Mercogliano: Weight-cutting is falling out of favor

TomM
December 1, 2015 21:25

Mercogliano: Weight-cutting is falling out of favor

Mercogliano: Weight-cutting is falling out of favor
Vincent Z. Mercogliano, vmercoglia@lohud.com 5:40 p.m. EST December 1, 2015

Two of the best wrestlers to come from the Lower Hudson Valley — Brian Realbuto and Steven Rodrigues — continue to excel in college despite abandoning traditional weight-cutting.

It’s safe to say that the Thanksgiving plates for Brian Realbuto and Steven Rodrigues were a bit heftier this year.

Mashed potatoes, stuffing and all of the fixings are fair game once again.

For over a decade, this time of year has meant sacrificing the foods that they love while watching family members indulge in one holiday feast after another. But two of the best wrestlers to ever come from this area have a new outlook for the 2015-16 season.

“I decided that I’m not going to cut weight anymore,” said Realbuto, a Somers graduate who is now a two-time All-American wrestler at Cornell. “I think it’s kind of an old-fashioned notion that cutting weight makes you better, because it really doesn’t. Feeling how I feel this year, I wish I would have never cut weight my whole career. When you step on the mat and have energy, it’s completely different. You have full strength.”

Like gravy for your Thanksgiving turkey, cutting weight has long been considered tradition in the sport of wrestling — except it isn’t nearly as enjoyable.

Measures have been taken over the years to prevent extreme weight cutting — such as the 2-pound allowance rule and minimum weight calculations (male wrestlers in New York State may not compete at less than seven percent body fat) — but to think that it’s extinct would be naïve.

Both Realbuto and Rodrigues have done it throughout their careers and decided that they had enough this offseason. Realbuto jumped two weight classes, from 157 pounds to 174, and Rodrigues moved up three, going from 141 to 165.

“I’ve always kind of struggled to make 141 and I wanted to give myself the best opportunity in my last season,” said Rodrigues, a Fox Lane graduate who is now a senior at the University of Illinois. “I was weighing about 170 pounds about two weeks after the season was over and I decided that I was going to make the move up. I went in to talk to my coach (Jim Heffernan) and just told him that I think I’d be pretty successful at 165. He thought it was a good idea.”

Wrestlers deciding to compete at their natural weight — or closer to it — has been a noticeable trend.

Nanuet graduate Anthony Calvano had been a lightweight throughout high school and during his time wrestling at George Mason University, but he transferred to NYU this offseason and decided to move up to 141 pounds.

“Those are the guys (Rodrigues and Realbuto) that I follow and I know that they’re trying it out,” Calvano said. “A few top Division I wrestlers were doing it last year, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and give it a shot.”

In the past, the prevailing sentiment was that wrestlers sacrificed strength when they moved up a weight class or two, but those who have done it claim that is a false belief.

It is common for wrestlers who are worried about making weight to eat and drink very little on the day before a competition, which often leaves them feeling weak once they hit the mat.

“There are studies that come out now that talk about dehydration and how much it really affects your athletic performance, and it really does,” Realbuto said. “It drains kids, and then not only that, but the college season is a long time to be dehydrating your body every week. … I think people are starting to realize — especially at the college level — that your body just can’t take it for an entire season.”

Having nationally ranked wrestlers like Realbuto and Rodrigues speak out against weight-cutting sends a powerful message to younger athletes, particularly those from the Lower Hudson Valley who idolize the local NCAA title contenders.

It’s a realization that has taken years of suffering to grasp.

As they continued their undefeated seasons in front of the hometown crowd at Sunday’s Grapple at the Garden, both Realbuto and Rodrigues spoke as if a weight — no pun intended — had been lifted. They’re no longer obsessing over what the scale reads, but rather concentrating on building strength and training to accomplish their goals.

Now that deserves a slice of pumpkin pie.

“I’m excited to come in every day and get better,” Rodrigues said. “That’s a bigger thing than worrying about how much (weight) I’m going to lose. That might sound cliché, but this whole sport is so mental. I’m in a good state of mind right now and I’m ready to compete with anybody in the country.”

Twitter: @vzmercogliano

(We did not create, nor do we own this content. It is reprinted for the benefit of youth wrestlers in our country.)

 

TomM
December 1, 2015 21:25
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