With the start of October comes the start of wrestling conditioning before the official season starts. The conditioning helps to get the wrestler ready for the season as well and is a time for an athlete to start cutting weight safely, if needed, to determine a healthy weight class for competition. High school wrestling programs should have a weight management program that includes urine testing with a specific gravity test that does not exceed 1.025, a body fat assessment no lower than 7 percent for males or 12 percent for females, and a monitored weekly weight loss program that does not allow for more than 1.5 percent per week of the alpha weight. Before competing, all wrestlers must go through a weight assessment to determine an alpha weight to include hydration and skin fold testing. The alpha weight will be used to help determine possible weight class as well as used for any weight loss during the season.
The alpha weight, hydration assessment, and skin fold testing are to be tested all at the same time and required to be completed no later than two weeks prior to the district certification deadline, this includes any appeals. This is all prior to the start of any competition with another school for any of the athletes.
A trained assessor will perform the testing protocols on each wrestler and will record results on the proper weight certification forms. There are three parts that are tested:
- Hydration Assessment: This is a pass/fail urine test based on the specific gravity levels of less than or equal to 1.025. If greater than 1.025, the test is a failure and can be re-assessed after a 24-hour wait period. Specific gravity determines how hydrated the athlete is at the time of test. This urine test can be judged using a color chart, but to get a better or more accurate reading, the use of a dipstick or specific gravity refractometer or other hydration testing methods is acceptable. If the hydration assessment is passed, the athlete will then weigh in to determine the alpha weight right then with no exercise or delays between the tests.
- Alpha Weight Determination: The wrestler weighs in on a certified scale and that weight is the athlete’s alpha weight for the year. The alpha weight is the weight used to calculate a descent calendar using the 1.5 percent loss per week rule. After the weigh in is performed the athlete will move on to the skin fold testing.
- Skin Fold Measurements: Using the proper testing calipers, the skin fold measurements are performed on the bare skin. Each site is tested three times and each measurement recorded accurately. This is to allow an average overall percentage to be determined. Skin fold sites that are tested are the abdominal, tricep, and subscapular areas for males and tricep and subscapular areas for females. All testing is performed on the right side of the body.
Once all testing has finished and all the data collected, it’s then recorded properly in a computer system that will determine a minimum weight class at which the athlete can compete. The weight class is determined by a predicted body weight at 7 percent for males and 12 percent for females including a 2 percent variance made by the system. If the predicted weight including variance is a specific weight class, then that is the athlete’s minimum weight class. But if the athlete's weight is in between weight classes, the higher weight class is determined as the minimum weight class. If the athlete already has a body fat percentage below the allowed 7 percent or 12 percent, then their alpha weight including 2 percent variance is used to determine minimum weight class.
Although there is not much to be done for the testing and protocols, these are very important steps that must be done for the safety of the athlete. Making sure all testing protocols are done properly and accurately is key and can play a big part in the athlete’s season.