Victor Haro was a real "knucklehead" during his freshman year of high school.

He made friends with the wrong crowd and began finding his way into trouble. He even got kicked off Tucson High School's football team.

Haro was frustrated before he made his way into coach Rich Ortiz's wrestling room.

"I went out, tried it and I liked it," Haro recalled of his first wrestling experience. "I wasn't good. I sucked. I was totally horrible. I went 0-15 on varsity my first year.

"I was terrible, just terrible."

Yet each time Haro failed, Ortiz encouraged him to keep coming back.

"He said he'd take a hard worker over talent and I said 'All right, I'll keep coming back for more,' " Haro said.

Three years later, Haro isn't so terrible. As he prepares for this weekend's Flowing Wells Invitational, the wrestling mega-tournament that draws some of the best teams from around the state to Flowing Wells High School, he does so with a 33-2 record and as a defending state placer.

Haro finished fourth at last year's state championships, losing in the semifinals at 145 pounds to eventual state champion Mikey Contreras from Anthem Boulder Creek.

Ortiz credited Haro's massive improvement (from going 0-15 to finishing fourth in the state, in two years time) to offseason training.

"He did what a lot of these kids haven't done yet, and that's do the offseason freestyle circuit," Ortiz said. "That's what took him to the next level.

"There's that, and his work ethic is off the charts."

That work ethic extends beyond the wrestling room. Haro lives with his half brother, Andre Bracamonte, who has a house near Reid Park. He does this so that he can attend Tucson High instead of Desert View, which is where he'd have gone if he stayed with his mother.

Tucson High is "a family thing," Haro said. He's had five cousins graduate as Badgers and four more are at the school now as underclassmen.

While Haro said his brother has been there for guidance and support, much of his success in school and wrestling has been totally self-motivated. Throughout high school, it's been Haro that had to force himself out of bed each morning and ride his bike to school.

Wrestling has played a large part in his will to do so.

Before wrestling, "I didn't pay attention in school," Haro said. "I wasn't looking forward to coming to school. Now, I look forward to it.

"Once I started wrestling, it was like, I want to keep wrestling so I've got to keep my grades up."

Now, as a senior, there are even more reasons for Haro to keep up the good work.

"There are a lot of sophomores in that room that are aspiring to be like him," Ortiz said. "He's turning our program around, to be honest, with his work ethic and his leadership. We'll place high at sectionals and we'll place high at state because he sets that standard of excellence. He sets it so high that these kids are hungry. They want to be a part of it."

If you go

• What: 46th annual Flowing Wells Invitational

• Who: 36 teams from four states

• When: Friday, quarterfinals at 7 p.m.; Saturday, finals at 6 p.m.

• Where: Flowing Wells High School