FAIRMONT — There’s no other sport like wrestling.
A six-minute match can seem like hours for those who step onto the mat for battle.
The conditioning process is grueling, but necessary for such a physically demanding sport.
The East Fairmont, Fairmont Senior and North Marion wrestling teams are all well into its season by now and have already passed several exhausting tests.
All three schools traveled to the Hedgesville Invitational last month to kick off the season. It was an event that an individual wrestler could compete in up to 10 matches in two days.
Talk about daunting.
“Five matches a day is pretty tough,” Fairmont Senior wrestler Jake Abbott said. “You can feel your legs shaking, but you always have to feel ready to go.”
Abbott, who was an all-conference selection in football this past fall, says the prep work for wrestling is not comparable to other sports.
Wrestling conditioning requires work on nearly every muscle in one’s body. From cross fit exercises to stamina work, Abbott’s description of his measures to get ready for a wrestling season is perfect.
“There are practices where it looks like I just jumped into a pool,” Abbott said.
The beginning of a season, the time of year that wrestlers all over the county have recently endured, is a time to really buckle down to get your body prepared for strenuous physical activity.
“We prepare our season in the beginning on getting into shape more than our actual technique,” Fairmont Senior coach Mark Delligatti said. “Wrestling conditioning is a whole different scheme. You try to work to go six hard minutes.”
These big weekend-long tournaments certainly test wrestler’s limits and have become the culture of the sport, and often times, the most important dates of the season.
Despite many matches being logged, some think young athletes would benefit more from single dual meets rather than day-long events. Others believe tournaments provide many benefits for wrestlers to log time on the mat.
“Some of the older coaches are starting to want to go back to the one-on-one matches,” East Fairmont coach John Geary said. “But wrestling a lot of matches gives kids the experience they need. The more mat time, the better.”
So how do wrestlers deal with the workload of multiple matches in one day?
For North Marion wrestler Ryan Arnett, he has picked up some tricks as his career has progressed.
Arnett explained he likes to drink a small amount of Gatorade for the electrolytes and eat an orange for some quick energy.
“It takes a lot out of you,” Arnett explained. “Especially since you’re trying to cut weight and you have to hold that weight overnight. Finding that extra energy to wrestle matches makes you really dig deep.”
Really, energy use is up to the individual wrestler. After all, no athlete really seems to know their own body more than ones that compete in this tough sport.
With countless steps onto the scale and strict dieting to maintain weight, a wrestler, at least the good ones, can plan out a match and pick spots of high intensity to avoid burning out.
It’s hard to not appreciate what a wrestler puts his (or her) body through. Making weight is much easier said than done. This can also impact stamina and overall readiness to compete.
However, as East’s Geary explained, wrestlers go through various tests before the season to indicate a safe weight class to wrestle at during the season.
And, as the campaign goes along, teams begin to tap the breaks on its intensity leading up to the big postseason meets. It’s a way to keep the wrestlers fresh throughout the entire season.
“We like to cut back a little bit towards the end of the season,” Delligatti said. “We don’t want them dead by the end of the season.”
Wrestling takes dedication, but many are willing to commit. There’s no room for the weak in this sport and no time to conserve energy.
While matches may take their toll, it always seems worth it when your hand gets raised.
“A lot of warm baths, a lot of score muscles; this is a tough sport,” Fairmont Senior wrestler Spencer Long said. “It’s all game-planning, though, in dealing with your energy.”
Email Joe Mitchin at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JoeMitchinTWV.