What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Wrestling?

Two freestyle wrestlers in action
Competitive wrestling can be a challenge. (Image: PaSta77/iStock/Getty Images)

To succeed in competitive wrestling, you need to nurture a rare blend of functional strength, speed, endurance, technical skill and mental fortitude. On the other hand, injuries are commonplace, making wrestling one of the most difficult sports in the world. Still, there are distinct advantages to choosing wrestling over other sports.

Physical Fitness

It's no secret you need to be in fantastic shape to compete at the highest levels of wrestling. Collegiate wrestling matches can span multiple periods ranging from two to three minutes long, and you'll likely have to face several opponents in a row during competition. In training, wrestlers work on their functional strength, explosive speed and power. But wrestlers also need a high level of cardiovascular endurance to recover between matches. That makes for a difficult blend of aerobic and anaerobic power to maintain.

Technical Skill and Intangibles

Wrestling can also teach useful skills that can be applied to a host of sports and real-life situations. Knowing how to control someone by force gives you a leg up in most self-defense situations. Additionally, the mental drive required to push yourself as a wrestler can give you the will to succeed at other things. This is evidenced by wrestling legend Dan Gable's performance in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. Gable entered the tournament with a damaged knee and received a gash on his forehead in the first match. "The point of wrestling is that it hurts and you overcome that," Gable said. "It never occurred to me that it wasn’t supposed to hurt.”

Awards, Rewards and Recognition

The peak of athletic achievement for any wrestler is an Olympic gold medal, which brings with it prestige, honor and pride, both personal and national. Still, tangible rewards aren't uncommon for exceptionally gifted wrestlers. Athletic scholarships can help you pay for some of your education, while world champions can earn significant paydays through endorsement deals and championship pots. In the 2012 Olympics, a company made $250,000 available to U.S. wrestlers who took home a gold medal.

Risk of Injury

All sports carry with them some risk of injury, but wrestling by its very nature carries a higher risk than others. Over half of high school wrestlers experience injuries throughout a regular season of competition, most commonly to the shoulder and knee, according to a 2000 study published in the "American Journal of Sports Medicine." Additionally, sport-specific injuries such as staph infections, rashes and swollen cauliflower ears are not uncommon among experienced wrestlers.

Making Weight

Perhaps the most difficult and disadvantageous aspect of wrestling, both from a physical and mental health standpoint, is the rampant practice of weight cutting. Since wrestling matches are broken up by weight division, young athletes often dehydrate themselves, deprive themselves of food, and engage in rigorous exercise to meet their divisional requirements. These practices can have profound and lasting health effects.

The Financial Ceiling

Legitimate wrestlers don't have a lot of money-making opportunities in their chosen sport. Championship-caliber wrestlers can earn some hefty paydays in international competition, but the vast majority are done after their college years. Some notable collegiate wrestlers moved on to professional mixed martial arts fighting, including Josh Koscheck, Johny Hendricks and Henry Cejudo.

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