Portage County wrestling season ready to go

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I seem to say this after every season, but Portage County wrestling will have lot to live up to this winter.

The 2012-13 season produced two of the best Portage Trail Conference races in the eight-year history of the league.

For the second straight year, the County Division was a split title.

Rootstown claimed a share of its third straight title by sweeping the dual meets, while Woodridge put forth a great team effort in the PTC Tournament to force the co-championship.

The Bulldogs won the division tournament title despite not having a single wrestler in a title match.

The County and Metro divisions will each have seven teams this year, with Streetsboro landing back in the County Division after two years in the big-school division.

In the County Division, it looks to be a two-horse race between the two defending champions.

Rootstown lost state champion Jake Moore to Princeton, but the Rovers have the top returning wrestler in the PTC in senior Travis Linton.

The defending Division III state champion at 170 pounds is ranked 18th nationally at 182 pounds InterMat's season-opening poll.

Linton will look to become Rootstown's first-ever multiple state champion, but he's not the only Rover with title aspirations.

Rootstown will get a huge boost from former Field wrestler Zach Ladich transferring into the school district. Ladich, which is a name that dates back in Rootstown history, earned All-Ohio honors last march despite a bout of food poisoning and has to be considered a state title contender at the Division III level.

However, when it comes to sharing division titles, 17-year Woodridge head coach Mike Massey is on the record when he said: "We don't like to share."

The Bulldogs have state qualifiers Mason Hilling and Cody Jenkins back, along with the core of last year's team and perhaps the best incoming freshman class in Woodridge history.

Expect a dogfight when these two teams collide.

As for the rest of the division, Southeast could find itself in rebuilding mode this season. The loss of All-Ohioan Brandon James hurts. The Pirates have a new coach in Scott Vaughn, a former standout at West Holmes High School.

Streetsboro's arrival in the County Division likely will help the Rockets. However, Streetsboro needs to stay healthy and show some consistency to compete. Keep your eyes on junior Tyler Rowland.

Last March, JJ Diven ended a long drought for Waterloo by winning the Division III title at 138 pounds. He went a perfect 50-0 on the season to become the first state champ since Josh Allen in 1995.

However, Diven is now wrestling at Ashland and state qualifier Brandon Brenes also graduated. The Vikings will need to rebuild.

No local team has suffered more misfortune than Garfield over the last 12 months. With Yonker gone, the G-Men are in for a full rebuild.

As for Mogadore, new coach Duane Funk has a solid young team, but the big challenge for the Wildcats is always filling out the 14 weight classes.

Wrestling fans, these are still the good old days of Portage County wrestling. Be sure to check these kids out.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442

Facebook: MLeonardRPC

Twitter:@MLeonard_RPC

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