Charlie Koss admittedly can’t get enough of soda pop, even during the wrestling season.
He often enjoys a few during the season’s earliest stages, a time before the long, grueling grind settles in and the aches and pains begin to take their toll. In today’s version of high school wrestling, the process of cutting weight isn’t nearly what it used to be, and for good reason. But that hasn’t kept Koss from hearing some of the horror stories of decades past.
“My uncle used to tell me stories of wrestlers cutting 10 pounds in one week,” Koss said. “I don’t know how anyone could wrestle doing that.”
The days of missing meals and quickly cutting weight in a short amount of time are over. Although the stories of training in extreme heat, rubber suits, self-induced vomiting and forced dehydration have for the most part, become a thing of the past, cutting weight is still a necessary part of the sport.
Weigh-ins are now an hour before each event, and cutting weight has become a carefully monitored science. While wrestlers are required to complete the weight certification process in order to compete, they’re also provided a nutrition education plan based on the program created by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
The Wyoming High School Activities Association also emphasizes proper growth for wrestlers as well as healthy approaches to weight reduction. Instead of an emphasis on purging and binging, today’s wrestlers are encouraged to eat the reasonable amount of proper foods and to refrain from dehydration.
“At first when you have to certify it’s pretty tough,” Koss said. “But once you start wrestling you start to change things. You eat better, you lose weight at practice. I don’t have to try as hard but I know some other guys have to.”
Koss began wrestling as a freshman at 113 pounds. He then moved up to the 120-pound weight class last year as a sophomore and during the regional and state tournaments, wrestled at 126. This year, as a junior, he has wrestled at both 126 and 132.
To get to the healthy weight and maintain it, Koss stresses smart eating habits.
“For the first two weeks of the season I usually keep up with the habit of drinking pop and eating out, but once the season gets going I’m eating more vegetables and foods with protein,” Koss said. “During the week I try to eat more steak, fish, or chicken and before a dual or a tournament I’ll focus more on proteins. I have to be able to make weight but also have enough energy to wrestle.”
Eating healthy, however, is always easier said than done. Temptation is everywhere.
“Last year was a tough year because my body was still developing and I was cutting a little bit of weight every weekend,” Koss recalled. “I work at the movie theater and I’d be sitting in front of candy all of the time. It was tough.”
Over the last two years, Jaylon Martinez has started each season wrestling at 220 pounds and then later finished the season at 195. This year he’s found himself on the mat at 182.
Cutting weight is no problem for the senior grappler. But he didn’t always think that way.
“Coming into high school wrestling I thought cutting weight would be pretty difficult to do,” Martinez said. “But you know, coming into practice and working hard and eating right, it starts to come along and you start to see a lot of improvement. Especially when you need to cut the weight to be where you want to be. It’s taught me to work hard for something.”
Similar to Koss, Martinez focuses on portion control during the season and depending on how he’s feeling prior to a dual or tournament, will eat a bit of fruit to maintain his energy for the day.
Both wrestlers admit to having a cheat day, which almost always takes place following an event. It’s the time leading up to wrestling that’s most challenging.
“This year cutting down I had to lose two pounds the night before to be able to wrestle at 182 at a tournament,” Martinez recalled. “I went hard at practice with my teammates and was barely under, so I couldn’t really eat or drink much that night. The next day I was really shaky and felt like I didn’t have much energy.”
Cutting weight tests your strength and will power to push through times of adversity. Then again, so does the sport of wrestling.
Even though the process caused harm to wrestlers in the past, the current times have changed for the better. But that doesn’t mean wrestlers like Koss and Martinez aren’t positively affected along the way.
“It makes me more healthy because if I wasn’t doing this, I’d be eating pizza and drinking pop,” Koss jokingly said. “Having those three hour practices and then going up to tournaments for two days and wrestling a bunch, it can be tough. But it makes everyone healthier. I definitely benefit from it.”
Martinez added, “It’s taught me that no matter what, whether you make it down to the weight you want to wrestle at, your teammates and coaches are always there supporting you through it.
“I appreciate wrestling because I’ve had some tough times cutting weight. But I know they’ll always be there to help me get to where I want to be.”