Winning at losing

Stepping on a scale to see if you gained or dropped a few pounds over the holidays isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Neither is jumping on a treadmill or jogging to burn off that unwanted fat.

But imagine eyeing the scale a couple times a day or sweating off a pound or two in an hour-all before locking up with your opponent in competition.

For most area wrestlers, its part of the sport.

But the Hillsboro and Marion high school wrestling programs are losing weight responsibly, say head the coaches from the two schools.

Hillsboro’s Corey Burton has dealt with “cutting weight” since his days as a collegiate wrestler.

“I’ve never seen a kid end up in the hospital for cutting weight, but I know it’s happened before,” Burton said. “Mostly that happens when they get really dehydrated-and that’s what you really have to watch.”

Marion coach Chad Adkins said his wrestlers are the ones who ultimately decide whether they want or need to lose weight.

“I would never tell a kid they have to lose weight,” Adkins said. “I might tell them that if they could get to a certain weight they might match up better. But ultimately it’s their choice. If they’re going to do it I want them to do it in a healthy way.”

The Kansas State High School Activities Association guidelines state that wrestlers are allowed to cut only 10 percent of their base weight.

Base weight used to be determined at the individual’s physical examination, which required by Kansas public schools. But in recent years the rules have changed, requiring wrestlers to weigh in prior to the first day of practice.

“The first day of practice, before we ever step on a mat, we have to weigh all of our kids,” Burton said. “An administrator has to be there and I have to be there, and then we have to fill out a form and submit it to the state.”

According to the KSHSAA, if wrestlers want to lose more than 10 percent of their base weight, they must have consent from a physician, their parents or guardians, and the wrestling coach.

Adkins said he believes the 10-percent rule helps monitor weight loss.

“My philosophy is anything over the 10-percent rule isn’t healthy,” he said. “A lot of kids still don’t do it right, though. We keep pretty close contact with our wrestlers and we tell them at the beginning we don’t want them to lose too much.”

Hillsboro physician Randy Whitely said any kind of rapid weight loss can be hard on an individual’s body.

“With any rapid-diet program, they’re at risk for not only losing fat, but also losing muscle mass,” Whitely said. “Starvation diets aren’t healthy at all. These young kids have very little to lose, anyway.”

Whitely recommends individuals not lose more than one to two pounds a day.

“Anytime you do that, you’re depriving your brain of nutrients,” Whitely said. “Your performance at school is going to go down and your ability to learn is going to be hindered slightly.

“Overall, it’s not a healthy thing to do,” he added. “These kids are still growing. They shouldn’t be trying to lose weight.”

Burton said his wrestlers have been dropping pounds the right way.

“Our kids really beefed up for football and they were still heavy when they came in,” Burton said. “I have all these kids who should have done a better job at the weigh in.

“We do have some kids cutting weight this year, probably more than ever,” he added. “For the most part, they’re doing it on their own. They’ve been taking it off slowly, and that way it’s healthy.”

Hillsboro has four wrestlers who want to lose more than 10 percent of their starting weight. Most are within one to two pounds of the percentage required by the state, Burton said.

“I think when you’re a pound away, it’s a gimme,” Burton said. “My wrestlers are doing a really good job as far as handling their weight loss the right way. They want to put themselves in a place to get some state (tournament) hardware.”

Both coaches agree that if their wrestlers watch their diet, weight is rarely a problem.

“If they cut out the junk food, like Snickers and pop, that’s the biggest part for high school kids,” Adkins said.

“We don’t have any one special diet our kids follow,” Burton said. “We just ask our kids to make sure they get off the candy and the pop.”

Whitely said weight-loss situations are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and require a thorough physical examination.

“There’s a lot of ways to lose weight,” Whitely said. “The right way is to, first of all, not be a teenager and try and lose weight because kids are still growing at that age. But it’s calorie counting and exercise-and that really should be for adults.”

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