Olympian Spenser Mango
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The expectations were sky-high for Spenser Mango when he started competing full-time at the Senior level.
After all, he won a World University Greco-Roman title in 2006 and followed by winning a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships.
Mango followed by making the U.S. Olympic Team in 2008 and the U.S. World Team in 2009.
But he flew home disappointed after placing eighth in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and ninth in the 2009 World Championships in Herning, Denmark.
The 23-year-old Mango is back on the mat this week, looking to repeat as champion at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. Mango is scheduled to compete at 55 kg/121 lbs. on Thursday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
"I want to make it back to the Worlds," Mango said, "and come back with some hardware this time."
Mango went 2-2 at the Kit Carson Cup last weekend at the Olympic Training Center. He lost to Ildar Hafizov of Uzbekistan and Kohei Hasegawa of Japan, wrestlers who are scheduled to compete in the Schultz event on Thursday.
Mango did beat two-time Junior World champion Aleksandar Kostadinov of Bulgaria in the Kit Carson event. He also is scheduled to compete at the Schultz.
"It was a good chance to get a feel for how each opponent wrestles," he said. "It was good experience for me going into this tournament. I think it's going to be a different story this week."
Mango, who trains at the U.S. Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Mich., went 1-1 at the Olympics before finishing 2-2 at the 2009 Worlds.
The St. Louis native lost to four-time World champion Hamid Soryan of Iran in his second match at last year's Worlds.
"You can't give these guys too much respect," Mango said. "I know I can wrestle with all of those guys. I just have to go out there and wrestle my style and score points. I can't sit back and wait for something to fall into my lap. I definitely know I can go with any of those guys. I just have to go out there and have confidence I can do it."
He plans to compete in an event in Hungary before April's U.S. Open in Cleveland.
"I think the key for me this year is just keeping my weight under control and opening up when I'm out on the mat," Mango said. "I'm getting into a bad habit of sitting around and waiting, and wrestling the European style rather than wrestling like an American. I need to push the pace and look to score more points."
Mango was asked how much winning the Schultz event can serve as a springboard for this season.
"It would be huge to win this," he said. "I won it last year, but this year it's a little deeper field at 55. A win here would definitely be big for me."