By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Finding a home on the mat
Times photo: Mark Nesbitt Monroe junior heavyweight Nick Walker is gearing up for the WIAA Division 2 Monroe regional Saturday. Walker is 32-9 in his first year as a varsity wrestler.
MONROE - When Monroe junior Nick Walker stepped on the mat for the first time to wrestle last year, he had football and track on his mind.

Walker said he was encouraged to go out for wrestling by fellow football players Cory Kundert and Dillon Weckerly. The peer pressure has spurred Walker into an athletic arena where he has thrived. As a first-year varsity wrestler, Walker has compiled a 32-9 mark and has his sights set on qualifying for the Richland Center sectional.

"I felt like it would improve me in both football and track," Walker said.

Walker is preparing for the WIAA Division 2 Monroe regional Saturday and he must be one of the top two in his weight class to qualify for the sectional.

"It is a goal to make it to the sectional," Walker said. "Most people don't want the season to end."

Monroe coach Jeriamy Jackson has seen Walker develop from a junior-varsity wrestler into a starting varsity wrestler who will contend for a sectional berth.

"Nick has an attitude you can't teach," Jackson said. "He doesn't care if someone has wrestled longer or has more experience. He hates to lose. He just wants to go out and win."

When Walker started wrestling last year, he said he didn't think wrestling six minutes could be so tiring.

He also had to contend with Monroe alum Lucas Leu in practice every day, who was a seasoned varsity wrestler.

Walker said he wasn't used to being dominated in practice the way Leu wrestled against him.

Jackson credits Walker's work ethic for his success on the mat.

"He just soaks everything up," he said. "He likes to challenge himself with everything in wrestling. He works hard. That's a credit to him."

In his first year as a varsity wrestler, Walker has racked up 50 takedowns, 22 escapes, 12 pins and 10 reversals.

"I didn't feel any extra pressure from Lucas Leu's success," Walker said. "I put pressure on myself to excel. I don't want people to beat me."

The top two individuals at each weight class in Saturday's regional will advance to the Richland Center sectional. The Cheesemakers are also hoping to contend for a regional title and a berth in the team sectional. Jackson said River Valley is probably the favorite. The Cheesemakers qualified five wrestlers for the sectional last year.

"They are one of the best Division 2 teams in the state," Jackson said. "I would expect us to be in the top two or three. I think we can qualify just as many if not more."

Walker expects the Cheesemakers to contend for a regional title.

"I feel like we have a good chance to win the regional," he said. "It would be nice to win the regional as well and go to the sectional."

Monroe junior Dylan Schwitz, a state qualifier last year, finished third at the Badger Conference tournament and is back after missing several meets with a medical condition. Schwitz (29-6) is ranked fifth in the Crossface Division 2 wrestling poll at 145 pounds.

"He's just re-energized and ready to go in the tournament series," Jackson said.

Weckerly (28-11) at 171 may have the toughest road to qualify for the sectional. Weckerly has a stacked weight class with Belmont-Platteville's Josh Eastlick, ranked fourth and River Valley's Tyler Ryan, ranked eighth. Weckerly lost 8-6 to Ryan at the Richland Center Invitational earlier this season.

"It's just unfortunate they are all in the same weight class," Jackson said. "Hopefully, we can close the gap here."

At 119, Monroe freshman Kevin Klopfenstein (35-8) and ranked eighth, may get a chance to avenge a loss to Cuba City-Southwestern's Bob Donar. Klopfenstein and Donar are expected to be the top two wrestlers at 119. Klopfenstein beat Donar at the Sugar River Invite and then lost to him at the Monroe Invite this year.

Jackson said he thinks Klopfenstein is looking forward to a rematch with Donar, but he cautioned that the road won't be easy.

"It will be a battle all the way through," he said. "They challenge each other and keep their level of intensity up. Hopefully, those two can follow each other all the way to state."

Jackson expects freshman Aaron Hesgard (22-13) at 103, senior Mason Goff (29-7) at 152, senior Josh Mayer (26-13) at 189 and senior Cory Kundert (13-10) at 215 to vie for a sectional berth.

Jackson said the Cheesemakers are focusing on a lot of live wrestling right now.

"We don't want to come out flat," he said. "We want to be mentally and physically ready for Saturday."