For wrestlers, picking a weight class to compete in can make or break their season. It can leave them at the top of their game and allow them to be as aggressive as possible on the mat. Or it can cause mental stress, fatigue and burn out.
Most wrestlers and parents have the best of intentions when getting ready for the season. Unfortunately, most also don't know what to consider when picking a weight class. It's a bit 'old school', but many wrestlers still try to compete at the lowest weight possible. To get a competitive edge, of course.
I mentioned in part one of this blog the negative impacts that happen when wrestlers are at too low a weight.
If you didn't read part 1 of "3 Fatal Mistakes Most Wrestlers Make When Picking a High School Wrestling Weight class", [click here] to check it out.
So what are the other steps most wrestlers miss when picking a weight class to compete in?
2. Not having a plan to get down to your scratch weight before weight certs
You've strategically picked a weight class to compete at? Awesome.
...You waited until 3 weeks before weight certs before you decided to reach your goal?
Not so awesome.
Rapid weight loss = rapid strength loss.
You're going to start the season with a huge disadvantage if you're trying to drop weight too fast.
Lets say you spent a ton of hours over the summer and fall training. Not only to improve your technique but to make sure you're as strong as possible going into the season.
(And yes, I know many of you guys are multi-sport athletes and have different goals depending on the season)
So you get to a good place strength wise in the off-season where you feel confident competing at. Unfortunately, you may have also not been paying as much attention to your nutrition.
Pre-season starts creeping in, and you realize you've only got 3 weeks to get to your cert weight. This is about the time most wrestlers start falling into the 'old school' way of losing weight...
...Skipping meals... Hours of extra cardio...
(Not recommended, by the way)
Here's the problem.
When you're trying to drop weight, you're trying to drop body fat. When you're rapidly dropping weight, the opposite happens. You're holding onto body fat and losing a significant amount of muscle mass and strength.
What can we do instead?
Avoid rapid weight loss. Come up with a better plan so that you can look and feel healthy while also maintaining your lean muscle. If you've read any of my other posts about this subject, you know what comes next: Use the 1.5% rule.
Its an easy way for wrestlers to determine how much weight they can lose per week. Without losing muscle mass. Basically, if you're dropping more than 1.5% of your total body weight per week, you're doing it wrong.
Want more info on how to use the 1.5% rule including a free goal weight plan calculator you can use for your wrestlers?
[Click here] to get the calculator and check out the blog, 'Wrestlers: How to Lose Weight Without Sacrificing Performance'.
Using the 1.5% rule, we can see this person would need at least 5 weeks to get to his goal weight.
And this is the least amount of time needed.
Remember, the slower weight loss is the more maintainable it is over the season.
3. When you grow, so should your weight class
Unpopular opinion: If your wrestler is growing, they likely need to be moving up in their weight class. Especially if it's more than an inch or two.
Its natural-- and healthy, for teenagers to put on weight when their height increases. This is going to change their 'natural weight' over time. The further away a wrestler's cert weight is from their natural weight, the more difficult it's going to be to maintain.
Last season I was working with a wrestler-- let's call him Mark.
Mark and his family came to me because he had been competing as a freshman at 145 lbs. Mark had been dominating his season.
He naturally sat at 5'6", 145 lbs and his weight didn't fluctuate more than 4-5 pounds year round. He made states, attended Fargo and performed incredibly in all his matches.
Fast forward a year and he was in the complete opposite position.
Mark had struggled making weight for nearly all his matches that last season. He even got scratched three times throughout the year. His nutrition and training had stayed the same but weigh-ins were difficult all of a sudden.
Without trying to drop weight, Mark went up to 165 at times. This made weigh-ins difficult. The process he used to use to manipulate his water weight by a few pounds was no longer enough.
He started getting caught in the trap of 'old school' cutting to make weight . Starving, dehydrating and running on a treadmill for an hour or two each day.
Even when Mark did make weight for his matches, he wasn't competing well. He complained of burn out, fatigue and increased anxiety before matches. His endurance between periods declined too.
As you can imagine, his season didn't go too well as a sophomore.
Both Mark and his family couldn't figure out what had changed to make his weight management difficult that year.
I spoke with them at length to get details about Mark and what the cause was. It turned out Mark had shot up to 5'10" between his Freshman and Sophomore year but still tried to compete at his old weight. Mark and I discussed in-depth his goals as a wrestler and came up with a plan together.
Part of that plan included moving up. A senior who held the 160 lb spot had just graduated, freeing it up for Mark to slide into. He was able to make weight easily with his nutrition plan and went into his matches aggressive and energized. He even placed at States.
So how do you know if your wrestler should move up?
There isn't a one-size-fits-all method to determine a weight class. . Instead, it should be individualized based on these four things:
Stature & body composition
Always keep an eye on your wrestler's growth and be aware it is a critical factor in how they compete and make weight.
Have a plan of attack
There are a lot of factors that go into what weight class a wrestler should be competing in. It's not as black-and-white as competing at the lowest weight possible.
Before pre-season starts, come up with a plan of attack. Take into account things like their natural weight. Have a plan so they can nail their goals while preserving their strength. If your wrestler has grown a several inches, consider how that impacts their weigh-ins.
Strategically picking a weight class can give a wrestler a huge advantage on the mat. Weigh-ins will be easier and your wrestler can perform at the next level. It can also have that added bonus of your athlete enjoying their matches more.
If you're a parent or coach, talk with your wrestlers about these factors. Work together to figure out the best weight class they should start their season at.
Has your wrestler ever changed their weight class during their high school career? How did it affect their performance and matches? Comment below and let me know!
P.S. Are you the parent or coach of a high school wrestler? If you want to learn more strategies on how to gain a competitive edge and effortlessly make weigh-ins WITHOUT having to skip meals, dehydrate or sacrifice performance, [click here] to register for a free training I'm hosting a few times this week.