BILLINGS — Billings West’s Keyan Hernandez can join an exclusive club next month.
The Golden Bears' senior is aiming to become Montana’s 41st four-time state wrestling champion, a goal he’s had for as long as he can remember. But finishing off this magical run isn’t just about him.
“My dad, he should have been (a four-timer). His freshman year, 15 seconds left," Hernandez said. "It's almost like I want to hand it to him. I want to win it for myself, but I want to give it to him if I win. If I do win it, hopefully, I want to give it to him, like you deserve this."
Hernandez and his dad Jeremy grapple with each other on a near daily basis, something that’s helped push Keyan to the heights he’s reached.
Keyan has lost just once in his high school career — a setback at last year’s Tom LeProwse to Belgrade’s Mason Gutenberger, who is a two-time champion in his own right.
“I was afraid to lose, because I didn't want to lose my undefeated record. When I lost it hurt and stung, but I let those nerves go," Hernandez said. "'I don't want to lose, what about my record?' I let that go and just went and had fun. I already know what the pain feels like, I might as well go have fun and try not to feel that again."
Hernandez didn’t shy away from the challenge Gutenberger brought. In fact, he’s facing it head on. Hernandez bumped up a weight class to 126 where Gutenberger is and even got a little revenge at the LeProwse this past weekend.
“Got to give it to him, he's a great wrestler and a great kid. I love being freinds with him, but on the mat we can't be friends. After that, he's a great kid — kind and respectful," Hernandez said.
The future University of Iowa wrestler is focused on the day-to-day work to improve and put himself in a position to stand atop the podium in February, hoping to finally make those childhood dreams a reality.
“I would win a state title and point to a wall in my room pretending it's a crowd, and I'd hold up a one, two or a three," Hernandez said. "You can look at yourself in the mirror and pretend you're looking at a crowd, but when you're in there it's so awesome to feel it and the crowd just yelling your name."
Hernandez hopes he caps his high school wrestling career hearing the standing ovation inside First Interstate Arena at MetraPark in February.