Teen wrestler sets sights on championship win for dad

MINNEAPOLIS -- After 50-year-old Steve McKee was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer last year, his oldest son Mitch took it upon himself to try to make the disease disappear -- if only for a moment.

Mitch McKee CBS News
"Kind of flush it all away and kind of have him forget about it for that moment, and have everybody forget about it for that moment -- just be happy," Mitch said.

It was a plan only a 15-old boy could dream up. Knowing how proud dads can be when their sons do well in sports, Mitch, a wrestler, decided he would try to win the Minnesota state high school wrestling championship for his dad, even though Mitch was only a freshman at the time.

"He might not be here next year, so I knew that this was the year to do it," Mitch said.

This colossally ambitious undertaking began in weight room. All summer, Mitch got up every morning at 6:00 a.m. to lift. And he practiced -- even when there wasn't practice, he practiced. As a result, Mitch won his first match of the season -- and his second.

Steve McKee CBS News
In fact, the kid won so many matches, he not only qualified for the state tournament, he made it to the finals.

And this was it. All he needed to do was win this one last match, and he'd be the state champion in his weight class. All he needed to do was pin this one last opponent, and that cancer -- for one moment -- would disappear.

After the match, even the losing wrestler did a winning thing. He congratulated Mitch's dad, told him to stay strong. While Mitch, on the other hand, had far fewer words. He held his dad. Just held him.

Mitch hugs his dad after the match. Vanessa Schlueter
"For him to do it, for me, it was very emotional," Steve McKee said. "All the emotions you could ever have were right there."

Asked if he forgot he was sick, Steve quipped, "Was I?"

"Yeah, life was definitely perfect at that moment, you know?" Mitch said. "I just wanted to stay right there forever."

Mitch McKee definitely did right by his dad. But he had one thing all wrong. He thought he needed a huge victory to make his dad feel better, when all he really needed was the love behind it.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.