By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing Co.
The Paulie McGhee Invitational at Aurora has long been a jumping off point for Portage County wrestling.
Based on the results Saturday, Rootstown could be in for a big season.
The Rovers finished second in the team race at Aurora with 184 points. Parma won the team title for the second straight year with 241 points.
The former Aurora Invitational was renamed this year in honor of Paulie McGhee, the Aurora wrestler died in a car accident last Thanksgiving.
Kent Roosevelt finished fifth in tournament with 130.5 points, followed by Aurora with 117 points. Streetsboro (9th, 101 points) and Waterloo (11th, 99 points), also participated from the Portage Trail Conference.
Rovers second-year head coach Craig Wise said he was very pleased with his team's start.
"We wrestled well as a team," Wise said. "We're kind of moving in the right direction, slowly. It was a good way to start the season."
Rootstown's two returning state qualifiers picked up where they left off last season.
At 182 pounds, Travis Linton wrestled like the favorite. Despite tweaking his knee a bit in the finals, he scored a 17-2 technical fall over Parma's Josh Zeck.
"He was just lengthy," Linton said. "I have some problems with long wrestlers."
Meanwhile, senior heavyweight Jake Moore won over Garaway's Ben Sexton in the match marred by blood timeouts.
"I didn't notice it at all," Moore said of the blood stoppages. "I just wrestled sloppy."
Wise noted that Linton and Moore will face a big test next weekend when both wrestlers will participate in the Ironman Tournament at Walsh Jesuit.
Rootstown also had sophomore 152-pounder Marco Oliver reach the finals, but he was pinned in 54 seconds by West Geauga's Rob Alcorn.
Alcorn was named the most outstanding wrestler of the tournament.
Roosevelt's Aaron Miller was looking to break through to an individual title at 160 pounds, but had to settle for second for the second straight year. He was ridden in the second period by Stow's Hunter Massey and pinned in 3:53.
Although the Rough Riders had an up-and-down final round, assistant coach Richard Fallon was very happy with his team's performance, noting only 10 Rough Riders wrestled.
"Our guys fought hard and wrestled above their expectations," Fallon said. "I think people will look at us a bit differently."
Stow had a very strong tournament, as the Bulldogs won three of its four finals. Massey, 106-pounder Kyle Jenkins and 195-pounder Gage Finegan all won their respective titles.
Connor Crosier reached the finals at 138 pounds, but lost 11-1 to Garaway's Cody Mullet.
Waterloo state qualifier JJ Diven was in excellent form, as he finished the tournament with six pins at 145 pounds, including a stick in 4:26 over Parma's David Docherty in the final.
"That's when I'm at my best, during the scramble," Diven said. "That's fine with me to wrestle on that mat."
Beyond that, Vikings coach Brian Munger said he would have liked to have seen more from his nine wrestlers.
"What this shows us is we're a bit out of shape," Munger said. "We need to get to work, and we know it."
The host Greenmen had only one wrestling in the finals in 126-pounder DJ Lieberth. Despite loud calls for a last-second takedown by Aurora fans, Lieberth lost a tight 7-6 decision to Parma's Chayse Csongedi in the finals.
However, coach Dick Bliss noted he had nine freshmen wrestling on varsity, as most of his starters from the football team did not wrestle. He noted four freshmen earned spots on the podium.
"We didn't really expect that," Bliss said. "We expected the kids to go out and learn. They did that. I was pretty proud of the kids that wrestled today. Nobody bailed on me. Everybody battled."
Parma dominated the lower weights as Anthony Ramos (113), Tyler Workman (120) and Csogedi all won individual titles.
Workman scored his championship with a 7-4 win over Streetsboro's lone finalist -- sophomore Aaron Dantimo. Dantimo showed a lot of explosion from the bottom, but could not get his offense going against Workman.
"We've got a lot of room for improvement," said Rockets coach Rick Charlton. "We've just got to get back in the room on Monday and get back to work."
Other champions at Aurora included: Mayfield's Nicholas Bishop (132 pounds); West Geauga's David Eippert (170 pounds); and Garaway's Brian Gump (220).