Platoon of 14 wrestlers from Portage County bound for state championships

By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing Co. Published:

It's showtime, folks.

On Thursday at 3 p.m., the 76th annual state wrestling tournament returns to Ohio State's Value City Arena in Columbus.

Once again, Portage County will be well-represented at states, as 14 wrestlers -- eight in Division II, six in Division III -- head south this week.

Here is the complete list of area wrestlers, in alphabetical order:

Brandon Brenes, Waterloo, senior, 138 pounds: Vikings coach Brian Munger jokingly calls Brenes' style "frustrating." There is so simply no way to prepare for this unorthodox pinner.

Justin Chew, Mogadore, junior, 126 pounds: Chew got a late start to the season due to the season, but is the first Wildcat to reach state since 2009.

J.J. Diven, Waterloo, senior, 195 pounds: Diven carries an undefeated record of 46-0 to states. He quietly has become one of the best wrestlers in Ohio and should be considered a state-title threat.

Brandon James, Southeast, senior, 170 pounds: In a tough season for the Pirates, James has carried the torch. James dominated the field at the Alliance District.

Dylan Kager, Crestwood, senior, 138 pounds: All that's missing from Kager's resume is a state title. Anything less than a trip to the state final -- and another date with arch-rival Ryan Skonieczny -- might be a disappointment.

Kenny Jackson, Crestwood, junior, 182 pounds: While Crestwood has been known for light-weights the last few years, Jackson has been a constant presence in the upper-weights. An All-Ohio finish could be in the cards.

Zach Ladich, Field, junior, 152 pounds: Despite the late start to his season, Ladich has powered through all opposition so far this season. He could be a sleeper pick to win the state title.

Travis Linton, Rootstown, junior, 170 pounds: Linton's goal at states: Follow in big brother's footsteps. If he does, he'll become Rootstown's second state champion in as many years. Linton's schedule has been as tough as anyone in the county this winter.

Jake Moore, Rootstown, senior, 220 pounds: Like Linton, Moore's only losses this season came at the prestigious Walsh Ironman. He has to be the favorite to win in Division III at 220.

Conner Nemec, Crestwood, junior, 120 pounds: Nemec is back at states after qualifying as a freshman but missing out last year. He has one of the best wrestling pedigrees in the area. Look for an All-Ohio finish.

Logan Reaser, Ravenna, senior, 160 pounds: Ravenna's main man has had few hiccups this season and is unflappable under pressure. All-Ohio honors should be within reach.

Cory Simpson, Field, freshman, 106 pounds: Falcons coach Joe Retherford has often compared Simpson with recent Field great T.J. Fox. If he's on Fox's level already, an All-Ohio finish is a virtual lock.

Kevin Stock, Garfield, senior, 182 pounds: After missing the entire regular season following to the death of his brother Nick, Stock returned just in time to dominate the district at Garfield Heights. He likely wants one more shot at Troy Christian's B.J. Toal.

Jake Zemaitis, Crestwood, junior, 113 pounds: Zemaitis reached his second straight state tournament since coming home to Crestwood. This year, he wants All-Ohio honors.

It's going to be another fun weekend at Value City Arena.

Can't make it to Columbus? Follow me on Twitter @MLeonard_RPC. I'll be tweeting from the arena floor.

nnn

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442

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