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High school wrestler's touching gesture moves crowd to tears

March 10, 2014 at 11:53 AM ET

Video: High school wrestler Malik Stewart was defeated in the Minnesota state championship, but in a moment that earned a standing ovation from the crowd and went viral online, he immediately hugged the father of his opponent, who is battling cancer. Stewart lost his own father to a heart attack when he was young.

A Minnesota high school wrestler came up short of his dream of a state title last week — but it was his touching display of sportsmanship afterward that ensured his season would end with a standing ovation. 

After Blaine High School sophomore Malik Stewart was pinned by Michael Albertville High School's Mitchell McKee in a championship match, Stewart didn't sulk or storm away in frustration. Instead he shook hands with McKee and his coaches, and then walked over and offered a handshake and a hug to McKee's father.

Steve McKee is battling terminal cancer and served as his son's inspiration on his journey to a state title. 

The crowd at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul rose to give both wrestlers a standing ovation. Tears streaked the faces of many in attendance who understood the situation. 

Michael Albertville High School sophomore Mitchell McKee shared an emotional hug with his father, who is battling terminal cancer, after winning the Minnesota state wrestling title at 120 pounds.
TODAY
Michael Albertville High School sophomore Mitchell McKee shared an emotional hug with his father, who is battling terminal cancer, after winning the Minnesota state wrestling title at 120 pounds.

"I got a little teary because I lost the match, and I knew the hard times he was going through,'' Stewart told NBC affiliate KARE-TV in Minneapolis. "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." 

"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," McKee told KARE. 

Malik Stewart (in blue) congratulated fellow sophomore Mitchell McKee after McKee pinned Stewart to win the 120-pound state title at the Minnesota wrestling championships. Stewart then went and gave a handshake and embrace to McKee's father.
TODAY
Malik Stewart (in blue) congratulated fellow sophomore Mitchell McKee after McKee pinned Stewart to win the 120-pound state title at the Minnesota wrestling championships. Stewart then went and gave a handshake and embrace to McKee's ailing father.

Stewart lost his own father to a heart attack when he was 7 years old, so he could empathize with McKee. Several coaches in attendance complimented the young athlete on his composure and thoughtfulness in a pressure-packed setting. 

"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,'' Stewart said. "That's the biggest part." 




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