Cutting Weight This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

His heart races to the sound of the clock ticking in the background. Twenty more seconds and he has this match won. All he needs to do is hold on. His opponent meets his eyes with a look of defeat. Thump, thump … 15 … 14 … the clock ticks down the final seconds. The wrestler thinks of the final 40 minutes he ran to shed that extra half pound. A match easily won. Then he’s thrust into the air and, dumbfounded, he finds himself on the mat. The ­referee pounds his hand on the ground and he’s down for the count in a ­moment of weakness. The defeated wrestler watches his opponent raise his arm with the grin of a champion.

Wrestling requires blood, sweat, and tears, in addition to dedication and pure passion. As many wrestlers know, the preceeding story is more than a haunting tale: it’s a fear that fuels their drive to put more effort into becoming the best. Many wrestlers go to extremes to become champions, and they are recognized for their ability to drastically lose weight, known as “cutting.” Many of these pound-dropping skills aren’t just dangerous but also can be fatal, which is why wrestlers should not cut weight in the first place.

With 81 percent of wrestlers cutting weight, there are many unique methods to achieve the task. Some are ridiculous – myths of athletes shedding as many as 20 pounds in one night have been passed around the wrestling community. Wrestlers will go days drinking only a few sips of water and eating just a piece of fruit each day. Ultimately, the calories they burn during practice will be more than they’ve consumed in two days.

Not eating for that long takes a toll on the body. Wrestlers dream of food, yet many won’t eat for fear that they’ll exceed the limit of their weight class. Consequently, they account for three-quarters of male athletes with eating disorders. Eating disorders claim 300,000 lives a year. Weight cutting can lead to death.

In 1997, three college wrestlers made national headlines, dying within 33 days of each other. Coming from Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, these dedicated athletes died from the same cause: weight cutting. In all three cases, the students experienced dehydration resulting in hypothermia after they layered on clothes and did endless workouts in heated rooms. Unfortunately, they out-worked their bodies. The perspiration they produced cooled them to the point of hypothermia resulting in heart attacks and kidney failure, all common effects of extreme weight cutting.

Following these deaths, the NCAA took steps to make wrestling safer by banning cutting techniques such as training in a room hotter than 80 ­degrees, self-induced vomiting, and extensive food or fluid restrictions. Following the actions of the NCAA, even high schools have taken precautions. The NCAA requires wrestlers to take hydration tests, checks their body fat, and restricts the amount of weight they can lose. But it’s not enough; ­unscrupulous coaches will turn their heads, and some wrestlers will overlook the rules, risking their lives for their favorite sport.

Wrestlers push themselves to the limit to make weight. These athletes seek to make themselves the biggest competitor in the smallest weight class possible. This goal taunts wrestlers to cut more and more. ­Although rules have been enforced, if wrestlers are going to be protected, officials need to banish weight cutting altogether.

Risking so much for such short-lived glory is absurd. Cutting weight is unhealthy and can lead to serious complications. Athletes must be more aware of these dangers – and listen to their bodies.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 125 comments. Post your own now!

Dalaney said...
May 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm
Ummm cutting weight seems so ridiculous to you because nothing important to you requires it. I play volleyball and it's my passion, if my coach tells me he wants me to lose five pounds in two days for Thursdays game, i'm going to do it. Who are you to say what's absurd or what's worth it and what's not? I agree that yes athletes need to be aware of the health of their bodies, but to some of us going to the absolute extreme is worth it. And that's that.
chase replied...
May 2, 2011 at 11:34 am
i agree with u
Weight Cutter replied...
Jun. 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Why in the world would your Coach have you cut for Volleyball??


