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U.S. Olympic Team Trials Greco-Roman preview at 59 kg/130 lbs.

By Richard Immel, USA Wrestling | March 23, 2016, 3:47 p.m. (ET)

 Spenser Mango at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada.
Photo: Tony Rotundo,
Date of Competition: Saturday, April 9

Weight currently qualified for the Olympic Games? No

The lightest weight in Greco-Roman wrestling, 59 kg/130 lbs., boasts perhaps the deepest field both domestically and worldwide in terms of talent and past credentials.

The kingpin at 59 kg for the U.S. the past two quadrennials is two-time Olympian and six-time World Team member Spenser Mango (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP). He has been the U.S. representative in this weight class at the World Championships and Olympic Games every year since 2008.

Mango has finished as high as fifth place at the World Championships (2013, 2014). In his most recent World Championships appearance, Mango fell in the first round to eventual World champion Ismael Borrero (Cuba), 4-2, and did not place.

Throughout his impressive Greco-Roman career, Mango has captured seven U.S. Open championships, a World University championship (2007) and a Junior World bronze medal (2006). He was second at the U.S. Open in December to perhaps his fiercest competition to date, Ildar Hafizov (Colorado Springs, Colo. U.S. Army WCAP).

While Mango forfeited to U.S. Army WCAP teammate Hafizov in the U.S. Open finals, Hafizov does own a 2-2 criteria win over Mango this year at the Vantaa Cup.

Hafizov was a 2008 Olympian for Uzbekistan prior to acquiring U.S. citizenship and joining the U.S. Army. This season he has won gold medals at the Vantaa Cup and U.S. Open, in addition to scoring a bronze at the Bill Farrell International.

The newcomer Hafizov was the 59 kg U.S. representative at the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier in Frisco, Texas, but failed to qualify the weight for the Olympics after losing in the quarterfinals to Steven Takahashi (Canada), 15-13.

A bevy of talented contenders have qualified at 59 kg and will undoubtedly push the two favorites for the tournament championship.

Two-time NCAA All-American Ryan Mango (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP), the younger brother of Spenser, finished in third place at the U.S. Open in December. Mango wrestled collegiately at Stanford University from 2009-2013 earning finishes of fifth place (2012) and sixth place (2011) at the NCAA Championships.

Mango has been a top-tier threat on the U.S. Greco-Roman scene the past few years. He was the 60 kg runner-up at the 2013 U.S. World Team Trials to Jesse Thielke (Colorado Springs, Colo./ New York AC) and has placed in the top seven at the U.S. Open each year since 2009.

Thielke is another top-flight contender at 59 kg. He was runner-up to Mango at the U.S. World Team Trials last year and has since put together a solid string of bronze medals at the UWW Golden Grand Prix Finals, U.S. Open and Grand Prix Zagreb Open.

In 2013, Thielke finished in eighth place at the World Championships at 60 kg. In addition, he won a Junior World bronze medal in 2012.

Also coming in high on the “who-to-watch” list at 59 kg is Nikko Triggas (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) who has posted an impressive campaign this year. Triggas won silver medals overseas at both the Haavisto Cup and Vantaa Cup to qualify for the Olympic Trials. He has spent the bulk of his year training in Europe to prepare for this event.

Upstart Sammy Jones (Folsom, La./NYAC/USOTS) is most certainly a dark horse at 59 kg. He has performed admirably this season earning a runner-up finish at the Dave Schultz Memorial International and taking fourth place at both the U.S. Open and Bill Farrell International over many of the top U.S. contenders.

On the university circuit, Jones has won the USA Wrestling University Nationals the past two years and won a bronze medal at the 2014 University World Championships.

U.S. Army WCAP veterans Jermaine Hodge (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP) and Max Nowry (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP) both have strong pedigrees at this weight class and have the potential to make deep runs.

Others who have qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at 59 kg include 2013 Cadet World bronze medalist Cade Olivas (Fontana, Calif./Titan Mercury WC) and U.S. Open seventh place finisher Dmitry Ryabchinskiy (Brooklyn N.Y./New York AC/USOTS).

One more athlete will be added to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials field at 59 kg with the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier being held next weekend in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Only the champion at the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier will qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

The 59 kg champion at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials will make a quick turnaround after Iowa City, travel to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and attempt to qualify the weight class for the Olympics at the first of two Olympic Games World Qualifying Tournaments.

U.S. Olympic Team Trials Qualifiers as of March 23

59 kg/130 lbs.
’15 World Team member – Spenser Mango, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP)
2012-14 Cadet/Junior World medalist age eligible – Jesse Thielke, Germantown, Wis. (New York AC)
2012-14 Cadet/Junior World medalist age eligible – Cade Olivas, Fontana, Calif. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 Bill Farrell International bronze medalist – Ildar Hafizov, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP)
’15 Vantaa Cup silver medalist - Nikko Triggas, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)
’15 Haavisto Cup bronze medalist – Jermaine Hodge, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier third place – Ryan Mango, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Army WCAP)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier fourth place – Sam Jones, Folsom, La. (NYAC/USOTS)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier fifth place – Max Nowry, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Army WCAP)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier seventh place – Dmitry Ryabchinskiy, Brooklyn, N.Y. (NYAC/USOTS)
’16 Final Olympic Trials Qualifier champion –