My story of wrestling weight loss

By Jack McDermott
Online Editor-in-Chief
The opposing teams coach withdrew a crumpled paper reading, “152.”  I needed to wait for seven more weight classes to weigh in before I could see if I made weight at 113.  At this point, I had only eaten two small meals of meat and cheese over three days and was close to fainting.  When the time finally came to weigh in and the scale clocked in at 112, I was instantly filled with relief. Not because I made weight, but because I could finally eat and drink again.
Before I start describing the lengths I went through to lose weight, I would first like to point out that wrestling has always been my favorite sport.  Although weight loss is a significant part of the sport, everything was completely worth it for the experiences I got to be a part of.  Also, weight management might be painful at the time, but it also lead me to realize my greatest characteristics.
Cutting weight is the best method of teaching self discipline that I have ever experienced.  The combination of high pain and no enforcers other than yourself makes for a greater understanding of one’s goals.  No sane person would willingly cut weight to such extreme levels unless they had a clear understanding of what they wanted to accomplish.
Cutting weight also teaches delayed gratification.  I would cut for an entire week only to weigh in once.  Working long days, weeks, months or years for short moments of success leads to great outcomes.  I would even attribute my greatest accomplishments outside of wrestling to delayed gratification as well.
That being said, weight management was one of the hardest experiences I have been though.  Cutting weight is as affiliated with wrestling as wrestling itself, and because of this, many precautions have been put in place to protect athletes.  However, athletes can still get around the precautions.
At the beginning of competition season, wrestlers undergo a hydration test.  In these hydration tests wrestlers are tested for hydration levels, total weight and body fat percentages. Once a wrestler is deemed hydrated from a urine test, he is told how much weight he can lose over the course of the season based off his body fat and total weight.  If the wrestler loses too much weight, he cannot wrestle.  Also, if a wrestler weighs in with body fat levels below four percent he or she cannot wrestle.
This system works perfectly when used on an athlete that is either at or above a healthy weight.  But I would only partake in this test with weeks of diet beforehand.  I would start to cut weight as soon as football season ended and freshman, sophomore and junior year my efforts “won” me the title of lowest body fat ranging from five to seven percent.
More people need to understand that the willingness to cut weight comes from within the wrestler, not from external forces like a coach.  When I committed to making a weight class, I was making a commitment to my team. I was never forced to make weight, but I did so because I didn’t want to let them down.  However,2+5+  that didn’t always stop me from giving in to the neverending desire for fuel.
After an important weigh in or during a holiday, I would sometimes reward myself with a fulfilling meal.  To make things worse, my metabolism basically shut down, causing me to gain anywhere from six to 10 pounds over the course of a weekend.  Within the following five weekdays, I would need to shed the pounds to stay in my class.  This cycle of quick weight gain followed by weight loss is called a yo-yo diet and hurts endurance.  Nevertheless, whenever I would gain weight, I would need to shed the pounds anyway I could.
To lose weight, I practiced in a sweatshirt or pants to sweat more; however, this was never enough. I would run up and down the stairs in my house with two pairs of sweatshirts and sweatpants on. I would also take an almost unbearably hot bath with only my nose unsubmerged for around 10 minutes.  I would perform these two methods two days before the meet, and the night before if necessary, in order to suck all the excess water out of my body.  All of this was of course combined with extreme dieting and minimal drinking.  Using these forms of weight loss, I was able to lose 20 pounds in a week and a half, reaching my 113 pound goal in order to make weight for team sectionals my junior year.
Wrestlers typically try to cut water weight first because it is the easiest and fastest way to lose weight.  Similarly, it is also the fastest way to gain weight.  The human body can absorb up to 2.2 pounds of water every hour.  From the time a wrestler weighs in to the time he actually wrestles, he could potentially gain five pounds from water alone.  Add that to all the weight gained from food, and by the time I stepped on the mat I was about six pounds heavier than when I weighed in, giving me an advantage in a match.  At least that was the idea.
During my junior year, I went too far.  I started at 130 pounds and tried to cut down to 113 because in my mind, that was where I had the greatest chance for success.  Once I hit 118 I got stuck. I kept a strict diet and was running and wrestling every day, but I could not shed the extra few pounds. So I stopped eating. I would go two days without eating and then a day with three meals.  This way I starved my body to the point it started losing muscle.
After a week, I got down for hydration testing, but that was the easy part.  Keeping the weight off for an entire season changed me.  My mood instantly fell, and it was so much harder to focus.  Everything taught in health class is true when it comes to extreme diets, and I felt it all.  Even eating would not be satisfying because I would go from feeling extremely full after a small meal to becoming even hungrier than when I started a few minutes ago.  This would occur because my stomach would shrink from the lack of food.  Then, when I ate something my stomach would be very full so it would expand a little bit making me more hungry again.
The lack of food and water was hard at times, terrible at others, yet I still know that if I had the chance I would probably do the same thing again.  As a competitor, I know I would take any legal advantage given to me, and I believe many of my teammates and competitors would say the same thing.  There is no realistic solution to end weight cutting in wrestling, and that is the way it will stay.
Wrestlers know when they are cutting weight that it may not be ideal for their bodies, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be worthwhile.  Yes, sometimes we take it a tad bit too far, but at the end of the day, I would never change my experiences with weight loss.
Wrestlers know when they are cutting weight that it may not be ideal for their bodies, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be worthwhile.  Yes, sometimes we take it a tad bit too far, but at the end of the day, I would never change my experiences with weight loss.