The Student News Site of Black River Falls High School

BRFHS Paw Print

The Student News Site of Black River Falls High School

BRFHS Paw Print

The Student News Site of Black River Falls High School

BRFHS Paw Print

Weight loss could spell trouble for wrestlers

Rapidly losing weight to drop into a lower weight class, known as weight cutting, has been prevalent in both high school and college wrestling for decades.

“Well, whenever I cut weight, I hated it,” said one high school wrestler. “I would always feel slow and tired in my match.”

The outcome of rapid loss can be even more serious. In 1997, Joseph LaRosa of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse died after trying to ‘weight cut’ by wearing a rubber suit after working out on a stationary bike. Because of repercussions of rapid loss, the WIAA has a number of regulations in place to protect wrestlers.

“We do a test in [the] beginning of the year to see body fat percentage and that dictates the minimum weight class we can wrestle,” said Lipke.

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Though the WIAA does require a body fat percentage test at least once during the season, they do not require WIAA referees to check wrestler’s body fat percentage before every meet. This could mean that wrestlers can fluctuate below the required amount during the season after the initial test.

“[Seven] percent is the least amount of body [fat that we] can wrestle with without parental permission,” said Lipke.

Though certain eating and drinking habits are recommended for the wrestlers at school, parents play a huge role in the lifestyle of their wrestler. However, some parents may be endorsing weight loss for wrestling.

“We can drop down to [six] percent [body fat] if parents ok it,” said Lipke.

Within wrestling, you will see some conflicts between the medical field and the WIAA weight loss rules. Body fat percentage is just another debate on this ever-growing battle between athletic programs and health professionals.

“You know, there’s a healthy range for body fat. Having your body fat in the healthy range is going to be optimally where it wants to operate,” said Gundersen Nutritionist Rachel Rebman. “If you’re on the lower end of normal that’s very damaging. I would say that eight to nine percent would be optimal for high school male athletes.”

The American College for Sports Medicine says that there is no problem with dropping weight, however they find that the wrestlers that do lose weight rapidly are finding that they have a decrease in performance which produces the opposite effect that they are hoping for.

Rebman states that this weakness is caused from a lack of nutrition and water.

“So if you’re dehydrated and you’re trying to do athletic things, you could run the risk of passing out, fainting,” said Rebman. “Dehydration is a serious problem, so it’s not something that should be taken lightly or mess around with it.”

Although dehydration has been an issue in the sport in the past, basic healthy eating habits are something that Black River Falls wrestling head coach Andy Osegard emphasizes.

“I wish I could go home and fix a nice healthy meal, but at the end of the day, when they go home I can’t control what they eat and do,” said Osegard.

These eating habits may be emphasized at practice, but some wrestlers have admitted that they aren’t following these nutritional guidelines.

“I eat about 500 calories a day when I want to drop a weight class or an extra pound or two,” said junior wrestler Nicholas Raifsnider.

The WIAA published The Wrestlers’ Diet which outlines nutritional guidelines for wrestlers. According to the diet, one’s caloric intake should not fall below 1,700-2,000 calories per day. Rebman says that eating too few calories can be dangerous.

“You’re not going to be performing at your maximum level and even if you’re just cutting calories to a very low level. You’re not nourishing your body, and you’re not going to perform at the level that you would if you were fully nourished and had been providing yourself with adequate energy and nutrition,” said Rebman.

Osegard says that the WIAA has a strict policy for the amount of weight the wrestlers are able to drop and that the athletes are participating in healthy weight loss.

“I’ve had to talk to one wrestler about his weight. He seemed to fluctuate in his weight and I had to say ‘hey, you know, what’s going on? Your weight is moving pretty rapidly,’” said Osegard. “I care for my athletes like they’re my family. We follow the rules.”

Losing some weight isn’t the issue, but losing too much weight is. The WIAA restricts wrestlers’ weight loss to 3.5 pounds a week.

“We can’t lose more [than] 3.5 pounds a week, but if we are trying to drop a weight class sometimes we [won’t] weigh in at all, so we can drop the necessary weight,” said senior wrestler Harry Lipke.

While Osegard makes sure the team follows all WIAA rules, wrestlers say that there are some ways to get around the system.

“You don’t weigh in so you have more time to drop the weight,” said Lipke.

While the WIAA sets a weight loss cap of 3.5 pounds, some nutritionists have said that this number is too high.

“The safest amount of weight, the topline of safe weight loss in a week, would be about two pounds. Anything more than that and you’re basically losing body water,” said Rebman. “You might be losing some muscle mass.”

Some wrestlers try to rehydrate after weigh in. However, the Wrestler’s Diet states that it take 48 hours for the water balance in your tissues to be restored. Much like water, when a wrestler eats after weigh in, the food comes back in the form of fat instead of muscle.

“Once you lose the weight for your weigh in, to get into your weight class, then you rebound gain some weight,” said Rebman. “So usually when you’re losing all that weight very rapidly it’s coming from body water and muscle mass. And when you regain weight, you’re going to regain fat mass. So you’re changing your body composition, and you’re also changing your metabolism.”

For more information on nutrition and weight loss visit the American College for Sports Medicine.

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Weight loss could spell trouble for wrestlers