COLUMBIA — Jackson Adams just wanted Cici’s.
Throughout all of last season, Adams, now a senior wrestler at Rock Bridge, wanted to go to Cici’s Pizza Buffet and stuff his face with as many slices of greasy, fatty pizza as his skinny 135-pound frame could hold.
These cravings affected Adams and his teammates on the wrestling team to the extent that they would have conversations about the buffet while running laps.
There was one problem. As wrestlers, the Bruins couldn’t be normal eaters during the three-month wrestling season. According to Adams and his teammates, wrestling disrupts many aspects of their lives and can sometimes take a toll mentally and physically.
According to junior Josh Gaskins, the whole idea behind cutting weight in wrestling is to gain an advantage.
“When you cut weight, you can get down to not having any fat and you wrestle people that are actually smaller than you,” said Gaskins, who is wrestling in the 152-pound weight class this year. “That way you have more muscle than wrestling up a weight class when you have fat. You basically are at the top of the weight class when you can cut as much fat and weight.”
Adams weighed 135 pounds before the start of last season, but made the decision to drop 23 pounds to wrestle in the 112-pound weight class. Adams thought dropping to his lowest possible weight class gave him his best shot at making state.
“If you want to keep up with the curve, you have to cut weight,” Adams said. “If you are determined enough, it’s not going to affect you that much.”
To lose those 23 pounds, Adams went through rigorous training every day.
“I was eating very low calories, eating really healthy and doing a lot of working out,” Adams said. “I would run three to five miles in the mornings, have school, go to practice, and then run another three to five miles at night after practice.”
Because cutting and maintaining weight is such an issue in high school wrestling, the MSHSAA has implemented a weight management program.
“What they are doing now has helped keep the sport safer,” Rock Bridge coach Travis Craig said. "Having these rules in place makes it a lot more difficult for kids to do bad things to their bodies, and coaches can’t say that you have to lose a certain amount of weight.”
The rules, which were created three seasons ago, requires wrestlers to see a doctor to certify them at the lowest healthy weight they can wrestle. This locks them into specific weight classes and does not allow them to go below a healthy body fat percentage.The rules also strive to maintain proper hydration and control how much weight an athlete can shed each week.
Even with these regulations, Craig says wrestling is not for the weak.
“It’s probably the most physically demanding sport in high school athletics,” Craig said. “You are doing a large amount of physically demanding activity, and you are trying to do that on as little food as possible. So it does take a huge toll and takes a very tough person to put themselves through that.”
After a while, the schedule started to wear on Adams.
“It gets really tough to stay awake, you get to the point where you are hungry all the time,” Adams said. “Trying to get through classes was really hard. You have school then workout and get home at about 7 o'clock, then you go run for another hour and then its 8 already. You just want to go to bed right then, so its hard to stay up an hour or two longer to do homework.”
For junior Trevor Muzzy, watching his weight for wrestling takes over everything else.
“Its hard day-in day-out, always being hungry and thinking ‘Oh I want to eat so bad,’” Muzzy said. "You know you can’t cause you are trying to get down to that weight, and it’s just so much pressure. Especially since you are looking around at everyone else eating at lunch, and it just gets to you."
Adams said it can be difficult for his friends and family.
“I know my friends didn’t really want to be around me,” Adams said. “I didn’t want to talk about sports or anything with them, I just wanted to talk about food. My parents got so mad, because my mom would be like ‘I just fixed you a salad, and you are over there griping.’ You get really short tempered. (My girlfriend) was really happy when wrestling season was over because she was like ‘I can actually talk to you now.’”
Adams said he eventually reached a breaking point.
“Over the weekend one time, I decided to go eat a good meal, and I got so mad at myself because I gained like 2 pounds of weight,” Adams said.
About three-fourths of the way through last season, Adams ate three full meals for about a week straight while on the couch doing nothing. As a result of a bad flu season and a weakened immune system, Adams had caught a virus.
“I get sick every year, but because I was cutting weight, it may have played into it,” Adams said. “Everybody in my family got sick at some point that season.”
His parents forced him to take a step back and refuel himself. The sickness kept Adams out until just a week before the end of the season.
“I came back and I was about 128. I was really mad at my parents,” Adams said. “I couldn’t make 112 so I wrestled at 125, even though I was seeded third at 112 going into districts. I was pretty mad, because it was my goal to make state.”
For wrestlers like Adams, everything they eat and drink can fluctuate their weight.
“Sometimes you just want to come home and drink two bottles of water,” Adams said. “That doesn’t seem like anything, but that’s 16 ounces, that’s two pounds. That’s just two pounds you worked really hard to get off.”
Craig said he knows it is his job to enforce the correct and healthy ways to manage weight.
“The ideal way is not to just cut out meals. Ideally you would have four to five very small meals to keep metabolism going,” Craig said. “We tell the guys to make sure you are still eating, but working out multiple times a day. Instead of just one big workout, you do many workouts just to keep your body working and burning.”
Despite the beating their bodies take, Adams and his teammates know there is always that last day of practice to look forward to.
At the end of last season, after three draining months, Adams and the Rock Bridge wrestling team finally made it to Cici’s. The result? The team got kicked out for eating the pizza so fast. Cici’s couldn't keep up with the pack of Bruins that had just taken over its restaurant.