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Losing to Win

Wrestlers take dieting to a new level, but are the consequences worth the sacrifice?


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Standing at 5’5 and one hundred and six pounds Jake Antonia is the smallest man on the team, but he is arguably the mightiest.

However, staying at one hundred and six pounds is no easy task.Wrestlers are athletes unlike any other. They are dedicated and fierce. They dedicate their lives to the sport. They cannot simply put forth effort during season. If anything preseason is an even more important contributor to their success. In order to stay at a weight class in a healthy way, athletes have to watch what they eat and how they exercise year round.

Dieting and cutting weight are a major issue. Attempting to cut weight in an unhealthy way can have serious physical and mental repercussions. “Unhealthy” trying to cut too quickly or too much at one time, and many times it happens to be both. While dropping weight is an essential part of wrestling and there really is no way around it, there are right and wrong ways to cut weight.

In 1997 three collegiate wrestlers died in a span of six weeks, their deaths all related to strenuous weight-loss attempts. The first of the deaths occurred on Nov. 9, when Billy Saylor, a freshman at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., died of cardiac arrest after riding an exercise bike and refusing liquids as he tried to lose six pounds. He was only 19 years old. Two weeks later, on Nov. 21, Joseph LaRosa, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, died of heat stroke dressed in a rubber suit and riding a stationary bike in an attempt to lose four and a half pounds. He was 22. And on Dec. 9, Jeff Reese, a junior at The University of Michigan, died of kidney failure and heart malfunction while wearing a rubber suit and working out in a room heated to 92 degrees. He was 21.

These deaths were not taken lightly and serious changes were made in the wrestling world after these tragic incidents.

Now, at the beginning of the season athletes will put their information into a program called Track Wrestling, it generates a safe and healthy decent plan for athletes. The information includes height, weight and goal weight, body mass index, among other things.They can safely and easily lose weight because of this. Wrestlers are aditionally required to take a hydration test. They have a “weight-loss allowance” for the week, they weigh in and are told that they can lose only so many pounds by the end of the week. If they exceed that there are serious consequences. If wrestlers cut too much weight too quickly they will not be allowed to wrestle at the tournament.

One of the most serious deficits they do to their bodies is dehydrating themselves. Most of the time they won’t drink water for 48 hours before a meet. Some will dehydrate even longer. Mainly they do this because water weight is the easiest weight to get rid of the fastest. But, long term this actually has the opposite effect on one’s body.

Water is necessary to keep your body healthy and support your metabolism. Wrestlers should actually be drinking more water than normal because this will help them feel full and burn more calories from the extra water intake. If  athletes need to make weight they can restrict water intake 24 hours before a meet, but should not completely stop drinking water.

Varsity wrestling coach at Cheyenne Mountain High School, Tyler Seaney, does a phenomenal job teaching his team how to properly lose weight. Coach Seaney teaches his wrestlers this from the get go. He stresses the Track Wrestling program and healthy dieting. During the season his boys cut out all empty calories from their diets. This includes soda and most foods that contain cane sugar.

Education is key to these boys’ success. If they are properly educated on how to keep their bodies healthy, the risk of serious injuries from dieting decreases significantly.

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Losing to Win