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Posted on Jan 2, 2019

A short story of high hopes and tall foes: Column

By Sebastian Moraga

The ol’ right ear hasn’t worked well since 1996, but I still heard the voice loud and clear.
It came from my right side, and from about, oh, I would say four feet, 11 inches off the ground.
“Sebastian!” the voice said. “I am NOT four-foot-eight!”
A few days earlier, in an article about the girls’ wrestling team, the team’s head coach, Devan Silva, had praised the owner of that voice as being a tough wrestler despite being four-foot-eight, and I had printed that in a Post-Register article.
Well, Cynthia Diaz wasn’t having any of that noise, thank you very much.
Being the brave reporter that I am, I immediately passed the buck and told Diaz that I had only printed what her coach had told me. She wasn’t having any of that noise, either.
“I am,” she said, “four-foot-eleven.”
I went to Silva and I asked “four-foot-eight?” The coach, to his credit, faced the music. “Sorry,” he said “I was just guessing.”
Great. Just call me Sebastian, the half-deaf, buck-passing printer of guesses. When I got home, I wondered out loud to my wife what had merited such a short-tempered (hehe) reaction from the usually sunny Diaz. Wise gal that she is, the missus put it beautifully when she said, “When you’re four-foot-eleven and someone lops off three inches, those inches matter.”
A-ight. But that got me thinking, how much do those inches (or lack thereof) matter in the world of wrestling? On the mat, Diaz is a pistol, at four-foot-etc., having qualified for state last year and sitting undefeated this year. How much of that success comes from what some people call being “vertically challenged.”
A product of West Valley (Spokane) High School, Silva was (and is) 5’7”-ish and, like Diaz is now, not the tallest wrestler on his team back in the day.
“What you work with as a short wrestler is bringing people to your advantage,” he said. “And what you have as a short wrestler is a lower center of gravity. What a taller wrestler has is leverage.”
It’s a 50-50 call as to which one is better to have, Silva said.
“It all depends on how you wrestle,” he said. Tall wrestlers can make opponents play to their leverage the same way a short wrestler can bring a taller opponent down.
“This can work both ways,” Silva said. “The important thing is, do you have a plan for what you are going to do when you come up against either type of wrestler.”
At 12-0 this year, Diaz is wrestling well. She said some of her success comes from her height.
“When I wrestle girls that are taller, their legs are more open and it’s easier for me to get underneath them,” she said.
In a tournament rarely there is enough time to strategize based on height, Diaz said, beyond perhaps, “Oh, they are tall, I can shoot for their legs.”
The taller wrestler has leverage when trying for headlocks, but shooting for Diaz’ legs can be tricky when done from up above, she said.
Tall or not, you can’t talk Diaz into changing. Low center of gravity and all she’s cool with the hand she was dealt. I asked her: If given the chance, would you be taller?
“Nah,” she said. “I feel like I’m fine the way I am.”
At 12-0, who can argue?