Weight Cutting

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This is a repost of a blog I wrote in the beginning of 2011 when I was living in NY. It’s as true now as it was then.

Okay, so this is going to be my very first blog and to tell the truth I’ve been procrastinating like I have done so often when writing. Whether it be e-mails or more often school papers I have had an aversion to writing. I believe it’s because I’m not so skilled and I always get criticized for not using paragraphs and gathering my thoughts fully. I apologize for my inability and hopefully after a while I will improve.

The spark that made me decide to start a blog is because I feel if I put my thoughts on paper I will be forced to think about them more precisely. I also think another benefit is that they will be criticized by a wide assortment of people, ones who may buy into what I have to say and those who think I’m outright unintelligible. I just may learn a thing or two… But one thing is for sure, I have been in the sport for about 20 years and I have been everywhere from the manic kid running around the side lines annoying people all the way to the top of the podium at the NCAA championships. I have some experience and I hope for my students that they can learn from it.

I plan on writing about subjects that are pertinent to me and in which I am currently working out in my head. I plan on it being a weekly thing that I post on Mondays.

Anyway, this one will be about weight cutting… To start, I have never really been a big fan of cutting weight. Neither as an athlete and even less so since I have begun coaching. I was a lucky one; I was fortunate not to have an external force driving me to make the lowest weight class I could when I was younger. During this time and since I’ve had time to think about why it has helped shape me into the wrestler I am today. I think about the benefits of not cutting weight as well as it’s hindrances but moreover the message that cutting weight versus not is sending our wrestlers.

So let’s think about it… Why do people cut weight and what does it teach them? It’s to be bigger and stronger than your opponent right? I guess when you take its surface value that isn’t such a bad idea is it? Let’s be stronger and bigger than our opponents. It actually sounds like a great idea, but when I think about it deeper it creates a cycle that you can’t possibly replicate throughout a career. If you have a weight class there is only a limited disparity. As you grow older the amount that you are stronger than other people diminishes because the late bloomers begin to mature. This decreases your advantage and thus to retain the advantage previously held, you need to cut more weight.

As time increases, advantage decreases. This means you need to cut more weight. Your advantage is limited and at some point will vanish almost completely. Even the 125 pounders in college are strong for their weight and even though they may weigh more or less they are similar in strength. This means when viewed from a long-term perspective this is a terrible idea. This usually starts when the kids are young and cut a pound or so. I agree it seems harmless and if kept in perspective is just that. But, those kids that get away with less than par technique the next year will cut more to maintain their edge. With a seasons effort keeping the weight off it seems their energy is put in the wrong place. Their technique doesn’t improve because they don’t put in the time or energy. They don’t have it; it is wasted on weight management.

In the long run this leads to a dead end. This doesn’t even scratch the surface on what it does to the mental state of the person cutting weight and starving themselves. Take someone cutting weight and tell them it is going to be three months before they can eat healthy. Is it really a wonder we have some many young people not enjoying the sport like it should. Even worse is the negative connotation it adds to the sport and season. Think about it, you have someone starving to make weight 2 maybe 3 times a week at a weight that they cheated on the hydration test to get to. Now ponder why their technique declines as the season goes on. Their mental energy is spent on making weight.

This is not the right picture; this is not the sport that I love. Above all this is not the right message we want to send to our kids. Cutting weight is a shortcut and a short-term fix. Kids that are in season on a high school team or any other for that fact should concern themselves with becoming better wrestlers. Not the biggest people at their weight classes’ competition. If they spent the energy on technique they would become better wrestlers throughout the season. If they were better wresters they would not have to cut as much weight. If they were more intelligent with their game plans, they would be able to weather the storm of bigger, stronger wrestlers that can’t handle the 2nd or 3rd period. My goal as a coach is to send the right message.

We are in it for the long haul. You need to be the best you can be when it counts. Getting to the highest level of competition is what we want for you. But not only that, but showing athletes the long-term picture will be with them for the rest of their life. Yes they could win today and beat better opponents with cutting a lot of weight, but do they want to beat the better opponents, do they want to be the best in the section, the state and on though out the nation and the world.

