by Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
FARGO, N.D. – The start of the 2008 Olympic Games are just 18 days away and Ryan Mango can’t wait to travel to Beijing, China, to watch his brother Spenser compete.
But he has a little business to take care of first.
Mango has his sights set on becoming a Junior Nationals champion this week in Fargo.
The two-time state high school champion from Missouri looks poised to do just that. He steamrolled past his first three opponents in the Greco-Roman competition on Sunday. In his third match, he polished off Ohio’s Brandon Gambucci with a body lock and spectacular throw late Sunday afternoon.
Mango is one of four USA Wrestling age-group national champions competing in the Junior Nationals 112-pound bracket in Greco-Roman.
Mango was a double Cadet Nationals champion in 2006 before following with a Cadet Nationals folkstyle title in 2007. He missed this event last year in Fargo after breaking his wrist a couple of weeks before the tournament.
“It feels great to be back here wrestling again,” Mango said. “I was real nervous for my first match, but I’m getting back in the groove now. I’m feeling real good out there.”
Mango won the FILA Cadet Nationals in Greco-Roman earlier this year in Akron, Ohio. He placed second at the Junior World Team Trials in May.
The power-packed Junior 112 class also includes Nathan Furches of Kansas, Alan Waters of Missouri and Cody Tyler of Missouri. Furches is a Junior Nationals champion in Greco-Roman, Waters won a Cadet Nationals title in Greco-Roman and Tyler won a FILA Cadet Nationals title in Greco-Roman. Mango beat Waters in the FILA Cadet Nationals finals in April.
“We all know each other pretty well,” Mango said. “Most of us were out at the Olympic Training Center just training with each other. It will be fun to see who comes out on top.”
Also at 112, Cody Pack of California was a Junior Nationals Greco-Roman runner-up. Jamie Clark of Ohio was a FILA Cadet Nationals Greco-Roman runner-up. Clark is a past Cadet Nationals champion in freestyle.
Ryan Mango will travel to his family next month to watch Spenser compete in the Olympics at 55 kg/121 lbs. Spenser is scheduled to compete on the first day of wrestling competition on Aug. 12.
“I’m real excited about the Olympics,” Ryan said. “I can’t wait to see how Spenser does. I’m already proud of him. That would be really sweet to see him come home with a medal, hopefully a gold medal.”
Ryan is hoping to join his brother on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2012.
“That’s our goal,” Ryan said. “2012, we both want to make it. We talk about that all the time.”
Ryan is a top college prospect. He said he hasn’t decided if he wants to follow his brother to the U.S. Olympic Education Center Greco-Roman program at Northern Michigan University or try wrestling folkstyle at the collegiate level.
“I still don’t know if I want to do folkstyle or not,” Ryan said. “I will probably sit down in the next few weeks after this tournament and make a decision.”
Ryan can’t say enough about the impact his big brother has had on him.
“Spenser has done so much for me, not just in wrestling but with everything,” Ryan said. “Every sport he tried, I tried. When he started wrestling, then I jumped right into it the next year. I really look up to him. He’s a great big brother. His support means a lot.”