An Inside Look at Weight Cutting for Wrestlers

Since the introduction of weight classes in wrestling, wrestlers have had to cut down on weight to gain a competitive edge; by eliminating as much water weight as possible, stronger wrestlers otherwise in heavier weight classes can compete in lower weight classes.

Since the introduction of weight classes in wrestling, wrestlers have had to cut down on weight to gain a competitive edge; by eliminating as much water weight as possible, stronger wrestlers otherwise in heavier weight classes can compete in lower weight classes. Despite such benefits, wrestlers can face dehydration and heat strokes if water-reducing methods are improperly applied.

Furthermore, extreme weight fluctuation has been proven to be unhealthy not only physically, but also mentally. Acknowledging these risks, Lawrenceville adheres to state regulations to ensure safety in weight-cutting, and coaches have established healthy philosophies for wrestlers to continue as high-performing student-athletes.

Wrestlers at Lawrenceville can compete in 14 different weight classes, ranging from 106 lb to 285 lb, and wrestlers must be under the specific weight to qualify for competition. However, given that Big Red wrestlers are growing high schoolers competing for days on end, they are given a 2-pound allowance.

At the start of each season, Medical Director Bruce Kraut ’75 P’20 and his staff weigh each wrestler, administer a hydration test, and conduct a body composition analysis to determine percent body fat. Afterward, the staff and coaches can determine “each wrestler's lowest eligible weight and a reasonable timeline for descending to that weight.” Of course, this process adheres to national guidelines and regulations of weight cutting. However, Michael Brady ’20, a four-year varsity wrestler, believes that although “the current system works pretty well, [it] has its flaws.” He explains that the current hydration test’s standards can be high, and for his long and wiry frame, the body-fat measurement, which factors in height and weight, could be misleading.

Nonetheless, wrestlers at Lawrenceville can choose whether or not to cut, but if they plan on doing so, they will enter a discussion with the coaching staff. If their intention to cut has been supported by the coaching staff, wrestlers can begin their weight cutting process. Thomas Lay ’21, a varsity wrestler, explains that when he cut down from 145 lb to 132 lb last year, he would fast and wear several layers of clothing during practice in order to sweat out water weight. However, he notes that “the cut down to 132 lb was too big because [he] didn’t have enough energy to wrestle for a given match and also wasn't functioning the way [he] needed to in class because of [his] lack of energy.” Michael Brady ’20 has also tried multiple diets throughout his tenure on the team. In his first two seasons, he cut out simple carbohydrates from his diet to lose water weight and as a IV Former, he cut out carbohydrates completely. However, he admits that he was advised by the coaching staff to not make such extreme cuts, and after feeling lethargic last season, he has avoided hard cuts this season.

The coaching staff encourages healthiness—both mentally and physically—which includes weight cutting only when necessary. Head Coach Johnny Clore H’02 explains that weight cutting “can have a negative impact on schoolwork when students are constantly hungry.” The Boys Varsity Wrestling team wants the best for its student-athletes, and thus Clore has occasionally vetoed wrestlers’ weight cutting proposals. “We want our wrestlers to be strong and fit and able to wrestle at full speed and strength, with plenty of fuel in the tank,” Negroponte said.

Additionally, the coaching staff advises honesty within the team. “If I see someone working out in sweats, and they seem lethargic and sluggish, I get the best sense of how they’re doing and maintain an open dialogue,” Clore added. As a result, wrestlers do not have to internally struggle and can find solutions with the coaches to fit their needs. Finally, Lawrenceville Wrestling does not want to support the harmful misconception that extreme weight cutting adds a sense of toughness to the wrestler. This is not true, and the coaching staff discourages this perception. Lawrenceville Wrestling coaches feel their wrestlers perform best when comfortable. Michael Brady (18-3 record this year) and Nicholas Clark ’20 (16-2 record this year) are both wrestling at their natural weights this season.

Lawrenceville Wrestling builds a culture that prioritizes a wrestler’s physical and mental strength. When wrestlers can buy into this culture, they can see great success. Clore loves to see new wrestlers with no experience “buy into the program completely and see how they physically change and how their technical repertoire grows.” Weight cutting has worked well for certain athletes, but it is certainly not a staple for all members of the team.

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