Given the dominance of Ravenna and Crestwood since the formation of the Portage Trail Conference, it's often been the case that the road to the Metro Division title has gone through Route 44.
This year, Route 44 is also the road to the County Division title.
Rootstown staked its claim the County Division dual-meet title by defeating Southeast 39-34 in a tri-meet Thursday at Southeast.
Rootstown defeated Garfield 63-15 and Southeast defeated Garfield 69-12 in the other matches of the tri-meet.
Rootstown improved to 8-4, 4-0 in the County Division. Only a date with arch-rival Waterloo ON Jan. 17 stands between the Rovers and the dual meet title.
Rovers coach Craig Wise was all smiles after the win.
"I graduated (Rootstown) in 1992 and I don't ever recall beating Southeast," Wise said. "They've got a lot of numbers and they can run a lot of guys at you."
Wise said he feels his team is in good position to win the outright County Division title.
"We're a tournament team," Wise said. "We've got a lot of guys who can score points for us. I think we're in good shape for the PTC Tournament."
Meanwhile, Southeast dropped to 8-9, 3-2 in the County.
"We had a lot of missed opportunities tonight," said Pirates coach Bob Noall. "We had a some situations where we went from being up to being on our backs. There were some bonus points that we left out there. Little points add up to a five-point win."
The Pirates will enter the PTC Tournament needing a bunch of things to go right if they wish to repeat as division champions.
"It's not inconceivable, but we really have to up our game," Noall said.
As Noall mentioned, the two teams each won seven individual bouts. The difference was Rootstown got five pins and a major decision, while Southeast had three pins, a major decision and a decision win.
Each team also gained one forfeit win.
Both coaches said the critical bouts came at 113 and 126 pounds.
With Rootstown up 24-14, Rovers freshman 113-pounder Tony Paolucci threw Manny Leslie onto his back and pinned him in 4:57.
"I felt at 113, that was the turning point," Noall said.
Southeast got the points back when freshman 120-pounder Corey Pastva pinned Seth Hayes in 1:17.
However, Rootstown took a commanding 36-22 lead after 126 pounds. Pirate 126-pounder Chad Munger attempted to throw the Rovers' Jason Sadler, but Sadler stepped into the move and put Munger on his back, pinning him at the 3:07 mark.
"He's a pinner," Wise said of Sadler. "He's one of the kids we had move in from Cuyahoga Falls."
Two matches later, Rootstown clinched the victory when 138-pounder Skyler Monte scored a 7-0 win over Dan Eicher.
For Garfield, it was a long evening.
Not only did the G-Men give up 42 points worth of forfeits in each match, but they were without the services of 170-pounder Aaron Yonker. The defending state runner-up is still recovering from a dislocated shoulder he suffered at the Brecksville Holiday Invitational Tournament.
Garfield got a pin from 195-pounder Andy Anderson and a forfeit win from 106-pounder Greg Smallwood vs. Southeast.
Against Rootstown, the G-Men got pins from 152-pounder Tyler Craftsman and Noah Ham at 106, as well as an 8-4 decision from 120-pounder Matt Malinowski.
"I've got a lot of young kids," said Garfield coach Alan Herbart. "We've got some kids that have never wrestled before. It's a work in progress. Every week, we'll work a little harder and hopefully be ready in a few weeks."