Wrestling’s popularity dates back to 15,000-year-old cave paintings in France and as an iconic sport in the ancient Greek Olympic Games.
Today, the sport continues to be a good way to help youth learn teamwork and responsibility, and be active and practice balanced, healthy lifestyles. Youths of any age, skill-level and body-type can start wrestling and see improvement with training.
“I see kids getting started as young as 5-years-old, sometimes even younger,” said Christopher Orgeman, a Marshfield Clinic Health System licensed athletic trainer. “It’s a good way to get them started and see if it’s something they like and want to continue.”
Healthy ways to train
Wrestling is different from most sports because wrestlers pair off and compete by weight instead of age. Athletes usually train with partners of similar skill and size. This helps keep meets fair, Orgeman says.
No athletic matchup is without risks. Most common injuries wrestlers face are labral tears of the shoulder, concussions, fractures and sprains. To cut down on these, Orgeman recommends practicing safe wrestling techniques. Coaches can help by watching for and stopping any illegal moves.
Focus on nutrition and hydration
Since competition is set on weight class, some wrestlers may feel pressure to drop down to a specific weight or targeted body fat percentage. This can lead to unhealthy habits.
“The WIAA has set guidelines as far as how much weight a wrestler can lose or gain throughout the season and for meets,” Orgeman said.
Orgeman encourages athletes to focus on keeping their bodies fueled, strong and healthy with proper nutrition and hydration during training. Wrestlers should maintain “a well-balanced diet with some added protein such as chocolate milk after workouts. Hydration is important to help maintain adequate fluid levels from sweating,” he said.
Developing fitness beyond the mat
Wrestling might be a good fit for other athletes who want to stay fit in their off-season. Training is a full-body work out. It helps develop overall strength in the core, shoulders and legs as well as general endurance.
Wrestlers prepare similar to other sports with weight training, running and speed drills, in addition to practice with a partner.
“It’s a great sport for overall body conditioning, you can use those same moves on the football field and other sports,” Orgeman said.