Being a coach now and having felt like I’ve fought a 6-month battle that isn’t over I understand the level of opposition that I am up against. It isn’t over and won’t be for a long time to come. I’m happy though and I think I’m making headway. It is the holiday season and my New York momma just had a first, it’s the night before a tournament and both her kids were eating cookies and having a good time. I think she is having a hard time with it, but I know both of her kids are going in the right direction. The kids save their energy to improve their skill and know-how now and I am trying to make sure it’s the same on the team. There are no sweats in practice and kids wrestle at weight that are comfortable. They may have to get an extra workout or two in, but they still eat. The earlier you start the easier it will be. But like all good things, it takes time. Getting better at technique, developing a mat sense, mat strategy, etc take a long time, but if you plan on wrestling at higher levels I urge you… don’t wait to start.

We need to send our kids the right message. They need to use their energy at becoming better and more skillful people. Shortcuts never pan out in the long run and if they aren’t happy with what they are doing, how hard and for how long are they really going to try? That is the ultimate goal of a coach is to have your athlete do well is the long run, not coach until they start losing and then find someone who can win at that level. Develop the wrester; technically and mentally show them a better way to lead their life as a wrestler and as a person…

4 replies
  1. mmatelich says:

    Very good blog post. Where was this intelligent reasoning 40 years ago when I needed it? I threw my wrestling career away competing against the scale. All the hard misdirected work and unreached goals still bother me a lot (every day!) – always will, I guess. Sometimes there are no second chances.

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  2. Matt Bequette says:

    Great blog post….Where I grew up, wrestling started in 2nd grade, and weight cutting was always a factor – even in gradeschool. By the time I got to HS, I was cutting way too much weight. Surviving brutal workouts was my major concern – not improving every day. I wish I could have read your blog long ago.

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  3. Ted Price says:

    Excellent point(s), Max. I cut way too much for my first three years of high school and was actually forced into not cutting any weight my senior year. If I had cut weight that fourth year, I can say with out a doubt I would have never wrestled in college.

    Unfortunately, there are still “old school” people who think weight cutting teaches discipline and mental toughness. I cringe whenever I see such columns in magazines like “WIN” that say just that.

    It will always be a battle to convince kids to not cut weight but I applaud you for this blog and making educating people the first step in that battle.

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  4. Mark Field says:

    It’s refreshing to know that SOMEONE associated with wrestling and MMA feels the way I do. I wrestled at 130 lbs in high school. Our coach never stressed cutting weight. He only stressed being in fighting shape by doing the drills, sparing, working on technique and running for cardio. Then we had our wrestle-offs because we always had several good wrestlers at each weight. As long as we did as our coach said, we would be at the weight we needed to be and we would be ready for a heavier opponent. I know for a fact that I was often wrestling against guys 10 and even 15 lbs heavier than myself as were my teammates. More often than not, we were still able to succeed. Good technique can overcome strength as long as you don’t make mistakes. Usually, by the middle of the second period, our opponents would really begin to tire while we were just getting warmed up. That’s when it REALLY became fun. I wish that ALL fighting organizations, be they high school, collegiate or professional, wrestling, boxing or MMA, would move their weigh-ins to the same day as their competition and preferably within just a few hours of it. That way the competitors would be forced into fighting at their natural weight. Anyone dehydrating to make weight would NOT be able to perform and this this would discourage this idiocy. Basically SQUEEZING nearly all of the moisture out of your body, while starving yourself at the same time is LUNACY and very dangerous. I know it’s something that is kept hush hush in the fighting world but many times a fighter drops out because of an ‘injury’ when the truth is that they’ve pushed their bodies TOO FAR to loose weight and they are unable to compete the next day. It’s a TERRIBLE roller-coaster to be on and it definitely SHOULD be discouraged at the high school level.

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