Following a season in which he won one district tournament match, Ready High School junior wrestler Andrew Halko took the next step this winter.
Although he was pinned by Galion Northmor's Conan Becker in 1 minute in the district championship match March 3 at Heath, the 145-pound Halko already had secured his first Division III state tournament berth.
He was 36-6 before opening the three-day state tournament March 8 at Ohio State.
"To me, making it to states means that I put the work in that was needed and got rewarded," Halko said. "The things that helped me at districts were never giving up and wrestling all the way to the whistle."
In the district tournament, Halko's performance helped Ready finish with 30.5 points to place 24th behind champion Nelsonville-York (175) as 48 teams scored.
"Honestly (district) was kind of a roller-coaster ride," coach Anthony Aiello said. "I knew that Andrew was going to make it to the finals because he's been wrestling well. The other three we had there went 2-2. (Halko) was very excited. I've never seen him smile like he did when he was coming out for the parade of champions."
Also competing at district for Ready were freshman Aiden Aiello (113), junior Sam Hardenbergh (220) and sophomore Bailey Garren (heavyweight).
All three lost their opening matches, bounced back to win their next two and then lost in the third round of consolation.
Garren finished 20-13, Hardenbergh finished 23-10 and Aiello finished 23-12.
"For Aiden and Bailey, it's their first year back (competing in wrestling) so I couldn't be happier for them," coach Aiello said. "Aiden is technically a very young freshman who's still 14 and that kind of shows. He started off a little nervous. Sam is a second-year wrestler and just fell a little bit short."
Boys basketball team makes district final
With a 64-56 victory over sixth-seeded Columbus Academy on March 6 at Hamilton Township, the boys basketball team advanced to a Division III district championship game.
The last time Ready competed in a district final was in 2014 when it reached a state semifinal under former coach Don Worstell.
"Our kids are battle tested," fourth-year coach Dan DeCrane said. "I was talking to a lot of coaches who were saying this is the best it's ever been (in central Ohio in Division III). Getting to this situation is something we set out to do."
The third-seeded Knights faced top-seeded Harvest Prep on March 9 at Ohio Dominican, with the winner playing Piketon or Wheelersburg in a regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, at Ohio University. The regional final is 7 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at the same site.
The regional champion plays in a state semifinal March 22 at Ohio State.
Ready, which was 20-4 before playing Harvest Prep, got 23 points from Brady Thomas and 22 from Chanc Dawson against Academy.
Dawson scored his 1,000th career point in the game and had 1,012 heading into the district final.
"I thought our two senior guards (Thomas and Dawson) played really well," DeCrane said. "They had cut it to six and we got a huge run by Darius Parham where he hit a pull-up jumper and then he had an and-one on a putback in something like 45 seconds."
Girls basketball team peaked at right time
Before falling to top-seeded Africentric 63-23 on March 2 in a Division III district final at Ohio Dominican, the ninth-seeded girls basketball team had lost just one time since a 46-38 setback against Worthington Christian on Jan. 29.
It marked the Knights' third district runner-up finish in four seasons.
"After Feb. 1, we won seven of our (next) eight and they got better," said coach Joe Lang, whose team finished 15-10 overall. "Every year you hope that kids improve. We've got to keep getting better. Playing in the league we do, we get beat up and our record doesn't look that good. This year was probably the most respect we've gotten for a while. I went in thinking we were going to get (seeded 14th or 15th)."
After opening the district tournament with a 59-44 victory over 11th-seeded Grandview on Feb. 20, Ready edged 13th-seeded West Jefferson 47-43 on Feb. 24 and beat eighth-seeded Centerburg 55-45 on Feb. 27 in a district semifinal at Olentangy Orange.
The Knights are now 5-7 in district finals under Lang, who completed his 37th season.
If Ready has another long postseason next winter, it will do so with several new key players.
Senior guard Dani Hall averaged 10.5 points and was second-team all-district.
The other seniors on the eight-player roster were guard Katelyn Wolfe (7 points per game), forwards Nikki Hawkins (4.5 ppg) and Kim Lloyd (3 ppg) and guard Natalee Patel.
Junior forward Derricka Bramwell averaged 12 points and made third-team all-district.
Sophomore guard Bre Hejduk proved to be one of the Knights' top outside shooting threats and averaged 5.5 points. Junior guard Ariyhana Marshall also was a key contributor.
Ready went 2-5 in the CCL to finish fourth behind Hartley (6-1), Watterson (5-2) and DeSales (3-4) and ahead of Columbus School for Girls (0-4).
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: 15-10 overall, 2-5 (fourth) in CCL
*Seniors lost: Dani Hall, Nikki Hawkins, Kim Lloyd, Natalee Patel and Katelyn Wolfe
*Key returnees: Derricka Bram-well, Bre Hejduk and Ariyhana Marshall