skizzle said...
Feb. 20, 2010 at 4:20 pm
wrestiling should be like football no weight limit
Swimmergirl16 replied...
May 5, 2010 at 11:58 pm
I am a stat girl for my high school wrestling team and i witness this everyday. I sit in on practices as part of my stat girl duties, bringing water and so forth, and it has stopped surprising me when the guys shake their heads at the water in my hands and keep running, convinced they have to finish that last lap of their tenth mile. It scares me every time i see one of the guys fall to the ground in exhaustion. Weight cutting is no joke and it needs to be stopped. I just don... (more »)
Eagles Wrestler replied...
Jun. 23, 2010 at 10:48 pm
Its not going to be stopped-not in the next 20 years anyway-its an accepted part of one of if not the hardest and most intense sport there is-and if your a wrestler it makes sense
InkDance replied...
Jun. 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm
There is actually a reason for weight limits- its to prevent some 300lb kid from facing a 150lb one. 
Sealclubber replied...
Sept. 27, 2010 at 1:50 am
Actually the NCAA has strict rules, such as dehydration checks on wrestlers. High schools do need to follow suit, I believe it's not far from happening.
wrestle4lifeordie replied...
Nov. 30, 2010 at 11:23 am

i agree with you eagles wrestler, we understand it and accept it. its part of life


toppers wrestler replied...
May 2, 2011 at 11:37 am
i agree with both u guys but sealclubber most highschool already do just to let u know
Angel24 said...
Feb. 18, 2010 at 2:05 pm
I love it and it was really good
189chs said...
Dec. 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm
i agree and disagree with this article.within the last month i have cut over 20lbs and have had no problems. however, i have plenty of body fat to shed whereas some of my teammates who have tried to cut by starvatoin have not. there is no way of stopping us from going to extremes to cut weight but i do feel it is wrong.
Book Addict replied...
Dec. 14, 2009 at 5:00 pm
Dudes, this article is right. Starvation is not the way to go. You still need to eat--eat more than usual actually, the real thing to do is eat healthy, lots of protien if you're building or just low calorie if your trying to stay leval. Wieght fluxuates anyways and it's crazy to risk your health in order to just roll around on the ground with some other guy. No offense, but stupidity doesn't help you win the gold, brains gets you where you want to go. THink things through--duh.
Wrestling Lover replied...
Feb. 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm
Wrestlers who have body fat to lose should lose it, but healthily, not "cutting weight".
It's those that don't have any fat to lose, but still cut weight that worry me. You can see it in them on the mat; their wrestling suffers when they cut weight.
A Wrestler replied...
May 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm
What would YOU do if YOUR spot on the team was in jeopardy, stay where you were and get kicked off the "A-Team" or cut weight and go to a lower weight class and have a better chance of staying on the "A-Team"
Eagles Wrestler replied...
Jun. 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm
Hey Book Addict-Have you ever stepped on the mat? yes eating healthy is good it helps- but you still eat a lot less than usual-and unless you've stepped on the mat you will never understand 
BigPeterT said...
Nov. 11, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Dude cmon, its part of the sport. Give us a break. YOu probably have no idea what we go thorugh in a wrestling season so get you facts straight
AquaMan replied...
Nov. 11, 2009 at 2:01 pm
I agree. Dog
TheGuy replied...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 7:05 pm
Really, there is nothing I'm more proud of, or memorable than the wrestling seasons I went through.
Eagles Wrestler replied...
Jun. 23, 2010 at 10:55 pm
Cutting weight isnt just for the 6 minutes on the mat-TheGuy is right these seasons will stick with you for life-and not the health problems-20 years from you know when your doing something hard some hard job your going to look back on your wrestling career and remember what you used to do-and that job is going to seem a lot easier. Also the discipline and mental strength will stay with you forever-I've got a 48 year old dad who wrestled-he still talks about it with that glazed over expression
CallMeFelix replied...
Aug. 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm
Note to Eagles Wrestler: The health problems will stick with you if you cut weight too much too long and DIE. And don't say I'm a hypocrit or don't know what I'm talking about, either, my brother tried extreme weight cutting when he wrestled. Thanks.
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