Wrestling is a technical sport, especially when discussing the nutritional aspect. The results of a wrestler’s diet can be the determining factor between victory and failure. It is an essential part of wrestling that surprisingly few people outside the sport understand.
“Cutting” is the term used for when an athlete uses various methods to try to lose body mass to compete in a lower-weight class division. The importance of cutting can make it challenging to balance gaining enough nutrients and reducing body weight.
“When it comes to the diet for these guys, it is the challenge of losing weight while fueling your body to have incredibly hard two-hour practices and push yourself throughout,” said Derek Moore, head wrestling coach. “The sport is very mental in the sense that there is no wrestling match where you don’t get tired.
Our guys’ goal is to know the balance of how many calories, how many carbohydrates, how many proteins they need to feel good enough to perform. Each guy does that a little differently.”
The wrestling program receives much support from the school through three strength and conditioning coaches and the nutrition center. Some examples of foods provided to wrestlers that aid in performance and recovery are fruits, bars, nuts, cherry juice and chocolate milk.
“For our guys, you want to stay as hydrated as long as possible for a wrestling match, so usually up until two or three days before a competition so that your body is still sweating a lot and hasn’t just seized up,”
Moore said. “You’ll decrease your caloric intake four or ﬁ ve days out, so you start getting a little leaner.”
Moore ensures that wrestlers are being smart and safe when dealing with a process such as this, accomplishing it in an innovative way that does not affect the athlete’s health but still allows the necessary changes in one’s body to have that edge in competition. This is a process aided by the experience of many of the athletes themselves.
“To be the best version of yourself, you’re gonna have to go out there and cut some weight,” said Eli Griffin, senior accounting major and member of the wrestling team.
“I hate it, but it’s hard to win if you don’t do it. At least for me, I see physical beneﬁ ts when I do it. When I’m at my post-season/out-of-season weight, I feel slower. (My) gas tank is not as good and my endurance isn’t as well. Once I start getting down toward fighting weight, I feel a lot faster and more energetic.”
A lack of attention to cutting and diet management can have a signiﬁcant impact on a wrestler’s performance. Your ﬂoating weight is where your body’s weight naturally hovers around before an athlete cuts weight before a match. It is an important concept to master to be successful.
“I came into this practice seven pounds over what I needed to weigh in at,” said Marcus Peterson, sophomore kinesiology major and member of the wrestling team.
“If I just went a weight class up and just ﬂoated at whatever weight I was, my opponent is gonna come from seven or eight pounds over and is gonna drop all that water weight and be bigger than me and stronger than me because his natural ﬂoating weight is heavier than me. Which means he has more muscle and is just stronger.”
Many people only ever consider the difficulties that come with sports in the physical sense. Seldom do people ever consider, let alone see, the mental battle that comes with wrestling. Maintaining the ﬁtness standards necessary in wrestling requires a strong mentality, especially regarding nutrition.
“It’s all mental,” Griffin said. “If you have a good attitude, it’s really not that bad. If you go at it as ‘I get the opportunity to wrestle,’ it’s really only temporary struggles for something that could be really cool.
“If I start the cut with a bad attitude, the whole cut sucks for the next week or two I’m doing it. Just competing and being grateful that I got the opportunity to wrestle — it’s all just attitude for me.”