Brandon High's wrestling team is filled with Olympic hopefuls, shocked by vote to drop sport

BRANDON, Fla. - Brandon High School's wrestling state championships date back to 1977. In fact, there are so many wrestling banners decorating the gym, there's really no room to hang any other sports.

One of their star wrestlers, however, isn't satisfied with his state titles.

"Competing for the Olympics, or at least trying for an Olympic spot, has always been my top, main goal," explained senior Kevin Norstrem.

Norstrem won his first state championship in 8th grade. This weekend, he'll compete for his 5th. He won the kids national championship wrestling title at age 10.

If anyone on his high school wrestling team could make it to the Olympics, it's Norstrem.

So, when he heard the news Tuesday that the Olympic committee voted to drop the sport in 2020, his heart sank.

"It crushed me a little bit, knowing that I've been working towards this goal and now it's almost unfeasible," he said.

The IOC wants to modernize the games to attract younger viewers while limiting the number of athletes competing.

Cutting one of the oldest sports isn't just a blow to wrestlers like Norstrem, but to life-long coaches, like Russ Cozart.

"It's going to be a little difficult living without the Olympic dream. Your Olympic torch has basically gone out right in front of your face," Cozart said. "It's always been our goal to get somebody there because it is the highest achievement in wrestling."

Cozart's trained hundreds of state and national champions in his 37 years as a coach. Last year, a former Brandon Eagle, Franklin Gomez, finally made it to the Olympics. Cozart hoped Gomez's triump would be the beginning of many more.

"It's part of a dream that's gone down but I'm sure wrestling on the world level will still exist in world championships," Cozart said.

Cozart will refocus his team toward college scholarships like the one Norstrem just signed with Virginia Tech.

Norstrem hopes the Olympic committee might reverse its decision in May, but if not, he says he'll leave his disappointment "on the mat".

"Don't step off the mat knowing you could've done more," Norstrem said. "Everything you've got, every move you have, every ounce of energy you have needs to be left on the mat, because when you get off the mat, it's over."
 

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