INTRODUCTION TO WRESTLING, 10 THINGS TO EXPECT IN YOUR FIRST YEAR
If you’ve already done some research through Google I’m sure you’ve found some very appealing clips of awesome throws and techniques. Wrestling is a very aggressive sport, but it is super fun and has loads of benefits. I recommend everyone to at least try it. However in this article, I wanted to share a few things that a lot of people don’t necessarily talk about. Here are 10 things you can expect in your first year of wrestling.
1. Super smelly laundry, and lots of it
Sweating is a given in any kind of workout, but in wrestling it’s a lot more intense. It’s not necessarily that people sweat more in wrestling, but because wrestling is a contact sport your sweat will shared. Your sweat will get on them and their sweat will get on you. If you wrestle with 4 or 5 people then you will have a lot of sweat mixed with your sweat. When you go to do your laundry you will immediately notice that your clothes do not smell like you. The Smell of 10 young teenagers packed into one shirt is.. indescribable.
Is it gross? Kinda yeah. But is it worth it? A resounding yes. Because when you’re in the moment, wrestling with all your heart, you don’t even notice. It’s only until you toss your shirts in the laundry that all that sweat is really gonna hit you. You’ll get used to this real quick though. If you practice everyday you will be doing loads of laundry.
2. Don't expect to be good
Wrestling is a sport, but it’s not a sport where you use a lot of generic athletic skills such as running or catching a ball. It’s a lot of strength, balance, feel, and timing. The majority of people are not used to using their bodies as a tool to control another person. It requires skill. Even the most athletic people will have trouble when facing an opponent who may be slightly less athletic but extremely skilled.
That’s not to say there aren’t people who have talent, but I wouldn’t go in with the expectation that you are one of those few. Be open to learning and practicing. Even the most talented wrestlers can get beat out by the one who puts in more work.
3. Your thighs are going to be sore for a while
The wrestling stance is essentially a squat. There are some specific differences between a squat and a wrestling stance, but the muscles you use are the same. In an actual wrestling match you’ll probably be in a squat for about 6 minutes total, but during practice you can expect to be in a squat position for an hour or more... so be to be sore for quite a few weeks.
4. You will be very tempted to sleep in class
There is a lot of energy that goes into wrestling. As an Asian person I was not the brightest person in class but I was not the type to goof around. But after I got into wrestling, sleep felt a lot more important than taking notes. I definitely got caught a few times, but for the love of wrestling I have no regrets. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but based on your academic goals just be aware of how wrestling may affect your performance in class and try to plan accordingly.
5. Learn how to eat fast
Wrestling is one of those unique sports where it’s important to have your weight under careful watch. In an attempt to be well-matched with opponents close to your size you will need to be at a specific weight (usually determined by your coach). Many people will need to cut weight by dehydrating and eating less than they normally do. Once you make weight you are allowed to eat afterwards. In most competition settings you may have as little as 30 minutes or as much as a few hours to eat and rehydrate. I learned to eat as quickly as I could in order to regain some of my energy back after going hungry for so long. I think it’s become a habit now and it’s quite difficult to break during the off-season.
6. Your parents may be confused (if no one in your family does any martial arts)
From the outside looking in wrestling isn’t the most glamorous sport to watch. It seems like a lot of hard work and can be potentially dangerous. Wearing the traditional singlet during competition doesn’t seem like something most people would want to do either. But even if they don’t understands why you chose to wrestle, it doesn’t mean that other parents and guardians won’t. Be patient with your parents when explaining why you might not be able to eat or why you come home from school late. As long as you stay on top of your schoolwork most parents will be understanding.
7. Being able to read the color of your pee
This one is a funny one, but I think most wrestlers can attest to this. In the US, in order to prevent athletes from cutting too much weight (and dying), all wrestlers go through a hydration test to determine how low an athlete can safely cut their weight to. This hydration test is determined through a urine sample. The only way to fail is to give a urine sample that is too “dehydrated" and the more yellowish that urine sample is the more likely it is to fail. Although this is only a test you go through once a year, as a wrestler it does make you slightly more aware of how hydrated your body is. And as you get older you will learn it’s very important to stay hydrated!
8. Waking up early on weekends
By this point I think you are starting to understand how important it is to keep track of your weight. Tournaments are typically on Fridays or Saturdays and the wrestling starts around 9 or 10. Before any wrestling happens though, athletes must have their weights checked so that they wrestle within the same weight class. These weight checks are called weigh-ins and the scale opens up around 7am (it varies by tournament). When you account for travel and just doing your morning routine, you end up needing to wake up around 5 or 6 in the morning. Once the season is in full swing most teams will go to a tournament every weekend. As difficult as it is it will soon become a new normal.
9. Paying attention to your diet
When you’re young your metabolism is well up and running, but no matter how skinny you are it’s important to eat a nutritious diet. Wrestling requires the body to work at maximum capacity for long periods of time. If you’re eating a lot of junk food or a diet with too much sugar it will inevitably affect you while you wrestle. I’ve even heard of stories of guys puking up noodles on the mat, so just be careful!
10. Learn about skin infections
In normal everyday life skin infections are not very common, but in wrestling it comes with the territory. Most skin infections are not dangerous, but they are contagious and need to be treated immediately. The most common skin infections you can expect are impetigo and ringworm. However there are other more dangerous infections such as Staph/MRSA or Herpes HSV-1 (not the STD kind). This is why it’s important to keep the mats clean and to be aware of what skin infections look. As soon as you notice anything on your skin that looks strange, ie. itchy, red, bumpy, or dry skin, alert your coach and take the appropriate action. Most times you can still wrestle even with a skin infection just so long as you covering it with athletic tape or are wearing some clothing on top of it. Often times they are easily treated through topical creams from your local drugstore.
If you are new to the world of wrestling I know how overwhelming all these things can be. But give yourself some time and have as much fun as you can. Wrestling is a young sport and can be difficult to learn as you get older, so take advantage of this chance while you can. You will see people move and get thrown around in a way you’d never seen before and you will learn so much about yourself along the way.
If you have something you’d like to add to this list about what to expect in wrestling please add it in the comments down below. I’d love to hear them!
An artist at heart, Kelly is a San Jose based entrepreneur with a passion for wrestling. Starting wrestling as a sophomore, Kelly became a Girls' State Champion her Senior year in 2008. Her love for the sport has led her to create Distant Klash, an apparel brand to represent wrestling with fun comic-inspired visuals. Today Kelly is a one-on-one coach and is constantly creating new artwork for her fans.