With his prep career close to being over, Andrew Halko dug deep during the first round of consolation action in the Division III state wrestling tournament March 7 at Ohio State.

The Ready High School senior had lost his opening match at 145 pounds and trailed until early in the third period before rallying for a 9-6 victory over Brookville's Devon Myers.

After going 0-2 at state last season, Halko went 1-2 in his second appearance.

"I kept going in the third (period) because it could have been my last match," he said. "I'm really glad it wasn't. My right shoulder feels like two knuckles grinding together. I just kept battling through it."

Halko, who also endured a bloody nose against Myers and has battled a shoulder injury throughout the season, had his season end with a 14-1 loss to Galion Northmor's Tony Martinez in the second round of consolation.

He went 34-7 this season and 132-40 for his prep career.

"He kept wrestling and wrestled smart," coach Anthony Aiello said. "He did what he had to do and was able to pull the win out (over Myers). He's got a really bad shoulder right now so we were nervous. It's been hurting him all season and it popped out a couple times on him in the first match. It bothered him in the first period and that was probably why he didn't get many takedowns. It's (a) very good (finish), especially for him being in his senior season."

Also competing at state for Ready was the coach's sophomore son, Aiden Aiello, at 120.

He opened with a 17-2 loss to Xenia Legacy Christian Academy's Camron Lacure and then was pinned by Apple Creek Waynedale's Seth Unkefer in 2 minutes, 7 seconds to finish 32-10 for the season.

"I don't think the big stage affected him much," coach Aiello said. "He's a young sophomore and his goal was to be a state qualifier. He realizes the work he needs to put into it in the offseason. He's decided not to run track and has decided to focus on wrestling, and to me that's a start. I'm excited and glad he got to experience this and get all the first-match state jitters out of the way."

Halko was a runner-up and Aiello placed fourth in the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Rayland Buckeye Local.

Last season, Aiello went 2-2 at district and finished 23-12.

"I've really just gotten into the (practice) room a lot more and worked on my moves," he said. "Last year I kind of froze up and didn't shoot as much. This year I felt more comfortable on the mat and with my shots. I've just really focused on getting in better conditioning. It's just a learning experience."

The Silver Knights had all six of their wrestlers advance to the district tournament, and Halko was the only senior in the group.

Junior Jacob Robinson (195), who was sixth at district, junior Cameron Jones (126) and freshmen Paul Martello (138) and Evan O'Connell (106) should join Aiello as key returnees.

Boys basketball coach sees bright future

After winning its first three games, the boys basketball team lost eight of its next nine.

Still, positives occurred even in the lowliest times for the Knights, who finished 11-13 under first-year coach Tony Bisutti.

"For sure, the toughest part was that we went through a stretch where we really got better but we weren't winning games because we were in a really brutal stretch of our schedule," Bisutti said. "I was convinced then and I'm still convinced that better times are ahead for this group."

A 62-48 upset Feb. 25 at fifth-seeded Fairbanks in the first round of the Division III district tournament backs up that assessment.

The 10th-seeded Knights lost at eighth-seeded Marion Pleasant 63-47 on March 2 in the second round, but three of their five players who scored in that game are eligible to return.

Included in that group is sophomore forward Darius Parham, who had 28 points against Pleasant to close the season averaging 15 points.

An honorable mention all-district selection, Parham was part of a sophomore class that also included guards Garrison Budd and Azzan Daniels.

"We've got a lot of 2021 (graduating class) talent," Parham said.

Budd averaged 8.9 points.

Junior guard Brock Baker, who missed most of his sophomore season with injury, averaged seven points.

Another sophomore who could help next season is P.J. Daniels, who transferred from Hartley earlier this winter. He's a 6-foot-1 guard who averaged four points last season for the Hawks.

Others eligible to return include sophomore guards Charlie DeLuca, Cael Dent, Kyle Gramlich, Keenan Johnston and Cole Matthews.

Ready is losing a four-member senior class that was led by Cade Canter (7.1 points), Cade Dent (5.0 points) and Jaishan Norris (8.7 points).

"Parham and Budd are both sophomores and Azzan Daniels is a sophomore but he didn't play last year so he's kind of like a freshman," Bisutti said. "Brock Baker missed most of (last) season so he's a junior but he's like a sophomore. We're getting there."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek