As Columbia County residents welcome 2006 with New Year's resolutions to lose weight, some local high school athletes are taking that task to the extreme.
Jay Adkins, a wrestler at Greenbrier High School, said he's in a constant battle to keep his weight in check. The senior wrestler hovers close to his 275-pound weight division for the entire season with little margin for error. In addition, the senior finished third in state competition last season, and now has higher expectations heading into the area duals next weekend.
Adkins said the pressure to win is hard to deal with, but it's not even close to the difficulty of making weight.
"It's horrible. It's so hard," he said. "You have to watch everything you eat and push yourself so much."
In the Georgia High School Association, all wrestlers are weighed before and after each match. Each wrestler's weight must fall in one of the 12 designated classes; if it doesn't, the wrestler must sit out of the match. Generally, wrestlers aim for the lowest weight class they can sustain during the year.
Adkins said he spends many afternoons running laps around the Greenbrier track. To maximize weight loss, he wears multiple layers of clothing so he sweats more. He also spits as much as possible. The weight-loss tactics are brutal, but do the job.
"I've missed weight once this season," Adkins said. "You feel horrible when it happens because you can't wrestle, and it hurts your team."
Adkins isn't alone in his attempts at weight-loss. Many other local wrestlers faced the same dilemma during the Christmas break. In fact, the fear that several wrestlers wouldn't make weight, along with a few more still out of town, prompted Greenbrier, Evans and Lakeside coaches to cancel a Jan. 3 match at Greenbrier.
"Over the New Year holiday, everybody put the weight back on," Lakeside wrestling coach Randy Hill said. "We had so many guys who were close in weight, we were carrying a scale wherever we went."
The canceled match allowed wrestlers to get back on the practice mat and bring down the weight. They have less than a week before the Area 2-AAAA Duals at Lakeside.
At Greenbrier, coach Mike Meyer said he supervises his wrestlers' daily activities at practice and encourages a steady, continual exercise and diet program throughout the year rather than taking extreme measures in the days leading up to a match.
"I've never had a kid injure himself trying to make weight," Meyer said. "It's up to the wrestler to make weight, but there are right ways to do it."
At Lakeside High School, varsity wrestlers face the same weight issues.
"As a coach, you've got to be careful," Hill said. "I have senior wrestlers who cut anywhere from 10 to 15 and even 20 pounds before the season. We don't want to do that too much because these are young kids growing."
Hill's Lakeside squad has taken a serious approach to monitoring a wrestler's weight losses or gains by being a part of a weight management pilot program from the National Federation of State High School Associations.
The NFHS implemented the plan to monitor wrestlers' weight losses or gains after three college wrestlers died in 1997 from extreme weight cutting. Several states already require the NFHS' weight-monitoring plan in high schools.
The Georgia High School Association currently has no regulations on weight cutting but is moving in that direction.
"Right now in the state of Georgia, it's pretty much up to the kid and the coach," Hill said. "We were chosen throughout the state to be on this new weight-control program. They determine what your weight is, and a male athlete cannot fall below 7 percent of their body fat. It also lets you know how much weight you can lose per week."
Hill said the program will be fully adopted in the GHSA by at least 2008.
Though weight cutting will always be part of the sport, Adkins said, all the exercise and weight loss pays off.
"It's so worth it," he said. "Just to be able to get out there and compete, especially at state competition. It's amazing."
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