Travis Linton becomes Rootstown's first-ever two-time state wrestling champion

By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing Co. Published:

COLUMBUS -- Excellent as his career has been, Rootstown senior 182-pounder Travis Linton has spent much of it following in his big brother's footsteps.

It was Garrett Linton who first made it to states and became Rootstown's first state wrestling champion in 2012.

However, the younger Linton brother had a chance to score a new first for the Rovers on Saturday at the Division III state wrestling tournament in Columbus.

He wanted to become Rootstown's first two-time state champion.

Linton got his second straight title, but he had to earn it.

Standing in his was Johnstown Greeneview's Armani Robinson, who finished third at 182 pounds last year. Robinson was leading in the third period before Linton pulled out a 3-2 win to take the title in dramatic fashion.

Linton was the lone state champion from Portage County on Saturday and became the first Portage County League/Portage Trail Conference wrestler since Neal Bailey in 1994 and 1995 to win back-to-back state titles.

Additionally, Linton led the Rovers to a sixth-place finish in the Division III team race with 50 points, tying Rootstown with Beachwood.

Linton admitted he was in trouble against Robinson, but was not going to be denied.

"I just wanted it so badly," Linton said. "I was not going home with nothing."

After a scoreless first period, Robinson started the second period in the down position and got a reversal to take a 2-0 lead. Linton would spend much of the next two periods with Robinson on top of him.

Linton admitted Robinson was an excellent rider.

"He's strong as an ox," Linton said. "That dude is just so strong and athletic."

With about 20 seconds left in the match, Linton was able to wiggle free and get an escape to make it 2-1.

"I thought as soon as I got out, I was going for it," Linton said. "I just dove in, hoping the double-leg was there. Once I got the ankle, I knew I was getting the takedown."

Linton did get the takedown on the edge of the mat to take a 3-2 lead and rode Robinson out from there to claim the title.

Linton was hugging everything in sight after the match, including Robinson. Garrett Linton, on the mat along with Rootstown head coach Craig Wise, was moved to tears by the win.

Wise said he knew it wasn't over until the clock read zero.

"He's a winner," Wise said of Travis Linton. "That's what winners do. If you don't put him away, he's going to come back and find a way."

The win continued Rootstown's incredible surge at the state level. After never having a state champion, the Rovers have now scored four in the last three years -- Garrett Linton in 2012, then Travis Linton and Jake Moore in 2013, followed by Travis Linton's second title on Saturday.

It was the second straight year that Roostown had two wrestlers in the state finals. However, Rovers 152-pounder Zach Ladich knew he had a huge challenge in front of him in Dayton Christian's Jacob Danishek.

Danishek came into the match undefeated at 43-0 and looking to become only the 27th wrestler in OHSAA history to win four state titles.

No three-time state champion has ever lost in his match to win his fourth title.

Given that, in the first minute of the match, Ladich nearly pulled one the biggest upsets in Ohio wrestling history. He got an ankle pick for a takedown, put Danishek on his back and was inches from getting a pin.

"I heard the five count, but I wasn't satisfied," Ladich said. "I wanted to get the pin."

However, Ladich did not get the pin and Danishek reversed him onto his back, tying the match at 5-5 after one period.

Ladich escaped early in the third period to tie the match at 7-7. He shot in on Danishek, but ended up getting taken down and put on his back.

Ladich avoided the pin, but Danishek won 12-7 to claim his fourth title.

"I'm honored I got to wrestle him," Ladich said. "Not everybody gets to wrestle a four-time state champion. I'm still disappointed with myself. I set a goal of winning my first and last match of my career. I fell five points short."

"He's going to get some Division I college coaches attention after that performance," Wise said. "He had a four-time state champion on his back for 20 seconds. That's saying something."

At the Division II level, Crestwood 195-pounder Kenny Jackson had a chance to become the Red Devils' first state champion since Cody Ryba in 2011.

He faced a familiar opponent in Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy's Tyler Maclellan. Jackson lost to Maclellan 3-1 in overtime in the final at the Alliance District tournament.

"I told him to just make sure you just stay focused and you have to finish your shots," said Crestwood coach Dave Wrobel. "We have to take the shot opportunities we have."

In fact, the match was a carbon copy of their match at Alliance for the first five minutes. Jackson escaped to start the second period, while Maclellan escaped to start the third.

The match looked like it was heading to overtime, while Maclellan was able to get an inside single-leg pickup in the last 20 seconds of the match to take a 3-1 lead.

Jackson escaped in the last five seconds, but could not scorem again and lost 3-2.

"Kenny just came up a little bit short tonight," Wrobel said. "The effort was there, and I'm proud of him. At this level, sometimes you come up short."

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