About a year ago, Diaz bought her first pair of boxing gloves. Now, she’s captain of the amateur team at Brentwood’s LA Boxing.
In November, she decided to try wrestling for the Lions. After only a couple months of exposure to the sport, the 118-pound Diaz placed third last weekend in the North Coast Section girls wrestling tournament, qualifying for a spot in the state meet.
“She’s just been wrestling better as the year’s gone on,” head coach Greg Chappel said. “To place third like that is really exceptional. She lost in overtime to the girl that won it, so she was right there.”
Diaz has always been an athletic girl. She played basketball for Liberty for a while, but she didn’t feel as motivated playing for a team. Individual sports such as wrestling and boxing put the focus, the blame and the responsibility all on the competitor – something she craves.
Diaz has always been drawn to contact sports. “LA Boxing had me fit for this, so I didn’t come in weak – I had strength,” Diaz said. “I love physical activities. I’m OK at team sports, but I do a lot better with individual sports. You can blame only yourself.”
As a boxer, she’s earned high praise and respect from those at LA Boxing. The owner of the gym, Joseph Garcia, said the team only started about eight months ago, but Diaz has stepped up to lead. The team fields about 15 boxers from ages 5 to 30, who compete in exhibition matches against other local gyms.
“She’s one of our strongest boxers right now, as far as determination and her fighting skills,” Garcia said. “She was not afraid to go in and engage at first. Now she’s a smart fighter.”
It was Kristina’s younger sister, Nicole, who actually convinced her to step onto the mat. A seventh-grader and wrestler at Edna Hill Middle School, Nicole attended a girls wrestling camp a few months ago. Kristina watched her sister compete and started to wonder how she’d fare as a grappler.
Kristina started off as a novice wrestler, working with the freshman team as she learned the techniques. Shortly after, she asked Chappel if she could compete with the varsity squad as a way to push herself harder. The coach saw Diaz’s motivation and granted her request.
“She was able to pick up moves quickly,” freshman wrestling coach Mike Mundy said. “She’s still doing beginner-type things, but you can see that she’s learning and getting better and better at what to do as things go on. You can see the progression.”
Diaz is going down a path paved by Brittany David, who graduated from Liberty last year and is now wrestling for Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. Chappel regards David, a four-time NCS champion, as tougher than many of his boy wrestlers. Diaz is now one of three wrestlers on Liberty’s team, the others being freshman Karley Maniatis, who competed at the NCS tournament in the 126-pound bracket, and junior Paula Ramirez.
Chappel said more and more girls are becoming interested in the sport, traditionally known for its machismo aura.
While Diaz said David’s success has motivated her and that she’s a great helping hand, the junior is determined to forge her own legacy at one of the best wrestling programs in the Bay Area.
“People ask me if I’m trying to be the next Brittany, but Brittany’s Brittany and I’m me,” Diaz said. “All the girls encourage other girls to (wrestle), because there’s so little of us. … It helps and encourages me, because if she did it, I can do it too.”