Connor Evans reached a longtime goal by qualifying for the Division I state wrestling tournament March 8-10 at Ohio State, but came up short of earning all-state honors.
The Olentangy Orange High School senior went 1-2 at state at 145 pounds. He was happy with where his journey in the sport had taken him.
"All of my high school career, just getting here (to state) was this impossible thing and when I got here it was like it wasn't that impossible to do and I had my sights set on placing," said Evans, who finished the season 35-15. "I'm a little disappointed that I didn't (place in the top eight to reach the awards podium), but overall it was a fun experience."
Evans was joined at state by sophomore Rocco Torio, who went 0-2 at 126 to finish 28-14.
"Sometimes teenagers think that if they don't get to the podium that the season is not a success, but I don't think that's the case at all," said coach Scott Tressler, who completed his third season. "We have been devastated by injuries this year and we were still able to get one of our senior captains here as well as a sophomore. That says a lot."
Evans was pinned in the first round in 3 minutes, 3 seconds by Wadsworth's Michael North, who would go on to place fourth. Evans bounced back to defeat Cincinnati Elder's Chucky Lipps 8-5 in his first consolation match.
"You have to get back to business," Evans said of rebounding from the loss. "(Tressler) said it's like a job and you have to get out there and get things done."
Evans lost his state-placing match to Marysville's Walker Heard 8-5. It was a rematch of the consolation final from district, which Heard won 10-2.
"I wasn't really nervous (at state)," said Evans, whose team tied for 65th (1 point) behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (170.5) as 70 teams scored. "My goal was to get here to state so anything else was a cherry on the top.
"I'm not going to wrestle in college, but wrestling will always be with me. I'm going to (the University of) Cincinnati, probably for economics. The hard work and determination to get here (to state) will always help me. Knowing how to get things done is a very good life skill."
Torio was pinned by Fairfield's Jabari Thomas in 3:20 in his opener and then was pinned by Shaker Heights' Jaivon Jones in 1:30 in a consolation match. Jones placed fifth and Thomas finished eighth.
Evans and Torio both placed fourth at district March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby as Orange finished 12th (45) behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
Also competing at district were junior Cole Jackson (113, 31-13), sophomore Alex Lopez (195, 19-18) and freshman Zach Miller (120, 18-17).
Orange was fourth (2-3) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind Liberty (5-0), Westerville North (4-1) and Olentangy (3-2) and ahead of Westerville South (1-4) and Westerville Central (0-5).
"We have a huge group of sophomores who will be juniors and we will probably only have three juniors coming back as seniors, so that will be a small class," Tressler said. "We have a huge eighth-grade class coming in to go with the rest.
"We're on the right track and we have pretty high expectations. We want to win district titles and get a bunch of guys placing at state and we are still on track for that."
Boys squad had 'some pretty big wins'
After an "up-and-down" season, sixth-year boys basketball coach Anthony Calo believes the program is on the right track.
Orange won its first five games, had a five-game losing streak and closed the regular season Feb. 16 with a 65-48 win over OCC-Buckeye champion North.
The 13th-seeded Pioneers then opened the Division I district tournament March 2 with a 65-48 second-round loss at 12th-seeded Logan to finish 13-10 overall.
"We had an up-and-down season with some games we should not have lost, but we also had some pretty big wins," Calo said. "We had a great start, then lost five games in a row, beat (Dublin) Coffman (66-62 on Jan. 23) and was the only team to beat North (in the regular season) when they had all of their guards playing."
The Pioneers tied Liberty for fourth (4-6) in the OCC-Buckeye behind North (8-2), Central (6-4) and South (5-5) and ahead of Olentangy (3-7).
Post player Jalen Bethel (third-team all-district, first-team all-league) and guard Matt McCollum (honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league) led a six-player senior class. Bethel averaged team highs in points (13.3) and rebounds (7.8), and McCollum averaged 12.5 points, 3.7 assists and a team-high 1.5 steals.
"The seniors were a great group of kids," Calo said. "We had six seniors who made sure that we did things the right way."
Junior point guard Bryson Lane (honorable mention all-district, special mention all-league) led Orange in assists (3.8) and is expected to be the top returning scorer after averaging 10.8 points.
Junior guard Luke Ballinger (honorable mention all-district and all-league) averaged 10.6 points and made a team-high 55 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Ryan Cutler averaged 5.3 points and made 24 3s.
"We have some talented kids coming back and our j.v. team won 18 games," Calo said. "We have a few kids ready to make an impact immediately, and I like the direction we're heading."
@ThisWeekHennenAt a glance
*Record: 13-10 overall, 4-6 (tied for fourth) in OCC-Buckeye
*Seniors lost: Manny Anderson, Jack Betz, Jalen Bethel, Matt McCollum, Jack Neer and Jordan Shelton
*Key returnees: Luke Ballinger, Ryan Cutler and Bryson Lane
*Finishes: Fourth in OCC-Buckeye, sixth at sectional, 12th at district, tied for 65th at state
*Seniors lost: Connor Evans, Mike Monago, Mike Schoenleb, Jimmy Sensibaugh and Dominic Torio
*Key returnees: Cole Jackson, Alex Lopez, Zach Miller and Rocco Torio