High School Wrestling has always been thought of as the hardest and most enduring sport that takes place in high school. Only the toughest Jocks try out, and the weak are quickly discarded. Young women showing school spirit come to watch as the arms of young men in spandex are mingled about. During matches, coaches yell and scream at their young apprentices while they desperately battle to pin their opponent of equal weight. But, how equally are the two enemies matched? How much weight did one person have to lose, and how fast did he have to do it to be able to wrestle in that weight class? Once the wrestler makes his weight does he really have any physical energy left to wrestle? Losing an extraordinary amount of weight in a short amount of time is dangerous and unhealthy, and should be regulated for the safety of the athletes.
Coach James Derek Donoho is now in his third year of being head coach at Don Lugo High School. He says “wrestling is a very dangerous contact sport that always has the risk of injuries, and people get hurt everyday.” He believes it’s a good experience for young men and he is glad he went through it when he was in high school. Physical injuries come with the turf, and every person knows it when they join wrestling or any other sport. It’s the un-implied risks that are not seen until commitments are made, that are the most dangerous to young athletes. Donoho is pro losing weight and says “its good to loose weight and move to a lighter weight class, because it’s a little easier on the wrestler. It feels to them that they are wrestling someone lighter then they are.” That is a tactical advantage, however people also move up to wrestle in higher weight levels to fill spots. That makes it unnecessary for teens to lose weight because they are already wrestling someone lighter then they are. “We don’t pressure our players to lose a lot of weight,” says Donoho, “they chose which weight class they want to wrestle in.” If that’s true, then there are a lot of young athletes who are willing to lose a tremendous amount of weight in a short amount of time just to make Varsity. Do people really put themselves in such danger to achieve the pride of being on a varsity team?
Brandon Frescas, a third year wrestler on the team, says “coaches just flat out ask us if we could get down to a certain weight by a certain time to fill spots. Sometimes it’s moving up a weight class, sometimes it’s losing a little weight, and sometimes it’s a lot of weight. Losing 10 to 15 pounds in a week is a lot of weight to lose.” 10 to 15 pounds in a week is an absurd amount of weight to lose. On T.V advertisements say their diet can help people lose 10 to 15 pounds in a month, but never does it say one week. 15 pounds is about the size of a medium dog. Could anyone imagine stuff about the size of a dog leaving ones body in only one week? Michael Nava, also a third year wrestler, says “coach asked me what weight I thought I could get down to, and I told him 135 pounds. I weighed about 137 pounds and he asked me if he could count on me to get down to 130 pounds. I thought about it and told him yes because I didn’t want to let him down.” Pressure from the coaches exists and every player knows its there. Although the coaches won’t admit it, Michael Nava says, “it’s dangerous if you have to lose a lot of weight.”
Losing an enormous amount of weight such as 10 to 15 pounds in one week seems impossible to an everyday person. But, according to the wrestlers it’s only almost impossible. There is an entire process wrestlers go through and it’s different depending upon how much weight needs to be lost. The secrets are passed down and taught to the younger wrestlers by the more experienced ones. The first thing taught is that when trying to go for quick weight loss, it’s mostly going to be water weight. So, sweating is most important and is where most of the weight will be lost. Before each practice begins some wrestlers will wear shorts and a T-shirt and put on a plastic sweat suit over that. On top of that go a layer of sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt. The idea is to make a self-insulated sauna. Throughout practice, the conditioning makes the body create heat, causing buckets of sweat to be produced. How healthy is this, and then while inside the clothes it’s in the hundreds of degrees, the coaches turn the heater on. Now the heat is to a point were it’s not only just unhealthy anymore, but outright dangerous.
For a more extensive weight lose, wrestlers can do a few more simple but unhealthy acts. They are told that constant spitting will help with the weight loss. A few players suck on hard candy and spit into plastic bottles all day during their classes. By the end of the day they have a full bottle of saliva that has been produced and removed from their body. A full 12-ounce bottle of saliva would weigh about one pound. Not eating and not drinking is another major issue and activity some wrestlers will participate in. In normal weight loss, a persons output of calories must be more than their intake of calories in order for them to lose weight. Well, if they have no intake of calories they are defiantly going to lose some weight, and if they are not drinking any water then they are not going to have any water weight. Just the idea of not eating for any amount of time seams questionable, but starving for an entire week is stupid for anybody to do to just lose weight. Michael Nava said he knew a person who graduated who went from 150 pounds to 135 pounds in one week and did all of what is mentioned above. “He told me he ate either one apple or one orange a day to loose weight.” Brandon Frescas said, “I knew the same person and by the end of that week he looked seriously sick, like he had aids or something.” That right there seems proof enough as to why it is so unhealthy and dangerous to lose so much weight so quickly.
So much time and energy is spent on unhealthy ways to lose weight that once a wrestler actually reaches his goal, how does he actually feel? Is he mentally and physically exhausted and how well will he perform in the match once he has made his weight? “The person who went from 150 pounds to 135 pounds in one week lost the match,” Michael Nava said. “He wrestled so bad and just looked like he had no energy left.” If the idea of losing weight is so that wrestlers will have an easier match in a different weight class, what is the point of the whole process if once they get to that weight they have no energy and won’t win the match anyway. It makes more sense to let the wrestler wrestle at a level where he is at his highest strength potential, that way there is more of a chance for victory.
Wrestling is a good sport full of individual competition, however the weight loss needs to be regulated. It needs to be under control so that nobody will get permanently sick from sudden weight loss. Players should be weighed at the beginning of the season and be allowed to lose enough weight to go only one level lower if they want. Any more than that is unhealthy and unsafe. Coaches need to stop denying the fact that they are putting pressure on athletes to lose weight because they need to fill empty weight class levels. They need to go recruit players already at a certain weight so they have more chances of winning. Sudden weight loss is a serious illness that needs to be dealt with. Soon it is going to cause death among teenage athletes.