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.

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This article has 125 comments. Post your own now!

Penmaiden said...
Sept. 26, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Great article!  Very well written.  I have brothers who wrestle, so it was interesting to read, especially because you don't find much about the sport of wrestling.  (I guess it's the awkward singlets :P xD )

I would like to point out, though, that most (I'd say 'all', but I haven't done enough exploration on the topic) high schools will have a doctor check each wrestler before the season begins.  This is to make certain that the kid is physically fit, and also the ... (more »)

imrighthereyouknow replied...
Feb. 27, 2011 at 8:44 am
My dad wrestled when he was in high school. The coach required that each kid got a doctor's note saying the lowest weight he could get to was, but of course most of the kids just wrote the note themselves and forged the signature.
LilLizzyBeth said...
Sept. 26, 2010 at 10:07 am
I also dont wrestle, but I thought that this was a good article and showed dangers of losing too much weight and overworking your body. Even in other sports people will do whateva they can to look the best and win
MMAfighter said...
Sept. 6, 2010 at 11:44 am
Cutting weight really isnt that bad IF YOU KNOW HOW TO DO IT CORRECTLY. these ppl are doing these diets like this and losing muscle when can lose it all in much healthier ways. I am in PERFECT health and i cut anywhere from 22 to 26 lbs for every fight
sealclubber replied...
Sept. 27, 2010 at 1:46 am

hello mma fighter. i wrestled for over 10 years, the main difference with wrestling and mma is making weight and "fighting" much more often. Wrestlers are making weight 1 to 2 times per week for weeks straight. Also, you don't always get the luxery of weighing in the day before in wrestling either. Most of the time you'll have duel meets during the week, having to makeweight the night before that match. Then you have to make weight again Saturday morning for a tournament, wrestling multiple t... (more »)

Macx14 said...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm
I don't want to offend anyone because I don't do wrestling and am not very athletic, but I think sports and things like that are meant to be for fun. I think when they escalate to starving yourself and losing a lot of weight, it's loses it's meaning entirely. Just my opinion. Very well written, by the way haha!!
JoPhiCrow replied...
Jun. 8, 2011 at 10:43 pm
I can agree with you one the fact that some sports are just games, but wrestling to me, is a way of finding my way to and through college, and automatically helps me respect some one more if i knew they wrestled and put their body through every discipline to succeed in their lives.
deus-ex-machina14 replied...
Jun. 9, 2011 at 4:33 am
Well, yes, I think we can agree it shows dedication and drive, there is no doubt about that. And I get it creates a reputation around the participant. But, should it really be required and glamorized for these young boys who are still growing to abuse their bodies so much in the process?
CDR Grimes said...
Jul. 17, 2010 at 8:04 am
Cutting weight is dangerous.  Cutting fat is not.  I condition wrestlers and soccer players at the local high school.  Rather than cutting weight with extreme measures at the last minute we focus on long term, sustained cutting of fat through circuit training.  We want the leanest, strongest athlete possible.  For a wrestler, all fat does is put them in the next higher weight class.
WrestlerGirl said...
Jun. 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm
you people who are saying its bad...STFU especially if your not even in wrestling. you dont know anything so just shut up and leave it alone its not your buisness. ehm sorry if my last message got sent where it shouldnt have..
Mrs. C replied...
Jun. 23, 2010 at 8:05 pm
Death isn't bad? Interesting comment wrestler gal, why don't you tell that to the mom who lost thier kid!
CallMeFelix replied...
Aug. 13, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Uh cutting weight IS bad if its taken to extremes...a half pound before weigh-ins? Sure, cause you can eat after that...but two pounds? Three? Not eating or drinking? It's all dangerous...super dangerous. I may not be in wrestling, but my brother was, and he hid it when he started not eating to drop a weight class, he even hid it from his coach and it caused serious problems when he could barely walk onto the mat, let alone wrestle.

Plus, a lot of wrestlers that cut weight are h... (more »)

ddddddd replied...
Jul. 23, 2011 at 3:49 pm

thats not a lot weight to cut just saying

and by "that" i mean anything under 5

OK wrestling replied...
Oct. 4, 2011 at 11:11 am
The people that have died cutting weight obviously havent done it right. there is healthy ways to cut weight.. its part of the sport
A Wrestler said...
May 17, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Great article, lots of facts.

I agree that cutting weight is dangerous, and I myself have been guilty of it. Sometimes it's necessary though when you have a wrestler better than you in the weight class you fall in, so you cut weight to go to a lower one.

InkDance replied...
Jun. 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm
What I don't get about this post is that to me, it seems like weight cutting can be a form of running away. So what if there's a better wrestler than you? So you step down to the kids who are smaller than you so you can achieve victory that way? I don't wrestle, it's true, so I may be missing the point, but I know that I've been ousted by countless people in track, but that doesn't make me go to an easier race. It makes me train harder and get myself in the best possible shape so I can go out an... (more »)
Galatea replied...
Jul. 1, 2010 at 8:01 pm


Ink Dance: That is an excellent observation. I also run track, and I know how hard I train, along with my team mates. While I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with wanting to put yourself in the best possible position to win a race (or match), as that is what practice is for, justification depends upon the means. Weight cutting is dangerous, and no person should have to or want to subject themselves to such pain in order to win a match. W... (more »)

chase replied...
May 2, 2011 at 11:31 am
uh i agree with that its dangorous but i wrestle and i have also cut b4 to make weight or even to loose a weight class but its different from running, because i also run for my school. running u can train and get faster but wrestling its smarter to move weight classes so u can keep ur record, and there lots of different reasons. but ya for that 1st girl u wouldnt understand unless u wrestled
ddddddddddd replied...
Jul. 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm

sometimes in wrestling u kinda have to vut weight if u want to stay competve for a state tournament just cause everyone else is as well and u will be undersized

and while u can still win, when people get so much bigger than u...


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.
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