ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota high school wrestler won over the crowd with a hug that came away from the mat — and after a loss.
Instead of getting upset when he lost the 120-pound title match in the Class 3A tournament, Blaine High School sophomore Malik Stewart went over to his opponent's dad — who is dying of cancer — and gave him a hug. The crowd at the Xcel Energy Center loved it.
"He won," Stewart said of opponent Mitchell McKee. "He was pretty proud, and his dad was pretty proud. So I went over there and I shook his hand, embraced him a little bit, and told him to stay strong and everybody loves him."
"I got a little teary because I lost the match, and I knew the hard times he was going through," Stewart added. "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 lost his own father to a heart attack when he was just 7 years old. He said he was just doing the right thing.
McKee, a St. Michael Albertville High School sophomore, said he wanted to win the tournament for his father, who has just months to live. He pinned Stewart around 1:22 into the face-off in the match earlier this month.
"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."
When it was McKee's turn to hug his dad, people in the crowd cried, stood and clapped.
Josh Prokosch, Blaine's head wrestling coach, said Stewart took it upon himself to congratulate McKee's dad.
"You see kids, they lose and throw their headgear, they sit and pout, first thoughts through his mind, are to congratulate Mitchell, congratulate the coach and shake the dad's hand so that was fantastic," Prokosch said. "For a sophomore in high school he can see a lot of the big picture which is pretty rare nowadays."
Stewart said he knows he will face McKee again, and is focused on his goal of winning two state titles.
"When you go out there, you want to win, but if you don't win, you have got to be a good sport and you be polite. That's the biggest part," Stewart said.