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Cheese eye regional title
Monroe High School senior Cole Murray picks up his opponent during a match against Monona Grove on Jan. 20 at the high school. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Dempzy Foley recalls how close the Monroe High School wrestling team came to marching on with a sectional berth last season.

Evansville-Albany edged the Cheesemakers by two points to win the regional title last year. Fast forward a year and Foley, a junior at 170 pounds, is hoping to turn the tables on the Blue Devils on Saturday when the two teams wrestle in the WIAA Division 2 Beloit Turner regional.

"We want more this year because we were so close last year," said Foley, who is ranked 11th at 170 pounds in the Wisconsin Wrestling Online Division 2 state poll.

Both Monroe and Evansville-Albany have three wrestlers ranked in the top 12 in the state in their respective weight classes. Monroe senior Hayden Arneson is ranked third at 195, and senior Kyle Walter is ranked fifth at heavyweight.

Evansville-Albany junior Nolan Kicmol is ranked No. 1 at 145 and senior Lucius Rinehart is ranked No. 1 at 220. However, Rinehart is expected to wrestle in the regional at 195. The other ranked wrestler for the Blue Devils is senior Chase Katzenmeyer, who is second at 126.

Both the Cheesemakers and Blue Devils had 10 sectional qualifiers last year. The top two in each weight class will advance to the Division 2 individual sectional Feb. 18 at Richland Center.

It's between Monroe and Evansville-Albany in the team race for the regional championship and the right to compete in Tuesday's team sectional.

"The race will be us and Evansville-Albany," Monroe coach Tom Witt said. "On a really good day I think we can get nine or 10 to the sectional. That is what it will take to beat Evansville-Albany."

Seeds will not be determined until Saturday morning, but the Cheesemakers are expected to have a number of wrestlers receive a seed in the top two. Witt said senior Cole Murray (138) could earn a No. 1 seed. Several other wrestlers Witt said who could garner a top two seed include junior Sam Kind (160), Foley (170), Isaac Allen (182), Arneson (195) and Walter (heavyweight).

The status of Allen remains a question mark. He is battling a separated shoulder injury, and it hasn't been determined if he will wrestle.

"He's not ruled out yet," Witt said of Allen.

If Allen can't wrestle it could be a blow to the Cheesemakers.

"That would be hard to overcome if we don't have those points," Witt said.

Kind has lost just two matches since the Bi-State Classic Dec. 29-30 in La Crosse. Murray (27-9) has been ranked in the top 12 most of the season but is now getting enough votes for honorable mention in the state rankings.

Foley (27-8) has 24 pins this season, which is three pins away from tying Brett Zimmerman's single-season school record (27).

"I have always been good getting pins," Foley said. "Once I got to 14 matches, I thought I could probably get there. It would be nice to have the record. It would mean a lot."

The Cheesemakers will be back to near full strength since they are getting senior David Andrews (126) back from a skin condition and freshman Alex Witt (132) is expected to return from illness.

"We will need everyone," Witt said.

Two matches that could happen in the championship round are Arneson wrestling Evansville-Albany's Rinehart and Walter taking on the Blue Devils' Brandon Lange.

Arneson has lost four previous matches to Rinehart including three losses last season. In a dual meet earlier this season, Arneson wrestling up at 220, scored on a takedown in the first three seconds against Rinehart. The top-ranked Evansville-Albany wrestler then rallied to beat Arneson 6-2.

"He's a good wrestler," Arneson said. "I just have to finish my shots. I have to give him hell if I wrestle him in the finals."

Arneson expects a showdown with Evansville-Albany for the regional team title.

"I think it will be a close one," he said. "We have to stay off our backs, score as many points with pins and near falls as we can. We have to want it."

In the heavyweight battle, Walter has defeated Lange three times last season. However, a couple of weeks ago, Lange pinned Walter. The two heavyweights were locked in a tie at 2 before Lange caught Walter out of position and finished with the pin.

"If we could win both of those or get a split (of the potential heavyweight and 195-pound matches against Evansville-Albany) it would help," Witt said.

Witt said the regional championship could come down to Walter in the final title match at heavyweight.

"He's been in that position before when he won at Richland Center tournament last year," Witt said. "He understands the type of magnitude and situation. Because he has been there he can respond and do it again."