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|SCHULTZ MEMORIAL NOTES, SATURDAY MORNING: Mango seeks to learn and win; Berube nears end of great college career|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Mango seeks to learn more, and win
Spenser Mango of the Gator WC, one of the stars from the U.S. Olympic Education Program for Greco-Roman at Northern Michigan Univ., is a quiet, humble young man when you speak with him. Yet his style of wrestling on the mat is what brings attention to this young star from Missouri.
Mango had a busy and successful year in 2006 in many respects. He placed second at the U.S. Senior Nationals at 55 kg/121 lbs., putting his name on the national wrestling map. He lost to veteran star Lindsey Durlacher in a memorable finals match in Las Vegas.
After a disappointment at the World Team Trials, where he did not medal, Mango had an outstanding summer on the age-group levels, winning a World University gold medal and a FILA Junior World bronze medal.
"I am still learning. I am new to Greco-Roman. I like to improve on my past performances," said Mango.
Mango is aware that his style of wrestling, which includes many high amplitude throws from the par terre position, is what people talk about when he is wrestling. He doesn't mind that wrestling fans enjoy watching when he gets a big throw.
"That's a big part of it," said Mango. "I live to have fun. I wrestle my best when I have a good time there."
Mango is all about learning, and his finish at the World Team Trials is something that he feels will help him moving forward.
"It started with a bad weight drop. It was the first time I had trouble making weight. Coach Jim Gruenwald helped me get through it. The next day, I didn't wrestle well. I am still young. Hopefully, I still have a lot to learn," said Mango.
Mango started the Dave Schultz Memorial with a pair of wins over foreign competitors. He defeated World University bronze medalist Kouhei Hasegawa of Japan, 8-3, 3-4, 1-1, then stopped Bulgaria's Velenin Petrov Venkov, 2-4, 7-1, 2-1 in the quarterfinals. Venkov was fifth in the World Championships last year.
His weight class is strong here, with World bronze medalist Lindsey Durlacher of the New York AC on the opposite side, as well as tough competitors from China and Kazakhstan still in the draw. Mango wants to learn, for sure, but he is here at the Dave Schultz Memorial this year to win the gold.
"I'm here to win it," said Mango. "Last year, I won one match here. The year before, I was 0-2. These guys you see here at this tournament are who you will see at the World Championships. I am gaining experience for the future."
Women's college star Berube facing decisions about future
Alaina Berube of the New York AC entered the 2006 Dave Schultz Memorial as a two-time defending champion, winning her weight class at the 63 kg/138.75 lbs. division here the last two years. One of the most active competitors in women's wrestling, Berube has come to Colorado Springs once again to challenge herself and prepare for the busy season ahead.
Women's college wrestling is in its infancy in this nation, with a handful of varsity teams around the nation establishing a foothold for the sport. Berube is a senior at the Univ. of the Cumberlands, one of the top women's college teams in North America. She is a public health major.
Her career with the Patriots has been spectacular, going all the way back to her freshman year. She is considered one of the greatest women's college wrestlers in history. Berube was second at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, a 2005 U.S. Nationals champion, a Pan American champion and a two-time World University medalist. Time has zipped by for Berube, both in her wrestling career and her college experience.
"I can't believe it is almost over," said Berube, who was a high school star from Escanaba, Mich. "It went by so fast. It has been a great experience. I am glad I chose the path I have taken.
Her coach Kip Flanik can't say enough good things about Berube, who has meant so much to his program since her arrival.
"She is one of the best women wrestlers in our nation," said Flanik. "She has made every goal she has set. She is a straight A student. She proves you can be a great student and a world-class athlete. She is everything that my program is about. Alaina is a great leader for the team. She does everything that everybody else does."
Berube faces some major challenges in her quest for another gold medal at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. In her weight class is Sara McMann of the Sunkist Kids, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist who defeated Berube in the Olympic Trials finals. There are a pair of tough Russian competitors in the draw, past World champion Alena Kartashova and Junior World champion Anna Polovneva. International stars Stefanie Stueber of Germany and Megan Dolan of Canada are also here, along with some other tough American competitiors.
"I look forward to it," said Berube. "It is good competition. It's different athletes. We don't see these people all the time. This is a good way to get prepared for the U.S. Nationals and our big college events, and for making the University World and U.S. World Teams."
Berube believes she has continued to improve, but still has high goals such as making her first U.S. World or Olympic Team. She credits the Cumberland program, which wrestles a year-round schedule of major events, for helping her develop as an international wrestler.
"The mat experience I have gotten has helped me tremendously," said Berube. We are gone almost every weekend, getting matches. Getting that mat time is valuable for me. It is a big bonus."
Berube has not made any plans for life after college yet, putting off any decisions until after she graduates this spring. However, she plans to "concentrate on wrestling" and make another attempt at the Olympic Team.
Flanik expects that Berube will remain involved with his college team moving forward, with an opportunity as a graduate assistant coach an option. He has great confidence that Berube is capable of representing the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. But is the total package that Berube has developed as a person that Flanik will miss the most from this special college athlete.
"She is the ideal wrestler. You couldn't have a better kid, a better daughter, a better athlete, a better wrestler. I trust her in every situation. You can not replace an Alaina Berube," said Flanik.