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EAGLES KEEP STREAK ALIVE

Their state title streak, that is. Brandon picked up its eighth straight.

Brandon won its eighth consecutive team state title Saturday and its 19th total since 1977.

The Eagles scored 232.5 points, followed by Palmetto Ridge (174) and Manatee with (162.5). Eight Eagles qualified for the finals, and four won individual titles.

Tampa Bay Christian's Rossi Bruno (103) and Tampa Prep's Tyler Liberatore (112) were the first two Hillsborough County state champions. Both are eighth-graders.

Bruno was injured in the first period with a cut lip that nearly caused the ref to stop the match, but coach Mike Joyce asked for time to stop the bleeding. At the time, Bruno was down 5-0.

He went down 7-0 before coming back in the third to win 10-8.

"All the hard work and great coaching paid off tonight," Bruno said. "I am glad Coach Joyce asked if I could continue. Now I am looking to next season, but I will work out all summer."

Liberatore said he was nervous all day waiting for his first state finals match.

"I tried to think of it as just another match, but I couldn't," he said. "Now I want to go to Disney World and then get back into wrestling."

Brandon's power, which didn't show up for the dual loss to Homestead South Dade, was back and dominant in the Class 2A state tournament.

"On paper this tournament was up for grabs, but our guys never flinched in their quest to win," coach Russ Cozart said. "We scored over 45 bonus points and beat a great team from Palmetto Ridge.

"The theme of this tournament was redemption. The kids had great preparation and great execution."

Eric Grajales (130) won the Eagles' first individual championship with a major decision. He finished 57-0 and won his third state title.

"Our team had an amazing first two days," he said. "Even after our dual loss, our guys never doubted themselves. We knew if we had a bad tournament we could lose, but we wanted to win and we did it together."

Kevin Timothy (135) earned a close 3-2 decision, and Joey Cozart, a sophomore, captured his second individual title, winning an 8-3 decision at 140 pounds.

"Our whole team wanted to come back from losing the streak," Cozart said. "We worked on our weaknesses and got better. I am proud of our whole team, especially our two seniors (Phil Uno and Aaron Fullenwider) and (junior) Nick (Hutchinson), because they weren't even expected to be in the finals."

Uno scored a first-period pin in 1 minute, 36 seconds.

Second-place finishers for the Eagles were Sean Padgett (103), Terry Dawson (112), Nick Hutchinson (125) and Fullenwider (285).

Several area wrestlers placed third, including Bloomingdale's Austin Figari (130), Brandon's Wally Figaro (145) and Jesuit's Chris Kavouklis (189).

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