Bearing arms of steel

By Richard Greene | Published Thursday, March 3, 2011
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Standing 6-2, 303 pounds, Ray Cortez is an imposing figure.

Then watching him chunk a 1.6 kilogram discus more than 120 feet or squat nearly 600 pounds, he becomes even more intimidating.

It’s only a menacing appearance for the Decatur junior – and far from his personality.

“A lot of people tell me I’m like a big teddy bear,” Cortez said. “I get along with everyone. My offensive line coach in football (Dennis Cobb) is always telling me I’m too nice.”

But that nice demeanor has not stopped him from flattening his competition this spring in powerlifting or in the discus ring. Cortez won the discus event at his first meet of the season last week in Bridgeport with a throw of 120-6. Saturday, he will try to nail down a state berth in powerlifting at the Region VI Texas High School Powerlifting Association meet at Decatur High School.

“I’ve really been working my butt off for this,” Cortez said about regionals. “My goal is to get to state and medal.”

Cortez enters the weekend at the top of the Region VI super heavyweight class with his total of 1,510 pounds. He’s squatted 580, bench pressed 365 and pulled 565 on deadlift.

Decatur coach Heath Tullous believes Cortez is far from his full potential.

“He’s not maxed out,” Tullous said. “My goal is to get him close to 1,700 at state. I think he’s got it in him.

“We’re working on making him meaner. If he gets angry, he can be dangerous.”

This is only Cortez’ second year to compete in the sport that he considers his expertise. He did not compete as a sophomore. His freshman year was cut short by one of the many ankle injuries that he’s fought throughout his athletic career.

“Every year I’ve sprained my ankles,” Cortez said. “I have flat feet which cause the bad ankles. I have a lot of scar tissue there that pops a lot.”

Cortez was limited a little by a sprained ankle in his first track meet last week, but he was able to get the win in the discus with a throw 10 feet less than what he’s thrown in practice.

“I was real happy winning,” he said. “I called everybody about it.”

This will be Cortez’ first full varsity season in track. He won the junior varsity district title as a freshman and followed it with a second-place finish last year. He’s hoping for that kind of result on the varsity level.

“My goal is to get to regionals in both the discus and shot put,” he said.

Of the two, discus is Cortez’ favorite and best event.

“It takes a lot of technique, and it’s hard to get down,” he said.

Decatur shot and discus coach Della Stallard said the junior’s success in discus, which requires quickness and agility as much as strength, is surprising to some.

“He looks like he would be more of a shot putter, but he’s doing better in the discus,” Stallard said. “The discus is usually more about finesse and the shot strength.”

The coach expects him to improve in both throws by the end of the year.

“He has lots of room for improvement between now and district,” Stallard said. “What I like about him most is that he’s willing to give you everything he has when he’s out there.”

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