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The War Zone of Young Wrestlers Cutting Weight

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

Many parents would agree that weight cutting at the youth level is a problem. But is it a cycle that can be broken? In this interview on the Raising Wrestlers Podcast, Jeff Saferite speaks with Jason Layton about the endless cycle of weight cutting and hopes for future changes.

Jason has worked on the development of WAR Zone - a rapid pairing software. The algorithms in the software rapidly pairs up wrestlers based on that wrestler’s profile and skill level. There are no weight classes and no age divisions. The more the wrestlers participate, the more the computer learns their skill levels and can make the best matches based on age, weight, and skill level. As of now there are about 1,300 wrestlers rated and as more and more wrestlers get rated, better matches can be created. The goal is to have wrestlers matched based on a 30% to 70% chance of winning for each wrestler.

One of the goals of WAR Zone is to help prevent weight cutting.

Jason defines weight cutting as paying any attention to weight at all under 18 years old unless it is for health reasons. Weight cutting is when it is uncomfortable and unhealthy for the wrestler.

A healthy weight cut completely depends on the wrestler and their age. A healthy way to create a goal weight is to find the weight where they compete best at. Weight cutting has become the “norm” in wrestling, and it has become a problem. There is not an advantage to cutting weight when matched up with this software. It also makes it more fun for beginners because they won’t only wrestle competition who is way better than them. It evens out the competition.

When wrestlers cut weight, they are still bigger than their competition, so it has a trickle effect where every wrestler needs to cut to have fair competition. The younger the wrestlers, the more of a problem weight cutting is. It can quickly become dangerous because once you start cutting weight, you start thinking about cutting more and more and it can become all consuming.

Weight cutting has just become part of the sport... mostly because organizers haven’t found a better way to prevent it.

Why has weight cutting become so popular? In our conversation we discussed it's because of winning. The kids who are winning are the kids who are cutting weight. This is because they have an edge up on the competition. If a wrestler normally weighs 100 pounds and cuts down to 85 pounds, weighs in, and then eats and rehydrates back up to at least 95 pounds, they are bigger than their competition. This sets the example for other wrestlers and their parents. Then it is determined that if the competition wants to have a chance to win, they need to do the same weight cutting to make it even. And it becomes an endless cycle.

One important thing to remember is that just because a kid is doing all of the winning, it doesn’t mean you should listen to their parents! Winning is great, but the kids should love the sport, not just winning. If your wrestler is not learning humility from wrestling, then they are missing a valuable lesson that being a wrestler offers. The front runners do not finish in the front.

In most cases, by the time your wrestler is a college wrestler they won’t be able to keep it up. It makes it harder for them to handle losing because they rarely experienced it. The most important thing is to have self-confidence and believe in themselves.

Jeff and Jason have a few ideas for how to help prevent weight cutting. The first is obviously that everybody just agrees to not let their kids cut weight. If everybody stopped doing it, the same kids would most likely still wrestle each other, but without cutting weight. Another idea is to offer a surprise weight allowance. The wrestler doesn’t know the weight allowance until after weigh-ins, which can be anywhere from that weight class up to the next weight class. The next option would be to post the tournament without weight classes and then match wrestlers up based on those weigh-ins.

If you are interested in more information about WAR Zone or interested in hosting a tournament using this software, check out their website at Well Run Tournaments.

About the Guest: Starting at 12 years old, Jason Layton was involved in wrestling. He wrestled through college and coached before opening up a private academy, and more recently he has created a software to help tournaments run smoother. The software he developed is WAR Zone Wrestling.

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