Photo By: Chris Chow from Unsplash

Wrestlers aren’t given enough credit, their mental toughness is commendable. Olympic-style wrestling is much more complex than just hitting the ring and competing. Like most sports, wrestling requires a large amount of training and mental toughness in order for you to be successful in it. 

A prominent feature of wrestling is having to train at a certain weight and maintain that weight to qualify for competitions. This component makes being a wrestler even more difficult, and increases the risk for developing negative body image issues amongst its athletes because of the pressures instilled in these athletes to constantly look a certain way. To be the strongest, but not weigh more than the allotted amount. To be big and strong but also quick and agile. The pressure on these athletes is quite intense.

Member of the Brock women’s wrestling team, Mikayla Clusters opened up about some of the mental challenges associated with wrestling. 

“Wrestling has impacted my mental health tremendously. The sport taught me to be confident in myself as a woman. Being in a male-dominated sport is extremely hard at times, especially growing up, stereotypes can break you down. But despite the negatives that can come from wrestling it has lifted me by showing me it’s okay to fail, to get up and try again,” said Clusters. 

It can easily be said that the sport of wrestling is 90% mental and 10% physical. The physicality of the sport itself is a major component, but athletes could be in the most elite physical shape, but if their mentality is not there, they do not stand a chance on the mats. Keeping control of a match can be hard; athletes only have so much control over how their opponent performs, what the officials have to say, and even how their own bodies perform during the match. It is important to focus on what can be controlled and ignore the things that cannot. 

Mental toughness can be widely defined as, “a quality of mind or intellect characterized by, among other things, a refusal to be intimidated, a determination to finish a contest even when things are going badly, and an ability to control emotions and remain highly focused when under the pressure of intense competition.” Athletes are taught to be resilient and tough. They are taught to always work for their next goal and remain motivated and dedicated to these qualities to help good athletes become great athletes. 

“Keeping a healthy mindset can be hard, especially because when training and competing it’s extremely taxing. Entire matches can be won just by your mindset. I’ve always surrounded myself with other positive people. I feed off good, positive energy; even a simple song can get my spirits up at times,” said Clusters.

Wrestlers, like most athletes, have an internal desire for constant success, which translates through their performance and their dedication to their sport. Wrestling differs from most team sports because it is fairly independent. Athletes train as a team, but at the end of the day, only the athlete is responsible for their performance as there is no team to fall back on. Individualized sports like swimming, wrestling, or golf are all challenging because that aspect of mental toughness needs to be there 100% of the time. In other team sports, if the energy or if the motivation is lacking, there are often team members there to pick up the slack or to help motivate you. Wrestling is a very intense sport with lots of competition against oneself, which makes this sport one of the most mentally difficult sports out there.  

“My sport means the world to me, it gave me my friends and family and I’m forever thankful for that. It also taught me I can overcome anything. There is nothing like getting physically and mentally crushed but still knowing you can come back even better,” said Clusters. 

In the world we live in, so focused on body image while leaning more towards the acceptance of mental health, it is safe to say wrestlers are some of the most mentally tough people out there.  Constantly struggling with body image and in a lot of mentally tough situations, wrestlers are still training, competing, and thriving.