The effects of making weight on female wrestlers

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Sabrina Urdaneta

At the St. Clair girls tournament, sophomore Brooklyn Eddy takes on her opponent from St. Charles High School. Eddy joined wrestling for the first time more than halfway through the season and managed to obtain three pins for beating her opponent. “Wrestling is different from everything you ever do in your life. When you’re on the mat, you have to leave everything there, and you have to fail to succeed,” Eddy said.

In the last 10 years, over 22,000 high school female wrestlers joined the sport in the U.S., and 15 states will be hosting their first girl’s championship in 2022 and 2023. With an increase in athletes, however, comes a gain in the act of weight cutting or fast weight loss before a wrestling competition to qualify for a specific weight class.

Female wrestlers can experience mental and physical tolls on their health when weight cutting intersects with the detrimental effect social media has on body perception, while male wrestlers do not always feel the same pressure to fit into the media’s standard. Junior wrestler Ella Childress has seen weight-cutting effects on her teammates.

“It’s not necessarily the sport of wrestling’s fault as it is society’s and how it has made young girls feel like they have to be thin,” Childress said. “Girls see they’re getting skinnier, and they have more pressure to fit into society’s beauty standards and the male gaze. They have been taught that food equals fat. No, food equals fuel.” 

Cutting weight can have a different connotation for the boys on the wrestling team. Captain Aaron DeBlasi ate a protein bar a day for a month straight, but for him, this was just something he has gotten used to doing to prepare.

“It sucks because I don’t have nutrients, but I’ve gotten used to it. It’s not a mental thing because the second I’m done with [cutting weight], I go back to eating. So it’s just for wrestling. It’s not mental,” DeBlasi said. 

Although for DeBlasi cutting weight is just part of the sport, he has noticed that it can go deeper for girls.

“I have heard from what the girls say they’re messed up afterward when they have to cut weight, but I haven’t seen it in any guys. We just get used to it and eat afterward,” DeBlasi said. “It affects the girls more, but I think it’s the outside world’s fault and wrestling boosts it.”

Weight cutting has a detrimental effect on a wrestler’s health, regardless of the gender. When freshman Timothy Tullock is trying to cut weight right before a meet, he gets light-headed and begins to fall over and has noticed that his body begins to shake. 

For freshman Evangeline Copeland, cutting weight can be done in multiple ways like sprinting, biking, or even rope climbing. When Copeland first joined wrestling, she was quickly exhausted by all of the exercising she had to do at practice, but it got easier. “It’s tough, and you have to work hard, but it’s all worth it in the end,” Copeland said. (Sabrina Urdaneta)

“I don’t care about getting light-headed or any side effects of weight cutting. It’s all worth it when I get on the mat. All of the pain I have to through to make weight doesn’t bother me because it means I can go out there and wrestle,” Tullock said. “I feel like they [girls]  do compare themselves to each other because they want to look better than everyone else.”

There have been times before a meet during the wrestling season where freshman Triya Gudipati would not eat for two or three days to ensure she achieve her desired weight class. 

“The issue is two worlds mixing, it becomes dangerous because you have a sport that is inviting you to lose weight, it’s inviting you to go down to a lower class, and then you mix that with diet culture and what we see on social media. You want to be like that, so you have this way to get there, [cutting weight is] the means to get to your end, it’s a good excuse. So mixing those two gives someone a solid path down the wrong way,” Gudipati said.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) is still trying to figure out the rules they need to implement to ensure wrestlers are safe about weight cutting. However, they have already enacted certain restrictions, including rules stipulating that athletes cannot drop more than one weight class per season.  

“It’s not wrestlings fault. It’s how much you push it. It’s your choice. It’s not like anyone says, ‘you shouldn’t eat for a couple of days.’ There are rules for you to be safe about cutting weight. If you follow or break them, it’s up to you,” Childress said. 

For Tullock, the sport helps him get stronger, and it is an excellent way to let out his anger; even though it can get tough sometimes, it’s all worth it for him. 

“Some days, I just look at food and I’m just like, ‘I’m going to quit wrestling.’ But then when I get there, it’s all worth it,” Tullock said.

Falling into the temptation of using cutting weight to meet societal standards could be difficult for girls, but losing the weight can be done healthily.

“There’s a good way to cut and a bad way to cut. A good way would just be eating healthy food, cutting out the junk food and then a bad way would be starving yourself or just eating one thing a day, and that’s what a lot of girls end up doing,” Childress said.