This is a great time for the sport of wrestling in Hillsboro. Hilhi is making a push for hardware at the state championships and the Spartans have Glencoe and Century nipping at their heels to get into one of the top four spots to bring home a trophy.

Also, Liberty has a very legitimate shot to overthrow Sandy and win the Northwest Oregon Conference district meet before heading to the state championships, where the Falcons hope to make some noise.

Four Hillsboro high schools, four extraordinarily competitive wrestling teams. Yup, sounds like a good time for wrestling in the city. But, then, it’s always a pretty good time for wrestling in Hillsboro.

Hilhi wrestling coach Adam Reese has been around the sport a lot longer than I have, and here is what he told me:

“I grew up in Hillsboro. If you talk about a sport that’s always at the top, there are no down years for the sport of wrestling in Hillsboro. Other sports have down years. But, the community of Hillsboro is really a wrestling community. You see it this year when Glencoe and Century and us are all fighting for that conference championship. And fighting for the state trophy. Year-in, year-out, the top teams in whatever region or qualification we’re in, we’re at the top with Glencoe and Century.

“It’s the sport of Hillsboro. It’s what Hillsboro was built on. The traditions go back to when Hillsboro High School opened. It’s always been a very tough wrestling school. Glencoe opened up as a tough wrestling school, Century opened up as a tough wrestling school. It’s built for the community. That just makes me really happy as a Hillsboro community member.”

When wrestling in the city is at the height of its success it may not seem like the right time to bring up the fact that wrestling, for all its great qualities as a sport, has always been a breeding ground for eating disorders. However, with four top flight programs in the city, Hillsboro has a golden opportunity to actually make a positive difference for the sport that has been so good to the community.

In many ways, wrestling is the most fair sport that has ever been created. In football or baseball or basketball, athletes are competing against people who may be far bigger than them, or far smaller.

In wrestling, an athlete is competing against someone who is their exact same size, give or take a couple of pounds. The only thing that matters is their strength, their technique, their courage and their heart.

The problem is this: when wrestlers are classified into weight classes and they are told a number on the scale that defines them, in order to continue to compete, they need to continue to stay at the same weight.

True, many high school kids are done growing. Also true, many other high school kids are not done growing.

But, the danger lies even deeper than the old “stunt your growth” warning that you hear from your grandmother. See, there are wrestlers who try to shrink down to their wrestling weight before each meet.

It makes sense, in a way. If a wrestler weighs 118 pounds, would they rather wrestle at 113 or 122? I have seen wrestlers wear sweat suits all day before a meet trying to drop a couple extra water pounds. I know people who have worn five pairs of socks so their feet would sweat out a couple ounces of water.

There are no ifs about it: that is not only dangerous behavior for kids’ health, it also can manifest itself very quickly into an eating disorder.

Hey, if kids are OK not drinking water all day to get down to their wrestling weight, why not eat anything all day too? Why not eat anything all week? Or why not purge what that they have eaten to make sure they do not gain any weight?

See, it’s a slippery slope. And what makes that slope more slippery is that our society does not give credence to the danger of eating disorders in men. We have been conditioned to believe that women are the only ones who get eating disorders.

That’s not true. At all. I have seen eating disorders in young men. And just like the eating disorders that afflict women, it is an awful, cruel and insidious disease.

And while women may be pressured to be thin by society, young men who get into the sport of wrestling are pressured to be thin by competition.

Eating disorders are always the elephant in the room with wrestling. It is like performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. You know people do it, you just do not know who is doing it.

With the wrestling talent that is coming out of Hillsboro, that makes the city the perfect torch bearer to bring more attention to this issue. The four high schools have a golden opportunity to step up and become leaders when it comes to eating disorders in their sport.

Organize committees with coaches and students and doctors. Find wrestlers who battled eating disorders in high school and ask them to speak to wrestling teams.

The Hillsboro schools should use their cache to actually make an impact with an issue that so often is not talked about.

What was it that Reese said about the sport of wrestling? “It’s built for the community.”

It certainly is. Now I would like to see the community of Hillsboro give a little back to the sport.

Stephen Alexander is a sports writer for the Hillsboro Tribune. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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