Cutting Weight MAG

By Saige Redd, Loma, CO

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.

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This article has 125 comments.

Grambus said...
on Jan. 6 2009 at 10:48 pm
Big D-- I don't think that he is saying that cutting weight causes 300,000 deaths per year. He is saying that cutting weight may lead to eating disorders (which it does) and that eating disorders contribute to 300,000 deaths per year, some of which (probrably not a large portion) could be from cutting weight.

Big D said...
on Jan. 5 2009 at 4:10 am
I would like to know the source of your "facts" in this article as well as your experience in the sport of wrestling. I am currently involved with the sport as a coach and was a wrestler myself in school. I respect the fact that you are a student and will "pull my punches" but make sure you check your sources before you slander a great and time tested sport. I agree that eating disorders are a serious problem in our society but you trying to link "cutting weight" with 300,000 deaths a year is simply absurd. Regretfully there have been a few tragedies in our sport but your exaggeration is simply an attempt to give the sport I and millions of others love dearly a black eye. Wrestling is a tough sport that teaches self discipline, courage, honor and is by far the most physically demanding sport of which I am aware. I would suggest you speak with more people involved in the sport before you lump all participants in the same group. Managing weight is a central part of wrestling, that fact I will not deny but a large majority of wrestlers do not have eating disorders and do it as safely as possible.

Marty said...
on Jan. 2 2009 at 2:29 pm
I would like to know where you got your statistics from. Thanks

JPBK171 said...
on Dec. 31 2008 at 6:38 pm
I think rules governing cutting weight for high school athletes springs from good intentions but is implemented without any common sense. My son recently was forced to wrestle 189 weighing 171.3 because due to the new rules inplemented in NC, he was unable to pull the .3 lb. .3 lb. He actually had to drink up to weigh 171.3. What is the liability of forcing him to wrestle up to 189 and increase his risk for injury at that weight? Like I said, no common sense in the implemention of a well intentioned rule. There are no easy answers, but just like in the real world, we need less government utilizing common sense for a change, not more, bigger government creating and implementing rules without any thought given.

Marty said...
on Dec. 31 2008 at 4:53 pm
I would like to know the source of your statistics. Thanks.


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