Weight classes in wrestling, serve a purpose to classify the athletes into divisions that let them compete on an even playing field. Over the years as coaches, wrestlers and science discover more and more about human physiology, weight cutting techniques have been developed to give the wrestler an advantage by losing a significant amount of body mass in a short window period of time.
There are many strategy’s that coaches and athletes use to cut weight successfully, some of the techniques involve rapid dehydration, forcing the body to drop its water weight over a 24 to 36-hour period, or calorie deficient dieting, which is used to reduce body fat.
There are also strategies of weight cutting that are dangerous and unsafe, particularly when it comes to getting youth athletes to use them. The key is to have a good experienced coach or team nutritionist that can assist the wrestler in their body mass and physique goals.
When it comes to youth wrestlers employing cutting strategies, we really need to take a step back and look at the individual situation of the wrestler. What is their body-type? Are they an ecto-morph, or a meso-morph? Are they out of shape and need to diet off some unnecessary sugar-fat? Or are they leaner and may not need a cut at all? These are questions that need to be answered before using any sort of weight loss strategy.
Using rapid weight-loss strategies on youths can possibly damage their future development, dehydration produces the hormone, cortisol, which induces a negative reaction in the homeostasis of the body causing fatigue, nervous and muscular system distress and cramping.
Repeated weight cuts via means of water dehydration and calorie reduction will likely burn your kid out. When they reach a burnout stage, they will be predisposed to injury and perhaps not even finish the season.
As a rule of thumb, only start using dehydration cut techniques when the kid hits their teens. Before then, you should rather be focusing on the kids diet and training. The reference to diet has two parts to it. The first being the quality of nutrients and calories that your child is consuming, there’s nothing wrong with a kid having a burger at a family outing every now and then but when the child is regularly over-eating, or making poor dietary choices that lean toward sugar fat and salt consumption, then it’s time to look at changing what they eat.
This will have a dramatic effect on their performance in and out of the wrestling room as their body will have quality energy to work with and blood-sugar levels that are stable. This helps in their education in the classroom as well as their wrestling time on the mats. So make sure that they are eating right to start with and body mass problems will never occur in the first place. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Kids do burn through a lot of energy, especially junior wrestlers, so don’t starve your kid if you don’t know what you are doing, rather consult a nutritionist that specializes in sports nutrition for youth athletes. This is the best way to get an accurate assessment of the child’s body type and a plan that will yield results. Many youth wrestlers that want to use dehydration techniques are just simply out of shape. A solid diet and exercise will help them manage their body mass and keep it at optimal levels.
There are advantages to weight cutting, having a weight advantage over your opponent on the mat may mean the difference between a win and a loss and athletes will always do everything they can to gain a competitive edge. When it comes to youth wrestlers, it’s all up to the parents and the coach at the end of the day. However, putting your child at risk to get that edge should be a choice you take great consideration with.