Off the Mat, Wrestlers Grapple with Diet and Discipline

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The Athens Bulldogs celebrated victory at the Tri-Valley Conference wrestling championship Saturday, their first win since 2014. The team reclaimed the lead after four years of consecutive victories by Nelsonville-York.

But success doesn’t come easy. A lot of sacrifices are involved in an athlete’s life. Chris Jackson, who brought home the 132-pound title for the team, said a lot of his success comes from what he does before a match begins.

“You have to eat everything right because everything you eat affects how you wrestle,” he said. “I have a certain schedule of everything I eat. It’s really rigorous, it’s not very fun, honestly, but you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Weight Classes and Struggles 

High school wrestlers compete in as many as 14 different weight classes that can go from 106 lb to heavyweight 285 lb. The state’s association usually implements weight-control rules to prevent dehydration or excessive weight loss.

Bulldogs coach Paul Kaiser said it’s all about weight and health.

“We always talk about that, good nutrition, what to eat, balancing your proteins, your carbs, your fats,” he said. “We talk about guys that may be struggling with the weight a little bit, how important it is to keep your weight down.”

Chris Jackson brought home the 132-pound title for the Athens Bulldogs. Image: Clayton Ober

The Social Toll

But that is not the only sacrifice a wrestling athlete has to endure. Jackson says discipline takes a toll on his social life.

“When wrestling season starts I tend to hang out less with my friends, don’t eat as much out as they do,” he said. “I’ll go out with my friends sometimes but I won’t eat what they eat; I’ll get like a salad or something else.”

But Jackson said those sacrifices pay off when victory is on your side – especially when you feel the support of your teammates.

“It means everything to me – I know for some of this guys it means everything to them,” he said. “When we come in here and we work with each other every day, just doing what we need to do, putting in the work and to be able to see each other succeed and to see us succeed because of our teammates is huge and influential. It means a lot.”