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|Spenser Mango ready to provide spark as Olympic wrestling tournament set to kick off
Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Spenser Mango will compete in his second Olympic Games on Sunday. John Sachs photo.
LONDON – Spenser Mango is batting leadoff for Team USA once again at the Olympic Games.
And he’s looking to hit a home run this time.
Eighth in the 2008 Olympics, the 26-year-old Mango is much more seasoned and experienced now.
And he’s ready to provide a spark for the U.S. as he and teammate Ben Provisor kick off the eight-day Olympic wrestling competition when they take the mat on Sunday at the ExCel Center.
Wrestling is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Sunday (8 a.m. Eastern Time) in London.
Mango has made five straight World-level teams for the U.S. in Greco-Roman wrestling at 55 kg/121 lbs. A past University World champion and Junior World bronze medalist, he is still looking for his first World-level medal in the Senior division.
“You can’t give anybody too much respect,” said Mango, a St. Louis native. “Everybody is here to win and everybody is capable of doing it. Just because a guy did well in the past doesn’t mean you have to hold him higher than anybody else.”
Mango drew Egypt’s Mohamed Said Abouhalima in the first round. Abdouhalima won the African Olympic Qualifier this year.
“Spenser did a real nice job getting his weight down – he looks great,” U.S. National Coach Steve Fraser said. "Every guy here is tough and you have to come with your A game here. Spenser is ready to go and he’s excited for the competition.
"Spenser is looking fantastic. He will come to the mat tomorrow with both barrels blazing. He’s been to the big show a few times now and he deserves to win his title this year."
Since his last appearance at the Olympics, Mango has made three straight U.S. World Teams, he got married and he joined the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
“I love the World Class Athlete Program,” said Mango, who trains in Colorado Springs. “I have a great coach in Shon Lewis. It is a good fit for me. The Army provides everything you need to do well at the Olympics.”
Mango started wrestling as a 90-pounder at Christian Brothers High School in St. Louis.
“The first practice, I just kind of fell in love with the sport,” he said. “It’s one-on-one competition, and you don’t have to depend on anybody. Your own future is in your hands.”
Mango has wrestled well this season, winning the Dave Schultz Memorial International and placing second at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier.
The 5-foot-2 Mango is powerful and explosive on the mat.
“I feel good,” Mango said. “I’ve been working out hard and getting ready for the big show. I’m ready to go out there and perform.”
Mango is part of a veteran U.S. team that includes World champion Dremiel Byers and two-time World bronze medalist Justin Lester.
Mango will have the support of his mother Deborah, his wife Leann and his brother Ryan in London.
Ryan is a top Greco-Roman wrestler who is a two-time NCAA All-American for Stanford.
Mango’s mother has been a fixture at his tournaments. Spenser’s father was shot and killed when he was just five years old.
“My mom is a really special lady,” Spenser said. “I know it’s been hard for her, but she made it work. She’s always been there for us.”
Mango hopes the experience of 2008 pays off for him here in London.
“Everything is not as much of a surprise as it was in 2008,” he said. “I have seen it before and I think I’m ready. We have high expectations for our team.”