South Dakota high school wrestling moves ahead with new weight management program

While South Dakota has had weigh-in tracking programs for years, the OPC represented a large step forward in technology.

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From left, McCook Central/Montrose's Landon Flogstad and Canton's Zach Bartels face off at the start of the 106-pound championship match during the Region 2B wrestling tournament on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023 in Salem.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — The conclusion of the 2023 wrestling season in South Dakota brings to the close the first season of a more refined Optimal Performance Calculator, helping wrestlers safely cut weight for competition.

The calculator, which was created nearly 25 years ago and has been promoted by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, is run through Trackwrestling, the wrestling event management software that has almost all of South Dakota’s high school season information and statistics. This was the first season of the program in full effect and Mitchell coach Andy Everson said there were bumps in the road for the first full year of the OPC program but believes strongly in what it will mean for high school wrestling in future years.

“There’s a few bugs that they’re going to have to adjust for but to me, nothing major. I like it, I really do,” Everson said. “It gives the kids an idea of where they can get to healthily. … Back in the day, we’d crash diet and we’d get down at the beginning of the season and now you’ve got to step it down a couple pounds a week, which is a healthy way to slowly lose the weight and get down and eat and be healthy.”

Everson said one thing he appreciates about the program is that it provides a clearer road map to the wrestlers to help them understand a potential weight loss program and what class they can get to healthily.

“A couple of them were surprised and how far down they could go,” Everson said. “They just didn’t know and they were afraid of losing some weight. They didn’t want to not eat and we told them, ‘It’s not about not eating.’ We have the step down each week and there’s a plan they can follow.”


While South Dakota has had weigh-in tracking programs for years, the OPC represented a large step forward in technology. The program included bio-electrical impedance, which measures body competition, and hydration testing, and along with height and weight and skin fold measurements, calculated a certified minimum weight for competition for wrestlers. The minimum body fat percentage for males is 7% and for females is 12%. In guidance to schools and coaches, the SDHSAA said it “does not advocate that a wrestler’s established certified minimum wrestling weight is the athlete’s best weight, but simply the minimum weight at which the athlete will be allowed to compete.”

Under the program, wrestlers are limited to losing no more than 1.5% of their body weight per week and wrestlers were not able to compete unless they had the assessment done.

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Matches at the 220-pound weight class take place during the Region 2B wrestling tournament on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023 in Salem.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

Mitchell High School athletic trainer Clayton Gropper, who helped with the weigh-in process at the start of the season said some of the information that was provided to athletes and coaches was a large step up in technology. Weigh-ins were done on a regional basis, with four or five teams attending regional sites to get their certified minimum weight.

“The scale they had was really cool with the body fat and the information that told you right where they’re at,” Gropper said. “I was a little worried about the urinalysis because you never know how exactly how well high school kids are going to hydrate. … The whole process is safer.”

The OPC program has been based on nearly 250,000 wrestlers using the program over recent years on a national basis. Prior to South Dakota’s full involvement, 41 state high school associations used the program.

Pierre coach Shawn Lewis, who is a Bon Homme High School alum, said there are advantages to using a national system but would like to be able to tweak it some for South Dakota in the future. He said one aspect of the program that is difficult is how much there is to manage for athletes.

“It’s an administrative nightmare from a coaching perspective. When you’ve got 30 kids and 30 different OPC plans, and you have to double-check them for each weigh-in for each day, it’s far harder to manage. You’re not just worried about 10 or 14 kids, it’s all of them and you’re trying to figure out wrestle-offs and it turns out they’re not even eligible.

But even with the hurdles, Lewis said the program will only get better in future seasons.


“OPC is definitely here to stay and I think it should be,” he said. “There’s just wrinkles there that we haven’t seen before, so I think it’s something that will it continue to get better.”

Some of the adjustments he said he’d like South Dakota to consider is to forego hydration testing for athletes unless they’re under a certain body fat percentage. He said he also would like the testing to start further ahead of the wrestling season and during football, so that athletes have more time to make their descent with their wrestling weight. In Pierre, where the Governors regularly play into the second week of November for the state football championships, it makes for a quick turnaround. For the 2022-23 season, the football title game was on Nov. 12, wrestling practice started on Nov. 14 and the SDHSAA’s weight day was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 22.

“For us, coming off of football and being in the championship game and then the next week having to be closer to that wrestling weight, that just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Lewis said.

“It’s a good thing overall,” Everson said. “The more times we do this, and we get three or four years into this and we get it down, it’s going to be a great thing for the sport.”

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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