Devan Silva didn’t fall in love with wrestling until he was older than most. While so many of his competitors grew up on a wrestling mat, Silva didn’t discover the sport until high school, despite coming from a family of wrestlers.
“I come from a wrestling family, but my dad let me find the sport in my own time,” he said. “No one pushed me into it. But I love it.”
To make up for that late start, Silva decided to make up for lost time by finding the best possible teacher. That search led him to hall of fame coach John Owen, winner of eight national junior college championships during 19 seasons as head coach at North Idaho College.
Silva wrestled for the then-Central Valley coach during the summer freestyle season while wrestling for the North Central varsity during the high school season.
And then the opportunity presented itself to wrestle for Owen full-time.
“They had just announced that he was going to coach at West Valley and I wanted to go there and work with him,” Silva said. “I’d learned a lot at NC and I liked the coach there. But I wanted to learn from the best.
“Coach Owen has taken me to a level I’d never even dreamed of.”
Transferring to West Valley meant sitting out his entire junior season, but sometimes you just have to pay the price.
Silva learned and practiced with last year’s varsity. He supported his teammates, especially his frequent workout partner, Quinn Gannon, pushing him hard every day in practice.
For Gannon, that hard work paid off with a state Class 2A championship at 130 pounds. For Silva, it was a deep sense of satisfaction at having played a small part in his teammates’ success.
“Quinn and I beat on each other a lot and he ended up having a pretty good season,” Silva said. “I was proud of what he was able to do.”
Now a senior, Silva’s sacrifice already has paid dividends.
“I have learned so much,” he explained. “Coach breaks down what you do so that you really understand why you do things the way you do. He’s like an encyclopedia of wrestling. And he sees everything. He can tell you exactly what you did that was right and what you did that was wrong in a match you wrestled a month ago.
“You’ll be in practice and he’ll say ‘Hey, remember that match you wrestled against the guy from Deer Park? This is what he did and this is how you counter it.’ It’s amazing.”
In addition, Silva said, he’s added a new tool to his routine.
“I never spent that much time watching video of my matches until I got here,” he said. “Now I learn so much from doing it. Breaking down video with coach Owen is just one more way to learn.”
The lessons are paying off – and opening up more valuable lessons.
Silva entered the season’s first tournament, the Inland Empire Classic at Central Valley at 152 pounds and placed fourth. He got down to his ultimate weight, 145, for the prestigious Tri-State tournament at North Idaho College, and placed sixth and followed that up with a fourth-place finish at the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic in Missoula.
“I learned a lot wrestling those tournaments, especially Tri-State,” Silva said. “I should have done much better. I feel like I let myself down and didn’t wrestle the way I’m capable of wrestling.”
Silva won his first three Tri-State matches, advancing to the semifinals by pinning Kuna’s Paton Nolan in the first period of his quarterfinals and scoring an 8-3 decision over Post Falls’ Austin Wilson. In the semis he lost to the eventual champion.
“I did not come back and wrestle after losing that match the way that I know I should have,” he said. “I lost to a guy I pinned the first day and then lost the match for fifth- and sixth-place. It’s one of those lessons you learn the hard way. You have to stay mentally tough for every match – I’m not going to make that mistake again.”
Silva said the plan is for him to wrestle most Great Northern League matches at 152 pounds.
“I naturally weigh about 154, so making weight at 152 isn’t that big of a deal,” he said. “It’s more work to get down to 145, but that’s where I’m going to wrestle at districts.”
There’s a difference between the two weights, he said.
“At 145 the guys I wrestle tend to be quicker,” he said. “It’s funny, really. Most of the guys I wrestle tend to be taller than me and skinnier as well as being quicker. At 152 the guys are more my size, but they’re stronger. They aren’t as quick, but they are stronger.
“I don’t feel they’re stronger than me by any means. And my strength comes in handy against the quicker guys.”