Here is my response to the aforementioned post, containing an article in a local high school’s newspaper about cutting weight in wrestling:
While RRRR did bring attention to an issue with some wrestlers, I’d like to bring some balance to the discussion.
First, some wrestlers do choose to “cut weight,” but a majority, at least on the Capo team, do not, and they eat perfectly healthy. 32 out of Capo’s 42 wrestlers don’t have to lose a single pound. Most of our upper weight wrestlers are undersized, so I actually tell them to gain weight, not by eating everything in sight, but by lifting hard and eating healthy. For some of the 10 left, simply eating healthy and working out hard does the trick.
Secondly, for those that do lose weight, realize there is a healthy, productive way to do it, and an unproductive way. I tell the athletes to work out more, not eat less. In addition, the high protein/vegetable/fruit/nuts/fats, few-grains diet that RRR mentioned in the article is a lifestyle that many competitive athletes even outside of wrestling have adopted because they have found it helps them compete at a more elite level of fitness. The basic idea is that processed grains, which tend to be high glycemic, unduly raise the body’s insulin levels and thus contribute to lower quality of performance. The aforementioned foods keep the body’s insulin levels more stable and body fat at manageable levels.
Not only does that lifestyle help athletic performance; it also helps athletes avoid many of the pitfalls of the typical American diet, which has led to record high levels of obesity and other diseases in this country.
Some, admittedly, still choose to cut corners. It is a problem. Anywhere you have competition, some will go to extremes, and though the particulars may be different, it is like this in every sport. Most wrestlers, like many young people and even adults, often don’t see the problem until they actually get in a match, and their performance suffers. Then they “get it.”
Third, there were some things that RRR presented as problematic that actually are common outside of wrestling and are perfectly ok. Many serious Crossfitters and other athletes, for instance, measure their food. This is normal. Likewise with practicing, lifting, then running for “an hour.” One of my assistants, who competes in MMA, jumps rope for an hour, boxes for two hours, spars in jiu jitsu, wrestles in our freshman practice, then wrestles in the varsity practice…and he does all this just about every day, not because he has to make weight, but because he’s in shape.
These habits can become unhealthy, especially when combined with an obsession with weight and appearance. That needs to be showcased. However, those sorts of habits are not shocking or automatically strange. It’s what fit people do!
Fourth, realize that wrestling is not alone when it comes to athletes cutting corners and doing foolish things about their weight. How many sports deal with steroid abuse? Quite a few, and although discussions about those issues sometimes come up and those issues need to be dealt with, they never overshadow the many benefits that athletes in those sports get by competing. It should be the same with wrestling.
There are so many benefits to wrestling that many who are outside the wrestling community easily miss. For one, wrestling skills easily transfer over to other sports. There is a reason why wrestlers make great MMA fighters, Crossfitters, football players, and the like.
Next, the habits forged in the wrestling room and on the mat stick with the wrestlers their whole lives, and that is good. Due to their participation in the sport, they develop the discipline, confidence, and self-knowledge it takes to succeed in anything outside of the mat. Once a wrestler has mastered his own body and mind, the rest of life becomes mere details.
Perhaps the greatest gift wrestling gives is mental toughness! Look at men who have spent their lives wrestling; what you’ll see is a depth of soul, character, and mental toughness that , while it is found in other places, is a rare thing indeed. So much of the success I’ve had in my own life can be attributed to my years on the mat!
There are even benefits for athletes when it comes to managing their weight. Through the process, they master themselves. What’s more, they know how to eat healthy. They know how to stay in shape. They have the self-discipline to avoid all the junk food out there. Along with this comes an incredible amount of confidence.
In conclusion, I applaud RRR for tackling a controversial topic that needs to be discussed. However, there is still every reason in the world to wrestle, even given the existence of weight classes. The way I look at it, while cutting weight should be avoided, managing weight is not a wholly bad thing.