Wrestling: What NOT to Do in Pre-Season

This is a guest post by Hunter Hautz. Hunter is a coach intern at SAPT with an extensive background as a wrestler.

Ah, wrestling. The start of the season is just around the corner. All the high school and college athletes have been plugging away with lifting and conditioning and are preparing for live drilling that will start soon.
Whenever I think of pre-season for wrestling, I remember feeling the same way for every single
one: TIRED. We always trained too much during this time, never really knowing what we were
doing, just doing as much as we could to get ready - always operating under the guide of MORE IS BETTER.

We know better now, much better. More is NOT better. In fact "more" only for the sake of itself, can be very destructive. My most successful came after not falling into that trap and when I started learning how to work smarter, not harder.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for to optimize success during pre-season preparation to keep you or your wrestler strong and healthy.

1. Setting Priorities

The most important things to focus on at this point are your wrestling skills. Let me repeat that in
case you’re like me and got slammed on your head too many times. THE MOST IMPORTANT
forget your goal for all of your training is to become a better wrestler. This means that the most
important thing to focus on is…….. Wrestling.

2. Start Losing Weight Early

If you’re a high school wrestler and are 15 pounds or more over your desired
weight class and don’t have much fat on you, move up a weight class. If you want to move down
a weight class, and are in a healthier range (5-15 pounds max), you need to start losing that
weight starting during the summer. Eating a little less and losing as much bodyfat as you can
will make you a lot healthier and happier come time for the season to start. Planning that far
ahead means you will have to cut much less weight, if any at all when the matches start.

3. Cut Weight Smarter

Ideally there would be no need for cutting weight in wrestling, as it decreases performance and
increases injury risk. However, for now it is a part of the sport so we want to make it safe as
possible for the athletes. I will say again, if you are over your weight class by more than 10-15
pounds, just move up a weight class.
Losing more than this will affect your health, if
not now than later - as in my case.

If you are in a “healthier” range, the safest and easiest way to cut is to use water-loading and sodium management. This method doesn’t require any extra training, which when done in a dehydrated state can cause more damage to the body and there is a potentially higher risk for injury.

A sample template for dropping weight via water loading would be 5 days in length and would vary slightly depending on whether the match was during the week or a weekend tournament. Five days out from a match, the wrestler will start drinking 1.5-2 gallons of water a day depending
on their weight. This is done 5, 4, and 3 days out from the match. Two days out they drink half of
the amount from days 5, 4, and 3.

The day before they will just sip a little bit of water throughout the day, to drop the final ounces of weight before weigh-ins in the morning. Sodium would be limited the last 3 days before so as to not retain water. After weigh-ins have the athlete drink a sports drink or electrolyte replacement drink to help rehydrate the water they lost from their cut. After the initial 32-
48oz of a sports/electrolyte type drink they can switch to a 1:1 mixture of this and water so as to
not upset their stomach and cause too much bloating.

4. Don’t stop training

Some wrestlers stop lifting close to and during the season because they don’t want to get
injured or are too lazy because practice is so hard. This is almost just as dangerous as
training too much. All the strength and conditioning that was gained during the offseason that can help prevent injuries will be lost very quickly if training isn’t maintained.

The great thing about this is that maintaining strength, conditioning, power etc. is much easier once you already have it, than it was to build in the first place. Training 2-3 times per week at a lower intensity and volume will help the athlete hold onto the improvements made during the offseason and let that work transfer over into the postseason.

Common Sense

Just because wrestling is insanely hard, does not mean the sport gets a pass to foster poor decision making and the development of damaging habits. Keep your head on straight while you are training and if it doesn't feel like a solid decision, it probably isn't, so change course a bit.