Weight watching for wrestlers

By Jay Huerbin

Before Tyler Nauman steps onto the mat for a wrestling match, he needs to step on a scale to… Before Tyler Nauman steps onto the mat for a wrestling match, he needs to step on a scale to check his weight. Like the rest of Pitt’s wrestling team, Nauman must maintain a certain weight if he wants to both wrestle in his weight class and perform at his highest ability. ‘Maintaining a weight is very important in the sport of wrestling,’ said Nauman, a redshirt freshman. ‘You always want to be as strong as you can be when you’re out on the mat. So, by maintaining your weight as close to the weight class you wrestle in, you’re able to keep as much of your strength as possible.’ Every weight class is different in wrestling, but if a wrestler overeats or loses too much weight, his weight class will change. And for some wrestlers, the change will not allow them to perform successfully. Or at all. ‘An hour before a match, the wrestler weighs in,’ said Pitt coach Rande Stottlemyer. ‘If [the wrestler] is over, he will not be allowed to compete.’ Junior Ryan Tomei said pressure comes with the sport, but experience will ease the stress. Still, both Tomei and Nauman agree that a healthy diet is necessary to stay in their weight class. Watching what and how much of something they eat only adds to the pressures of a wrestler. ‘Most wrestlers watch their diets,’ said Nauman. ‘Our lifting coaches provide us with diets to suit our body and weight classes. All the goodies most students eat, like chips, cookies, beer and pizza, wrestlers can only enjoy at certain times.’ Tomei, a heavyweight, might have an easier time when it comes to weight management, but that doesn’t stop him from staying healthy. ‘Considering my weight class, I do not need to watch what I eat,’ explained Tomei. ‘But I do make sure I eat the right food most of the time and exercise a lot.’ All of the healthy eating, however, needs to be turned into muscle and energy. Tomei and Nauman explained that on top of team practices, most wrestlers work out every day. And it can take a toll on the team. ‘It takes so much hard work and time that some days, other than practicing, all you’re able to do is sleep,’ said Nauman. Still, coaches don’t want to see their players fall behind. The players can do so much to maintain their weight, but coaches are also there to support them. For Stottlemyer, routine schedules for wrestlers include cardio workouts, weight training, technique practices and conditioning. ‘It really is a lifestyle,’ said Stottlemyer. The workouts and dieting have to come together in the end, as the coaches are constantly making sure the wrestlers are doing well. Stottlemyer explained that wrestling has changed over the years and weight management is no longer as big of a problem as it once was. ‘It’s very hi-tech nowadays,’ said Stottlemyer. ‘Before, guys would do a lot of crazy things to gain and lose weight. But all of that has changed.’ Before current regulations, Stottlemyer said that some wrestlers would be as far as 14 pounds from their target range. But a lot more control has been implemented into collegiate wrestling. And coaches work with the players on a daily basis. ‘We keep in touch with our guys. We see them every day,’ said Stottlemyer. ‘We ask how they’re doing and what their weight is.’ The sport might have changed, but the pressure is still there. And weight management is something that Nauman believes is the reason wrestling is so difficult. ‘In my opinion, wrestling is the toughest sport there is,’ said Nauman. ‘Other athletes don’t know what it’s like to have to maintain and cut weight while still practicing and competing at high levels.’