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Super freshmen raise the bar
Monroe freshmen Kevin Klopfenstein and Aaron Hesgard have had standout seasons in their first wrestling seasons at Monroe. Klopfenstein (119 pounds) and Hesgard (103) have combined to win 52 matches this year and are gearing up for the Badger Conference tournament Friday and Saturday in Reedsburg.
MONROE - Aaron Hesgard jumps rope in a corner and Kevin Klopfenstein, with head phones on, paces as he listens to the rock band AC/DC to get motivated before a match.

The Monroe freshmen duo may have various superstitions before a match, but fans can't argue with the success they have had on the mat. Hesgard and Klopfenstein have been friends since they first started rolling around on the mat with the Mat Rats in kindergarten. Wrestling is more than a sport for Hesgard and Klopfenstein. It's a family connection.

Hesgard (21-11) at 103 pounds and Klopfenstein (31-7) at 119 each are gearing up for the Badger Conference wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at Reedsburg. Both Hesgard and Klopfenstein credit their early starts with Mat Rats for their success at the high school level.

Hesgard's uncle Matt Wyss was a state qualifier in high school and that was a driving force for Aaron.

"I was interested in it," Hesgard said. "He inspired me."

Klopfenstein's father, Jeff served as the Mat Rat coach for about 13 years. Hesgard's father, Rod Hesgard also served as a Mat Rats coach and a mentor in youth tournaments.

"It gave me the basics to win matches knowing how to take them down and put them on their back," Hesgard said.

Klopfenstein, who is ranked eighth in the Crossface Division 2 poll at 119, has 10 pins and is third on the team with 40 takedowns. He understands how instrumental his father's tutelage was.

"He helped me out a lot through it and taught me everything I know along with the other coaches who were there," Klopfenstein said.

Hesgard and Klopfenstein have combined for 52 wins this year, making an immediate impact as freshmen wrestlers on the mat.

"I knew they were going to be good wrestlers," Monroe coach Jeriamy Jackson said. "You never put that pressure on them as freshmen to wrestle at a high level coming in. They were a pleasant surprise."

In a weight class many schools struggle, Hesgard has flourished. He has 22 takedowns and is one of the team leaders with 13 reversals.

"He's a good listener and learner," Jackson said. "Through all the mat time, he has learned some things can't be taught and you just have to learn them over time."

Hesgard has even been impressed with the success in his first year.

"I was surprised by how good we have been this year," he said. "It's better than I expected."

Hesgard has big expectations for the conference tournament.

"I want to go in and beat my seed and make it to the second day," he said.

Jackson said wrestling is a lot about feeling. Getting the feel of a certain move or finding the way to counter or escape takes time.

Hesgard and Klopfenstein have given the Cheesemakers an amazing feeling of anticipation every time they take the mat.

"You just can't teach a move and go out and do it," Jackson said. "They know what is coming and can react to it and defend it better."

Jackson said the one thing Klopfenstein has above a lot of wrestlers is his demeanor on the mat.

"He doesn't get rattled," Jackson said. "He goes out workmanlike and gets it done. As a freshman, he seems very mature."

Klopfenstein envisions a chance of wrestling for a title.

"I want to beat my seed and make it to the finals and go for first," he said.

It's the excitement that keeps Klopfenstein going.

"You never know what will happen," he said.

Milton, ranked third in the Crossface Division 1 poll, enters the conference tournament as the favorite by virtue of their dual meet win over Stoughton earlier this year. Stoughton also will be a contender for the title. The Badger North is a logjam with Reedsburg and Sauk Prairie as the favorites.

"It's a little rejuvenating," Jackson said of the two-day conference tournament that features 12 schools. "It's a different ballgame from conference to the regional because we don't see any of these schools during the year and many of them are Division 1," he said of the Badger North. It's almost two different worlds."

The Cheesemakers have seven wrestlers who received byes in the brackets that were released Wednesday night. Klopfenstein and junior Dylan Schwitz, ranked fifth at 145 each received first-round byes. The other Cheesemakers who received first-round byes include Mason Goff (152), Dillon Weckerly (171), Josh Mayer (189), Cory Kundert (215) and heavyweight Nick Walker who is unbeaten in conference this year.

Jackson has high expectations.

"I would like to finish in the top six," he said. "Our conference tournament is one of the toughest around. We know we will take some hits and have some battles in every weight class."