CEDAR FALLS – As the 2022-23 wrestling season approaches, Northern Iowa is looking to improve on its 7-7 season and 6-3 record against Big 12 rivals.

Parker Keckeisen is on a mission.

Coming off his second conference championship and his second bronze medal in the NCAA Division I Championships, 184-pounder has become one of the top wrestlers in his class in the country and an asset in head coach Doug Schwab’s arsenal. But it isn’t enough.

Keckeisen is still chasing two-time NCAA champion and Olympic gold medalist David Taylor. To catch him, he still needs to improve. It puts a chip on his shoulder, one Schwab is more than happy to see in any member of the team that’s seen as the “little brother” to Iowa and Iowa State.

“That’s okay, especially when you can use it in the right way,” Schwab said. “If it’s used and directed in the right way, then it’s fine.”

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Keckeisen spent the offseason sparring with assistant coach Lee Roper and ironing out points that needed improvement like his underhooks and deep collar ties. However, in order to get from third to first in the NCAA, the biggest change he’s made has been mental.

While physical conditioning remains crucial, Keckeisen is working on his mindset when preparing for a dual. According to him, he already has all the tools he needs to reach the top.

“I know Roper talks about it all the time,” Keckeisen said. “Trusting myself, trusting the training that I’ve put in. And trusting that I have the best skills out there and I’m ready to go win it, and not having any doubts and just making the choice that I’m going showcase my skills and try to go win it all.”

Roper originally recruited Keckeisen as a junior at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin. He and a colleague were there for another student, but watching Keckeisen wrestle the next mat over, they saw the potential.

With three years to go as a Panther, the coaches remain confident their surprise recruit is nowhere near his ceiling. Schwab has the utmost confidence.

For Keckeisen’s part, he’s fully bought in. Now it’s time to see the results of his investment.

“Honestly, it’s making that choice that I’m the best wrestler in the weight class and making that choice consistently over and over, and that starts in the practice room,” Keckeisen said.

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