Why Do Wrestlers Have to Take a Month Long Hydration Test?

two teenage caucasian male wrestlers from opposing teams face off at the beginning of a match

In 1997, three collegiate wrestlers died of health complications due to extreme training in an attempt to lose weight. As a result, the NCAA added new rules regulating weight management to ensure the safety of collegiate wrestlers. Shortly after, high school wrestling associations also implemented these new rules. Both collegiate and high school wrestlers are now required to pass a month-long hydration test to ensure fair competition and safe training.

Establishing a Weight Class

High school wrestling has a total of 14 weight classes, and collegiate wrestlers must fall into one of 10 weight classes. At the start of the season, all wrestlers receive a physical exam to evaluate their weight and body fat percentage. Based on the wrestler's BFP, they are assigned a minimum weight at which they can compete during the season. At the high school level, males cannot have a BFP less than 7 percent, and females cannot go below 12 percent. Collegiate wrestlers cannot have a BFP less than 5 percent.

Hydration Testing

Wrestlers are required to pass a hydration test to be assigned to their minimum weight class, one month prior to the competitive season.The hydration test measures the specific gravity of the athlete's urine to determine how hydrated the athlete is. Dehydration is a detectable sign that may reveal excessive training and/or improper nutrition. If the athlete is found to be dehydrated, he will be ineligible for competition.

Cutting Weight

Many wrestlers vigorously train and diet to "cut weight" in order to compete at a lower weight class. As seen in 1997, excessive training and dieting is extremely dangerous. Dehydration resulting from rapid or excessive weight loss can have dire physical consequences, including seizures, kidney failure, coma and even death. The NCAA states that a wrestler cannot safely lose more than 1.5 percent of total body weight per week.

Prohibited Practices

The NCAA has banned many dangerous practices that have been reported to aid in weight loss. The NCAA handbook lists vapor-impermeable suits, laxatives, fluid and food restriction, vomiting and diuretics as examples of prohibited substances and actions. Wrestlers who are eligible to lose weight should prepare a weight management plan prior to the season to lose weight safely and in a timely fashion.