The Hardest Test
By Justin Blancas
Prospect High School, Mount Prospect, Illinois
September 10, 2003

   Most people can not tell you the biggest test they have put themselves through. For me, it came in the middle of my freshman year in high school, during wrestling season. Wrestling is a “winter sport” so our season starts around the middle of November. I remember going to almost every pre-season workout I could, I was in descent shape I was tipping the scales at 160 pounds, give or take a few pounds, depending on the day. When the actual season started, I began the toughest four months of my life.

   Three days before Prospect’s first meet, I weighed about 153 pounds and planned to wrestle at the one-hundred-fifty-two pound weight class. Until my teammate came to me and told me that he was too far away from his goal weight of 140 pounds and came to me to see if I was willing to trade spots with him. I said “yes. For the next two days I spent my time missing the taste of food and exhausted from the amount of exercise that I had to put myself through to lose 13 pounds inside of two days. Helping me and encouraging me to maintain this diet was my mother: she would tell me to run on the treadmill, to go for a run outside, and to do what ever I could to lose that weight.

   The day of Prospect’s first wrestling meet of the season I felt so weak.  It was terrible and I felt as if I was going to pass out at any time. The school day passed slowly in anticipation of my big day. As the bell rang to end eighth period I suddenly got a nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach and thought to myself “What if I don’t make the weight?” I dragged myself to my locker to get my books and homework, while feeling exhausted, nervous, hungry, tired, and afraid of failure. Finally, I made my way to the locker room.

   In the men’s locker room we have a room called the “wrestling cage.” Basically the cage is just a storage closet with a scale, a desk, and some wrestling equipment, but that day it seemed as if it was the flaming mouth of Hell.  I walked in, and got undressed down to my boxers and got on the scale. As the scale read my weight I was scared that I would be so overweight that my coaches would scream and yell and that I would not be able to wrestle.  The scale read:141.1 lbs. I was 1.1 pounds over weight. I gathered three sweatshirts, my jacket, and my “street” shoes and ran for a half an hour. I went back into the wrestling cage when the head coach said it was time to load the bus headed for our first meet to be held at Glenbrook North.  Having five minutes to spare, I again shed my clothes and stepped on the scale. The scale told me I was 140.2 lbs. I was exhausted but relieved because I also needed to relieve myself. Afterwards, I washed my hands and stepped on the scale for the last time before the official team weigh-ins: the scale read: 139.9 lbs. I was under! It felt as if I was invincible now; I had beaten the weight so I could not be beaten by any of these other freshmen

   Getting off the bus I held my head high despite the fatigue taking its toll. The team went to the locker room and awaited the final weigh-in. The single thing I feared the most was that their scale would be off and I would not get to wrestle. When the coach yelled, “Blancas. Prospect’s 140,” I was terrified.  I stepped on the scale and it read: 139.7 lbs. I gave myself a pat on the back as I got ready to wrestle with a renewed energy.

   After I came out of the locker room the first person that I saw was my mom who was sitting in the bleachers waiting for me with a big McDonald’s bag. It became a tradition for my mom to bring me food before my meets after the weigh-ins.

   I finished my food and started to get warmed up for the first of three scheduled matches. I won all three of my matches that night by pin-fall.  Later one of the guys I had wrestled asked me, “Hey, Prospect. How did you do tonight? Did you beat the kid from Stevenson?” My reply was, “Yeah, actually I pinned everyone I wrestle tonight.” I felt so proud that I could say “I pinned everyone.”

   I maintained a 600 calorie a day diet to keep my weight low enough to make 140 pounds my new home. By the fifth week of the season I was a pale and sickly thin 136 pounds. All of my friends and family told me that I looked sick and malnourished, which I probably was. My daily diet consisted of a banana, a cup of tuna, and a Flintstone’s vitamin, not to mention all of the water I could drink as long as it was less than 20 oz. at a time. After practice, I could not eat or drink and if I did drink it was only a sip at a time. My food intake after practice was a cup of tuna with reduced fat mayonnaise that tasted like nothing.

   The biggest test for my diet came on Thanksgiving Day of 2001.  My grandma had played host to a family get together that consisted of talking, eating, and just the usual family nonsense. As the time to eat was approaching I began to think about what kind I could eat and still be able to make weight at the meet the next day. When it was my turn to get food I grabbed a small piece of ham and a half a scoop of rice and that was it. That was all I was planning on eating until my grandma told me that she was requiring that I have something else to eat. After surveying her whole kitchen I found the one thing that I could afford to eat; I had a plum. The next day at the wrestling meet the scale was no longer my friend. I checked my weight and the scale said that I was a pound and a half over my weigh. Thankfully I did not have to wrestle that day anyway so I was saved. A similar event happened around Christmas of the same year.  When I went to my aunt’s house and ate a very a little amount; the only difference was that I was able to make weight for the following meet.

   That season I had many problems making weight. These problems stemmed from the fact that I like to eat. After many meets I would go home and have myself a bigger piece of steak or chicken than I normally would. On weekends when the team did not have tournaments or meets I would find myself eating more than I should and then weighing in too heavy the following school day. It was a difficult season with all of the extra exercise that I needed to do to keep my weight down.

   It makes me feel so proud that I completed that test. I went to the conference meet and took fourth place. Earlier that season we wrestled a freshman tournament that I took third place in. Overall I am happy with my performance that season. I never did get to wrestle varsity that year and I did lose a few of my matches but I am glad that I wrestled my hardest and made the weight. It was the toughest challenge and test of discipline that I have ever been put through. Although I learned a lot about myself during those four months I will never lose that kind of weight again in the same way.