A small act of kindness goes a long way – as does true sportsmanship – as one high school athlete from Minnesota showed this week. High school wrestler and sophomore Malik Stewart brought the crowd to tears inside St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center last week after losing a state high school wrestling championship to fellow sophomore opponent Mitchell McKee. After the loss, Stewart unexpectedly embraced McKee’s father, who is terminally ill with cancer and has only months to live.
“I got a little teary because I lost the match, and I knew the hard times he was going through. The crowd went wild and I heard a couple people say after I did it – that was pretty classy – but I just did it straight from the heart,” Stewart explained.
Just as McKee will inevitably experience, Stewart knows the pain of losing a parent: his own father died when he was only 7 of a heart attack.
The crowd that witnessed Stewart’s touching gesture was delightfully stunned, especially since most knew of the McKee family’s struggle with the heartbreaking news. Even his opponent was inspired by Stewart’s action!
“It was a big match for him and to be able to hug my dad like that and not be mad and storm off like a lot of kids do,” said McKee. “Really respectful.”
The heartwarming action was also very much noticed by the coaches who were in attendance, and Stewart is being labeled as the model of true sportsmanship.
“The whole crowd gave a standing ovation, not just for the STMA wrestler and his father, but for Stewart, who understands what true sportsmanship is,” T.J. Anderson, an assistant wrestling coach at Minnesota’s Dassel-Cokato Middle School, wrote in a letter to the honorable Stewart’s school district.
“Mr. Stewart is a model wrestler that we can all use in our examples of what a true athlete is.”
We couldn’t agree more.