VIA| For many high school athletes, the last time they suit up for their school is the last time they play that sport in that capacity again. Sure they’ll keep playing, but in college or professionally, the odds are not in their favor.
So that last game or match takes on an extra special significance. Especially when it takes place with a state championship on the line.
And that’s where we meet Mitchell McKee and Malik Stewart. The two were competing for a Minnesota high school state wrestling championship.
But (as I am sure you were expecting to hear) they proved once again that sports is about much more than what you leave on the playing field. It’s about what you do off the field of battle that really defines you.
After a hard-fought match, McKee won the championship. Stewart’s time was over.
Unless you are in that situation, it’s hard to know exactly what runs through your mind when you lose a match like that. It’s probably why we don’t begrudge those second place finishers who offer their opponent a quick “Good job” before retiring to the locker room.
Stewart could have easily done that but he was struck by another feeling. It was a feeling of compassion.
Stewart, who had lost his father as a young boy, knew that McKee’s father was struggling with cancer. It was a fight that was not going well.
So after the match was over and the two young men shook hands, Stewart did not head off. He headed over.
He approached McKee’s father and shook his hand. The two hugged, and Stewart offered some words of encouragement by telling the man to “stay strong” and that everybody loves him.
McKee was overwhelmed by the action. He told KARE-TV “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 — really respectful.”
The crowd showed their admiration for both young athletes with a standing ovation. All of us should join in and learn from Stewart who helped us to remember that there are greater things at work in this world.