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By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing Co.
Rootstown wrestling came to its home mats Wednesday night looking to make history.
It was a fight, but the Rovers can make the claim to be the first Portage Trail Conference team to advance to the state dual meet tournament.
Rootstown booked its ticket to Columbus thanks to a pair of hard-fought wins.
First, the Rovers defeated Girard 34-27 in the Division III, Region 19 regional semifinal. Beachwood defeated Berkshire 40-32 in the other semifinal.
Then, the Rovers scored a 37-32 win over the Bison.
With the wins, Rootstown will wrestle at the Division III state dual meet tournament, which will begin Feb. 8 at 11 a.m. at St. John Arena in Columbus.
Rootstown coach Craig Wise said making it to states showed his team has made a lot of progress.
"We're not the greatest dual meet team," Wise said. "It's big step forward for the program. We started nine freshmen and sophomores tonight. Girard had nine seniors."
Indeed, Girard made the Rovers work for it, as the Indians led 15-12 after 152 pounds.
However, Rootstown 152-pounder Luke Sorboro pulled out a 5-2 win, followed by a 14-2 major decision by 160-pounder Zack Ladich for the Rovers.
After giving up a pin at 170, Rootstown got a pin in 1:02 from 182-pounder Travis Linton and a critical 5-3 win from Jacob Elam at 195.
When Rovers 220-pounder Ronnie Jeffers picked up a forfeit win, the Rovers clinched their place in the regional final.
Beachwood coach Dugan Bentley attempted to throw some curveballs at the Rovers, knowing his team was going to surrender some forfeits to Rootstown.
"That was a tough one," Bentley said. "We come throughout the lineup needing everyone to score points for us. We had a game plan, but we had some up kids give up too many points. It wasn't best-case scenario."
"I thought 152 was the critical match for us (against Beachwood)," Wise said. "Winning at 106 and 113 was big for us as well."
In the 152-pound match, Sorboro was involved in a tight one with Beachwood senior Trevor Sanshuck. Sorboro got the match's lone takedown in the third period and hung on for a 3-2 win.
Rootstown got major decisions at 106 and 113, as Brad Trescott won 14-5 and Dalton Leightner scored an 11-1 win, respectively.
After Rootstown got forfeit wins at 120 and 126, the Rovers' Seth Hayes moved up to 138 pounds and scored a 13-5 major decision over Beachwood's Asaf Roth.
Down 24-0 at that point, Beachwood was never able to recover, despite big wins from All-Ohioans Sam Gross and Ryan Harris.
Ladich scored his second major decision of the night at 160, beating Gordon Hong 16-4.
When Beachwood chose to forfeit the 182-pound match to Linton, the Rovers' fans booed, but the six points were enough to clinch the match for Rootstown.
Beachwood won the final three matches by pin, but it was too little, too late.
Wise said that he's not even thinking about states yet.
"We've got to get ready for Friday and Saturday," Wise said. "You have to focus on winning that PTC Tournament."