 matches last season, and placed second at the Beast tournament. He has signed a college scholarship with the University of Pennsylvania.

Rocky Cozart, Russ' son, also won 49 of 50 matches last year en route to an individual state title. He has dominated this season at 160 pounds. Cozart has signed with Michigan State.

Craig, a junior, has not lost a match yet. The 171-pounder went 48-0 in 2003 to claim a championship. Coach Cozart credits Craig's maturity as an athlete as his biggest asset.

Cozart also credits events like the Beat the Streak with improving his wrestlers.

"We started traveling to out-of-state tournaments a few years ago, and it was a real benefit. Ours developed from that," he said.

Teams expected to compete include Durant, Wharton, Chamberlain and squads from South Florida. Rival Countryside, which placed second a year ago, won't attend this year. Still, Cozart figures on plenty of competition to keep his wrestlers interested.

"We set our bar pretty high," he said. "And we like to constantly test our team. We've just gotten used to being in a routine of working as hard as we can. That's what these guys represent."

JIM GRAVES "CHALLENGE THE STREAK' TOURNAMENT

WHEN: Begins at 5 p.m. today and 10 a.m. Saturday; finals at 7 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Brandon High School, 1101 Victoria St.

COST: $5 preliminary rounds; $6 championship round.

AT STAKE: The 15 teams that accepted Brandon's challenge will compete with the Eagles in a dual-match, bracket-style event with each winning team advancing until the final two meet. To win, the championship squad must go undefeated.

COMPETITORS: Alonso, Brandon, Cardinal Gibbons, Chamberlain, Clearwater, Durant, Jefferson, Jesuit, Lake Gibson, Plant City, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sickles, Douglas, Titusville, Venice and Wharton.

WRESTLERS TO WATCH: The Brandon squad takes center stage, particularly 119-pound Franklin Gomez, 125-pound Cesar Grajales, 160-pound Rocky Cozart and 171-pound David Craig.

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