Physiological And Performance Responses To Tournament Wrestling

A picture of an arena hosing a wrestling tournament. The picture is taken from up high where the whole arena can be viewed. There are 8 mats of different colors out on the floor.

The paper I’m going to present today researched the effects of a 2 day tournament (including weight loss) on Penn State wrestlers.

Without a long winded intro, let’s get right into it…

Purpose- “The purpose of this study was to investigate the physiological and performance responses to a simulated freestyle wrestling tournament after typical weight loss techniques used by amateur wrestlers.”

Subjects- 12 wrestlers from Penn State. They lost an average of 6% of total body weight (actual weight loss ranged from 4.63%-6.75%) during the week before a 2 day freestyle tournament (the tournament was simulated). Although simulated, this was some kind of a wrestle off according to the researchers. They stated “each wrestler was competing for a starting position in his weight class”.

Tests- Tests were performed before the experiment began as well as before and after each match. Tests included body composition, reaction/movement speed, lower body and upper body power, isokinetic strength, and a blood sample.

All weight classes were represented except for the heavyweight class.

The wrestlers in this study were part of the team that finished 3rd a month earlier at the NCAA Tournament.

On day 1 matches were at 10am, 2pm, and 6pm.

On day 2 matches were at 10am and 7pm.

Each test (done both before and after each match) took approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Each match was 5-minutes in length (the standard match length at the time). If a pin happened, the wrestlers started again until the full match was wrestled.

After weigh-ins, wrestlers had 12 hours to recover before their first match. By that time, the wrestlers averaged a 1.8% increase in body weight.

The second day weigh-in had a 2% allowance. That weigh-in occurred 2 hours before the first matches.


On Testosterone…

Significant increases in testosterone, cortisol, and lactate (at or near 20 mmol-L immediately after each match) were observed after each math. Find out how I use this info by reading this conditioning post.

Significant decrease in resting testosterone as the tournament progressed.

“By the end of the study, a mean value of just over 12mmol-L was observed for testosterone. These data put our wrestlers into the zone of prepubescent boys and would potentially impair metabolic recovery processes related to the anabolic functions of testosterone at rest.”

The authors compared their findings to those of Roemmich and Sinning. Those researchers found lower testosterone levels in collegiate wrestlers later in the season.

The researchers also cited a study by Strauss et al. who found “abnormally low” testosterone in in-season wrestlers. However, when the same wrestlers were retested 2 months after the season, their testosterone levels were found to have returned to normal.

Finally, the researchers involved with this study cited a paper by Wheeler et al. These researchers found significantly lower testosterone levels in wrestlers during weeks when there were matches on the schedule. It was assumed that this was due to lower calorie diets along dehydration.

On Dehydration…

Plasma osmolality values were low throughout (indicating a state of dehyration). The researchers commented on this stating that even the baseline measurements taken (before the weight cut began) indicated the wrestlers were in a dehydrated state. Keep in mind- this study took place about a month after the NCAA tournament.

“Even after a postseason weight gain and a return to “normal” dietary patterns, a state of dehydration still exists.” The authors suggest that a wrestlers’ body may auto-correct and set a “new normal” due to regularly dehydrating to make weight over the course of a season.

“It was apparent in this study of elite collegiate wrestler that they have a dramatic ability to adapt and rebound from a weight loss/recovery period before the first match of a tournament. This attests to the almost adaptive nature of wrestlers to resist any physiological and performance affects with weight loss alone.”

On Reaction Speed…

No changes observed in reaction/movement tests. This was measured by timing a “stand-up drill.”

The authors actually found a slight improvement in reaction time as the tournament progressed. They speculate it’s due to some kind of “warm-up effect” and/or a heightened level of alertness which occurs after a match.

On Strength/Power…

Lower body power significantly decreased as the tournament progressed.

Upper body isometric strength significantly decreased as the tournament progressed.

A significant reduction in grip and upper body isometric strength was shown after the first match. This trend carried on throughout the tournament.

“As the tournament progressed, there seemed to be a velocity specific pattern of maximal force and torque production.”

Basically, slower strength movements (measured by a “bear hug” test and grip strength test) suffered more as the tournament went on.

Between weigh-ins and wrestling on Day 1 (12 hours), vertical jump performance was not impacted.

However, between weigh-ins and wrestling on Day 2 (2 hours), vertical jump performance was significantly reduced.

I suspect that the time between weigh-ins and the testing had a lot to do with these results. But, as you know, both high school and college tournaments begin 2 hours after weigh-ins. This should give you somewhat of an idea on how cutting 4% of your body weight before a match may affect your performance.

On Fatigue…

Pre-match fatigue increased consistently throughout day 1. By the third match on day 1, there was a statistically significant difference.

Levels of pre-match fatigue continued into day 2. This suggests that optimal recovery did not occur overnight.

“These data demonstrate that physical performance measures were more affected by the time course of the tournament rather than weight loss before the first match. For example, vertical jump power was not affected at the time of the first prematch test on day 1 of the wrestling tournament. However, by the first prematch measure on day 2, there was a significant reduction in vertical jump power.”

Conclusions- “Tournament wrestling augments the physiological and performance decrements of weight loss and its impact is progressive over 2 days of competition. The combined effects of these stresses may ultimately be reflected in a wrestler’s ability to maintain physical performance throughout a tournament.”

Paper Referenced

Kraemer, W., A. Fry, M. Rubin, T. Triplett-Mcbride, S. Gordon, P. Koziriz, J. Lynch, J. Volek, D. Meuffels, R. Newton, S. Fleck. Physiological and performance responses to tournament wrestling. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 33(8), 1367-1378. 2001.

My Thoughts

The grind of a tournament is no secret. I guess, in a way, research isn’t needed for you to know the effects of it.

I feel that with a proactive approach by using some of the recovery means detailed in this post will help to minimize the effects of an intense wrestling tournament.

Related Posts

What To Eat The Day Before Weigh-Ins

Best Way To Rehydrate Post Weigh-ins

Weight Loss and Performance

How To Maintain Muscle When Making Weight

A picture of Kyle Dake and Dickie White.
Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

-Kyle Dake, 4X NCAA Division 1 National Champion

Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.


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