The NCAA, jarred by the recent deaths of three wrestlers trying to make their weight classes, announced rules changes Tuesday that put new restrictions on the ways wrestlers shed pounds to make weight.
Among the changes, effective immediately:
Wrestlers may not use saunas for water loss, and rubber suits and diuretics cannot be used for any reason. NCAA rules already bar laxatives, fluid restriction, self-induced vomiting, hot rooms, hot boxes and steam rooms for dehydration. The NCAA defined a hot room as a room with a temperature above 79 degrees.
For the rest of this season only, a 7-pound weight allowance has been added to all weight classes, which already have a 1-pound allowance.
For example, for the 118-pound class, wrestlers may weigh as much as 126 pounds. But as of Feb. 1, when the one-pound allowance ends, 7 pounds will be added to each weight class, making 125 pounds the upper limit of the 118-pound class. The rule is effective only for the rest of this season and is expected to be reviewed when NCAA rules officials meet in April.
Wrestlers may compete only in weight classes in which they competed on or before Jan. 7.
All weigh-ins will be held no more than 2 hours before a match, cutting down the time athletes have to lose weight.
“With less recovery time after weigh-in, a person who is using his head knows if he has to cut too much weight, he’s not going to perform on the mat,” said Marty Benson, playing rules liaison to the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee.
Dan Gable, who took this year off as coach at Iowa after leading the Hawkeyes to 15 national titles in 21 years as coach, said the changes were overdue, but praised them anyway.
“It’s been a long month trying to get some of these changes,” said Gable. “I didn’t realize how much protocol you had to go through to get what we thought were emergency changes. It’s better late than never. It will help the individual and the sport.”
The most recent victim was 21-year-old Jeff Reese of the University of Michigan. He died in December of kidney failure and a heart malfunction while wearing a rubber suit and riding a stationary bike to lose weight.