Wrestlers cut weight to compete at highest level

Stephen Karst, Staff writer

Starvation.

Dehydration.

Excessive exercise.

All for a few pounds lost.

Wrestling weight classes were created so that every athlete could battle on the mats with opponents about the same size.

This helps level the playing field so competitors remain physically equal.

Each weight class ranges about 10 pounds and athletes will gain or lose pounds at a time to qualify for a certain class.

To attain an advantage, wrestlers try to stay at the top of a certain weight class instead of being a lightweight a class up.

This means wrestlers are in a constant struggle to make weight.

Wrestlers say the process of rapidly gaining or losing pounds can be physically grueling for an athlete.

In recent years, attention has been drawn to the negative effects of the system and players are encouraged to maintain a healthy living style, coach Chris Paisley said.

“Cutting weight has been a part of wrestling for a long time, but it’s not the bottom line,” Paisley said. “During meets, it all comes down to how much effort the guys put out. Usually the guy who wants to win more will.”

Paisley said he hopes his attitude toward cutting weight is passed on to the team. He emphasizes making smart decisions and working hard during practice throughout the season.

“I don’t think about it a whole lot during the season,” senior Tyler Hendrickson said. “I generally weigh in about the same every time so it’s not a huge deal. It’s nice to have a little size advantage but it comes down to technique and conditioning in the end.”

Some athletes, however, use the weight classes as motivation to get stronger and stay fit.

Wrestlers know there are good ways to stay in shape as well as bad ones, senior Ross Riley said.

“During the season I eat salads at lunch just so I feel good at practice,” he said. I had a burger and fries one day early in the season and I was dying. It felt awful. Lesson learned, again.”

If a grappler is on the border of a class, there are tricks they use to lighten themselves up.

These are used to shed a pound or two at most: use the restroom, sweat (jog on a treadmill in layers of clothing) and spit, junior Cameron Bruce said.

“Before weigh-ins avoiding liquid is good because it is heavy,” he said. “We know when it’s not worth it, though, so we’ll stop before we get dehydrated. After the weigh-in, we replenish the water we lost so we’re smart about it.”

Hendrickson said athletes are encouraged to set a goal for a weight class they feel they can succeed in, and most of the work is done in the off-season to reach it.

“I did more out-of-season work to get muscle to put me in my class now, like lifting,” he said. “I’d go to Life Time or use the weight room at school to work out then follow a diet to make sure I was building muscle. Practice is more for refining technique and getting the little stuff right so I’m prepared for matches.”

For some, it is a long road of shedding pounds.

Riley said every once in a while, a wrestler will sell out and drop several classes to get to a desired weight.

He also said it takes determination and starting with an end goal in mind.

“I dropped from about 180 to about 140 from the end of football to the start of wrestling,” Riley said. “I was on a diet and exercising all the time just trying to get where I wanted weight-wise. It’s working so far, I feel like I’ve been performing better than other years, and I’m proud of myself for that.”

According to WebMD, rapid weight loss methods such as starvation or dehydration can cause severe headaches, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting and dizziness, especially when coupled with intensive workouts.

Coach Jason Peres said, when done correctly, shedding a few pounds before a match can give an edge, but athletes must be careful.

“As long as guys are smart about their decisions, I like it that they’re trying to find ways to win,” he said. “It shows they really want it. It takes dedication and discipline to excel in wrestling, and we are fortunate to have quite a few guys who have that.”