Having competed in last year's Division III state tournament as well as at district in each of his three previous seasons, senior Andrew Halko is battle-tested for his last postseason go-round with the Ready High School wrestling team.
Getting used to being on the biggest of stages, though, is something Halko still is learning to master.
"I just have to remember that it's a mind game and I can't get into my head too much," he said. "I have to wrestle how I wrestle every match and how I wrestle in the (practice) room and just stay out of my own head. I've had troubles getting into my own head in some finals matches in the past. If it's a bigger match, more people will watch it. At tournaments, I don't even look at the brackets because it's all mind games."
Halko hasn't struggled with stage fright this winter.
By winning the 145-pound championship in the Comet Classic on Jan. 12 at Central Crossing, Halko improved to 19-2.
The Silver Knights aren't scheduled to compete again until Feb. 9 in the Canal Winchester Invitational, with the CCL duals slated for Feb. 13 at home and the Nye Cardinal Classic on Feb. 16 at St. Charles to conclude the regular season.
Halko then will begin pursuit of a second consecutive state berth.
After a district runner-up finish last winter, he went 0-2 at state to finish 36-8.
Halko is 117-35 for his prep career.
"He's having a good season," coach Anthony Aiello said. "One (of his losses this season) was mainly because he hurt his shoulder. He definitely should qualify again (for state). He knows what's at stake being his senior year and I think mentally he's ready. It's all up to him now."
Halko follows a long line of successful Ready wrestlers from his family.
His brother, Chip, is a 2007 graduate who made it to district as a senior. Brothers Phillip, a 2011 graduate, and Daniel, a 2017 graduate, also were district qualifiers as seniors.
Ready has just six competitors this season and the closest one in weight to Halko is freshman Paul Martello, who placed fifth at 138 in the Comet Classic.
Also in that tournament, sophomore Aiden Aiello (120) was fifth, junior Cameron Jones (126) placed seventh and junior Jacob Robinson (195) finished fourth.
Halko often trains with Robinson despite their difference in weight.
"It helps me with strength because I'm used to wrestling heavier and it helps me get quicker," Halko said. "I normally weigh about 150 so it's not too bad of a (weight) cut. I feel like I'm getting better every week. That's my goal, to try to work as hard as I can in the practice room. I just keep trying to get quicker and a little bit stronger for the competition."
This winter, Halko has won three tournaments in what could be his final season competing in the sport. He's leaning toward studying chemical engineering and might not wrestle in college.
Savoring his time with Ready's small group of competitors is among his biggest remaining goals.
"Instead of just beating up on the same guys every day, we tend to go to Central Crossing to get a live look at wrestling," Halko said. "We're pretty close as a family."
Bowlers sharpening skills for postseason
With about three weeks remaining before the postseason, the girls bowling team remains in the race for titles in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-D Division and the CCL.
The girls lost to Hartley 1,471-1,390 on Jan. 9 and were 6-1 overall and in the COHSBC-D and 1-1 in the CCL before facing Watterson on Jan. 24.
The boys and girls had a match Jan. 22 against Walnut Ridge that was postponed and rescheduled for Feb. 7 at Eastland Lanes, and both have added a non-league match Feb. 12 against Olentangy Liberty at HP Lanes.
The Division II sectional will be held Feb. 15 for girls and Feb. 16 for boys at HP Lanes, and that also is the site of the district tournament Feb. 21.
"We added a match against Liberty as kind of a pre-warmup since they didn't bowl at HP this year," coach Russ Rehner said. "I just know that if we can average 140-150 a bowler, then we'll do pretty well and I think we're capable of doing that. We've just got to make spares."
Junior Mary Zerrien was 11th in the COHSBC in average at 176.6 through 14 games.
Senior Samantha Blackburn, juniors Megan Hackman and Maryann Rucker and sophomores Kateland Vargo and Emma Pond also have been key contributors.
"(Zerrien's) only had one bad game," Rehner said. "She's pretty consistent, has got good mechanics and a good head on her shoulders. She just has a positive outlook on every game and makes every shot count."
The boys were 2-6 overall and in the COHSBC-D and 0-3 in the CCL before facing Watterson.
Junior Finn Hardenbergh and freshman Zach Jahn were leading the boys in league average at 136.3 and 135.5, respectively. Sophomores Aaron King, Luke Jahn and Wesley Hendricks and freshman Brady Hicks also have been key contributors.
Girls basketball team preps for tourney
The girls basketball team has one game remaining Thursday, Jan. 31, at home against DeSales before the Division III district tournament drawing is held Feb. 3.
After losing to Watterson 47-34 on Jan. 22 and before playing Hartley on Jan. 24, the Knights were 7-9 overall and 2-2 in the CCL.
Ready will try to earn a season sweep of the Stallions after beating DeSales 35-33 on Jan. 10 as Derricka Bramwell led with 12 points and Abby Grundei scored eight.
Through 15 games, Bram-well was among the area leaders in scoring average (17.9 points) and rebounding (9.4) while shooting 57 percent from the floor. She had 19 points and seven rebounds in a 38-31 win Jan. 12 over Patriot Prep.
Boys team defeats Trojans, snaps skid
With a 64-44 victory over Centerburg on Jan. 22, the boys basketball team ended a seven-game losing streak.
Before facing Hartley on Jan. 25, the Knights were 5-8 overall and 0-5 in the CCL.
Of those league losses, three came by five points or fewer, including a 62-60 overtime setback Jan. 11 against Watterson.
Through 13 games, six players were averaging 6.5 points or more, with sophomore forward Darius Parham leading at 13.2 and senior guard Jaishan Norris averaging 10.3.
Against Centerburg, Norris scored 13, Parham scored 12, senior center Cade Canter had 11 and sophomore guard Garrison Budd and junior guard Brock Baker both added nine.
Below are the coming schedules for the Ready boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and swimming teams:
Jan. 28 -- At Liberty Christian
Jan. 29 -- At Franklin Heights
Feb. 2 -- At St. Bernard Roger Bacon
*Jan. 31 -- Home vs. DeSales. The Silver Knights beat the Stallions 35-33 on Jan. 10.
*Jan. 29 -- Africentric at Game of Western Columbus
*Jan. 30 -- St. Charles at Game of Western Columbus. The boys team lost to the Cardinals 1,795-1,508 on Jan. 10.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 2 -- Wellington at Columbus Aquatics Center