BY RONALD HANAKI
SC Staff Writer
On March 2, Brendan McKeown finished as the runner-up at the 174-pound weight class at NCAA’s Division II Super Regional 1 wrestling tournament at Pitt-Johnstown.
That qualified him to represent East Stroudsburg University at NCAA Division II’s Wrestling Championships.
Ranked #5 by the NCAA Division II Wrestling Coaches Association, he will be headed to Cleveland, Ohio on March 14 – 15 with the goal of becoming the national champion at the 174-pound weight class.
A redshirt senior, McKeown was able to gain an extra year of eligibility as a collegiate wrestler.
McKeown already has his undergraduate degree in criminal justice after graduating last year cum laude with honors.
Needless to say, this student-athlete can sure get it done in the classroom, and he was recently honored during ESU’s Student Leader Night on February 26 for his academic accomplishments.
McKeown’s wrestling record this season is 19-3. This will be the third time he qualified for nationals where his best finish was sixth place.
McKeown, originally from Burnt-Hills, New York, was recruited to come to ESU.
When he visited ESU, he found that he liked the atmosphere.
He also felt that the other wrestlers in the program like Shane Mallory and Jeff Jacobs could push him to become an even better wrestler.
“From day one, my goal was to be the best in the nation, and I feel that I have done all the training and work to do that,” said McKeown.
A typical day for McKeown starts with him getting up early to do some training or a workout.
In the morning, he is a graduate assistant at school. In the afternoon, McKeown might do some hard cardio or hard lifting and then take an ice bath.
He finishes at the library at night. He is very disciplined.
Because he has been training for years, McKeown feels that he knows his body by now. He might warm up by doing a hard mile.
He does a wrestling drill called Shark Bait, which starts with one wrestler squaring off with another wrestler until someone gets taken down.
Then another wrestler joins in, and then another and another until the original wrestler has wrestled everyone in his group.
Once that happens, another wrestler becomes the bait, and the other wrestlers go after that wrestler.
The goal of this drill is to build the toughness of the wrestlers.
In terms of lifting weights, McKeown will lift or squat anywhere from 185 to 225 pounds during the wrestling season. He will do reps of 15, 12, 10, and 8 with a 15 to 30-second rest in between.
During the off-season, McKeown will go higher. He will lift 325 pounds and more.
McKeown drinks 2 gallons of water a day. Doing so allows him to eat 3, 4, or 5 meals a day.
This past week, McKeown’s diet was 3,500 calories per day. It is a high carb diet, and he also makes sure to get some protein.
As he gets closer to a wrestling match, his caloric intake will drop down to 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day. In addition, he takes multi-vitamin and protein supplements.
As to the question of whether or not athletes should get paid, McKeown feels that for the most part, the athletic scholarship is enough.
However, if the school is getting revenue from the sport, then McKeown feels that some of that money should go to that athletic program that is creating the revenue for the school.
In fact, McKeown himself was a walk-on and did not have a scholarship in the beginning, but he is proud of earning his scholarship.
McKeown became an Academic All-American at ESU and was also named twice to NWCA’s All Academic team. He is also listed in Who’s Who in Colleges and Universities as a grad student.
After his wrestling career is over, McKeown would like to become a wrestling coach or help out as a graduate assistant or a head assistant coach.
In terms of his immediate future after school, he is trying to get a job with the New York State police.
In fact, out of all his many athletic and academic accomplishments, McKeown is most proud of being an Academic All-American – until he becomes a national wrestling champion, of course.
McKeown credits his fellow graduate student classmates like Nemanja Nikolic, Khriswayne Wallace, and Mike Muglia for keeping him grounded and focused.
Outside of wrestling, McKeown is passionate about Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but he doesn’t necessarily see MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) in his future.
McKeown works hard to balance sports with academics.
“It’s hard to balance everything. It’s hard work to be successful as a student-athlete,” he said.
“You can’t go from 1 to 10. You have to lay one brick a day until you have a wall. That wall is your foundation of success.”
“You have to eat healthy, and you have to study hard. You have to learn to not party when you can’t,” he said.
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