DENVER — Saturday night's victory was a long time coming for both Keegan Bean and the entire Lyons wrestling program.
Under the bright lights at the Pepsi Center, Bean defeated Meeker's Chase Rule in a close 7-5 victory in the Class 2A 182-pound championship match. For the junior, it was the culmination of a year spent working tirelessly to take his wrestling ability to the next level.
For the Lyons' program he has represented for three years, Bean's breakthrough ended a lengthy drought without a state champion.
"It was hard fought and there was a lot of hard work put into it," Bean said. "It's nice to be the first state champion in 15 years. I worked a lot in the offseason I guess it's been a three-step program, not qualifying, missing the podium by one match and then winning it."
His state title makes Bean (36-2) the sixth state champion in Lyons' history, adding his name to the program's list of title winners that includes Leister Bowling, who won three titles between 1998 and 2000. Jimmy Moore was the Lions' last state champion, winning at 152 pounds in 2002.
It didn't come easily for the junior, who indeed went from not medaling as a sophomore to state champion a year later.
Rule (28-7) scored first with a takedown in the first period. With the match tied 3-3 to start the second, Bean pulled ahead with a late reversal and outscored Rule by a 2-1 margin in the third and final period to close out the match.
"I knew on my fee to stay out of the tie-ups because he works those throw-bys well," Bean said. "My shot and my reversals really came through there."
Bean's meteoric rise from non-placer to the top of the podium left quite an impression on Lyons' second-year head coach Brandon Lohr.
"He's improved by leaps and bounds," Lohr said. "He's extremely smart, probably one of the smartest wrestlers I've known. He knows what he needs to do and he does it. He really takes to heart the mistakes he makes and learns from them. He was a different wrestler at this tournament, honestly. He changed up his style quite a bit and went away from some of the things he likes to do best because he knew the things he would need to do well to have success at this level."