Wrestlers conscious of nutrition going into holiday season


Gabby Saber

Head Coach Ed Pendoski (right) talks to another coach during practice. Pendoski said the common image of wrestlers changing their weight to drop down to a lower weight class is largely a myth.

Maggie Meyer

As the holiday season approaches, people typically find themselves feasting on holiday meals and treats. However, that is not the case for wrestler and senior Embry Horal as he maintains a healthy diet for his wrestling season. Horal said it is hard to maintain a healthy diet while he is on break, yet he said he still manages to maintain it because he wants to improve. 

“It’s really hard not to break your diet and not just eat a bunch of unhealthy food,” Horal said. “(I overcome it by) thinking of my goal to do well, so it motivates me to keep my diet clean and to talk with (other teammates) about it, too.” 

Like Horal, junior and wrestler Nate Powell said it is tempting to break his diet yet having his teammates to talk to is helpful, as they can all relate to facing the temptations.

“I am pretty disciplined in my eating,” he said. “It is important to keep (a positive) mindset. When you have people around you with the same goals, it is a really good environment.”

Head Coach Ed Pendoski said the time off for holiday breaks, such as Thanksgiving, is more concerning to him than the traditional Thanksgiving meal itself.

“(The concern about) nutrition through the holidays is not Thanksgiving dinner,” Pendoski said. “We tell all the boys, gorge yourself for that meal, but then the other hours in the day, try to be on board (with the diet). The hard part of the holiday season is when you are at home fighting the fridge.”

Pendoski said while wrestling does require healthy eating habits, it is not the only aspect wrestlers focus on and it is not as extreme as people make it out to be. 

“If you ask other people, they will tell evil stories of the weight class. All of those things are gone, and they are grossly exaggerated. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that (watching your weight) wasn’t a part of wrestling,” Pendoski said. “There has to be a maturity level, that has to go with nutrition. We want to make sure that we spend most of our time talking about wrestling, how to wrestle harder, and how to wrestle with better technique.”

Pendoski said cutting weight to fit into a weight class is not as common nor extreme as people make it out to be. A common misconception is that most wrestlers move down in their weight class due to dieting. However, Pendoski said this season, 76% of wrestlers on the team wrestle in the same weight class into which they were placed at the beginning of the season. He said the athletes take tests and follow strict rules to ensure their safety and health while dieting. 

“Everybody that wrestles in high school has to do a body fat test that determines how much they weigh,” Pendoski said. “When the state gets (the athlete’s weight), they are put on a schedule so they can’t lose more than 1.5% body fat per week. There are many rules in place to keep the garbage stuff that happened years and years ago off the plate. We all have weight management rules in place to make sure we are losing weight in a super healthy way.”

Wrestler and junior Nate Powell wrestles during practice. Powell said his teammates help him stay focused on his diet. (Gabby Saber)

For his part, Horal said he focuses his diet on organic and nutritious foods to maintain a healthy weight.

“(I eat) a lot of eggs for breakfast and no junk food. I try to eat natural foods and good amounts of protein like chicken and lean meats. And also lots of fruits and vegetables,” Horal said. 

Pendoski said the athletes learn about nutrition and how to diet in a mature way by learning from experts. 

“We have a nutritionist from St. Vincent who comes and talks to our team about every two or three years,” Pendoski said. “The athletes have to nourish themselves by paying attention to how many calories they burn, what type of calories they take in, when they are taking in their calories. That is when we bring in the nutritionist and she explains and as we go through that.”

Pendoski said  the discipline required in wrestling teaches the athletes many life lessons and creates a level of maturity he doesn’t see in many students. 

“Wrestling practice never ends,” he said. “You are always at practice. If you play another sport, you practice, you go home and you are done. But wrestling practice starts in November and for every second of the day, it is wrestling practice because of that small nutrition part.”

Powell said wrestling has helped him grow into a more mature person as he learns to overcome challenges. 

“Wrestling affects me in a positive way,” Powell said. “It helps me get mentally tougher and it helps me overcome challenges in my life and the challenges I will face in the future.”