Facing not only elimination from the Division I sectional tournament but also the end of his prep wrestling career, New Albany High School senior Ryan Cao couldn't have picked a better time to score a five-point move.

Facing not only elimination from the Division I sectional tournament but also the end of his prep wrestling career, New Albany High School senior Ryan Cao couldn't have picked a better time to score a five-point move.

He found himself trailing Kyle Farris 6-4 on Farris' home mats at Central Crossing in the final seconds of a consolation semifinal at 138 pounds. Cao, who had trailed 4-0, landed a takedown and added three back points to post a 9-6 victory on his way to a fourth-place sectional finish Feb. 18 and a spot in the district tournament.

"I just kept pushing myself. I didn't stop," Cao said. "Being a senior and all, I didn't want it to end here."

Cao won two of his four sectional matches, also edging Dublin Coffman's Jared Renner 9-8 in a championship quarterfinal. Cao improved to 25-16 entering district Friday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25, at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the state tournament March 1-3 at Ohio State.

"Last year, we had only one district qualifier (in then-senior and eventual state qualifier Matt Odierno)," Cao said. "We're taking (four) this time."

That's because three other Eagles also rallied after losing championship semifinals.

Junior Nick Fluty got the comeback started by defeating Dublin Coffman's Tristan Renner 6-0 at 113 in a consolation semifinal, which secured New Albany's first district berth as the winners in that round advanced to the matches to determine third and fourth place. Fluty then defeated Worthington Kilbourne's Lucky Shaut 9-3 to place third, improving to 37-11.

"I just had to forget it," Fluty said of a 14-3 loss to Hilliard Darby's Sam Velenti, the eventual champion, in a semifinal. "None of us wanted to get stuck wrestling for fifth and sixth place."

Tommy Chamberlain pinned Upper Arlington's Andrew Hennessey, who had beaten him earlier in the season, in his consolation semifinal at 145. Chamberlain, a senior who defeated Lloyd Furuta of St. Charles 11-9 in overtime in a championship quarterfinal, went 2-2 and placed fourth while improving to 26-13.

Mac Ferguson, another senior and the team's only No. 1 sectional seed, bounced back to pin both of his opponents in the consolation bracket at 182, including Coffman's Andrew Muncrief in the district-qualifying consolation semifinal. Ferguson, who went 4-1 with four total pins, then stopped Olentangy Orange's Dakota Taylor to place third and improve to 32-8.

Overall, the Eagles sent five wrestlers to championship semifinals, but each lost. Senior Josh Park, who was dominant in his first two matches with a technical fall and pin, went on to place fifth at 132 while improving to 32-13. He is a district alternate.

"We knew things were going to get tough in the semis," said coach Marc Cofer, who saw seven of his 10 wrestlers win at least one sectional match. "We didn't take advantage of every opportunity (in the district-qualifying consolation round), but our kids did a real good job refocusing when they had to."

Fluty will wrestle Marysville's David Sparks (29-9) in his opening match at district. Cao will oppose Watkins Memorial's Nick Lancia (41-8) while Chamberlain drew Hilliard Bradley's Conor Driscoll (30-8). Ferguson will match up with Pickerington Central's Garrett Foster (27-4).