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Chris Murphy and Tom Mix , Published November 22 2012

Coaches, leagues cutting out weight cutting in high school wrestling

Fargo - There’s not many ways to make a wrestling coach squirm, but mentioning weight cutting will make the toughest coach roll his eyes and sigh, as if they were waiting for the topic to rear its ugly head.

“Weight cutting issues that have happened in the past have really put a bad stigma on the sport,” Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton wrestling coach Davey Kosen said. “The question I get the most often today from parents whose son wants to join wrestling is about weight cutting.”

Kosen can remember sucking on a lollipop or Skittles with a weigh-in approaching and spitting out the juices because his mouth was dry and he did not want to swallow water.

The smell of his buddies’ hot lunches, while he ate two peanut and butter and jelly sandwiches, still punctures his nose.

He remembers the euphoria of standing on the scale with a Subway sandwich and a 32-ounce Powerade, waiting to chow down after he weighed in.

“I’ve heard myths of kids standing on their heads, to get the blood to rush to their head when they were one-tenth of a pound off a weight class,” Kosen said. “Everyone has stories from way back when on how people cut weight and how dangerous it was. One cannot do that anymore.”

The truth about weight cutting is the days of athletes drastically fluctuating between weight classes are over.

“I’m glad the old days of cutting 20 and 30 pounds are over,” West Fargo head coach Kayle Dangerud said. “Wrestling is about competing, not who can lose the most amount of weight.

“I have seen guys devoting all their time and energy to make weight and then go, ‘Oh, by the way, I got to wrestle.’ They’re mentally drained, physically shot and not ready to compete.”

Management of weight in wrestling has become a science, rather than a weekly guessing game.

“With the weight cutting limitations that they have it is a lot more controlled than it used to be,” Fargo South head coach Harvey Kruckenberg said. “Kids don’t fluctuate as much as they used to do. It’s a matter of discipline. I don’t see as may kids going up and down as I used to do.

“(Weight cutting) takes a lot of fun out of the sport and high school wrestlers want to have fun.”

In North Dakota, an athlete can only lose 1½ percent of its body weight – about two pounds on average.

“Each state has rules and regulations about weight cutting to ensure that wrestlers remain healthy,” Kosen said. “Most wrestlers today cut hardly any weight at all. If they do, they do it the healthy way, and that is a lot of exercise and a good healthy diet. I have to reassure parents that the (Minnesota State High School League) has strict guidelines and rules regarding weight cutting, and one cannot do those types of extreme weight loss things anymore. Kids have weight certifications now. Weight trainers come and test their body fat, and how much body fat you have determines how much weight you can drop.”

A wrestling weight permit is filled out, signed by a skin fold technician, physician and a wrestler’s parent before engaging in a wrestling match.

The permit states the minimum wrestling weight for all wrestlers and must be available on request. At the bottom of the form, a physician and a parent circle the lowest possible weight class a wrestler should compete in and, if the two differ, the higher of the two are used.

“We preach proper nutrition, proper eating habits and work out,” Moorhead wrestling coach Skip Toops said. “There are not drastic drops or increases. Weight cutting is a part of wrestling and will always be, but it’s not something worth highlighting. Highlighting someone’s work ethic, or dedication or accomplishments on the mat, in school or in the community are much better things to highlight.”

Readers can reach Forum reporters Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548 and Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562