I’ve said often and it’s been proven true again this year: Portage County punches well above its weight when it comes to wrestling.

The 2017-18 season proved to be no different as 18 Portage County wresters are set for that trip down I-71 to Value City Arena. The state wrestling tournament begins Thursday at 3 p.m. and every wrestling school in the county — save Kent Roosevelt and Waterloo — will be represented.

Here’s the list of Portage County’s finest for 2018:

• Cole Bailey — Southeast senior 138-pounder — 39-3 — The youngest of Southeast’s storied Bailey clan, Cole overcame a serious shoulder injury to earn his first trip to Columbus. With the weight of expectation off him, he looks primed for an All-Ohio run.

• Ryan Boyle — Rootstown junior 195-pounder — Boyle’s style isn’t flashy, but very effective. After finishing fourth last year at 220 pounds, another All-Ohio finish would be the minimum expectation for this stocky bruiser.

• Dominic Carone — Streetsboro senior 120-pounder — 37-2 — After reaching the state final last year at 113 pounds, only a gold medal will satisfy Carone, who heads to state as Streetsboro’s all-time career wins leader. He could get a shot at a rematch with Circleville’s Nate Keaton, who beat him 1-0 in the title match last year, in the semifinals.  

• Niko Chilson — Rootstown junior 132-pounder — 45-5 — After taking fifth-place last year in his first season of Ohio wrestling, Chilson looks to add his name to Rootstown history by winning a state title. One of four local district champions to come out of Garfield Heights, he’s positioned himsellf for a run.

• Caleb Edwards — Rootstown freshman 113-pounder — 41-5 — Edwards might be the best of Rootstown’s talented freshman class as he won his weight class at districts. This could be the Rovers’ next superstar. 

• Ryan Finney — Garfield senior 160-pounder — 31-7 — By bumping up a weight class, Finney earned his first trip to the state meet. The longtime drill partner of the best wrestler ever to come out of Garfield, Finney will look to claim his own All-Ohio honors.

• Andy Garr — Aurora junior 138-pounder — 36-8 — A broken hand short-circuited Garr’s sophomore postseason just as it started. He’s eager to make up for lost time in Columbus and should be favored to reach an All-Ohio place. 

• Jack Gorman — Aurora junior 132-pounder — 29-10 — Gorman has been banging heads in the toughest weight class in Ohio this winter. After missing the podium last year, he should be favored to earn his second All-Ohio.

• Logan Kissell — Garfield senior 145-pounder — 44-1 — There’s only one accolade missing from Kissell’s career. Garfield’s all-time career wins leader is a three-time All-Ohioan, has not lost to Ohio-based competition this winter — and is as relaxed as anyone as he pursues Garfield’s first state title.

• Chris Langguth — Rootstown junior 182-pounder — 50-6 — Off the mat, Langguth is one of the nicest kids one could to hope to meet. On the mat, he’s a returning All-Ohioan with eyes on the 182-pound title. He was hit with a tough draw at districts, but be not surprised if he turns it on in Columbus.

• Colin McNamara — Aurora junior 195-pounder — 34-8 — Called "QB1"  by Aurora coach Johnny Papesh, McNamara has improved much in the second half of the season. He’ll be the third McNamara brother to suit up in Columbus for the Greenmen.

• Will McGhee — Aurora junior 152-pounder — 35-8 — By winning Portage County’s lone district title at Alliance, McGhee proved he’s become much more than a one-move wrestler. But, man, is his tilt devastating. Expect big things in his first trip to Columbus.

• Mike Prikryl — Rootstown freshman 106-pounder — No wrestler improved as much for the Rovers from the start of the season, as Prikryl didn’t come into his own until the postseason. State-level experience will only help the Rovers’ smallest wrestler.

• Kyle Petersen — Aurora junior 120 pounds — 37-12 — After coming up just short of state last year, Petersen broke through as the Greenmen moved down to Division II. One of the best upper-body wrestlers in the area, he could pull some surprises in Columbus.

• Nick Skye — Mogadore freshman 152-pounder — 36-11 — The younger Skye brother came on strong in the second half of the season and outdid his big brother by reaching the state meet as freshman. No one’s more proud of that than …

• Paul Skye — Mogadore senior 220-pounder — 41-1 —The two-time All-Ohioan wants to claim Mogadore’s first state title since 1997 before heading for the Marines. "Big Skye" lost his first match of the season in the Garfield Heights district final 6-5 to Pymatuning Valley’s Gaige Willis. Don’t be surprised if there’s a rematch in the state final.

• Isaiah Smith — Field junior 126 pounder — 39-11 — Smith is as athletic a wrestler as Portage County has seen and has been known to come out on top in some crazy scrambles. That combination could make him dangerous at state. 

• Brett Szuhay — Crestwood sophomore 106 pounder — Szuhay cemented his position as Portage County’s most improved wrestler by pinning his way to the district title at Garfield Heights. Has he forged his way in the Division III state title conversation? I believe the answer is yes.

Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, mleonard@recordpub.com or @MLeonard_RPC