Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs wrestling team has done some growing.
Only four students showed up for the team's first practice Nov. 13. The team will return to action after the holiday break with 14 athletes on the mat. The increase should help the Sailors fill between 10 and 11 weight classes when their season resumes Jan. 6 at Eagle Valley.
But first, the Sailors must cope with the two-pound growth allowance that the Colorado High School Activities Association puts into effect after Jan. 2.
Sailors coach Sean McCarthy said the allowance is a blessing. It would be unreasonable for his wrestlers to keep their initial weights - considering their regular progression, muscle gain and growth - over the course of the entire season.
And don't forget about that Christmas ham and extra pie.
Steamboat's Ben DeLine doesn't think it will be an issue to stay within the allowance guidelines and not splurge with holiday feasting.
"I just don't eat McDonald's and try to eat things like more fruit," DeLine said, noting how skiing helps him stay in shape during the official nine-day practice break. "As long you don't just sit on the couch : it's hard to get out of shape living in Steamboat."
While staying in shape is one aspect, wrestlers face another pressure with the allowance.
The allowance adds an extra two pounds for every weigh-in classification, making it easier for wrestlers to drop down to the next lowest class. For instance, it will now be easier for DeLine, who weighs about 150 pounds and has been wrestling in the 152-pound class, to drop down to the 145-pound class, where the allowance increases the maximum weight to 147 pounds.
But DeLine's move creates a reaction down the line. The pressure is now on Steamboat's previous 145-pounder to drop a class as well, so the team can field wrestlers in as many weight classes as possible.
That 145-pound wrestler, A.J. Carmack, doesn't think it will be a problem to drop three pounds over the holidays so he can make the 140-pound class cut.
"I've done a little research and got a new diet, based on the fact that the more meals you eat speeds up your metabolism," he said.
Carmack plans to eat five 200- to 300-calorie meals a day, going heavy on foods such as grapefruit, spinach and meats and light on grains and fatty fast foods that provide "instant energy."
Houston Mader, Steamboat's 140-pound wrestler, has a more drastic plan to get to 137 pounds to wrestle in the 135-pound class. He said he will eat as much or whatever he wants the first week off and then work to shed a pound a day for seven days the next week.
"A pound a day is doable. The most I've cut is 10 pounds in two days," Mader said.
Dr. James Dudley said that kind of weight loss could lead to problems with the immune system, fatigue and muscle injuries from dehydration. Mader said he plans to stay "super-hydrated" during the workouts. Water weight represents the easiest pounds to shed before weigh-ins.
Dudley does the Sailors' initial season weigh-ins, and he said CHSAA's adoption of rigid national standards this year for establishing a wrestler's maximum weight loss threshold provides a safeguard for the athletes.
Not that they need it.
"Good wrestling coaches are learning that their kids wrestle their best at optimal muscle mass, hydration and reasonable body-fat levels," Dudley said. "We've never had problems here. The Steamboat coaches are very reasonable about weight loss."
Steamboat's wrestlers also are debunking the myths of wrestlers wearing rubber suits and running in saunas to drop weight before weigh-ins. At most, the Steamboat wrestlers say they skip a meal the night before a tournament, drop a few pounds for the early morning weigh-in, then start eating and hydrating before their match.
"There's a fine line between cutting weight and being strong," Carmack said. "Sean's awesome about weight. He tells us what's healthy."