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Meet Alex Stewart, leader and motivator of a young DCHS wrestling team
Alex Stewart has been one of the key leaders for this year’s Dawson County varsity wrestling team. - photo by Rio White

At the beginning of this season, Dawson County varsity wrestler Alex Stewart wasn’t sure if he was ready to become one of the team captains.

Heading into his junior year for the Tigers, Stewart knew he needed to get better results and didn’t know if the many young wrestlers on the team even saw him as a leader.

But as soon as football season ended for Stewart and fellow junior Colton Schuette, the vocal pair immediately made their presence felt on the wrestling team — showing by example what the team’s standards were.

Now, just as Stewart has grown confident in his own abilities on and off the mat, so has the team.

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“I love being a captain and I love helping the younger kids because they’re becoming so great,” Stewart said. “I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to become a captain now that I see the responsibility of it and the effect it has on people.”

Prior to Stewart and Schuette coming back from football, the wrestling team had their first meet of the year.

Despite struggling in those opening matches, the team was given a boost when head coach Arron Haynes introduced the two juniors.

After Schuette faced an injury, Stewart became a linchpin for the team’s confidence and skill level.

As for skill, Stewart’s own wrestling journey — which he credits Schuette and his older brother for helping start — has allowed him to give directions and find ways for young wrestlers to approach matches and make fundamental adjustments.

He has also taken the initiative in helping lead practices when coach Haynes is busy with track and field duties. 

“I’ve always been able to overcome stuff…and I think that’s made me the person I am to be able to talk to somebody and help them out,” Stewart said. “I’ll be the first one there. I don’t care if I don’t know them or if they’re new to wrestling…I’m always there for them.”

While the season may be winding down, Stewart has no interest in either him or the team letting go of any intensity. To him, the team has made far too much progress to slow down now.

An example of that progress was earlier in the season when the team faced a strong Gilmer side. While Stewart admitted the Tigers were beaten badly across the board the first time the two teams met, the second meeting yielded vast improvements by Dawson.

Stewart also pointed out that part of that improvement comes from a sense of commitment from the young players who want to get better every day.

“They’re so eager to learn,” Stewart said. “Never once this whole season have I ever told somebody something or taught them a move that they were like ‘I don’t want to do that.’ [Instead] they were like ‘That could actually get me some wins’ or ‘That’s really cool, I didn’t know I could do it that way.’”

Stewart also credits Haynes for helping him develop into a leader for the team.

“Not only is coach Haynes a wonderful wrestling coach, but he’s also a great life mentor,” Stewart said. “He’s always been — to every single person — open if you need to…free your mind. He will sit there the whole practice and listen to you.”

For Stewart, the burst of confidence he got from the sport of wrestling and leadership also affects him off the mat. His experiences have made him a confident speaker.

Each Christmas, Stewart and his family visit a children’s hospital to hear their stories and provide them with gifts. While he used to be afraid to speak up, he now feels confident in communicating with the kids. 

The ability for him to give back to those children — especially after all the love and support shown to his brother Kenny years ago — serves as one of his biggest motivators.

“If I’m ever down, I always think that what I did for [the children], they might remember for the rest of their lives,” Stewart said. “That I brought a smile on their faces…it brings me a warm feeling. I love doing that.”

Stewart and the wrestling team have Senior Night tonight at 5 p.m.