Hearing loss can't keep Louisa coach from reaching his goals: 'Anything is possible in life'

Posted at 12:07 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 23:38:01-05

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. -- Roger Stewart developed a passion for wrestling at a young age.

As an Army brat growing up in Europe, Stewart learned to count on only himself for strength and perseverance as an American living abroad.

"You have to deal with situations if nobody's there to back you up," Stewart said. "You have to learn how to defend yourself. You have to learn how to solve the problem yourself."

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When Stewart became the head coach at Louisa high school two years ago, that was the first lesson anyone in his gym learned.

"Wrestling isn't something that builds character, it shows character," Tovornik said. "As someone who wrestles with friends, it didn't help me grow with my friends, it helped show me who my true friends are."

"They give us a lot of help during practice," student wrestler Taylor Waddy said. "If there's something you want to know, they'll take you aside and teach you the move."

"When they have that smile on their face or when they kind of glow, it just shows that they've worked hard in the room or the classroom for that satisfaction," Stewart said.

The only thing Stewart has dealt with longer than wrestling is hearing loss.

Born deaf, Stewart received his first hearing implants at the age of seven. It has not stopped him from becoming one of the most popular figures in the entire school.

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"I believe in myself and I had someone with me the whole time," Stewart said. "I had God with me, I had my grandmother with me, I had my family with me. I had my brother with me."

"Him being deaf, and me with a learning disability, I was able to connect with him immediately because both of us have things that we struggle with in terms of a disability. But to have that understanding makes us closer as people," Rowan said.

Stewart was named Wrestling Coach of the Year by the Charlottesville Daily Progress. He also guided the Lions to the first individual state champion in 15 years.

At the same time, he is still competing. He is headed to his fifth Deaflympic Games and seeking his first medal.

He has won five Deaflympic team trial championships and uses his own journey to show his students that no hurdle, no obstacle, no disability, nor negativity can keep you from your goals.

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"If you see what's in front of you then you know that at the end of that tunnel, that's the prize that you want," he said. "You have to go get it. If you turn around and go back to the person that's talking negatively about you, then the prize is not yours. You're going to regret it for a long long time. You can't always turn back because it's a waste of time."

"Just having a role model to see the steps that he's done and he hasn't let anything stop him. So can I," Rowan said.

"Even if the world is stacked against you, even if you have something that limits you, you can still succeed. On a personal level, he's just a great person in general," Tovornik said.

"I'm not trying to impress people, but I'm trying to show the world that anything is possible in life if you put your mind to it," Stewart said.

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