As a junior for the Upper Arlington High School wrestling team, Joey Orlando used a program-record 21 pins to get within one win of qualifying for his first Division I state tournament.

If Orlando is to take the next step this season, pins might not play a huge part.

His team-best 23-10 record has come mostly as a result of decisions, a trend Orlando expects to continue into the Golden Bears' home Division I sectional tournament Saturday, Feb. 23, and beyond.

"I think that's due to me not doing much on top and getting more takedowns," said Orlando, who has alternated between 138 and 145 pounds this season and expects to wrestle at 138 in the postseason. "I've been working on different takedowns, for sure. Last year, I'd take guys down with more armbars, sometimes a double-leg armbar, and this season I've used more low singles and outside singles and helped myself open things up and score more points. It doesn't give me many pins."

Orlando went 29-15 last season, finishing as sectional runner-up at 132 before placing fifth at district, one spot shy of a state berth. He was fourth at sectional as a sophomore and went 1-2 at district.

According to coach Matt Stout, Orlando turned a corner in early January.

"He's continued to get better on bottom and do different things on his feet," Stout said. "He is definitely a pinner, but he's had fewer this year. I don't know if that's because he's wrestling up a weight class or just seeing guys that are hard to pin. He is good on his feet; that's his strongest position. Anytime that is the case, you'll win a lot of matches."

Orlando hopes his lack of pins might pay off as the postseason progresses. He estimated that in 75 percent of his matches, he has recorded at least two takedowns.

"You'll get a lot of decision matches going all six minutes at this point. You have to be able to wrestle those," Orlando said. "People aren't falling to their backs at district and state. Everybody will be at the peak of their conditioning. You just have to be able to outlast everybody else."

Orlando, whom Stout said carried a 4.428 GPA in the most recent nine-week grading period, hopes to become an aeronautical engineer. He has applied to both the Air Force Academy and West Point as well as Ohio State.

"Wrestling is important, but at the end of the day, his academics will get him somewhere," Stout said. "He's extremely intelligent and a great leader in the room."

UA finished 3-2 in the OCC-Central Division with a 58-15 win at Westland on Feb. 14.

Ten teams will compete in the UA sectional. The Bears are seeded third of 45 teams in the district, and their sectional also will include 11th-seeded Olentangy Orange, 15th-seeded Hilliard Davidson and 16th-seeded Pickerington Central.

Other participating teams will be Chillicothe, Dublin Jerome, Franklin Heights, Groveport, Marion Harding and Mifflin.

The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby.

Boys team prepares for Yellow Jackets

After an up-and-down regular season, the boys basketball team hopes for consistency in the postseason, starting with a Division I district tournament first-round home game against 36th-seeded Mount Vernon on Friday, Feb. 22.

UA is 15-5 overall and finished 8-2 in the OCC-Central with a 53-51 win at Dublin Coffman on Feb. 15, handing the second-ranked Shamrocks their first loss of the season. Max Martz had a game-high 29 points as well as five rebounds and two steals as UA avenged a 58-34 home loss to Coffman on Jan. 11.

Coach Tim Casey did not shy away from placing the Bears in a tough bracket. They potentially could face seventh-seeded Reynoldsburg in a district semifinal and third-seeded Pickerington Central in a district final.

"I didn't know where we'd end up just because we've been injured and kind of beaten up all season, but I do think we're playing our best basketball right now. We're making big shots individually and collectively as a group," Casey said. "There are no easy brackets here. It's always going to be tough. It just depends on matchups, who thinks they can match up with you and vice-versa. My thought has always been if we can't play and win, then we shouldn't be playing anyway."

After Martz missed more than a month because of a back injury, UA was without guard Jake Warinner for three weeks in late January and early February because of a sprained right ankle and guard Fred Wilkes for a handful of games because of illness.

Although UA had no chance at the OCC-Central championship when it played Coffman on Feb. 15, the Bears were coming off a noteworthy 71-53 win at Marysville on Feb. 8. Martz scored his 1,000th career point that night and currently has 1,055 points, 374 rebounds and 116 assists for his career, and Casey earned his 300th win at his alma mater.

Casey, who is in his 18th season at UA, has a 437-233 career record.

The UA-Mount Vernon winner will play 35th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in the second round March 1 at the home of the higher seed.

Girls team wins tournament opener

The girls basketball team relied on its defense as its offense struggled in a 37-19 home win over 33rd-seeded DeSales in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 16.

Seventh-seeded UA used a stingy defense to force the Stallions into missing their first eight shots from the floor and 15 of 17 in the first half, after which the Bears led 17-5.

Macy Spielman had a game-high 13 points for UA, which is 17-6 and will play host to 25th-seeded Licking Heights in the second round Thursday, Feb. 21. The Hornets are 13-8.

The winner will play 12th-seeded Northland or 31st-seeded Watkins Memorial in district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 27, at a neutral site, with that winner advancing to a district final March 2.

UA defeated Northland 63-55 on Dec. 1.

Hockey team cruises past Eagles

After shutting out 17th-seeded Watterson 11-0 in the second round of the district tournament Feb. 17 at OhioHealth Ice Haus, the hockey team will return to its home ice Saturday, Feb. 23, to take on seventh-seeded Olentangy in a district quarterfinal.

Sam Burns, Tim Kramer, Brendan Larmor and Will Lawless each had two goals for the second-seeded Bears against Watterson as UA improved to 24-7-2-1.

UA defeated Olentangy 5-2 in a Blue Jackets Cup quarterfinal Feb. 7 at the Ice Haus and also beat the Braves 4-1 on Dec. 22.

The winner will play third-seeded Olentangy Liberty or sixth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller in a district semifinal Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Ice Haus. That winner will advance to the district final March 2.

UA is 0-3 against Liberty this season, having lost 3-0 on Dec. 9, 2-0 on Dec. 28 and 1-0 in overtime in a Blue Jackets Cup semifinal Feb. 9, but the Bears are 3-0 against Moeller, with wins of 7-1 on Dec. 1, 2-1 on Jan. 20 and 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 24.

Gymnasts prepping for district meet

The gymnastics team will seek its first representation in either the state team meet or the state individual meet since 2015 when it participates in the 35-team district meet Saturday, Feb. 23, at Kilbourne.

The top three teams advance to the state team meet March 1 at Hilliard Bradley, while the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advance to the state individual meet March 2 at Bradley.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave