The challenge would be to get the team’s three biggest wrestlers — senior Nate Pearlman, senior Logan Finley and junior Matt Cooper — into three separate Sac-Joaquin Section weight classes.
All three had just finished the football season, and started the wrestling season at 200 pounds or more.
By the time the Jaguars hosted Tracy High for a pre-league dual match on Dec. 6, Pearlman, at 230 pounds, qualified for the 285-pound class. Finley would wrestle at the
Cooper weighed in at 194.8 pounds, but National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) weight loss rules said that he wasn’t supposed to be in the 195-pound class until Thursday, Dec. 13. His team had to forfeit that individual match to Tracy.
Since the 2006-07 season, the California Interscholastic Federation has used a system that calculates and sets in advance the lightest allowable weight class for each wrestler.
The calculation is based on an early season weigh-in and sets the requirements for each week during the season.
It’s a one-time test that measures the density of an athlete’s urine. If the reading is too high, the athlete has to come back when he or she is property hydrated, according to CIF testing guidelines.
Once an athlete passes the hydration test, further tests will measure body fat, height and weight to calculate how much weight an athlete can lose each week.
Cooper, who went to last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament as a 182-pound wrestler, said he put on weight as a lineman during football season.
He was at 200 pounds in mid-November, and then lost six pounds during two weeks of intense wrestling conditioning.
But because of hydration requirements, Cooper gained back the weight after drinking water before his first wrestling weigh-in.
“If you want to make a certain weight class, you have to cut so much beforehand,” he said. “A lot of football players can’t do that.”
Jeff Winger, the wrestling weight management coordinator for the Sac-Joaquin Section, said that the NWCA established the rule to make sure wrestlers won’t try to make a lighter weight class for an event by sweating off water weight.
“The hydration part is just to make sure when they step on the scale they’re not dehydrated,” he said.
He acknowledged that in years past, wrestlers would resort to unsafe measures to drop weight if they are pressed to make weight for a lighter class.
“The one thing I like about this is it takes a lot of pressure off of the coaches,” Winger said.
Tracy High assistant coach Jonathan Blackwell said the NWCA determines testing results using the Optimal Performance Calculator — an online chart tracking each wrestler’s weight loss plan.
Using the database, which also includes diet and nutritional advice, Blackwell can follow his wrestlers’ plans.
“Not only does it say what they can go to, it says how fast they can lose it,” he said.
A heavyweight wrestler with more than 30 percent body fat could potentially drop four or five weight classes during the season, but under the NWCA plans, he may drop only one or two weight classes.
Blackwell added that without the pressure to sweat off those last few pounds, wrestlers can now focus on conditioning, which will help them lose fat and get them in better overall shape.
“I don’t know that there’s anything quite like the workouts we give them,” Blackwell said. “If you want to be in good shape and have all the cardio and strength, and eat the right diet, follow the wrestling plan the way it’s supposed to be done.”
That’s a big change from when Blackwell used to participate as a student-athlete.
“In the old days when I wrestled in high school there were no rules like that, so our coach would turn up the thermostat and we were wearing plastics,” Blackwell said. “It was dangerous. This is a safe way to do it.”
In 2009, during a weight-loss training program unrelated to wrestling, 22-year-old Daniel Ruf of Tracy reportedly overheated while wearing a plastic suit. This caused him to enter a coma and suffer fatal internal organ damage. He died about week later.
Tangling with the rules
The CIF rules become unpopular when wrestlers are already at minimum body fat, but are still required to wrestle up a weight class based on the early season assessment.
West coach Carlos Salazar said he doesn’t expect many of his wrestlers to drop weight, but the policy ends up being restrictive for those who do.
He noted that a wrestler with less than 7 percent body fat — the minimum standard for boys in the CIF — has no flexibility to lose fat and could end up in a heavier weight class even if he does lose weight.
Boys should have no less than 7 percent body fat and girls no less than 12 percent. A wrestler with any less requires approval from a licensed physician to compete.
“I have a lot of guys who are under 7 percent body fat,” Salazar said. “They’re lean, just natural. They don’t cut weight. In my wrestling program I don’t have anyone cut more than five pounds.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.