Garrett Stewart was in fifth grade when he started wrestling.
The sport was a kind of family tradition, Stewart said, with his dad, uncles, cousins and brothers having wrestled at one time or another.
But it was the feeling Stewart got when he was on the mat, the feeling of fighting for his own success, that kept him around.
“Wrestling is a unique sport, not like anything else,” Stewart said. “It is you and only you on the mat and there is no team to blame if you don’t do good. It is all up to you what you end up doing.”
Stewart, a Moffat County High School junior, qualified for the 4A state wrestling tournament for a second consecutive year this season.
Next season, Stewart will be the only returning senior wrestler and state qualifier.
While he accepts a leadership position now, it wasn’t until he qualified for state in his sophomore year that Stewart realized he had the potential to be a great grappler.
“In middle school I thought I was really good, but then I came in as a freshman and it was a whole different game,” he said. “It was a learning experience, going from 1-minute periods to 2-minute periods and all the different wrestling styles.
“I never would have thought in a million years I would have qualified for state as a sophomore.”
Head coach Roman Gutierrez wasn’t as surprised as Stewart.
Gutierrez said Stewart put in the time and did “the little things” to become a good wrestler.
“Garrett worked on his conditioning, he showed up and stayed late, and he worked outside the wrestling room,” he said. “He worked so he could accomplish all the goals he set for himself.”
Wrestling in the state tournament as a sophomore build up his confidence, Stewart said, and gave him a look at some of the best competition in the state.
But, it also raised expectations for the rest of his high school career.
“I had raised my expectations for myself heading into this season,” Stewart said. “Since I had been to state already, anything but making it again would have been a disappointment.”
Gutierrez said wrestlers' first time at state brings out nerves, but it gives them an edge in the following years.
Stewart’s two years of experience, Gutierrez said, are not only vital to his success next year, but also to the team's.
“Garrett did a good job this year helping lead, but the team did a good job of supporting each other as a whole,” he said. “Next year, Garrett will be the senior leader and he will have to make sure everyone is on the same page and working hard in the room. He has to keep them motivated and reflect his work ethic onto them.”
Stewart said his goal next year is to not only qualify for the state tournament, but place in the top four.
He knows what he has to do to reach the goal, but he also wants to use what he knows to help his teammates.
“It can be hard to be the leader because like this year, kids wanted to give up at the end of the year,” he said. “But, I know that if you stick with it and keep pushing, you will get there.
“I want to keep everyone on track and get the experience they need to so they can notice how awesome it feels to succeed.”
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