Most high school students see the sport of wrestling as the sport where participants wear the dumb “leotard” and roll around with sweaty guys. The truth is, wrestling is one of the most demanding sports that a high school athlete can do.
The week starts, and the wrestler is probably coming off a weekend meet. Usually wrestlers are scared to check their weight on Mondays. Matches typically aren’t until Wednesday or later, but they still have to watch their weight all week to be at weight on time. It isn’t at all abnormal for a wrestler to be five pounds or more overweight to start the week. Going to practice this day is always the hardest. Wrestlers come in sore, tired, and stiff. Monday is always a hard, intense practice to jolt the system and start the weight loss process for the week. It’s not rare to check weight before and after practice and see a loss of upwards of 4 lbs. or more in a single practice, though most is water weight.
As the match approaches on Thursday, weight becomes an area of concern for those who are close. It’s too early to start skipping meals, but cut backs have to happen. No fries at lunch, no cookies between bells, and nothing but water to drink until the match. This day’s practice is intense. Hard drilling, conditioning, and live wrestling. Live wrestling is when in practice the wrestlers practice like in a match. Normally the practice slows it down and the wrestlers let each other practice moves, but at this point it’s 100% effort. This helps build endurance for the match. Unless there is a pin, a wrestling match lasts six minutes, so wrestlers have to be in shape to go the full length. Junior Jack Schoose compared it to another highly physical endurance sport.
“It’s a lot like boxing because there are long rounds or periods you’re trying to wear your guy down throughout the match so you can win,” Schoose said. “Both sports also take a lot of mental toughness.”
A day away from the meet, a wrestler again has to be concerned about his weight. If he is too far over, he skips lunch and eats nothing but good, healthy food. No other sport requires the preparation and discipline of wrestling. Other sports may watch film or require studying of plays outside of practice, but nothing demands a total change in lifestyle like wrestling. This day’s practice is all about weight loss. One day out from the match and the last time a wrestler will have the opportunity to cut weight, so this practice is high intensity. It doesn’t involve any live wrestling to avoid injury or fatigue. It is mostly hard drilling, which is practicing one move over and over again for an extended amount of time, then switching to another. This is a practice to refine their moves so they hit with maximum efficiency, but also to induce sweating and weight loss. On this day it is commonplace to see wrestlers practice in long sleeves, sweatpants, and sweatshirts, even switching to many layers of sweatshirts for the running portions of practice.
On this day more than any other, wrestling does not end after practice. When wrestlers go home, they cannot forget about the sport and relax. They either trim dinner down to something light or skip it entirely. Even sleeping isn’t comfortable often if the wrestler still needs to cut weight. Going to bed in many layers of sweats to lose weight by sweating in the night, or opening the window and letting the winter air in to shiver off weight are two common techniques. Exercises and even runs after practice serve as weight to lose those last ounces or pounds.
This is the most important day of the week for the wrestler. The match is after school, but they have to be concerned with weight all day to be prepared for the match that night. Lunchtime is spent avoiding food in agony. Wrestlers go to the auxiliary gym where they can check their weight to see if they can afford to have a few bites of an apple or not.
When wrestlers get to the meet, they first have to weigh in. Once the whole team weighs in, they are finally allowed to eat. Once a wrestler weighs in, there are no weight restrictions for the match. There is usually an hour before the wrestling starts, so the team takes the time to replenish, but without overindulging and being sluggish for the match. Fluids, more than food, is often what the wrestler needs the worst.
Matches are what everything in the sport is building up to. Making weight is hard, but the work doesn’t stop there. Wrestling is a uniquely individual sport. It’s just one wrestler against the other, with no teammates coming to their aid. First year wrestler sophomore Ethan Sheppard said this was one of the hardest aspects to the sport.
“In wrestling, you are pitted against an individual with intense physical contact, with all eyes focused on you,” Sheppard said. “There’s nowhere to hide on the mat.”
A match goes six minutes, with close to no breaks during. In some ways, the six minutes is agonizingly long, with nothing to spell the work. In other ways, it isn’t fair that the whole weeks of work and constant “grind” as it is called in wrestling, can be summed up in just six minutes, said senior Ronnie Ehemann.
“The constant grind you are in for the season. You are always at meets or practices,” Ehemann said. “It is honestly the hardest sport. You practice for hours and only wrestle for six minutes, sometimes less.”
126 lb. Rielly Dowell-Howko: 27-10- District Qualifier
126-132 lb. Cameron Hayward- 5-10
132 lb. Clayton Dause- 8-7
138 lb. Thomas Moore- 19-12
145 lb. Jackson Gear- 31-13- District Qualifier
152 lb. Reese Jabin- 7-9
160 lb. Nick Keri 24-12- District Qualifier
170 lb. Ronnie Ehemann- 11-15
195 lb. Ethan Sheppard 7-12
220 lb. Jack Schoose- 9-13