LYONS — It took a few days for reality to set in for Keegan Bean after he won his Class 2A 182 pound title last February at the Pepsi Center.
"I remember that feeling a few days later of 'Whoa, that really happened'," he said.
Bean, who entered the tournament knowing he wasn't necessarily the favorite but had a good chance, will not be thought of the same way this time around.
The target is clearly on his back and the Lyons senior is taking nothing for granted. He has spent the past nine months prepping for his title defense by getting in as much mat time as possible from Florida to Kansas and especially here at home under the watchful eye of Linn Long and Lyons coach Brandon Lohr.
"It's a little bit stressful, but I think I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year; especially with all the access of how hard the competition is at all these tournaments I go to," said Bean, who even found a team in Kansas over Thanksgiving break to practice with. "Now being able to wrestle on these good dual teams and that high level of competition just makes you so much better and I know I've gotten better."
It is rare to see a wrestler in the heavier weights be very aggressive for the entire six minutes of the match. Bean bucks that trend and goes to the mat with more moves than most — thanks to coach Linn — and more importantly will out-think his opponent; always planning two or three moves ahead.
And like most grapplers, he understands that losing is part of the sport and how you build from it make you better. That's why he tentatively said one of his goals this season is to put a 0 in the loss column.
"I'd like to say undefeated. But a big thing for me is that you learn a lot from defeat," said Bean, who will also be a part of what should be a very good Lions baseball team in the spring. "Last year I lost twice and they were both super close — I lost by two points and one point — and I probably shouldn't have lost, but I learned a lot from those matches."
Bean's championship has done loads for a Lions program that had just six kids last season. That has more than doubled this winter and, "the overall feel of the team and the moral just feels a lot better this year and that probably has a lot to do with Keegan," said Lohr.
Lohr has four freshman that have been with his middle school program since before the sixth grade and given the option of multiple sports in high school and knowing that a state champion is in the room to push them and make them better certainly swayed some decisions.
"I know some of them were actually considering whether or not they wanted to wrestle in high school or do I want to play basketball; because in middle school you can do both," Lohr said. "But because we have a state champ, it helped them make that decision to continue to do it. We also have a couple of new guys, that because we have a state champ, helped as well."
Bean not only has visions of running the table, but would love to achieve All-American status as well as a trip to Fargo (Nationals) — that will be a little tougher since the Colorado trials are on the same weekend as the 2A state baseball tournament and he will have to go to a tougher out-of-state qualifier to get in.
"Keegan is not going to hold back because of anybody else, he's doing this for himself, too. He wants this," said Lohr of his senior that recently committed to the Colorado School of Mines. "And even though he is set up for next year, I know he wants that state title again. It does take a little pressure off, but I don't think it's going to impact his performance at all."