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COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) — While the majority of high school students are filling the cafeteria lines during lunch, many wrestlers prefer to bring their lunch to school.

There are 14 competing weight classes in Indiana high school wrestling, and a number of wrestlers on any given team are either cutting or trying to maintain weight throughout the season. Columbus East coach Chris Cooper said cutting weight is more about what you eat than how much you eat.

“The quality of your diet has to improve a lot,” Cooper said. “One of the things we say is ‘If it comes out of a box, bag or wrapper, don’t eat it.’ That just kind of gets rid of all your processed foods. Just eating more raw vegetables and fruits, things like that. It’s more of a lifestyle than anything else.”

Cooper expressed his concern with the common misconception of wrestlers being viewed as unhealthy in reference to cutting weight. However, Cooper said he believes his athletes are the healthiest kids in the school because he witnesses the food they eat and their workout habits.

Cayden Rooks, the defending 120-pound state champion, and his brother Graham Rooks, a three-time state place-winner, are two wrestlers cutting weight for the Olympians. They often will choose high-protein options like tuna or fish to go along with fruits, raw vegetables and water for lunch. Fruit cups, granola bars and salads are a few other favorite snacks and meals for area high school wrestlers.

Cooper said some misconceptions about wrestlers’ eating habits stem from people not knowing anything about a wrestler’s lifestyle and just assuming that cutting weight means missing multiple meals a day.

“That’s like the opposite of what you need to do,” Cooper said. “You have to eat three meals a day. You have to drink lots of water. You get the weight off by working it off by your workouts.”

Skipping meals doesn’t give the wrestler enough energy to push themselves during a workout that would allow them to lose their targeted weight. Drinking plenty of water allows wrestlers to sweat more in practice, which helps with healthy weight loss.

Columbus North coach Justin Cooper (no relation to Chris) said meal prepping for the week also is key to losing weight in a healthy manner.

“You can’t do what you want Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then cut it all Thursday and Friday,” Justin Cooper said. “You just want to plan out your portions. Start on Monday, and try to lose a little each day until you’re down to weight.”

A lot of weight loss comes from losing water weight. Justin Cooper said water weight is easy to lose, but losing too much of it before competition will leave a wrestler fatigued. The last pound or two sometimes will be water weight that can easily be replenished after weigh-ins, he said.

Justin Cooper has witnessed some wrestlers attempting to lose weight the wrong way during his college wrestling days. Those athletes were easy to spot because they got fatigued faster than others, and they look parched at weigh-ins, he said.

The IHSAA has rules and regulations in place to help prevent any unhealthy weight loss by high school wrestlers. All wrestlers take a body fat and hydration test at the beginning of the season that helps determine which weights they are allowed to wrestle. The IHSAA allows athletes to lose no more than 1.5 percent of body fat a week throughout the season.

“With the new hydration test and body fat testing, it keeps kids pretty healthy,” Justin Cooper said. “You can’t drop below 7 percent body fat, so most kids are healthy. A lot of the little guys are already close to that.”

Maintaining weight is obviously important, but Chris Cooper doesn’t want his wrestlers’ main concern to be their weight heading into a meet. He requires his wrestlers to stay within 4 pounds of their weight class at all times. All of his wrestlers step on the scale before and after practice to make sure they are in compliance.

All East wrestlers must be within 2 pounds of their weight class the day before a meet. Any wrestler who is a little over that 2-pound mark will not be able to leave practice until they have worked enough to meet that expectation.

“I got that from a coach at St. Paris (Ohio) Graham (High School),” Chris Cooper said. “They are a nationally-ranked, top-five every year, program. It’s the same rule that Ohio State uses. If they can do it at Ohio State — they are ranked second nationally now — we can do it here.”

Chris Cooper said the goal isn’t to make weight, but for his wrestlers to be at their best physically while being on weight. That team rule allows them to do so.

“It’s harder at the start, but as the season goes on, it definitely helps,” Cayden Rooks said. “. As the season goes on, your body becomes kind of accustomed to it. Later on during the season, it becomes easier to be four (pounds over) before (practice) on Monday and Tuesday.”


Source: The (Columbus) Republic


Information from: The Republic,