This story captures so many elements we love about sport. Mitch McKee and Malik Stewart, two high school wrestlers, spent years training and practicing for their moment on the mat, a journey which culminated at the Minnesota State Championship. The two faced off in a match filled with intensity and motivation to do their best and win. Spectators witnessed the result of years of hard work, and then the crowd shared in a touching moment of outstanding sportsmanship.
During his sophomore year, Mitch McKee of St. Michael-Albertville High School and his family were facing one of the greatest challenges in their lives as his father, Steve McKee, battled terminal cancer. Driven by a desire for his father to live to watch him win a championship, Mitch trained hard and long for the upcoming tournament.
Malik Stewart of Blaine High School had lost his own father to a heart attack years before. He knew all too well what Mitch would soon be experiencing. He also carried with him his own desire to win the championship. So when the two teenagers met in the gym during the state tournament, it was certainly an emotional-filled match for the crowd and even more so for Mitch and Malik.
In the end, Mitch won the match. He and his father shared a moment together as they hugged after he won. Malik shook the hands of Mitch, the officials, and the coaches. Then he ran across the mat, seemingly towards the exit doors, but Malik stopped running when he reached Mitch’s father. Malik extended his hand to shake Mr. McKee’s hands, and the two hugged. Then Malik told Mr. McKee to stay strong. For Malik to recognize what an important moment this was for Mitch and his father and to reach out and offer his congratulations after having lost the match speaks volumes of his strength of character.