Senior Aidan McKeag is fully embracing his fourth and final varsity season, according to Loyola head coach Joe Haney.

Not only is McKeag looking to leave the program as one of its most successful wrestlers, but he’s assumed a more active role as a team leader.

“He’s never been very vocal, leading more by example, but he’s found his voice this year,” Haney said. “He’s doing what he can to bring the younger kids under his wing and showing them how to do things the right way. He’s been huge.”

McKeag is focused on himself, too. He enters Friday’s match at St. Patrick with 97 career wins. Only Sean Cloherty (Class of 2018) has 100 or more victories, and he’s Loyola’s all-time leader with 110. McKeag won 34 matches last season and hasn’t won fewer than 27 times in any of his three seasons.

In the season-opening meet Friday and Saturday at Vernon Hills, McKeag went 8-2 at 132 pounds.

“Aidan knows what’s out there,” Haney said. “He’s working hard to achieve his goals.”

One of those is competing at his first state tournament. After advancing to the Class 3A sectionals as a freshman and sophomore, McKeag came one win shy of qualifying last season.

“He was disappointed and doesn’t want that to happen again,” Haney said.

Loyola’s last wrestler to qualify for the state tournament was Ryan Wosick (Class of 2015), who did it as a junior in 2014. Wosick now is a senior wrestler at University of Pennsylvania.

“We are hoping to get a few of our guys down there, in addition to Aidan,” Haney said.

Other returning starters include senior John Flanagan (160 pounds), senior John Michael Kelly (182 pounds), senior Charlie Paxson (152) and junior John Spagnolo, Jr., (182/195).

At Vernon Hills, Kelly went 7-3, while Flanagan finished 6-3 and Paxson ended up 6-4.

Newcomers to watch are junior Jack Nimesheim (170), junior Billy Sullivan (145), sophomore Zoe Crecos (120) and sophomore Josh Kreutz (220).

Crecos and Kreutz both earned their first varsity wins in their first varsity matches at Vernon Hills. Crecos also picked up her first career varsity pin at the meet.