Weight Regulations Give New Face to High School Wrestling


New regulations have allowed for safer wrestling practices. (Photo courtesy of Ayan Kazi)


When one thinks of high school wrestling, the image of muscular men starving themselves to lose weight may come to mind, but new regulations are trying to change that.

A study done by the National Eating Disorders Association showed that 33 percent of males participating in weight class sports, like wrestling, are affected by eating disorders.

According to Mrs. Sweitzer, coach of the JV Wrestling team at Wilde Lake, for many years, this was the unhealthy yet entirely common reality of high school wrestling.

“A lot of times [the team] would put on a whole bunch of layers of clothing and trash bags and would go sit in the sauna just to sweat the weight off. And then we would weigh in and we would go up to Giant and just eat before the match,” said Coach Sweitzer on when she wrestled at Wilde Lake.

Nicholas Sylor, the varsity coach, is aware of this common problem. “When you become so conscious of that weight, it doesn’t surprise me at all that it lingers for some people and becomes a problem later on,” said Coach Sylor.

This weight consciousness that often leads to eating disorders comes from the foundation of wrestling, the weight class system.

For this system, wrestlers are separated by their body weights and train specifically to wrestle people in that weight class.

However, if wrestlers weigh in heavier than their class, they are unable to wrestle or are forced to wrestle someone from a different weight class.

According to many Wilde Lake wrestlers, this causes a disadvantage since it is harder and more physically demanding to wrestle someone heavier than you.

So, to avoid this situation, many wrestlers participate in a common practice called “weight cutting” where they use unhealthy weight loss techniques in order to lower their weight quickly and be able to compete.

However, according to Coach Sweitzer, this was much more common in 80’s and 90’s when fewer regulations made it easier for wrestlers to lose weight fast through unhealthy, unsupervised practices.

Coach Sweitzer experienced this when she wrestled for Wilde Lake in the early 90’s.

“The rules weren’t as strict so we’d be sitting in class and students would have tobacco in their mouth and they would be spitting it into jars and cans in order to lose weight quickly, especially on the day of a match,” said Coach Sweitzer.


However, after the negative effects of weight cutting became more apparent, new rules and restrictions were put into place in order to monitor the weight gain and loss of wrestlers, says Coach Sylor.

“You have to fill out a weight chart. They do a hydration test with the trainer, calculate the safest minimum body weight and then they go to a physician. They then see if based on body type that is a safe weight for them to have,” said Coach Sylor. “We get a sheet from the state that calculates the most weight they can lose each week. It’s controlled by week so they can’t drop weight all at once.”

Having wrestled since the fourth grade, Coach Sylor has been surrounded by wrestling for most of his life, and because of this, he understands the risks of unhealthy weight loss and emphasizes healthy eating and weight monitoring for his wrestlers.

“The biggest thing I talk about is proper nutrition,” says Sylor. “What happens with a lot of guys is they realize they’re not aware of where their weight is and then they have to lose a lot of weight to get down. Instead of having the up and down all the time, I try and make guys be more aware of their weight while eating a lot of healthy food.”

However, according to varsity captain and junior, Ayan Kazi, even though restrictions and coach support makes it easier for wrestlers to keep a healthy weight, the responsibility of eating disorder prevention is with the wrestlers themselves.

“Coach Sylor tells us every day to eat healthy,” says Kazi, “and he doesn’t force us to drop weight. But if I want to wrestle a lower weight class and do better, it’s on me.”

Senior captain Ammenu McGruder grew up in a wrestling family and came into wrestling hearing about these practices.

“To lose weight some people used to spit in a cup to lose pounds. You lose like a pound if you spit in a cup all day. My dad used to have to do that,” said McGruder.

However, according to Coach Sylor, Wilde Lake weight loss is closely monitored today in ways that it wasn’t twenty years ago.

“We don’t do that at Wilde Lake, we don’t do anything extreme. If you’re that overweight they make you wrestle the higher weight and don’t let you cut down,” said McGruder.

Still, Coach Sweitzer recognizes regulations don’t solve every single problem. “It’s common especially if you’ve been wrestling for a while,” says Sweitzer. “Some people start as early as 4 or 5 and it just get’s built into them that weight cutting is apart of that and they don’t recognize it as an eating disorder even though that’s what it is.”