Kid’s Corner: A ‘one-foot’ rule would eliminate weight-cut issues

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Updated: December 6, 2010

By Chris McGowan

I love the holidays! The music makes me nostalgic, watching Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in “It’s A Wonderful Life” causes me to count my blessings and the food is fabulous. My great-grandmother’s recipe for Christmas cookies with a hint of anise flavoring remains my absolute favorite delicacy.

However, the stretch from Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Day, is not always a joyous one for weight-conscious wrestlers.

As a high school and college wrestler in the 1980s, I  admit that I managed my weight about as well as Congress has managed our federal budget. I guess the only real difference is that after I splurged, I actually did some cutting.

In those days, it was not uncommon to drastically cut a lot of weight before weigh-ins, make weight, overindulge in a fashion that would make even the fattest guy at the buffet blush, and then wrestle a good 5-10 percent heavier than what the scale recorded several hours earlier.

As a high school wrestler in Iowa back then, we could weigh in at 7 in the morning, eat a pumpkin pie and drink a two-liter bottle of soda and wrestle that night at 7 or 8 p.m. In college, there were even a few tournaments that permitted a Friday night weigh-in prior to a Saturday tournament.

After starving and dehydrating the human body for a few days, 12 hours is more than enough time to replenish the stores and allow an athlete to regain strength and compete at a very high level. For obvious reasons, there was a great deal of yo-yo weight management in those days.

For the health and well-being of our athletes, as well as the overall good of our sport, high school and college wrestling did away with these practices years ago and now require athletes to manage their weight more responsibly.

Sanctioned competitions generally require wrestlers to compete within an hour or so of making weight. Those were positive changes and I would like to propose another.

In kids wrestling (defined as pre-high school) or minimally in little kids wrestling (defined as pre-junior high school), let’s institute a “one-foot rule” and ensure our kids are safe and having fun.

The “one-foot rule” would simply require that once a child puts one foot on the scale at an official weigh-in, that that child will wrestle at that weight. Period. No exceptions, no second chances to get on the scale, no opportunities to shed a few ounces or worse yet a couple of pounds, and no overbearing parents forcing a child to shed weight to participate in a lower-weight bracket.

If entry forms for kids’ tournaments included the phrase “one-foot rule will apply,” parents and coaches would quickly begin to understand that tournament organizers are serious about protecting children, growing our sport, and emphasizing safety, fun and sportsmanship, rather than winning at all costs.

I have been blessed to have spent over 30 years around the sport of wrestling and to this day the single most offensive sight I have ever seen is a seven or eight year old kid wearing a winter coat and stocking cap jogging the perimeter of the wrestling mats during weigh-ins. Had a one-foot rule been in effect, this would not have happened.

Of course, on occasion some disturbed parent, clinging to his own vision of glory and living vicariously through his child will decide to bring his own scale to the tournament, send one kid into the locker room for weigh-ins and then use that wrestler as a guinea pig to calibrate his scale with the official scale to make sure the rest of the team is “on weight.” Such behavior cannot be completely eliminated, but it can be minimized by using positive peer pressure to discourage or prohibit such tactics.

Some may consider the one-foot rule a bit drastic, but when we are talking about the long-term health of our sport, and far more importantly, the health, safety and well being of our youngest athletes, this idea is hardly drastic, it’s the responsible thing to do.

(Chris McGowan was introduced to the sport in the fifth grade and competed through college.  The father of three girls and two boys remains involved in the sport as a parent, volunteer coach and member of the Board of Directors of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  He can be reached at christopherjmcgowan@gmail.com.)

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