The deaths of three college wrestlers last winter because of complications from rapid, excessive weight loss prompted national officials to take action.
The National Federation of State High Schools Association required its member schools, including Maryland's public schools, to put restrictions on the number of weight classes wrestlers compete in.
For example, wrestlers from the federation's member schools no longer can weigh in more than one weight class above the weight of a doctor's certification without recertifying at a higher weight. In addition, a wrestler can't compete more than one weight class above that class for which his actual stripped weight at the time of weigh-in qualifies him.
"Say you list the kid and their certified weight," said Bob Newton, the state's wrestling rules interpreter. "If a kid's certified weight is 152, he could weigh in at 159 -- 1 pound less than the next highest weight class -- and wrestle at 171 while still protecting his certification at 152. So you really have three weight classes to play with.
"On the other hand, if the same wrestler weighs in at 161 pounds, he's automatically recertified at 160 and can never go back down to 152."
Maryland has adopted a new standard coined "the 50 percent rule," which requires wrestlers to weigh in for at least half of their regular-season matches at their projected postseason weight class.
"It's to prevent the wrestler from certifying at an unrealistic weight where it's less than 7 percent of their body fat, knowing they can't maintain that all year long -- and then jumping up two weights or more in some cases during the season," said Baltimore County athletic coordinator Ron Belinko.
Many districts honor the federation's preseason certification requirements. But coaches in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association "voted themselves out of having to certify their wrestlers," said Loyola coach Dennis Frazier, who certified his wrestlers anyway.
"We do require that you wrestle 50 percent of your matches at the weight class where you plan to wrestle in the postseason," said MIAA executive secretary Rick Diggs. "But some situations, you have to hope that the coaches are doing what they feel is best."
But the decision has left Frazier outraged.
"It's certainly not in the best interest of your kids not to certify unless you want your wrestlers to drop below the healthy limit," Frazier said. "I can't think of any other reason why they would vote that way."
Some competing teams have been known to conduct "honors weigh-ins" as early as 24 hours in advance.
"Honors weigh-ins are not recommended, but they are done," said Bruce Cowan, public schools state committee chairman. "Usually, they take place under the supervision of the athletic director at their school at a prescribed time during the day. The athletic director then signs off on the weight."
Widely considered the state's expert on weight reduction, Sam Case, a physiology professor at Western Maryland College, oversees weight certification for Carroll County's high school wrestlers.
"If I were a wrestling god and could mandate things, I'd have the scale right beside the mat," Case said.
"They'd weigh in with their wrestling uniforms on, right down to their shoes, and they'd shake hands and wrestle."
Pub Date: 1/21/99