TACOMA - Blaine 160-pound wrestler Jon Stewart didn't leave the Tacoma Dome with the individual title he sought, but he was a textbook example of how much a dedicated wrestler can improve in a year's time with extreme hard work and dedication.
Stewart, who didn't medal last year, won with decisions in each of his first three Mat Classic XXVI matches, but he couldn't edge Quincy wrestler Antonio Melendez in the final.
Stewart suffered an early takedown and couldn't recover as he fell 3-1 Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Tacoma Dome.
"I take it as an honor," said Stewart of placing second. "I was the No. 2 guy in the state in 1A. Hats off to him. I just really wanted to bring home another medal that was gold, but sometimes in life it doesn't happen that way."
Blaine coach Craig Foster raved about Stewart's transformation from last year to this season and said his senior put together a tremendous state tournament.
Stewart completed intensive camps, worked tirelessly in the weight room and did everything in his power to put himself in contention for a state title, Foster said.
"He put in a lot of time," said the Blaine coach. "He loves wrestling, and he works really hard in the weight room. He runs hard. He is kind of a workout fanatic. He watches college wrestling. He's all into it, every which way he could be. He made a big jump in a year, and I couldn't be more proud of him."
Stewart credited his new mindset for his strong tournament and overall season.
He lost to Melendez 7-3 during last year's state quarterfinals, but he showed no amount of apprehension during his championship bout.
"Last year it was between my ears," Stewart said. "I was confident, but once I got to the higher-level wrestlers, there was something missing. That was my mindset. Today, I wasn't nervous at all."
Stewart ended his year with a 31-8 record and six pins.
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