Let me give you an idea of how a regular weigh-in day is for a wrestler to make weight

Let me give you an idea of how a regular weigh-in day is for a wrestler to make weight. Players go through the first half of the day without eating and if they do, it’s a light snack like an apple to keep the metabolism going. Then the depression sets in. They head over to the hottest place in the school where they spend hours conditioning vigorously until they make weight. The moment is finally here, it’s time to step out onto the mat and wrestle. Exhaustion quickly overtakes the body, if they are lucky, they have enough energy to keep going and win the match but in most cases they don’t. Its then followed by excessive eating after the match and it can sometimes lead to purging due to the decrease in stomach size. That’s a daily occurrence for many players. Try going through that not once, not twice, but for four months.
The wrestling association does what they can to make sure things are in order, but they can’t be there all the time. Years of constantly fasting and dehydrating the body, which is common among wrestlers, has proven to be detrimental to their health. If done right, it can be a pleasant experience that consists of eating healthy and working out, but for most wrestlers it requires intentionally starving oneself for hours and forcing ounces of fluid out the body. They don’t have a choice when it comes to cutting weight. Their team and coach depend on them which makes a wrestler stop at nothing to achieve their goal. It takes a lot of dedication to go through these conditions repeatedly which is why wrestlers are a rare breed. However, that also means their eating patterns follow most of them into adulthood which can make their day to day life extremely difficult.
Most people think this would be asking a lot of someone, but wrestlers see it as their duty. They push themselves every day because their teammates are doing the same for them. Cutting weight is just another lesson and most coaches would probably agree and say it builds character. Parents might not want to take this approach but it’s a lesson that most must learn on their own. It is always nice to be ranked because it can reward someone for their hard work. It can create a buzz when top players collide, but it also creates a pressure if not managed correctly. Mike Moor, the head coach of St. Cloud State University states that, “Rankings can put pressure on young wrestlers. However, they do not predict future results and should be used for motivation or ignored altogether.” Most wrestlers and parents get caught up reading their rankings and suddenly lose focus on what the game is all about. Instead it creates a psychological and physical stress that can increase the risk of athletes developing eating disorders.
Everyone has a different coping method to their failures and the outside pressures. Kyle Dake, who wrestled for University of Maryland, states, “We wrestle to impress ourselves and no one else, so pressure should not exist and we should only be living up to our own expectations, not anyone else’s.” That statement may be true, but I don’t agree with it. Yes, it would be nice if we did not care about another person’s opinion but sadly we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a society where men are expected to be tough all the time and to suck up the pain. To not show signs of “weakness”, such as expressing how they feel mentally and physically.
Ultimately, if you can’t avoid the rankings and pressures, then you must interpret it in your favor. Focus on the things you can control in your life such as proper rest, eating healthy and working out, then you increase the likelihood of continued success. Athletes must learn to say no to cutting significant amounts of weight in order to compete. Coaches and parents should be more involved in their wrestler’s life to be able to notice the warning signs early on rather than waiting until it’s too late and permanent damage has been done. And as a society, we must break our stereotypes of thinking every guy has to be macho and not talk about his feelings, so we can be aware of how we can help athletes of the future compete in a safer and more educated environment.
Now, it would be unfair of me to put all the blame and the responsibility for change on the wrestlers and coaches. Given the prevalence of eating disorders in schools, the athletic departments and the NCAA have taken steps to identify “at risk” athletes. Education is the first step in prevention, such training can be made available to coaches to help improve their identification skills, as well as their skills in making an appropriate referral for a treatment. Coaches are also urged to not put so much emphasis on weight loss, rather they promote healthy weight management plans prior to the season.
Another preventative measure the NCAA is taking is adding new rules regulating weight management to ensure the safety of wrestlers. A statement issued by the NCAA stated, “Both collegiate and high school wrestlers are now required to pass a month-long hydration test to ensure fair competition and safe training. At the start of the season, all wrestlers will receive a physical exam to evaluate a minimum weight at which they can compete during the season.” This is good news for the wrestling community, it means dehydration is a detectable sign that may reveal excessive training and improper nutrition. It also signifies that a wrestler cannot exceed a certain amount of body fat loss per week. If an athlete doesn’t adhere to the new rules, he will be ineligible for competition.
There is no doubt that things have improved but the area that seems to be lacking most today is emphasis on nutrition. Wrestlers must understand what their body is telling them because it would help prevent the unhealthy diet practices going on today. A few ways to encourage healthy weight loss is by planning and executing weight management plans before the wrestling season begins. Doing this allows the wrestler to focus more on skills and techniques rather than cutting weight during the season. Most importantly, wrestlers and coaches should communicate and emphasize healthy habits that consist of working together to overcome a situation.
Those with influence in the sport environment can play a key role by encouraging timely and appropriate habits. Habits take time to develop so it is important to be patience with oneself. Despite the pressures involved with making weight, they need to work on getting better each day. In time, they learn the importance of discipline and are setting themselves up to successfully meet challenges through life.