Golden Bears wrestler Aidan McKeage, 21, will be substituting the green and gold for the red and white as a member of Team Canada in the U23 World wrestling championships in Romania, Nov. 11-17.

Representing our nation at the worlds for the first time is not only thrilling for the top Canadian university wrestler, but it's also proving to be providing additional motivation to improve his prowess on the mats.

Last week, the Cochrane Cowboys alumni was offered a spot on the team after the top university contender bowed out of the competition. 

"It's my first time to actually be on the national team so I just jumped at the opportunity to do this," says McKeage.

Aidan McKeage. left, was ranked number two in Canada in his first season of senior men's university competition and topped Canada West. (contributed)

"With that knowledge that in two months time I'm going to a world championship, my training is more focused and more motivated than it has been in quite a few years and the results are already showing, at least in my books. I have a huge motivation and it makes training easier and more fun."

Owen Dawkins, UofA Golden Bears wrestling team head coach, has noticed the difference.

"He's come along way since his first year," says Dawkins. "This opportunity, I think, will sort of be a catalyst for things to come for the future. Just being selected and asked to go has changed his focus. He seems to be a little more on point when it comes to realizing what he needs to do."

"It's going to be a huge learning experience for him to be there but I think it will help him see where he wants to be and the level he has to work at to be there. In the long run, I think you'll see his domestic stuff improve dramatically from this experience."

"This will set him up for the future so he realizes where he has to be and he'll have another year at this age group. Hopefully, it will help propel him to a senior national team one day down the road."

McKeage is a few kilograms undersize for the 79 kg weight class after dropping a bit of weight over the summer and is currently bulking up in preparation for both that and the varsity season that is now underway. His first university tournament is the UofC Dinos Open, Oct. 26-27. While he won't be wrestling in the same weight class, it will be a chance to catch up with a number of other Cochrane Cowboy products who wrestle with the Dinos, including brother Brendan.

Last season was a banner year for the Cochrane athlete. McKeage is the reigning champion in 76 kg weight class for Canada West and came second in the USports national final. He won his weight class in the 2018 Golden Bear Invitational and 2017 Huskie Open and also placed second in the 2018 Guelph Open.

Also travelling to the worlds from the UofA team is Haley Heffel, competing in the 65 kg. weight class.

Connor McNeice Heading to Worlds

Meanwhile, Connor McNeice is currently competing at the Junior World Championships being hosted in Trnava Slovenia, Sept. 17-23.

In August he won bronze in the Pan-American Jr. Wrestling Championship.