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It's always rough when families have to move when kids are in high school.

Oak Creek junior WIAA state tournament semifinalist and 132-pound wrestler Veliko Kochiu had to deal with that this past summer when his family moved from Wausau, where he had been a two-time state qualifier for West High School.

His father got a new job in the Milwaukee area, and the family, which has relatives in the South Milwaukee and Franklin areas, landed in Oak creek.

Braced by the family support, Kochiu was also happy to land in a school with a strong wrestling program.

"It was great coming to such terrific team with such great training partners who really push me (fellow state qualifiers Mitch Landgraf at 120 and Matt Berlin at 126)," he said. "The coaches are great, too."

His season got off to a slow start when he suffered an ankle injury the week before the Southeast Conference champion Knights' first dual meet and missed several weeks.

"That was hard, because I really wanted to be on the mat," he said.

But he recovered and rallied quickly, shooting up the state rankings with one impressive win after another.

He added two more today in the state individual tournament on Thursday, as Kochiu (29-1) advanced to a state semifinal match at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, against Sam Boerner of Cedarburg (35-8) back at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Kochiu scored a first round 9-0 major decision over Jarod Maes of Bay Port (34-10) and then overpowered Pewaukee's Eric Halverson (41-10) by a 9-4 score.

He was the only one of the eight Knight state qualifiers to advance to the semifinals.

Kochiu, who was sixth at 120 pounds last year, was extremely pleased with his day.

"This is a major breakthrough," he said.

The winner of the semifinal will face the victor of the other semifinal that includes powerhouses Trent Leon of Kaukauna and Brandon Klein of Stoughton, for the title at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, back at the Kohl.

Kochiu gradually took control of the match against Maes and was never seriously threatened.

Against the testy Halverson, whom Kochiu called "a great wrestler," he went down 3-2 in the third period before he got a takedown and then used a whizzer to put Halverson in a nearfall position for a decisive three points.

"He chose down (in the third), and he got the escape, but that's OK because I think I'm better on my feet anyway," said Kochiu. "Once I got the takedown, I knew I had a chance."

Kochiu's heritage is Albanian, and he has the national symbol, the eagle, tattooed on his ribs.

He just hopes he can soar like an eagle to a state title.

"I'm pretty excited about my chances," he said.

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