do Billy Saylor (19 years old) at Campbell University in North
Carolina, Joseph LaRosa (22) at the University of Wisconsin-La
Crosse, and Jeff Reese (21) at the University of Michigan all
have in common?
they’re all dead now; victims of one of the ghastly secrets
of college wrestling.
All three young men were engaged in dehydrating
practices - trying to lose weight in order to qualify for their
first college wrestling matches. Reese was trying to lose 17 pounds
so he could wrestle in the 150-pound weight class. His two-hour
workout in a rubber suit in a 92-degree room cost him his life.
He died of rhabdomyolysis -- a cellular breakdown of skeletal
muscle under conditions of excessive exercise, which, combined
with dehydration, resulted in kidney failure and heart malfunction.
LaRosa was also riding a stationary bike and wearing a rubber
suit when he collapsed and died. Saylor was riding a stationary
bike in a predawn workout when he suffered a heart attack.
What do their stories have to do with this book?
Well, let me take you on a trip to the not-so
distant past of my own grappling career.
When I was in high school, I wrestled for one
of the top teams in the state of Michigan. It was a school with
a reputation. When a wrestler from this high school stepped on
the mat to compete, everyone knew what the outcome was going to
be. We were going to beat you and beat you bad. We were a team
that had not lost in over 4 years and were riding a 15yr conference
And, of course, if you’re on a team like
this, especially on the varsity team, you do what you need to
do. You keep your spot - regardless of how bad it hurts.
One night, during my sophomore year, we were to
wrestle a team from the other side of the city. This team was
of lesser talent than us and I had taken practice light during
the week. As we were getting ready to board the bus, my coach
pulled me aside and asked me how my weight was. I told him “Under
by 2 pounds…Not a problem coach!” This is where the
I arrived at the host school and stepped onto
the scale to find myself over by ½ pound. I remember how
I felt – it was panic – “this can’t be
happening!” And, like all “dedicated” wrestlers
of my era, I was off to the bathroom to try to vomit, urinate,
and/or defecate my way to a half pound weight loss.
The problem – I hadn’t eaten anything
all day and, with nothing in my gut, bowels, or bladder to lose,
I caught the worst butt-chewing of my career. My coach chided
me for “letting the team down,” “not taking
care of my responsibilities,” and more. He sent me to the
gym to exercise off that ½ a pound. Unfortunately, I failed
to make weight. Even more unfortunately, I vowed to myself that
I’d do whatever it took to never again miss making weight.
Fast forward to last summer. I had just returned
from training in Brazil and was beginning preparations for the
Connecticut Nutmeg State Games. The scales in Brazil told me I
was 6lbs over – no problem for the last few days of preparation,
right? Well unfortunately, as I returned to the US, just 3 days
before my matches, I realized that I wasn’t 6lbs over –
I was 6kg, or 13 lbs over. I misread the scale and confused kilograms
for pounds. And I was screwed!
Even though I knew better; even though I knew
the stories of Billy, Joseph, and Jeff, I remembered my promise
to my high school coach. I had vowed to do whatever it took to
never again miss making weight. So, foolishly, I began a ridiculous
(and life endangering) program of starvation, dehydration, and
overwork. Yes, I knew better. Yes, I knew the consequences of
rapid dehydration and starvation diets. Yes, I knew I was risking
my life. But I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to
For the next 3 days, I spent between 4-6 hours
each day in the 95 degree heat with a trash bag and sweat suit,
playing football and soccer. I would then run home, shower, drink
a protein shake and go to bed.
The last night before weigh-ins came, I went to
the gym one last time for some high intensity cardio. After, I
sat in a hot tub to increase my body’s core temperature,
jumped out, toweled off, put on a trash bag and sweats, and went
to bed. Of course, I didn’t really sleep. I woke up numerous
times during the night with massive cramping in my legs due to
Crazy, isn’t it? You bet! So crazy that
I woke up the next day (having made weight) and vowed to NEVER,
EVER risk my performance, my family, my job, and my life again.
I vowed to contact the right people, the best experts in the world,
and figure out how to make weight – the right way.
Now, a year later, I know the right way. With
the help of Dr John Berardi and his cutting-edge nutrition expertise,
I know how to make weight safely and effectively. I also know
how to make weight while keeping all the strength and endurance
I’ve built up during my training season. And this knowledge
allows me to dominate on the mat; no more struggling to make weight,
no more staying up all night.
Believe me; I know that grappling is a sport that
requires its athletes to make sacrifices on a daily basis. But
if anyone tells you that you have to sacrifice your nutrition,
your health, and possibly your life to make weight, run away –
they’re ignorant and dangerous. Extreme practices of weight-cutting
aren’t hard-core and they aren’t necessary (nor are
they “manly” or the domain of “real” athletes).
They’re simply what the ignorant do. They’re what
those who don’t know any better do.
Listen, I wish Dr. John and I didn’t need
to write this book. I wish that all grapplers were healthy, well
nourished, and fully hydrated. Most of all, I wish they got the
right advice from coaches, teammates, and parents. But they don’t.
And that’s why Dr. John and I are making this book available.
That’s why this book is necessary. Until the right nutrition
information gets out there, until the right weight-cutting information
gets out there, athletes will continue to hurt themselves.
Do you want to dominate on the mat?
Then use this book and learn how to lose weight
in the most hard-core way of all – the way that helps you
step onto the mat at your leanest, most muscular, and strongest;
not to mention healthiest. Follow the strategies in this book
and you can be confident that while your opponents have suffered,
are cramping, are dehydrated, and are weak, you’re fresh,
strong, and ready to win.
are here: Home > Health
> Dying to Make it
This article is really the forward from my new book titled
The Grapplers Guide to Sports Nutrition. The reason I took
this section out for this article is as valuable as the
entire book is, I think it’s important to remember
where we were just a few years ago in regards to nutrition
for our athletes. Sometimes it takes us looking at the past
to help us plan for the future.
Fry is the co-author of the tops selling nutritional book
for grapplers titled The Grapplers Guide to Sports Nutrition
which is available at www.grapplersnutrition.com.
Michael is also the owner of Grapplers Gym and www.grapplersgym.com.
Grapplers Gym is the home of advanced training and conditioning
for today’s wrestlers.