The toughest high school sport

ESPN.com, Illustration

This week, ESPNRISE.com has ranked high school sports by season for how tough they are to play at the varsity level. We based our rankings on five elements -- how physically demanding the sport is, the athletic ability required, training required, how much endurance is needed, and how much strategy goes into the sport.

And now it's up to you Below are the five toughest sports accoring to our rankings, but your vote will decide which sport is the toughest of tough.


This sport demands that athletes have strong lower-body and upper-body strength. Rowing is such a total-body workout that rowing machines are in gyms across the country. Rowers have to stay focused throughout the race to make sure they are rowing in rhythm with their team. The Scholastic Rowing Association of America's National Championship Regatta is a 1,500-meter race, which is from 5-7 minutes of continuous rowing.

No fall sport is more physical in every minute of competition than football. There is player-to-player contact on every play. Mentally, even though coaches are making most of the play calls, the offense must be able to react and adapt to what is happening on the field. Meanwhile, the defense is trying to read the plays, cover the receivers and stop the drive. For training, teams have two-a-days and players hit the weight room to increase their strength and build muscle.

This sport combines the quickness and agility of basketball, the speed and precision of hockey, and the toughness of football into one heart-pounding game. Lacrosse players must have the speed to be able to play both sides of the field, the endurance to run for long periods of time, the stick skills to evade defenders, and the ability to make smart decisions on the fly. It's America's first sport -- and one of its most dangerous, as players can rifle shots at more than 100 mph.

It takes a lot out of you to be a cowboy or cowgirl. In addition to being one of the most physically demanding sports, there is no predictability since you are working with animals. That means you have to be ready for anything and quick to react. You have to be able to change your game plan on a moment's notice. The chance of injury is also high; if you need a grown man in a clown costume to distract a bull from charging at you, you know your sport is tough.

Saying that wrestling is football without pads doesn't do the sport justice. It's body-to-body contact with the goal of overpowering an opponent and pinning his shoulders to the mat. Wrestling is a mental game as well as physical. During a match, a wrestler constantly evaluates his opponent and tries to predict his next move. The wrestler is also thinking about his own positioning and what makes him vulnerable to his opponent. He is strategizing how and when to attack and go for either a takedown or a pin, and that opportunity sometimes happens for a split second and then the chance is gone. Wrestlers compete in weight classes so they face similar-sized opponents, and in addition to training and conditioning they have to maintain a specific weight. Sometimes wrestlers move up or down in weight classes, which requires either gaining or losing weight, sometimes in a short period of time.

See all of the rankings: Fall Sports / Winter Sports / Spring Sports / More Sports / Future Sports