I looked in the mirror.

"Who's staring at me," I thought.

Was it the kid with the winning record or the walking pie cleaner with an eating disorder?

Wins always came first.

The reflection in the glass showed everything, except the pain that was underneath.

I turned around and walked away, but the images have stayed with me for more than two decades.

Then I caught a glimpse of it again at a recent wrestling practice when I almost didn't recognize a local wrestler because he had dropped so much weight in order to stay in the lineup and help the team out.

It brought back instant memories of how bad I went about losing weight when I wrestled in high school.

I prefer to remember the good things like teammates, the one-on-one competitions and the smell of the wrestling, but there is the ugliness that only I and my poor mother remember.

The saunas, the 3 a.m. binges (usually some sort of chocolate), the garbage bag pajamas, the enemas (I hate that word) and any other quick weight loss procedure you could probably think of, and some that wouldn't even cross your mind.

My junior year was ugly and so was I. I was about 5-foot-8 and wrestled 103 pounds.

In terms of wins and success it was the best of my four-year varsity career, but I would never wish that price of success on anyone.

I started the season in October at 128 pounds after the most dedicated offseason of my career. If I wasn't in a camp or a weight room, I was reading literature on mental imagery and muscle memory to prepare for the season.

The way the lineup shook out - with my two best friends and me weighing about the same - we drew straws to see who would wrestle where instead of competing against each other.

We didn't want to damage our friendship so, instead, I damaged my body and mind after getting the short straw in the deal.

It wasn't long before I started skipping meals - unless you count a ketchup packet at lunch - to get down to 103. All of the offseason weight training was essentially for nothing as I starved my body to the point that it started to breakdown the muscle to stay strong.

Luckily that was long ago.

Rules are in place now with preseason weight certification - a nine-step process than involves alpha body weight, body density and other factors to help determine a minimum weight class.

The system that is in place has it merits. I am guessing if I had gone through it I wouldn't have been allowed to drop to 103, but that doesn't mean kids are not pushing the envelope anymore.

It is up to the coaches and parents to make sure it is done correctly and that is being done 99 percent of the time, but no one is with the wrestlers 24 hours a day. It falls on the individuals as well and, hopefully, lessons have been learned.

In 1997 there were three deaths of college wrestlers in a six-week period that changed the wrestling world forever at the collegiate and high school levels. Ephedrine is believed to have played a part in at least one of the deaths.

Everyone became more aware and that clearly can only be a good thing. I have been around the sport since the early 1980s and it continues to be my favorite sport. The weight loss aspect will always be part of it and, thankfully, there are rules in place to be sure it is done correctly.

Trust me, this is a very good thing.

We definitely do not need any walking pipe cleaners around here.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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