Stewart Sees A Golden Future
Aug. 17, 2004
By BRIAN HUNSICKER
Roger Stewart gave a good effort to get to Athens, and this year's Summer Olympics. While he didn't make it onto the USA Wrestling team that is competing in Greece, he will get a chance to go to Sydney - the city that hosted the Summer Olympics in 2000 is also this year's host of the Deaf Olympics.
Stewart, a 25-year old Woodbridge graduate who can hear with the help of a hearing aid, will compete in the 55-kilogram Greco-Roman event at Sydney. But he won't be just flying over there and hoping for the best.
"I want to bring home the gold and do my best," he said. The qualifying for the Deaf Olympics wasn't unlike what the Athens wrestlers went through to get there. Stewart participated in the national team trials, which were held Gallaudet University in Washington, a school for deaf students.
Though Stewart can hear, many other competitors could not. As a result, Stewart said, the gym at Gallaudet was quiet. In place of a P.A. system was a board on which all of the results were hand-written. Stewart made it through fine.
In a bid to head to Athens for the more well-known Olympics, however, he didn't do quite as well.
Stewart lost his opening two matches in the East Regional qualifier in Brockport, N.Y. A win in Brockport would have earned Stewart a trip to Indianapolis and Olympic team trials, the tournament which decides who will participate in the Olympics.
But back in the beginning of his high school career, Stewart didn't envision a career in wrestling. He said he was a soccer guy instead, playing the sport until he reached high school. Once in high school, wrestling coaches took notice to him and encouraged him to try out for the wrestling team. He made the team and steadily improved, all while developing a fondness for wrestling.
The road wasn't without a bump, however. His family moved to Germany his junior year, and the high school he attended there didn't have wrestling at all.
Stewart said he missed the sport. So when his family returned to the United States in time for his senior year, Stewart enrolled at Woodbridge and began wrestling under then-Vikings coach Richard Hilleary, who is now Forest Park's head coach.
He finished the season as the area's fourth-best 103-pounder, according to the rankings by Colonial Forge coach Bill Swink. Stewart went on to wrestle at Old Dominion. After graduation, he came back to the area and landed as an assistant coach on Hilleary's staff at Forest Park.
In preparing for his trip to Sydney, Stewart called on his brother, Ryan, to help. Ryan Stewart is a rising senior on U.Va.'s wrestling team, and worked out with his brother. Ryan also brought along Patricia Miranda, who will participate in the Olympic wrestling tournament starting on Sunday.
"She was tough," Roger Stewart said of Miranda, the United States' representative in the 48 kilogram class. Currently in the Olympics, women wrestle Greco-Roman only, and not freestyle. He'll likely need as much help as he can get: Stewart said he doesn't know any of the wrestlers he'll be facing. Olympic wrestlers often see their competition annually at the World Championships.
Just how the tournament turns out, no one can be sure. But Stewart's focus remains on the top prize.
"That's my main [goal]," he said, "to bring home the gold."