By Martin Fennelly of The Tampa Tribune Published: January 6, 2008 BRANDON - It was just one of those nights for the Brandon wrestling team. Only there hadn't been one of those nights in 12,396 nights. The Streak is over. The glory will never fade. Yes, young Brandon faces were streaked with tears in the Brandon gym after the Eagles fell 32-28 in the finals of the Jim Graves Challenge the Streak Dual Meet Tournament. They never wanted to be the ones. But the last challenger, South Dade High of Homestead, was left standing. At 9:01 p.m., South Dade's Tico Baez defeated Brandon junior Kevin Timothy to clinch a new kind of history, though Kevin, when tears fade, will realize it's not his fault, and that he's part of something that isn't going anywhere. It will stay in hearts forever, probably in the record books, too. "But it's hard right now," Kevin said. Brandon's incredible, impossible, incomprehensible dual match win streak ended at 459, a national record streak for any high school team in any sport. There had never been anything like it. There will never be anything like it. It was about more than wins. It was about the blood, sweat and tears - and family - of the greatest run of success in sports history - 34 years of it. "The Streak is family," said former Brandon wrestler Bret Gustafson, 38, a two-time state champion for the Eagles who came back for this meet. His big brother Todd won state before him. The Streak was the biggest brother of them all. "It's part of our lives," Gustafson said. So it shall always be. A Long, Long Time Ago ... It began on Jan. 28, 1974, when Brandon defeated Robinson, 32-17. That same night, Muhammad Ali beat Joe Frazier in Ali-Frazier II. A few days later, Richard Nixon declared, "One year of Watergate is enough." Think about six more presidents after him. The Streak went on. The Berlin Wall came down. The Brandon Town Center went up. The Streak went on. It put a headlock on the wrestling win record 20 years ago. It blew away the all-sports record 11 years ago. The Streak became a fact of life, like gravity, only The Streak wouldn't fall. Fathers and their sons wrestled for Brandon during The Streak. Eagles everywhere, lift your heads this morning. You soared as no one ever had or maybe ever will. During The Streak, Brandon won 18 state titles and produced 66 individual state championships won by 46 different wrestlers. The coach who began it all was there Saturday night. Jim Graves, who won 75 in a row at Brandon before stepping down in 1980, but still a live wire, always wanted to lay his head down with The Streak still standing. "I'm 63," Graves said. "If we can win this meet, I just might be able to see this through." He pointed to a man on the mat, his replacement as Brandon coach. His name is Russ Cozart. "It never happens without him," Graves said. Russ Cozart's record fell to 384-1 Saturday. "I finally messed up. I finally blew it," he said. "Hopefully, they don't fire me." Cozart smiled. Yes, smiled. He knew this night would come. Heck, he invented the "Challenge the Streak" meet to give the best of the best their best shot at the king. "Get your chins up," Cozart told his kids. He meant it, just as he meant it when he shook the hands of South Dade coaches and wrestlers. There were a couple of thousand people in the gym. Half had pulled for Brandon, half against The Streak. You have to know The Streak had enemies, just like the New England Patriots. Some people were in the gym for the kill. No one died here. Not even The Streak, deep down. Final Victory Says A Lot Want to know when we knew that? It was after South Dade clinched.
There was one match left, at 140 pounds. It was Brandon's Joey Cozart - the coach's son. As the meet with South Dade progressed, Cozart, a state champion, like his three-time champion brother Rocky before him, kept hoping it would come down to him. "I wanted it on my shoulders," Cozart said. He wanted to win for teammates, past, present and future, for his town, and for his dad. It wasn't to be. The 140-pound match was a mere formality. It didn't matter. Or did it? "Go out there and win," Russ Cozart told his boy. "I was dying on the inside, but I couldn't show it," Joey Cozart said. "I had to wrestle." He went out and pinned his opponent. Then he went and cried. But that one last win told you something about The Streak. It was always - always - about not letting anyone down. Brandon fans gave their kids a standing ovation when they saw they wouldn't come back. Has an ovation ever been more deserved? "The Streak gave this community a cornerstone, a gem, a diamond," Russ Cozart said. Then he went and found Kevin Timothy to hug him. Kevin soon talked about starting a new streak next season. Joey Cozart stood outside and talked about his pal. "Kevin is one of my best friends. He'll never let me down." And that, friends, is why nothing died Saturday, because brothers will always be brothers, bound by blood, sweat and, on this night, tears.
A packed crowd looks on during Brandon's Ty Jones match against South Dade's Josh Williams at 119lb during the Jim Graves Challenge the Streak Dual Meet Tournament Saturday night. Photo: Jason Behnken/Staff
South Dade's Luis Montalvo gets the win over Brandon's Mike Ettore in their 152lb match at the Jim Graves Challenge the Streak Dual Meet Tournament Saturday. Photo: Jason Behnken/Staff
South Dade's Tico Baez celebrates after winning his match against Brandon's Kevin Timothy in the 135lb match at the Jim Graves Challenge the Streak Dual Meet Tournament Saturday night at Brandon. Photo: Jason Behnken/Staff
Brandon's Wally Figaro reacts during South Dade's Tico Baez match against Brandon's Kevin Timothy in their 135lb match at the Jim Graves Challenge the Streak Dual Meet Tournament Saturday night. Photo: Jason Behnken/Staff