Brandon High wrestling coach Russ Cozart set to retire for second time

Brandon High School's gymnasium is known as the "Nest," but it's really a shrine to success. The wrestling team is a nationally renowned program cultivated by Russ Cozart for 43 years, but at the end of this season, the coach is retiring for a second time ending six decades of teaching. 

"It was a childhood dream, and I'm getting near the end here," Cozart told FOX 13 Sports. "It was always a struggle, but it was something that I was made for."

Cozart's goal when he started was to develop just one state champion and win one state title. He eclipsed that in his first year and has smashed just about every record possible, guiding the Brandon Eagles to an unprecedented 27 state championships with 119 state champions and 153 state placer.

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He's also earned a National Coach of the Year and has been elected to two Hall of Fames. Cozart is the GOAT of high school wrestling.

"I didn't think I could be, arguably be, one of the best wrestling coaches in the history of high school wrestling or have the credentials to even measure up to some of the guys out there," said Cozart. "Or bring Brandon wrestling to maybe arguably one of the best high school wrestling programs in the history of high school wrestling in the United States. I never believed we could do that."

His program earned national prominence for the Streak – the longest winning streak in high school sports ever. From 1973-2008, the Eagles went undefeated head-to-head winning 459 consecutive meets.

"The streak that was incredible," said Cozart. "To push it as far as we did and to take it to limits. Then to lose it and then to come back. All the records that we've set, 17 straight titles in a row, undefeated for 34 years. We will have some little records out there. We just won our 50th Hillsborough County Championship in a row, 50 years. I think that's the only one we've got going right now."

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In 2018, Cozart turned the program over to his son Joe, who has continued to carry on the winning tradition. Cozart has been by his side the whole time as an assistant, but retiring from teaching creates some obstacles to the coach. But, he plans on finding a way to be there and continuing the youth program he started in Brandon 43 years ago.

"Maybe I can put that hat on with that little goat on the front of it and hang out at the beach and have margaritas a little bit more," said Cozart. "It's just fabulous."

Wrestling is in his DNA and jokes about spending his entire life teaching to sport he loves.

"It wouldn't be bad to be taken off the wrestling mats in a box," said Cozart. "I can't think of any other way, you know."

Cozart's legacy is already cemented into the program and soon the gymnasium will be dedicated to him – renamed and endorsed by the man who hired him. Who's name is currently on the gym now? Orlan H. Briant.

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What would it mean to him?

"I've had so many rewards, they wouldn't have to do it," said Cozart holding back tears. "It wouldn't mean much if it didn't happen, but if it did, it would be a great honor."

It's one well earned.