The History of Virginia Wrestling Weight Classes

One of the things that makes it hard to follow wrestling are the different weight classes – no other high school sport has them and they change from time to time and are different in youth, middle, high school and college and in international competition the weights are in kilograms not pounds.  Even just the idea of “making weight” is foreign and unappealing to many kids.

Our historical record has not done much to ingrain a set of weight classes into our lexicon either.  The weights reported from back in the day are confusing because they sometimes included the extra pounds received for the state tournament and changed over time.

So looking at the records you’d see all of the following weight classes – 95, 98, 103, 105, 106, 107, 112, 115, 119, 120, 121, 125, 126, 127, 130, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141 and so on, with a few hop-skip-and-a-jumps in between.  C’mon folks wrestling can do better than this!

Here is the breakdown of the actual weight classes used over the years in Virginia.

1949-1963: this is where you’ll often see the growth pounds included in the weight class
95, 103, 112, 120, 127, 133, 138, 145, 154, 165, 175, HWT

1963-1968: changed 175 to 180lbs
95, 103, 112, 120, 127, 133, 138, 145, 154, 165, 180, HWT

1969: changed 180 to 175lbs
95, 103, 112, 120, 127, 133, 138, 145, 154, 165, 175, HWT

1970: this was a very bizarre year.  I believe these are the actual weight classes because I’ve compared it to other states as well.  Looks like it was a one year wonder (i.e. wonder why we did it)
98, 107, 115, 123, 130, 137, 145, 155, 165, 175, 185, HWT

1971-1981: wholesale changes 🙂  The first year for using UNL instead of HWT was 1973, but there was no limit yet to what you could weigh, so those terms are used interchangeably.
98, 105, 112, 119, 126, 132, 138, 145, 155, 167, 185, UNL

1982-1988: added the 176lb weight class in 1982
98, 105, 112, 119, 126, 132, 138, 145, 155, 167, 176 185, UNL

1989-1995: gone are the 98lbrs, changed UNL to 275lbs max, not including growth pounds of course
103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 275

1996-2006: added the 215lb weight class in 1996
103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215, 275

2007-2011: bumped up the heaviest weight class from 275 to 285lbs
103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215, 285

2012-2013: another set of wholesale changes, when we were lied to about how they were actually derived :-).  This still burns me up.  How can we grow if we’re lying to each other?
106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220, 285

Obviously, the trend over this time period is that kids are getting bigger. If you look at the pictures of the kids in the yearbooks, you’ll see that ALL the kids in the 50s had six-pack abs.  In the 60s there was an occasional pudge and that trend grew into our obesity epidemic today.

One thing you might want to share with the football coaches who chagrin cutting weight are the initial results from the Weight Control Program.  You can show him and the kid’s parents that 33% body fat is NOT good, NOT strong, NOT healthy AND it is something that college football coaches WILL look at!

If anyone has any updates, please comment or send them to info@vachamps.com.

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5 thoughts on “The History of Virginia Wrestling Weight Classes

  1. I have some corrections to your weight classes. In 1969 the weight class changed from 180 to 175 and remained a weight class in 1970. In 1970 the upper wieghts were 165, 175, 185, HWT. The heaviest weight class did not go from 275 to 285 until 2007, not 2006. this information can be found in the VHSL record book. I remember the 1969 weight change.
    Greg Reed, Annandale High School

    • Love it! Thanks for the updates. I want to ask more about the change from 180 to 175 in 1969 though. I have the results from the NCAA Guide for that year and they say 180lbs and it is reported that way across all the other states that I checked, while the VHSL Record Book says “not a weight class” and lists Annandale great Steve Willis (3x champion) at 175 lbs. I’ve seen inconsistencies from both sources, so need to find a primary source, a program or bout sheet would be best to confirm either way.

      You are right on the other two for sure, I’ll update the list above. Ah, the trials of publishing, so I shouldn’t be too hard on the VHSL 🙂

      • I have a copy of the 1969 Northern Virginia Regional Wrestling Tournament Souvenir Program and it says… the weight class was 175 lbs! Thank you Greg for pursuing the truth! We will leave no stone left unturned to get to that truth!

  2. Hello, I was a Virginia high school wrestler in 1985, 86 and 87. Maybe I’m just very confused, but I could have sworn the state began using the 275 lbs weigh class while I was in school, not 1989. I went to a small school, and we only had one kid that was seriously obese. He weighed something like 350, and I can remember my friends and I joking (yes, I know, not funny) about how he was the only kid in the school that couldn’t wrestle. In fact, I thought for the first year or two, the limit was actually 270, then they went to 275. Maybe the state was just talking about doing this when I was in school. Are you certain Virginia didn’t start using 275 until 1989?

    • Hi Brian,

      Thank you for the question. I looked at these artifacts – the 1988 and the 1989 Northern Region Tournament programs. The 1988 program lists the weight class as HWT and the 1989 lists it as 275. This is the first historical reference that I have that says “275”.

      I looked up several articles from the time period as well and all 1988 references listed the weight class as UNL or HWT. I had one article from 1989 and that ALSO listed the weight class as HWT. I attribute this to just what we called these guys – heavyweights. We still do this today.

      Finally though, I found this notation on wikipedia – Heavyweight (up to 285 pounds; up to 275 pounds from 1988-89 through 2005-06; unlimited before 1988-89). Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrestling_weight_classes

      These ‘should’ be standard weight classes across all U.S. high schools, as specified by the NFHS. There are, however, some states that modify some of the weight classes. For example, New York has a 99lb weight class.

      If you’ve got any data you can share from back in the day, it is always appreciated (info@vachamps.com). Let me know where you went to school and I’ll dig up what I can.

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