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Wrestling Deaths Draw Attention Of Ncaa

Sun., Dec. 14, 1997

The NCAA says the death of three college wrestlers in six weeks is prompting a review of the sport and the common practice of rapid weight-loss to qualify for competition.

“Is there a correlation (between the deaths) or what?” Stann Tate, the governing body’s assistant director of championships, asked Thursday. “We have to take a look at that and make some adjustments.

‘We’re very cognizant and concerned about what’s going on with the student-athletes, and I think we definitely have to look at the practices being used.”

Jeff Reese, a 21-year-old Michigan junior from Wellsburg, N.Y., was working out Tuesday night in Ann Arbor to shed weight on the eve of his first start of the season when he collapsed. He died a short time later at a hospital.

An autopsy Thursday found Reese may have succumbed to a “metabolic derangement” produced by his workout, according to a spokeswoman for the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s Office. Debra Wright said toxicology tests expected next week should clarify what caused the death.

“It’s certainly a tragedy,” Al Kastl, a USA Wrestling board member and wrestling coach at Fraser High School in suburban Detroit, said of Reese’s death.

Even so, Kastl links the tragedies to the prevailing mindset among wrestlers: Regardless of risks, shedding pounds swiftly to compete in the lowest possible weight class offers an advantage over possibly lighter opponents.

Wisconsin-La Crosse wrestler Joseph LaRosa, 22, collapsed and died last month while wearing a rubber suit to help with his weight-loss effort during a 4-hour workout. Authorities ruled that heat stroke killed LaRosa, a senior who was trying to lose the final pounds to get his weight down to 153 for a meet.

In North Carolina last month, Campbell University wrestler Billy Jack Saylor, 19, died of a heart attack while trying to shed 6 pounds to qualify in the 190-pound category for his first meet.

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