The Class 3A state high school wrestling championship at the Xcel Energy Center this week ended with a standing ovation and few dry eyes. The match for the final 120 pound contenders already began with much emotion.
St. Michael Albertville High School sophomore Mitchell McKee wanted to win the state for his father, who is battling terminal cancer and was given months to live.
“I prayed ‘God help me win this match’ so I can go win a state title for my dad,” said McKee.
McKee pinned opponent Malik Stewart, a Blaine High School sophomore, around 1:22 into the face-off. Losing the state title, Stewart could have walked away, but he chose to do something that would stun many in the arena.
“He won,” said Stewart. “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.”
Stewart didn’t stop there. He shook the hands of McKee’s coaches and then ran over to McKee’s dad, Steve, again offering a handshake and an embrace.
“He took that upon himself, knew Mitchell’s father was over there gave him a hug and congratulated him,” said Josh Prokosch, the Blaine Bengal’s head wrestling coach.
Stewart said the emotions of greater loss settled in.
“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,” said Stewart.
When it was McKee’s turn to hug his dad, onlookers cried, stood and clapped. Stewart said he deeply understood the emotion behind the embrace.
“I went through the same thing when I was younger but my dad didn’t pass by cancer. It was by a heart attack, so I know what he is going through,” said Stewart, who said his dad died when he was seven years old. …
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