Q & A: Spenser Mango eager for another shot at a medal at World Championships

By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling | July 07, 2010, 10:29 a.m. (ET)
Spenser Mango looks for an opening against Jermaine Hodge during the finals of the U.S. World Team Trials. Larry Slater photo.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Spenser Mango is primed for a breakthrough season.

A top-10 finisher at the 2008 Olympic Games and 2009 World Championships, the talented young Greco-Roman star is focused on reaching the medal stand at September's World Championships in Moscow, Russia.

Mango, who just celebrated his 24th birthday, is a past World University champion and Junior World bronze medalist.

Mango competes at 55 kg/121 lbs. He wrestles for the New York Athletic Club.

The St. Louis native has been a member of the U.S. Olympic Education Center program in Marquette, Mich. He recently graduated from Northern Michigan University, and is considering his options for training in the future.

Mango is at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs this week for a U.S. National Team Camp.

Mango sat down with USA Wrestling communications manager Craig Sesker for an interview following Wednesday morning's practice.

You've graduated from college now. What are your future plans for training in wrestling?

I graduated with a degree in physical education with a minor in health and nutrition. My plan is to join the U.S. Army wrestling program. I haven't signed with them yet. It's a great opportunity where you are able to concentrate on wrestling full-time and make a good living. Plus you have a lot of great training partners to work with. The Army is probably going to be the best place for me.

You struggled early in the season before turning it around. What happened and how did you turn it around?

I wrestled up a weight at 60 kilograms at the New York AC tournament and took third. I didn't wrestle that well there. Then I wrestled at the Dave Schultz tournament out here and I didn't wrestle well at all. I've worked on some of the areas I was having problems with, and I've been a lot more focused the last few months.

Take us through the end of the U.S. Open finals match with Jermaine Hodge, where you pulled out the win in the final seconds. How important was that win?

That was huge. It gave me the No. 1 seed for the World Team Trials, and that's always important. Coming into the closing seconds of that match, I knew I had a good lock with a front headlock. I stuck with it and I was able to score.

What was the difference when you beat Hodge again in the finals of the World Team Trials?

Making sure I wrestled hard. I knew I was in great shape, and I knew I could score on my feet if I just kept working at it. I continued to push the pace and eventually scored.

What do you need to do to take the next step and reach the medal podium at the Worlds?

I need to work on my defense. I need to work on keeping the pace up on my feet and scoring points from there each period. I need to wrestle to the best of my abilities and have mistake-free matches.

Having wrestled in the Olympics and the Worlds now, how much does that help when you go out there to compete on a stage like the Worlds?

It definitely helps. It's not like, 'Wow, I'm on the big stage' anymore. I'm ready to win a medal. Now it's time to come back home with some hardware. I'm ready to do it this year.

What do you try to accomplish this summer during these National Team camps?

Mostly fine-tune things. I worked with Momir (Petkovic, Assistant U.S. National Coach) on finishing from double-underhooks. I worked on my par terre defense. Those are my two main concerns - finishing when I get to the body and my defense.

You wrestled four-time World champion Hamid Sourian of Iran in the Worlds last year. What did you learn from that experience?

He's very tough. I went out there and wrestled him, and I think I learned that I probably gave him too much respect. I walked off the mat after the match and I was like, 'Wow, he's not as tough as I thought he was.' I definitely know I can beat him if we wrestle again. I just gave him too much respect.

You are part of a veteran U.S. Greco-Roman World Team with a number of proven wrestlers. How well can the U.S. do at the Worlds?

We can definitely win the team title. We have a seasoned team with seven guys who are all capable of winning medals. We can definitely win it - everyone just has to wrestle to their ability and things will come together.

The U.S. won the World team title in Greco-Roman in 2007, but struggled in the 2008 Olympics and 2009 Worlds. How big a source of motivation is that for you guys?

It definitely is a motivating factor. We have guys that have been there before and done that. We have World champions and World medalists on this team.

What would it mean for you to make it onto the medal stand?

It definitely would mean a lot to me. I haven't done it yet, but getting on the podium would be a great steppingstone for 2011 and 2012 for the next Olympics in London.

Your close friend Harry Lester, a two-time World bronze medalist, is planning to join the U.S. Army and continue his wrestling career. How exciting is that?

It's pretty exciting. He's definitely one of the best Greco-Roman wrestlers ever. It would be great to see him get that World and Olympic title that he's looking for. Once he gets back in shape, the rest will take care of itself.