COLUMBIA — For the Missouri wrestling team, there is no room for "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun." No room for “pizza pizza.” No "FourthMeal."
When it comes to wrestling, making weight is one of the most important and difficult aspects of an athlete’s training.
According to LiveStrong.com, each NCAA wrestler’s weight is assessed before the season starts, which becomes his minimum weight class for the season. The athletes are then only allowed to compete at one weight class higher than the original minimum assessment, though exceptions are made.
For safety reasons, the NCAA forbids: "vapor impermeable suits (e.g., rubber suits or rubberized nylon); similar devices used solely for dehydration; saunas (even off campus); steam rooms (even off campus); wrestling room over 75 degrees at start of practice; hot boxes; laxatives (non-prescribed); emetics; excessive food and fluid restriction; self-induced vomiting; diuretics; artificial means of rehydration (i.e., intravenous hydration).
"Violators of these rules will be suspended for the competition(s) for which the weigh-in is intended. A second violation would result in suspension for the remainder of the season. Coaches aware of violations are also held to these same penalties."
Missouri coach Brian Smith said he and his staff "pretty much has that stuff down" when it comes to monitoring his athletes' food intake.
There are 10 weight classes in the NCAA, ranging from 125 pounds to 197 pounds. The 10th weight class is the heavyweight division, which ranges from 183 pounds to 285 pounds.
Missouri senior Mike Larson (11-1) wrestles at 184 pounds and keeps a strict diet throughout the day to keep him in a class where he is ranked eighth in the nation. Everyday, he has yogurt and fruit in the morning and six or seven small meals throughout the day.
After every workout, he drinks a protein shake.
“I stay away from high sugar, high sodium. Sodium will keep the water in your body; we want water flushing through our bodies,” Larson said.
But every once in awhile, when he does not have an upcoming weigh-in, there’s a certain “sweet” that the mohawk-ed grappler likes to sneak in.
“I like ice cream,” he said. “Probably vanilla.”
Wrestling one weight class above Larson at 197 pounds, senior Brent Haynes (10-0) is a “less is more” type of guy when it comes to maintaining his muscular frame.
After a weigh-in, the fifth-ranked wrestler typically only has a bagel and a couple glasses of his favorite juice in the morning.
“I’ll have two to three glasses of orange juice,” he said. “I always have a glass of orange juice, no matter what.”
He added that he is not a “big eater” and typically drinks Gatorade throughout the rest of the day.
But Haynes, who is nine wins away from his 200th career victory, does not solely rely on his eating habits to make sure he is in tip-top shape for every match.
He has his superstitions for that.
“I got to room with Dom (Kennedy) all the time on every trip, always got to wear the same socks,” Haynes said. “If I don’t, then I feel real off.
“Usually if I have a really good first day at a tournament, I’ll try to eat the same breakfast I had the day before.”
The same bagels and orange juice.
Coach Smith has emphasized the idea of routines — or in Haynes’ case, superstitions — all season long to his team. Whether it's how they warm-up or what music they listen to (Haynes prefers “something slow”), Smith wants his athletes to be consistent in their preparation.
“I always tell them to write things down and keep a plan and change the plan if it's not going right,” he said. “Routine is good.”
Routines are especially important for two-day events like the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational that the Tigers travel to this week. There will be two weigh-ins and more down time for all the athletes.
Smith’s team won the Cliff Keen Invitational in 2006, and he is not concerned about the preparation of the 10 starters who will be traveling to Sin City. He said he has a mature team that has years of experience at multiple-day events.
And it does not hurt that he coaches the Big 12 Champions from a season ago.
Weigh-ins at the Cliff Keen Invitational will start at 7 am. on Friday, and the first round of competition is set to begin at 9 a.m.