Small Wrestler Has Big Determination
Mar 10, 2016 10h40
By Bryan Scott
By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]
Sugar House - It’s almost your typical story of David and Goliath: someone you would feel has the disadvantage actually ends up having the advantage – even if they’re 4-foot-4. One Highland student, Zach Schreiter, not only is small in stature but also has had to deal with his own Goliath: cancer.
Zach is your typical teenager. He loves being outdoors, hangs out with friends when he can and is big into swimming, wrestling and karate. He attends school every day, enjoying his honors language arts class, weight training and seminary. The only atypical thing about Zach – besides that he’s a black belt – is that he is a dwarf.
In his younger years at Nibley Park Elementary, Zach got teased a lot for his height.
“People would call me names because of my size, and that is the type of bullying I got during my younger years,” Zach said.
But this didn’t stop him from accomplishing things and continuing in what he loved to do. Karate is one of the many things Zach enjoys doing and has practiced for five years.
One day, however, during one of his classes, his teacher noticed something odd on the back of his neck.
“I was having pictures done for my karate and I had my neck in a certain way, and my master saw this weird lump on my neck and pointed it out to my dad,” Zach said.
A few weeks later Zach found himself at Shriners Hospital, but doctors didn’t know what it was, so they told him and his parents to go to Primary Children’s Hospital and see if they knew what was going on.
“They looked at it, and they wanted to do surgery as soon as possible,” Zach said. “After the surgery, about a week later we got the results that it was Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that affects your lymphatic system, the part of your body that helps fight off infections.
At first Zach was fine with it, but as he talked with his aunt more about it he broke down.
“[It was] a good life lesson to learn and very painful; it took away most of my strength and stamina,” he said.
Zach’s treatment began in August when he started school, but he was able to still complete his homework and school assignments without missing regularly. According to his classmates, Zach maintained a positive attitude through his treatments, so not many people even knew what he was going through.
“My friends and family keep me positive,” Zach said. “The students [at Highland] treat me like a friend.”
Zach said during his time through chemo, his biggest support was his dad.
“He did everything for me during chemo, like he helped clean my PICC line when it needed to be cleaned and made sure I took my medication and knew how to give me my shot if I couldn’t do it. The rest of my family gave me love and support that I needed,” he said.
PICC lines are the long thin tubes that doctors put into the vein of the patient when they give chemotherapy and other medicines. The line has to be changed every week to reduce infection.
“My friends and family motivate me because they are the ones that truly care about me,” Zach said. “There is an end to this pain, and I have to keep giving all I got and do it with a smile, which motivated me through chemo.”
Zach carried that support, and after four months of being in and out of the hospital, he had his last treatment on his mother’s birthday.
Even though Zach had lost a significant amount of weight and was very weak, he wanted to continue on to the next step – it was wrestling season.
Zach made the JV team, and his teammates are always there pushing him on the sidelines.
“My teammates tease me in a fun way and support me,” he said.
Zach may be short for his weight class sitting at 113 pounds, but he feels like it’s a challenge and also an advantage being short.
“The advantage is I have a low center of gravity and a lot of upper-body strength in my weight class. The challenge is that my opponents will have more reach than me,” he said.
After high school, Zach plans to go to college but first serve an LDS mission, a challenge he’s looking forward to.
“One of the things that I learned during chemo, and what my coaches tell me, is that if you fight with your heart, no matter the outcome, you have won.”