POSTED: Monday, February 23, 2009
Like most high school sports, wrestling requires strenuous practices, dedication and mental toughness. However, it's the only sport where weight matters to compete.
WAIANAE HIGH SCHOOL
Ka Leo O Waianae
High school wrestlers must weigh in at a specific weight class to participate in competition. In most cases, wrestlers choose to lose a lot of weight to gain a bigger advantage at a lower weight class.
Weight maintenance has been an issue for Waianae's wrestlers.
"I weigh about 180 right now, but I'm going to wrestle at 160 because it would be better for me," varsity wrestler Kanoa Matutino said.
The theory, wrestlers say, is that a wrestler who cuts weight to compete in the lightest possible weight class is stronger than an athlete who competes at the natural weight in that weight class. The time they have to lose the weight is the biggest issue.
When normal exercise is not enough, some wrestlers resort to desperate methods including extra running, skipping meals, consuming laxatives, spitting and going to the sauna.
"Sometimes I take Ex-Lax," Matutino said. "I usually lose about 4 to 5 pounds after taking it."
Coach Jeremy Johns believes these methods are harmful.
"Wrestlers try to lose the weight the wrong way, they tend to get dehydrated and they lose a lot of energy," Johns said. "I don't encourage this type of weight loss, but sometimes they have to do it."
Losing too much weight too soon has proven fatal elsewhere. The death of Wisconsin wrestler Joseph LaRosa in 1997 raised questions about athletes' means of weight loss. LaRosa tried to lose 4 1/2 pounds in two hours for a meet the same morning.
"Most times wrestlers look toward rapid loss of water weight," Johns said. They sweat to lose about 6 to 8 pounds in a two- to three-hour time frame," Johns said. "It's not healthy."
To prevent such incidents from happening, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association implemented weight-monitoring programs in 2007 that prohibit wrestlers from losing too much weight at one time. Still, athletes manage to work their way around the system when they fail to follow their diets.
"Poor diets is the main reason why they're having trouble cutting weight," Johns said. "Wrestlers have a lot of discipline on the mat, but they're not disciplined off the mat."
Johns said that wrestlers lose the weight for the weekend, only to gain it back after the tournament is over. The same happens week after week.
"In previous years, there's been times where I had a wrestler that had to cut about 17 to 18 pounds in one week to compete in a tournament that weekend," Johns said.
Johns scheduled a nutrition meeting for the team before the season started. It helped wrestlers schedule a meal plan for a low calorie diet. However, it is the wrestlers who decide whether to follow it.
"If they just diet and exercise the right way then it would be a lot easier," Johns said.