Two Marion County youth wrestlers set West Virginia history in back-to-back years

Mar. 9—CHARLESTON — The first girl to win a belt in West Virginia youth wrestling and the first sibling pair to win belts in back-to-back years hail from Marion County.

Eleven-year-old Esme Stewart won the West Virginia Youth Wrestling Association belt in 2023, and her brother, eight-year-old Colton Stewart, won the belt in 2024. Esme, wrestling in 12U, also won her fourth straight state title this year, and Colton, wrestling in 8U, won his first state title.

"It's really exciting," Esme said. "I'm really proud of Colton for winning it because I know he worked so hard for it this year."

Colton expressed similar remarks in winning the belt a year after his sister did.

"I'm glad for it," Colton said. "She was the first girl to get it, and I got it the next year."

In order to win their belt, they had to win their age and weight classes in tournaments around the four regions in the state without changing their weight class, according to their coach, Grant Sisk.

"There's four regions in the state that comprise the WVYWA," Sisk said. "The goal is to get the kids from all regions to wrestle all around the state and not just their local tournaments. Every year, different clubs host a region WVYWA belt tournament. To win the belt, you have to win first place in each of those region belt tournaments at your respective age group and weight class."

Sisk, the coach of the West Fairmont Junior Wrestling Club, met Esme and Colton and their older brothers, William and Mason, through the club. He's been coaching the club for the past six years, and he said only one or two other wrestlers from his club have won the belt before.

The belt is a relatively new part of youth wrestling, according to Sisk. It began in 2019 and took a year off in 2021 because of COVID before resuming in 2022.

For Esme and Colton's parents, Jeb and Sara Stewart, it's a huge accomplishment for the family and something they're very proud of their children for achieving.

"I'm just super proud of them," Jeb Stewart said. "They practice pretty much yearly, so it's three to four nights a week of preparation for basically one short duration of a season. I'm just excited that they got something out of all the dedication and hard work that they've done throughout the year, it pays off at the end."

Esme's route to winning the belt last year included wrestling boys and out of state competition. According to Jeb Stewart, Esme wrestled a boy from Ohio in the Region I final in Brooke and won. She's the first wrestler Sisk coached to winning a state championship as well.

Colton, meanwhile, had the opportunity to win the belt in 6U two years ago, but lost to another member of the West Fairmont Junior Wrestling Club, according to Sisk.

While both Esme and Colton already left their mark in West Virginia youth wrestling history, they have the opportunity to set Virginia youth wrestling history as well. The Stewart family is moving to northern Virginia in the summer, and Jeb Stewart said they're already finding clubs for the young wrestlers to join.

"We've already mapped out some local academies," Jeb Stewart said. "We're going to continue to wrestle in another state, find the best wrestling facilities and make the most of it while we're out there. We hope to come back to West Virginia in a few years."

While the Stewart family wrestlers won't be in West Virginia for a few years, the fact remains the first girl to win the WVYWA belt and the first sibling pair to win the belt in back-to-back years hailed from Marion County.

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548