As Real Wrestlers, we hear this statement all the time from the people we meet during our journey, ďOh, youíre a wrestler. I knew this guy in high school who used to wrestle. He used to spit in a cup and wear trash bags to class. You wrestlers are a different breed and are crazy for doing things like that.Ē
First of all, yes, wrestlers are a different breed, and wrestling is not a sport for the weak. However, those brave enough to step onto the mat will reap the benefits of the agony sewn. But, as far as wrestlers being crazy for losing weight, or as we call it, cutting weight, I disagree with that. It is difficult to maintain the exact same weight at all times, due to our workout and eating schedule, and sometimes, we might have to cut some weight. But, that doesnít make us crazy. Actually, it makes us disciplined and proves we are willing to make a huge sacrifice to attain victory. Looking back on my career, I think having to make weight on a normal basis has made me a much tougher person mentally and physically. There are times when I have to do difficult things in my daily life that may frustrate me, but then I think. ďHeck, I would much rather do this than have to cut weight.Ē So by comparing a task that seems initially difficult to weight cutting, that task becomes so much easier to accomplish. The truth is, if we always take the easy road, we rarely ever learn anything, and our confidence in our self and our abilities doesnít grow. On the other hand, when we take the harder road or road less traveled, we develop perseverance and gain a new found confidence in our abilities. My Head Coach at The University of Pennsylvania, Roger Reina, makes the team run 12 miles at the beginning of the season. Every guy on the team has to run the 12 miler 2X throughout their career at Penn. Coach Reinaís plan with the 12 Mile run is not to necessarily get the guys in shape, even though it helps. His plan is to create a new level of confidence in each wrestler by doing something most of them have never done before. I personally had never ran over 5 miles before running 12 miler, but by finishing it, I earned a new level of confidence in my own physical and mental capabilities. Yes, having to make weight can be very difficult, but it gives wrestlers a level of discipline that goes unmatched when compared to most all other sports.
Iím not condoning weight loss but am simply stating the realistic advantages of one of the most common ingredients of our sport. Weight cutting is not a necessary ingredient to win wrestling matches. There are many successful wrestlers who donít cut weight because they donít have to or donít believe in it. But, if you do decide to cut weight, it needs to be done properly, in a healthy manner, under a coaches supervision, and shouldnít be excessive.
How do you cut weight properly without hurting your body and without wasting time? The rules over the years have changed. Currently, Middle/High School and College wrestlers have to make weight 1 hour before competition and are not allowed to use plastics or saunas; therefore, you canít cut too much weight because you are going to need the energy to battle 1 hour later. Plus, you need to find a way to lose weight without breaking the rules. Before I tell you the ideal situation, let me make it clear on what not to do. Never take Ex-Lax or force yourself to puke. These are not natural and can hurt your body, not to mention, the debacle that could take place in a match if you lose control of your bowls. Yikes! Spitting in a cup is nasty for everyone around you, is a waste of time, and will give you cotton mouth. Never starve yourself all day to make weight! It will affect your energy level and performance. Plus, I challenge you to make the right decision and choose to follow the rules regarding plastics and saunas.
At the Olympics, I did sit in the sauna and used plastics to make weight, but itís not against the rules internationally. And, I had almost 20 hours to recover from my weight loss, which gave me ample time to rehydrate and reenergize before my early matches. If I would have had just 1 hour to recover in Sydney, I wouldnít have been able to wrestle 167. 5 lbs and would have had to attempt to make the Olympic Team at 187.5 lbs. If you canít make weight properly without hurting your body, you need to move up to the next weight class. You may say, ďBrandon, I canít beat the guy at the weight above me and donít want to wrestle JV.Ē That is the nature of the beast in our sport, but if you try to beat the guy above you, lose, and have to wrestle JV, it is better than stunting your growth, potentially damaging your body, worrying your family, or letting some guy mop up the mat with your face in front of everyone because you had no energy to compete.
If you choose to cut weight, the ideal situation is to pick a weight that allows you to eat and drink healthy throughout the week, which will keep your energy levels high. If you have plenty of energy and feel good in practice, you will be able to work out harder and longer which helps keep your weight under control. You have to eat and drink to lose weight! The night before you make weight itís important to eat and drink, but you may need to cut back a tad bit on your portion size and not eat or drink after 8 PM. The key in cutting weight under the current rules is to not allow your body to know you are having to make weight. How is this possible? If I was back in High School and had to make 171 pounds under these rules, I would try to be about 4 pounds over before I went to sleep the night before weigh-ins. Why 4 lbs for me? The reason is I know my body, and you have to know your body. You need to know how much weight you drift during the night, how much weight you can lose by drilling for an hour with a thick sweatshirt and sweat pants on, and how much weight you can drift during the day. I usually drift about 1 lb at night. So I would go to bed 4 over and wake up 3 over. For breakfast at around 6:30 am, I would eat and drink about 2 lbs. For example, I would have a protein bar (or half of one) and could drink about 10 oz of orange juice. There are many choices here on what to eat and drink (Oatmeal, Cereal, fruit, and all the different kinds of juice), but the key is to be disciplined, choose your portions wisely, and know how much you normally gain after eating particular foods. After breakfast, I am approximately 5 over and need to get a good drill in. So I get my partner and drill for an hour from 7-8 am because I know that I can lose 3 pounds with sweats on during an hour drill. I view these drills as a practice and an opportunity to get better, not solely a weight-cutting workout. After the drill, I am only 2 lbs over and choose to eat about 2 lbs for lunch around noon. Now, I am 4 over and have approximately five hours until weigh-ins at 5 pm. By knowing my body, I know that I can drift about 1 lb before I have to start my next drill at 4 pm, one hour before weigh-ins. At 4 pm, I am right on target and am approximately 3 lbs over. From 4-5 pm, I put a clean pair of sweats on and get my hour drill in losing the last 3 lbs. After I make weight, I replenish my fluids, eat a good balanced meal, and donít gorge myself so by the time I walk onto the mat, ďItís time to get it on cause we donít get along,Ē a la Kevin Jackson.
Under the current rules, that would have been my game plan to make weight properly, but itís important to remember that all wrestlers are different sizes and will lose different amounts of weight while sleeping, working out, or day drifting. Therefore, every wrestler that cuts weight needs a game plan and needs to know their body. Donít wait until the last minute, hurt yourself, and lose a match that you should have won if only youíd have planned ahead.
Remember, ďan ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,Ē a la Coach Johnny Cobb at Tascosa High School in Amarillo, TX.
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