After falling short of his ultimate goal last season, Westerville South senior wrestler Aaron Morton appears ready to challenge for a state title.
Morton earned a return trip to the Division I state tournament by winning the title at 160 pounds at district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State.
Last season, Morton finished fourth at state at 160.
"It just shows that the work we put in is paying off," he said of earning another state berth. "The atmosphere is real crazy (at state). Being over there and being familiar with it is going to help me."
Morton went 4-0 at district, defeating Olentangy Berlin's Corey Hill 7-4 in the final to improve to 43-3 for the season.
"He's got the look," coach George Crooks said. "There's a couple of adjustments that we talked about that he makes based on what we say, but other than that, he's on his own and he's got plans and it seems to be working out just fine."
Morton will be joined at state by junior Fuanyi Fobellah, who finished fourth at district at 113. Fobellah secured his first state berth with a 7-5 win over Westland's Tyler Jude in a consolation match, but he lost to Mount Vernon's Colton Spurgeon 4-1 in the third-place match.
Fobellah went 3-2 at district and is 29-5 for the season.
"It's fabulous," Crooks said. "The way he finished last season, he was so upset. To get to district was a big deal, but to get to state, him and Aaron being together will be a much better experience. It's so much better to have a friend. They're going to enjoy it."
Last season, Fobellah finished fifth at sectional at 106, falling one spot shy of qualifying for district.
"It's really exciting and I'm just happy to be able to get a chance to qualify," he said. "My goal was to be in the finals (at district) and hope to get first, but that didn't happen. I can't let that stop me. I just have to focus on (this) week and try to get better, wrestle a little better, wrestle a little smarter."
South finished 15th (40) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (174.5) as 40 teams scored.
Boys squad bounces back
Players from the boys basketball team entered the season with chips on their shoulders, and coach Ed Calo used that as motivation.
Coming off a 6-17 finish, not many gave the Wildcats a chance to succeed this season, according to Calo.
South responded by sharing the OCC-Buckeye Division title with Olentangy Liberty at 7-3 and finishing 16-9 overall.
"Before the season, there's nobody who thought we'd be league champions except for us," Calo said. "We expect it out of our program. Coming off a very disappointing season, it was a nice bounce-back year from a situation we didn't expect last year. We don't expect that to ever happen. We have a lot of pride in our program. Our kids really work hard."
The Wildcats reached a Division I district semifinal, where they provided second-seeded Hilliard Bradley a challenge before falling 50-41 on March 4 at Berlin.
South led by as many as eight points in the first quarter. The Jaguars took control in the fourth, outscoring the Wildcats 15-8.
"We played well early on," Calo said. "We did some really good things. We played with poise and confidence. We just didn't finish, and we didn't do some of the things I expected to do. Give (the Jaguars) a lot of credit."
Sophomore wing player Drey Carter led the 11th-seeded Wildcats with 14 points. Junior wing player Tabari Howard scored 13 and junior guard Jaiden Guice added 11.
Howard (13.5 ppg) and junior guard Peter Pedrozo (10.8) were named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Guice averaged 14.8 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Carter averaged 9.0 points and was special mention all-league, and senior guard Stephon Saint-Cyr was honorable mention all-league.
"It's always tough for seniors," Calo said. "The one thing I really hate is putting the uniforms away. The only time I really liked that is when we won the state championship (in 2016). Outside of that, I hate that particular day. You always feel bad for your seniors because they won't have this anymore and be a part of this situation."
Other players expected to return are juniors Shamar Brittman (wing player), Ian Chuah (wing player), Unisa Kamara (wing player) and Will Ortiz (guard) and freshman Jalen Wheeler (guard).
Calo and Liberty's Greg Nossaman shared league Coach of the Year honors. Calo also is approaching a milestone, as he now has 493 career wins.
South will compete in the OCC-Capital next season with Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights, Westerville North and Worthington Kilbourne.
Bowling teams wrap up season
The boys and girls bowling teams capped their seasons by competing in the Division I district tournament Feb. 29 at HP Lanes.
The boys finished 15th (3,308) of 16 teams behind champion DeSales (3,901) as senior Craden Kelley led the Wildcats by finishing 26th of 109 bowlers with a 548 three-game series.
Kelley finished with a 176.1 average and was third-team all-OCC-Buckeye.
Freshman Dominic Candella finished with a 180.4 average, followed by junior Henry Tran (172.1), sophomore Ethan Gary (167.4) and junior Jacob Spiegel (163.2).
Other players eligible to return are junior Caedin Bouton and sophomores Ashton Mellquist and Dominic Steele.
The girls finished ninth (2,831) of 16 teams at district behind champion Westerville Central (3,599).
"You really want to advance to the end," coach Jamie West said. "It was a pretty long season and we really didn't have it this year. We were barely successful this year with what we had."
Freshman Alexzandria Stewart led South at district, finishing 32nd of 108 bowlers with a 454 series.
Junior Taylor Hughes had a team-best 163.2 average and was second-team all-OCC-Buckeye. Senior Brenda Diaz had a 154.5 average and was third-team all-league.
Stewart had a 144.5 average, followed by junior Alexia Steele (135.3), senior Fiona Thomas (128.8) and freshmen Jessica Applegate (128.3) and Addison Poulsen (123).