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Halfway to the title.

That's what Nicolet sophomore 170 Parker Keckeisen (44-1) is after two gritty wins in the opening rounds of the WIAA State Individual Tournament in Madison on Thursday.

The second-ranked in state Knight star battled through a difficult opening bracket, downing Jake Belongia (37-3) of New Berlin, 7-4, and then overpowered Riley Remington (39-7) of Elkhorn, 9-2, to earn a match-up with top-ranked in state Connor Williams of La Crosse Central (46-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Keckeisen, whose motto is "State title or bust", felt good about the day, but is already anticipating the big matches coming up.

"I can't wait," he said. "He (Willams) is the number one ranked guy and I can't wait for my chance at him. I'm really focused on a championship."

State ranked Jose Acosta of Manitowoc (46-1) is the featured wrestler in the other semifinal.

Keckeisen, who cruised through the regional and sectional qualifying, had to amp up his game against the very physical and strong Belongia in the opening bout. It was 0-0 after the first period, but then Keckeisen was able to get an escape and a takedown early in the second period to establish control.

"I knew he'd be strong so I had to be careful how I set up my shots," said Keckeisen.

Against Remington, two first period takedowns gave Keckeisen the control he needed.

"I got that first takedown, then I let him up and I got another one, that felt good," said Keckeisen. "I'm really focused on not stopping when I take a shot. I get my angles and go."

As he worked his way out of the Kohl Center afterwards, Keckeisen conducted one more piece of business. He found his old pal Acosta, tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he had won.

Acosta nodded affirmatively. The two exchanged quick smiles before moving on, equals and rivals, both with the same goal.

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