December 15, 2016
Brandon Eagles Longtime Wrestling Team Coach Eyes State Crown
By Tamas Mondovics
There was a time when Brandon High School wrestling fans, and admittedly most local and statewide wrestling enthusiasts, followed the numbers and wondered how long can the school’s so called “streak” last.
The answer came in 2008, when Brandon’s unmatched record of the longest winning streak in the school’s—any school’s—wrestling history at 459 wins, 385 of which under Head Coach Russ Cozart, ended in an unforgettable match against Miami Dade.
While the Eagles 34-year long dual-match winning streak came to an end, its state wrestling championship victories continued to show no sign of coming to a close.
Ending the 2015-2016 winter sports season, Brandon managed to reach its 16th consecutive state title, 27 overall.
The Eagles latest state victory came in March, when the program tallied 159 points on four individual champions to win the Class 2A title at Silver Spurs Arena. Runner up Fort Myers Riverdale had 140 points, and Jesuit came in third at 79.5.
There is little doubt that the Eagles continued success has everything to do with Cozart, 63, who just like the program’s victories, is equally showing no signs of slowing down.
“This is my 41st year of coaching, 37 years here at Brandon,” he proudly said during a recent practice at the high school’s gym, while standing under a wall of state victory banners.
When asked about the secret of his success, Cozart did not hesitate to give credit where it is due.
“I have good kids who want to work hard,” he said, quickly adding, “Of course, my experience also helps.”
Cozart emphasized that the most important element needed for success on the mat is mastering the basic skills.
“The better you practice the better you get,” he told his young wrestles, no doubt for the thousandth time if not more, over his four-decade-long coaching career.
Perhaps the most noteworthy part of being in the presence of Cozart is that he is as strong as ever. Something that the team is not taking for granted.
While currently sharing some of his coaching duties with his son Joe, who is likely to carry the torch at Brandon in the future, Coach Cozart gave no indication of any immediate change of plans, when he said, “Yeah it would be great to see Joe here in the future, and it’s his dream, but I am more focused now on getting my job done and I’m not stopping anytime soon.”