Wrestling: How Ohio keeps its diet and weight under control during a busy season

Wrestling is not for the weak.

The stress of fighting a full-body fight with another human makes wrestling one of the most difficult sports in collegiate athletics. Being restricted to a 32 foot diameter area also makes it difficult. Arguably the most challenging aspect of being a wrestler, however, is dieting and weight management.

In his 25th season as a wrestling coach from Ohio, Joel Greenlee knows a thing or two about properly preparing an athlete’s body for competition.

“I think it really comes down to the individual,” Greenlee said. “Obviously you can do the (NCAA) thing where you lose no less than 5% body fat and you can’t lose more than 1.5% body fat in a week. I think once you do that you can get a good measure of what weight you can and can’t reach during the season.

From the coaching team’s perspective, what matters is how much effort and care the athlete puts into their body. Greenlee leaves it up to athletes to figure out what works best for them, although he’s happy to help if there are questions about proper practices. He uses his experience as an important factor in this decision.

“I think the resources in collegiate athletics are a lot better than they’ve ever been,” Greenlee said. “As far as nutritionists and dieticians are concerned, (you) have to take advantage and ask me these questions.”

On the other end of the spectrum, athletes have mixed feelings about diet programs, or the lack thereof. Graduate student Alec Hagan has been in Ohio for six seasons, which was plenty of time for him to figure out his stance on how diet programs both benefit and hinder wrestlers. Hagan, like Greenlee, understands that proactive nutrition is a key to success.

“I think the coaches do a lot to help us. They have a lot of snacks in the locker room… It ends up being pretty easy for a lot of us,” Hagan said. “You just have to train more than you put into it. I usually just try to cut it down, try not to drink a lot of calories. I also try to break out six small meals throughout the day… I break them out to get my metabolism going and burn those calories throughout the day.”

In Hagan’s case he is experimenting with the different practices. In addition to being a sixth-year athlete, he has a twin brother, Kyran, who also wrestles for the Bobcats. The ability to have a bit of trial and error when it comes to weight and nutrition management programs is key for Hagan.

“I think when I came in as a freshman, I thought I might lose weight like an idiot,” Hagan said. “Like (coach) Greenlee said, a lot of people think it’s cute and funny to be over the top and get cut. I remember we went to Iowa State my freshman year. I think we went to McDonald’s the night before for some basics. I went out in front of 5000 people and got pinned. I went to my phone to see it uploaded to FloWrestling and it struck me that this isn’t funny. I decided I needed to get my diet under control and fix this problem.”

While this lifestyle might work for some wrestlers, others need more guidance from the coaching staff. One of the key tenets of Greenlee’s weight management program is that being lean is far better than getting to a certain weight.

“I think you have to be lean just because the work ethic and training is different,” Greenlee said. “You have to take care of your body properly. I think everyone is more physically mature in college, so it’s less about sheer ability and more about other things. It’s hard for you to be successful with high body fat.”

The philosophy embraced by Greenlee and the entire Ohio coaching staff is worthless if the wrestlers refuse to embrace it.

“We don’t eat with them,” Greenlee said. “We’re not in the dorms every day, you’ll have to find that out for yourself and how to do it.”

The Elder Statesmen in the dressing room make it easier for the younger wrestlers to “buy-in”. One of the most experienced wrestlers, Hagan knows he has a responsibility to lead the way.

“To make a mark in the locker room when (someone) is struggling with their weight. I can tell him things that have worked for me and try to stop him from just cutting corners like: “Getting down to a body fat level where you’re healthy and good at wrestling, instead of trying to shed a bunch of water weight too late… I also tell them that eating crappy food will make you feel crappy by the end.” .”

Greenlee and Hagan have both watched countless wrestlers take to the mats with varying degrees of success. One thing that has fueled the success of wrestlers is their ability to maintain their physical health. Ohio has a long season ahead of it, but it will survive under Greenlee’s watchful eye and with the right diet.


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