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By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing Co.
Rootstown has never advanced more than three wrestlers to the Division III state tournament.
The Rovers have a chance to shatter that record after their performance Friday on day one of the Garfield Heights Division III District tournament.
Rootstown stands second in the team race after day one with 55 points. Waynedale leads with 65.5 points.
More importantly, the Rovers advanced five wrestlers to today's semifinal round, meaning those five are one win away from earning a state berth.
Mogadore also advanced two wrestlers to today's semifinals. Wrestling will resume today at 10 a.m.
Rootstown coach Craig Wise said it was a case of "so far, so good" for his team.
"It's one match at time. Actually, it's one takedown at time at this point," Wise said.
Rootstown came into the tournament with a school-record 12 district qualifiers, though 170-pounder Dillon Wingard was scratched due to illness.
Rootstown's two returning All-Ohioans breezed to the semifinals, as 152-pounder Zach Ladich scored two pins and 182-pounder Travis Linton had a pin and major decision.
"Travis has to know everybody is going to be giving him their best match at this point," Wise said.
Rootstown also advanced 113-pounder Brad Trescott, 120-pounder Tony Paolucci and 132-pounder Jason Sadler to the semifinals.
Sadler's quarterfinal win was the most dramatic, as he avenged a loss to Kirtland's Evan Francis in last year's districts.
Down 2-0 in the waning moments of regulation, Sadler got a reversal to send it to overtime. He then pinned Francis in the sudden victory period at 6:20.
"That kid beat him last year and stopped him from going to states," Wise said. "That was a huge win for Jason."
Rootstown also still has 106-pounder Dalton Leightner, 126-pounder Seth Hayes, 138-pounder Skylar Montie and 145-pounder Luke Sorboro alive in the consolation bracket.
Long-time Mogadore wrestling coach John Tompkins Sr. said the Wildcats haven't had multiple state qualifiers since 1997.
That might be about to change, as the Wildcats will have 132-pounder Josh Tompkins and 138-pounder Justin Chew in the semifinals today.
"Last year, I think Justin was the only one to win a match here," said current Wildcats coach Duane Funk. "We've already had four guys win here, so that's a good sign."
Funk lauded Chew and 170-pounder Bryce Huth for providing "phenomenal leadership for the team." Huth remains alive in the consolation bracket, as does Mogadore 145-pounder Ross Harmon.
Like Mogadore, Waterloo brought six qualifiers to Garfield Heights. Also like the Wildcats, the Vikings have four wrestlers still alive in the tournament, though all of them will wrestle in the consolation bracket.
Senior 160-pounder Josh Horning is wrestling in his fourth straight district tournament, but was stuck with a tough draw. Horning was pinned in the quarterfinal by undefeated Kollin Moore of Norwayne.
Freshman 182-pounder Will Bolanz also reached the quarterfinals, but lost a wild 14-13 decision to Waynedale's Jack Staggs.
"Josh had a stud in front of him. There's no doubt about that," said Waterloo coach Brian Munger. "Will wrestled a great match. I thought we left some points on the mat with some of our young kids. Everybody's got to come back tomorrow."
Waterloo also will have 138-pounder Patrick Jordan and 145-pounder Tarren Lowell alive in the semifinals.
Garfield's season ended Friday, as the G-Men's lone qualifier, sophomore 113-pounder Ben Gibson, went 0-2.
"It's a rebuilding season for us," said G-Men coach Alan Harbert. "Ben Gibson put in a lot of work this year and he's only going to get better."