Has Cutting Weight Gone Too Far?
Written by Harrison Watt
Senior Sam Corey is not the typical high school wrestler.
Since he joined the wrestling team four years ago, Corey has been nothing but healthy when it comes to wrestling. He eats three square meals a day. When he needs to lose the occasional pound, he lightens his portions, but he keeps them at healthy levels. Corey has shown he is against more extreme practices of modern wrestlers.
“Starving yourself isn’t right in itself, you can’t call it healthy,” said Corey.
While some of his teammates would agree with this, even the ones considered to have healthy habits when it comes to cutting weight have had their fair share of challenges.
Senior Nolan McPartlin takes nearly the same approach as Corey, but even he has tried some of the more extreme methods.
“I try to watch my water intake the day of weigh-ins,” said McPartlin. “It’s lead to dehydration problems during practice.”
Cutting water is popular among wrestlers. Water weight is easy to cut and gain by simply not drinking or flooding your system. Water is the number one need as a human, is cutting water or any other liquid from your body safe? In a sport that requires incredible focus and bursts of strength, this can hurt an athlete’s ability to perform or even compete.
Another easy way to cut water weight instead of not drinking is just sweating it out of your system.
“Before districts sophomore year I needed to cut a little weight,” said McPartlin. “So I put on sweats and used pretty much every machine in the weight room to try and sweat off the pounds.”
Although the days of putting on saran-wrap or garbage bags and riding an exercise bicycle in a sauna are long gone, many wrestlers still practice some habits that could be considered unhealthy.
Sophomore Silas Klarr has used a few strategies that even he doesn’t consider to be completely healthy.
“On weigh-in days, I try to eat very little and try not to drink,” said Klarr, “I chew gum instead. It has flavor and takes your mind off how hungry you are a little.”
Some wrestlers starve themselves extensively for short periods of time, and then gorge food down immediately after the weigh-in to regain the pounds and energy they lost that day.
“I usually go to Buffalo Wild Wings,” said Klarr. “I try and get a cheeseburger, some wings, and drink a lot of pop.” While Klarr tries not to think about the affect the diet is having on his body, even he knows that this can’t be the healthiest course of action.
“As much as I try not to think about it, it’s sometimes impossible to ignore,” said Klarr. “But I feel it gives me a competitive edge over my opponents.”
The diet Klarr is using is called a “Yo-Yo Diet,” according to Seaholm Health Teacher Ann DeBoer. This diet entails people starving themselves to drop weight fast for a day or two, then after weigh in, they shovel down food and regain the weight and then some. Technically making them overweight for the class they weighed into, but the weigh-in is taken well before the match, allowing the wrestler’s time to regain the pounds.
Scientists have long known that people on a Yo-Yo Diet gain weight faster, the Metabolism slows when the body is starved for longer periods of time, and when food is reintroduced, the body cannot metabolize it fast enough and much of it turns to fat. The starvation part of the diet can lead to atrophy in an athlete’s muscle (shrinking of the muscles), if they take the diet too far.
Dr. Kelly Brownell of Yale University did a study using the Yo-Yo diet on mice when he worked at The University of Pennsylvania. He found that when put through the diet, the mice gained weight up to three times faster than mice on regular diets. He concluded that the diet has nearly the same affect on human beings.
Wrestlers have been using different strategies to drop weight quickly in an attempt to fall into a lower weight class so they can wrestle smaller opponents. They quickly regain the weight after the weigh-ins by shoveling down food immediately after. This can allow wrestlers to fight in weight classes that they wouldn’t fit into had they weighed in on-site, meaning someone that weighed into the 119 lb. weight class may end up being as much as 124 lbs. and they could wrestle someone as small as 116 lbs., creating nearly a ten pound difference.
Not only that, but the athlete naturally has a bigger frame causing match-up problems. As a wrestler, Corey admits that this is a major competitive edge and that MHSAA’s policy should be changed to require on-site weigh-ins.
“There’s a huge flaw in the system,” says Corey. “My Dad and I found out after sophomore year that most other states have on-site weigh-ins at every meet.”
MHSAA rules do not require on site weigh-ins outside of big meets such as Counties and States. So for any regular duel meet, wrestlers weigh in a day or two before the meet and then they can regain the pounds.
MHSAA Assistant Director Mark Uyl has actually used the current policy to prevent health issues in wrestlers today.
“Michigan has adopted the Homeland Weigh-In policy,” said Uyl. “It is used as an alternative policy to On-Site weigh-ins to prevent wrestlers from spitting in cups and going down to the locker room and weighing in the day of meets. Only a few leagues in Michigan use it.”
The National Federation of Wrestling rule calls for onsite weigh-ins at all meets. MHSAA has the Homeland Weigh-In policy that has only been adopted by a few leagues in Michigan, including the OAA Red League. Homeland Weigh-In simply entails weighing yourself at your own school the day before a meet. It’s designed to keep wrestlers from not eating the day of meets.
On-Site weigh in policies require wrestlers to be weighed at the time and place of the meet. This policy gets the wrestler’s weight the day of the meet as opposed to Homeland which allows the wrestler a full day to gain weight.
“The issue of the Homeland Weigh-In policy is on the agenda at the upcoming wrestling conference next week,” said Uyl.
Uyl noted that the unhealthy strategy wrestlers have used while under the jurisdiction of the Homeland Weigh-In policy is one of the concerns on the matter.
While the current policy allows for bending of the rules, even some wrestlers other than Corey want to see it changed.
“MHSAA should require onsite weigh-ins.” said McPartlin. “It’s a big competitive edge; you get to wrestle someone that’s noticeably smaller than you.”
So has the formerly fool proof strategy that some MHSAA wrestler’s have been using caught up to them?