When my doctor told me earlier this winter that, because of my dislocated shoulder, I should never wrestle again, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly relieved. I have wrestled for six years, and this winter was the first season since sixth grade that I have been unable to due to injury.
Wrestling is a miserable sport. The goal of the sport is to throw your opponent’s back down on the mat and expose his shoulder blades for about two seconds. It sounds pretty easy, especially because the match is only six minutes long (a soccer game is 90). But I can tell you that there is not a single more challenging sport offered at Deerfield than wrestling. Most will think that I am joking when I say that those six minutes will be the hardest you will ever endure, but I’m not. They are tough, not only because of what you do during those six minutes, but also because of what comes before.
When you think of a football player preparing for a game, you imagine Vince Wilfork shoveling down plates of pasta and chicken to carbo-load. Wrestling is the exact opposite, because some wrestlers will not eat for a whole day before a match. This sounds counterintuitive—which, yes, it might be—but it is necessary to remain in a certain weight class to compete. There are 16 weight classes, and the goal, as a team, is to fill all of them, since you may forfeit the match if you leave one empty, and thus give the other team six points. As a wrestler, you make a commitment to your teammates that you will make a certain weight. This is not a pledge you take lightly.
Sometimes, to make a weight class, you must lose a substantial amount of weight before a match. Last year, I had to cut nearly ten pounds over the course of a week, which meant my diet for seven days was an egg and a glass of water at breakfast, a glass of water for lunch, and a piece of chicken or an apple, with one more glass of water at dinner. Most wrestlers only have to cut three or four pounds, and some are lucky enough to not have to lose any at all. If you’re one of the unlucky wrestlers, though, the process of cutting weight may require you to virtually fast for days.
To many students, this process may seem revolting. I can tell you that I was never a fan of it, butI endured it in order to compete.
It is a struggle for a couple days, maybe a week, but once the weight is lost, you can return to your normal diet fairly quickly.
For those few days that you can’t eat, though, sit-down meals are your most painful ordeals. One of my former table heads didn’t think that cutting weight was an appropriate process, so at every meal, she would hand me an empty plate; after she had finished serving, she would put all of the dishes, with the remaining food, in front of me. I was infuriated. Her actions made the process of losing weight that much more painful.
No one enjoys cutting weight– but the lack of support for wrestlers going through the process makes it even more difficult. To repeatedly tell wrestlers that cutting weight is unhealthy and make it a subject of discussion at every sit-down meal is disrespectful to wrestlers.
Why is it disrespectful? Because they are working their absolute hardest to represent Deerfield on Wednesdays and Saturdays. They are showing more self-discipline than many others will ever display, and the mental toughness that wrestlers must maintain is unimaginable to people who don’t know the sport.
I think that as a school, we need to do a better job of supporting wrestlers, because although theirs might not be the most popular or pleasant sport, it requires the most dedication on and off the mat. Every one of the wrestlers deserves an infinite amount of respect from our community for the effort that they put in week in and week out, all in the name of the Green and the White.