Dusting off a closed book : Chapter 3 "making weight"

“Blow!”…”Blow!”….”BLOW!”

All I felt was darkness swirling around me as I sunk deeper into the pool.
So this is what drowning feels like”.
I hold onto the chains on either side of me and release my last breath of oxygen, feeling my body sink even lower in the water. Then I faintly hear the words from above the water shout to me :

“Come up!”

In a panicked frenzy, I reach the surface, gasping for air.

“Good job son, we just need to do it two more times…”

If I had any energy left, I would have punched him. But little did I know at the time I was being hydrostatically weighed, that punching my coach was the least of my problems….

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I weighed 59 pounds when I entered junior high school. I reached 99 pounds my first year of high school. I have always been athletic, but never really did any school sports because of my height and small stature. But I discovered wrestling my sophmore year, and found a sport that was perfect for my small stature. And I was pretty damn good at it. At least I was at first….
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Hanging onto the side of the pool in my underwear, the coach was reading the scale. Hydrostatic weighing is a process to figure out how much fat your body has compared to your total body weight. You strip down, climb onto a large fruit scale ( similiar to what you would use in your local grocery store), and are submerged into the water. You then must blow out all of your oxygen ( since oxygen in your lungs will make you float), and then when you have no more air, you are supposed to just hang motionless under water with no air while the person up top calculates your weight.

They take three weights, then use a formula to calculate your percentge of body fat. Typically, men in supreme good physical condition will have between 7-10%, and women will have between 15-20%. I weighed 101 pounds at the time I was weighed, and the weight I needed to be at for wrestling was 99 pounds…..

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I can’t believe the things I put my body through during my wrestling years to make weight. Countless hours of jumping rope in a hot, steamy shower, covered in a sweatsuit and garbage bags. I would go a couple of days before a match only swishing water in my mouth to help with the dryness, but did not swallow so as to not gain weight. I would eat, then make myself throw up. Before a weigh-in, I would strip down to nothing, then stand on my head, letting the blood rush to my brain. Then I would stand on the scale. Supposedly, the blood flowing downward tricks the scale, and you can get an 1/8 of a pound lighter.

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My three hydrostatic weights were done. Thank God. Then I got the results. Remember that I only weighed 101 at the time, and needed to get to 99 pounds to make weight.

I was told that I only had 0.04% of total body fat, which was extremely unhealthy. But I was 17 at the time. I didn’t tell them that I still had to lose 2 pounds, but I knew that the only way to lose the weight would be to lose muscle, or brain tissue.

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Years later, several medical opinions feel that because of what I did to my body during my time wrestling had detrimental effects. My thyroid gland most likely stop producing the growth hormone I needed. I also most likely gave myself some type of eating disorder, among other things.
I hope that times concerning wrestling and making weight in high school has changed, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t. Maybe with more awareness, it will.
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2 Comments

  1. As the daughter of a wrestling coach, and as such, default mat maid, I have seen every aspect of this first hand.

    Good news though- at least here, there have been some changes to make sure that kids aren't doing such unhealthy things to themselves. But- coaches can only monitor so much….what wrestlers do to make weight is often done 'under the radar,' if you will.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Wrestlers have very similar experiences to dancers for sure. I remember trading “tips” with the wrestlers at my school. I don't think enough people realize the lasting effects that an eating disorder can have on your body. For instance, because of mine during my ballet years I stopped creating estrogen, which led to me have osteoperosis already – and I am only 30. Too much damn pressure on kids, man, without enough information and guidance!

Wench, bring my ale, what say you?