In the face of defeat, it can be hard to draw upon our inner reserves and face with the world with honesty and courage. Losing can make us feel embarrassed or ashamed. We may feel like we let down those who believed in us or had pushed us to train and win. But when it comes to losing the last match of your high school career, especially when that is in the state championships, it takes an honorable person to face the person who defeated you and shake their hand without contempt.
And when Mitchell McKee faced off with Malik Stewart a lot was on the line. They were competing for the Minnesota high school state wrestling championship, and both wanted to win.
But these high school wrestlers demonstrated a level of sportsmanship that is wanting in many matches. And while they both gave their all in the match, it was how they reacted after it was over that could prove as an example to many professional athletes in the game today.
McKee won the match. And Stewart’s high school wrestling career was ended. You can imagine the emotions flowing through Stewart’s mind. He must have felt the pain of the loss, especially after training so hard to win all those months.
While Stewart could have shaken McKee’s hand and then run off to the locker room to sulk, he did not. Instead, he proved he had a level of sportsmanship that was admirable. He did something that should be applauded.
Stewart lost his father when he was young. And the young man knew that McKee’s father was dying from cancer. Because he understood the pain associated with losing one’s father, he did something wonderful and approached McKee’s dad with respect a man in his position deserves.
Instead of storming off to the locker room a loser, he strode over to McKee’s father and shared some words.
He shook his opponent’s father’s hand. Then he hugged him and offered him words of encouragement as he struggled to survive the cancer that was slowly killing him. Although his son had just defeated him in the final match of his high school career, Stewart told McKee’s old man to “stay strong.” Then he reminded him that everybody loves him.
McKee was overcome with respect for his opponent when he saw what he did. He told KARE-TV about it.
“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 could also sense that a special moment had just occurred. They applauded both student-athletes fiercely and gave them the love they deserved for their hard-fought match.
But it was Stewart’s display of sportsmanship that urged the crowd to rise to its feet and give the boys a standing ovation following their wrestling match. It was inspiring for them to see the young man, who had just lost the most important match of his career, demonstrate respect to his opponent’s father.
What do you think about this young man’s act of respect?