Area high school wrestlers part of 'Safe Weight Program'

Wrestling is one of the most weight-specific sports there is, pushing many athletes to extreme measures to fall under a certain weight class. Wrestlers have died because of this - dehydrated and weak. See how a local sports medicine program is working to prevent the roller coaster weigh-ins of wrestling in area schools.

Sulphur High School wrestlers Raygan Suarez and Trey Duhon have seen the weight loss extremes of fellow wrestlers at competition. "They go from 132 all the way down to 106 and that's not a very fair advantage to some of the other kids down at 106," said Duhon.

Those numbers on the scale determine which weight class a wrestler competes in out of 14 total, each with about a six pound range. But Suarez says it is rare to see an athlete at the bottom rung of the weigh in. "If the weight class is 120," said Suarez, "they weigh 120.0 or 119.9."

One ounce over a weight class disqualifies you from competing.

Until recently, Coach Jean Paul Duhon says a dangerous weight dropping technique called "cutting" was used by many athletes to get a lower weight class edge. "They've cut 10 or 15 pounds in two or three days," he said, "they'll run, they'll sit in a sauna, they'll ride a bike in a sauna...they'll do whatever it takes."

Those rules have now changed to keep athletes healthy through the "Safe Weight Program," a partnership between the Southern Regional Olympic Training Center, Lake Charles Memorial Sports Medicine and area schools with wrestling programs.  LCMH Sports Medicine Director, Jamey Rasberry says, "We put in their height and the lowest a male's body fat percentage can be is .07 or seven percent and it gives them a lowest desired weight class and it gives them a weight plan they have to follow."

Before wrestling season kicks into full gear, each athlete is required to provide a urine sample under the supervision of a test administrator.  Then, a refractometer is used to get the exact level of hydration. "It measures and gives us a reading to see if they're hydrated," says Rasberry, "and it has to be below 0.26."

Prior to the hydration tests, wrestlers could get away with dangerous levels of dehydration and cutting.

The Safe Weight Program charts out the maximum weight an athlete should lose in a week and teaches the healthier ways to do that. "I tell the boys to be smart," said Coach Duhon. "Eat healthy, lay off the cokes and the candy. Run in the mornings, do the extra work that it takes to be a state champion."

Prior to this program starting up last fall, wrestlers had to be tested in Lafayette. If the athlete is dropping too much weight, their information will be flagged in the Southern Regional Olympic Training Center's database.

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