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By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing Co.
Columbus -- Rootstown 152-pounder Zack Ladich and 182-pounder Travis Linton have been best friends for a long time.
Now the two buddies will get a shot at state gold together.
Ladich and Linton each advanced to their respective state title matches at the Division III state wrestling tournament on Friday. Behind their efforts, Rootstown sits fourth in the Division III team race with 46 points.
They are not alone, as Crestwood 195-pounder Kenny Jackson also advanced to the title match.
"Best friends in the final together," said Rootstown coach Craig Wise. "The only thing that could be better would be both winning state titles."
"Me and Zack have dreamed about this for years," Linton said. "I liked being the underdog, but it's cool to have everybody know you."
After Linton pinned Triad's Rickey Bruce in 5:30 in the morning session, he had a fight on his hands in the semifinal against Delta's Ryan Patchin. Linton said he was under constant attack, but he scored the pin in 5:06 to get back to the state title match.
He will face Jamestown Greenview's Armani Robinson for the title tonight.
"They're all warriors (from Delta)," Linton said.
Ladich had to go through a Delta wrestler in the quarterfinals, as he won 4-2 over Jesse Beverly. That set up a showdown with Nelsonville-York's Dakota Mays in the semifinals.
Linton hit his favorite move, an ankle pick, right at the start of the match and put Mays on his back in the first period. Mays never recovered, as Linton scored a 5-2 win.
He will face three-time state champion Jacob Danishek of Dayton Christian for the title.
"It's an awesome, awesome feeling right now," Ladich said. "I just wanted to let (Mays) know he wasn't getting back in the match."
Linton and Ladich are the only Division III All-Ohioans from Portage County.
Rootstown 132-pounder Jason Sadler lost his consolation match 12-6 to Otsego's Trent Soto.
Mogadore 138-pounder Justin Chew had another close match with Tuslaw's Chance Marthey, but he lost 3-1.
Waterloo 182-pounder Will Bolanz also was eliminated one win shy of All-Ohio, as he lost a 16-1 technical fall to Defiance Tinora's Devin Bouza.
In Division II, Jackson reached the semifinals with a 9-4 win in overtime over Sandusky's Isaiah Margheim.
In the semifinal against Perry's Kyle Kremiller, Jackson wrestled another tight match to win 5-3.
The win sets up a rematch of the finals from the Alliance District, which Jackson lost 3-1 in overtime to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy's Tyler Maclellan.
"It's all I've wanted since I started in wrestling," Jackson said. "You've got to get over the moment here at states and realize it's just another wrestling match."
"He's been really focused this whole weekend," said Crestwood coach Dave Wrobel. "He knew this was his tournament for the taking."
Beyond Jackson's win, Crestwood had a rough quarterfinal, because its other three wrestlers were matched against foes from defending champion St. Paris Graham.
"We knew we had a tough draw in the quarterfinals," said Wrobel. "The next round is big for us."
Crestwood had 132-pounder Conner Nemec, 138-pounder Jake Zemaitis and 145-pounder Nick Wrobel each rebound with wins in the second round of consolations to earn All-Ohio honors.
In the evening session, Nemec won 5-1 over St. Vincent-St. Mary's Garrett Carter, while Zemaitis lost 2-0 in overtime to SV-SM's Ryan Skonieczny. Wrobel lost his consolation quarterfinal match 3-1 to Claymont's Garrett Harding.
Field's Cory Simpson opened the day by pinning Whitehall-Yearling's Ana Abdulijelli in 1:17.
"His eyes are on the prize," said Field coach Jason Windon. "I'm more than impressed with my sophomore's focus."
In the semifinals, however, while Simpson got the first takedown on Graham's Eli Stickley, he lost 6-2.
"Cory's had a wonderful season," Windon said. "It's been a great year for the whole team, minus the injuries."
Ravenna got some revenge for the county against Graham when 170-pounder Brandon Winning beat Graham's Lane Thomas is overtime 9-7 to earn All-Ohio honors.
Winning lost his evening match to Miami Trace's Russell Miller 7-3.
Ravens heavyweight Cody Hawkins was eliminated by a 1-0 loss to River View's Joshua Kempf.
In Division I, Aurora had both of its wrestlers earn All-Ohio honors through the consolation bracket.
After losing 15-4 to Wadsworth's Noah Baughman, 106-pounder Jarrod Brezovec earned All-Ohio when LaSalle's Eric Beck forfeited his match due to illness.
Greenmen heavyweight Josh Burger went to overtime with Mason's Austin Morris before claiming his podium spot with a 2-1 win.
"We've got the bookends on the podium. We just have to fill out the middle next year," said Aurora coach Dick Bliss. "We're very proud of both of them, but what I will say is we're not done yet."
Brezovec won his evening match with Mayfield's Harry Feuer 3-1, while Burger was pinned by Elyria's Kevin Vough in 1:47.