by Ryan Coulter ‘12
Dedication and determination are attributes that coaches demand of their athletes in the sport of wrestling. Wrestling is rightfully known for its extremely disciplined athletes due to the brutal hardships of the extensive training and weight requirements. As a sport that sorts its athletes based on weight, the controversy of wrestlers crossing the line between fit and unhealthy long has been an undercurrent of the sport.
Wrestlers usually aim to wrestle at the lowest possible weight class; giving them a competitive advantage due to the fact that they are a physically larger person with little to no fat on their body; just muscle and bones.
“With cutting weight, it’s as simple as eating low calorie, healthy food and not eating excessively outside the recommended 3 meals a day and drinking lots of water and muscle milk after a workout. Other techniques I use are just putting in an extra 2 hours of running everyday along with a little extra cardio,” said senior Jarred Howell, who is in his fourth year of wrestling for Sherwood and is wrestling in the 130 pound weight class.
Wrestlers become used to the extensive hours of practicing that are a necessity to compete at the same level as their competition. Missing out on days of training can immediately be seen to have an influence on the stamina of a wrestler.
Many wrestling matches come down to a battle of wills of which athlete can endure more pain. With three two-minute periods, a wrestle can get gassed if they are not in “wrestling shape” and lose a match that was an almost guaranteed win. In those six minutes, if a wrestler even once lets his guard down and lazily switches positions, the opponent can react instantly and end the match with a pin.
Prior to a match, wrestlers must attend weigh-ins, where each wrestler steps up on the scale to show that they made the weight that they were asked, by their coach, to achieve that week. If a wrestler doesn’t make this weight, not only does he let the coach down, but the entire team as well.
Many wrestlers eat a great deal of food directly after they get back from weigh-ins. This quickly helps them gain weight and gives them a major advantage over their opponent due to the fact that all of the food that was consumed will be strengthening muscle that their opponent may not be able to match. Then after the match, those wrestlers who ate must quickly lose the weight that they gained for the next weigh-ins.
It is common to find wrestlers wear heavy clothing when training so that they lose significant amounts of water weight through sweating. Then by fasting, the wrestler will not gain the weight back that they lost during workouts. This could be from one to even as much as ten pounds.
However, over the past several years, high schools nation-wide have made it a priority to monitor and regulate wrestlers’ approach to dieting and training.
“At the beginning of the season you go through weight certification, where state officials analyze you by judging your height, weight and fat percentage and from that they determine the lowest weight that you can go and still be healthy,” said Howell.
Once certified, it is the wrestler’s duty to monitor his or her weight and make sure he or she is staying within their limit. A problem that commonly arises is that a coach may need a certain wrestler to move up a weight class or two one week, then drop down two weight classes the next.
“It all depends on how much weight Coach needs me to lose. Sometimes I need to just go for a run; sometimes I can’t eat,” said junior Jess Beattie who wrestled varsity as a freshman at the 103 pound weight class.
Though wrestling’s intense training brings undeniable fatigue, wrestlers find themselves signing up each year to achieve that muscular physique and to prove that they can overcome the voice in their head saying that they cannot work harder and should give up.
“It’s hard work and pretty tiring, but necessary because all the work you put in really shows and carries over to the mat in a real match,” said Howell.