Cochrane Cowboys head coach Vern McNeice couldn't be prouder of the performance of club alumni at the national university level.

Last weekend, Cochrane's Callum McNeice was named Canada West Outstanding Wrestler of the Year and all three other Cochrane Cowboy alumni medalled at the Canada West Wrestling Championships, Feb. 9-10.

McNeice, Aidan McKeage and Grace Chambers all struck gold while Brendan McKeage earned bronze. 

Wrestling for the University of Calgary Dinos in the 72k division, McNeice overcame rival Marcus Peterson, of the University of Alberta Golden Bears, then went on to win the balance of his bouts to claim gold and the championships' MVP award. 

"I've wrestled this guy three times previous, this year and last year, and I've never beaten him. So it was definitely good to beat him for the first time at one of the biggest tournaments of the year."

McNeice said he knew it was his first match of the championship and that gave him time to focus on his preparations.

The third-year Dinos product was runner-up at last year's conference championship and now takes aim at improving on last year's fourth-place finish at the USports (previously known as CIS) championships being hosted this year by Algoma University, Feb. 23-25, in Sault Ste. Marie, ON.

McNeice was named western conference rookie of the year in 2016.

For the University of Calgary, Grace Chambers won gold in the 51k class. She's a second-year wrestler who hails from Rocky Mountain House but was also a member of the Cochrane Cowboys.

Coach McNeice was particularly thrilled for Chambers, who has been overcoming the tragedy of losing triplet sisters Zara and Bridget in car collision just before Christmas.

She beat last year's champion, a wrestler she had previously not been able to overcome.

"At one point in the match, Grace was up 9-0 and she just grabbed the day. There was hardly a dry eye in the whole arena. It was so powerful. The exhibition of character and strength and translating it into a sporting achievement, it was beautiful, it was amazing, it was just so powerful."

"She elevator her game so much and to be able to do that when she was dealing with what she has. I was just so proud of her. She's just an amazing person."

He's also impressed with the strength and character displayed by Brendan McKeage, competing in the 65k class, who has had to overcome multiple injuries the last few years.

"He's been training all year but just wrestling live just since December and he came back and fought his way in a really tough weight class to a bronze medal. That's perseverance, that's strength."

Brendan's older brother, Aidan, 76k, is a consistently tough competitor, says McNeice, and is excelling in the Golden Bears program.

The success of the Cochrane wrestlers speaks volumes of the quality program here. Coach McNeice says it is a tribute to a lot of good people who have helped nurture their skills over the years both here and at the provincial and university level.

"It's a pretty powerful thing to see some young kids that certainly had an impact on our program and are now having an impact on promoting the sport at a higher level."

The host Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas topped the podium, winning both the men's and women's Can West Championships.

In the women's, Dinos came third to the Pandas and Saskatchewan Huskies. The Dinos' men's team came fourth.

Canada West teams now set their sights on the USports Championships. All four Cochrane Cowboy wrestlers have advanced by medalling last weekend.

In USports, McNeice, Aidan McKeage and Chambers are all currently ranked second in Canada after last weekend's championship. Brendan McKeage has risen to sixth.