TORONTO (July 20, 2015) -- For the first time in four decades, Team USA has taken home the team title in Greco-Roman wrestling at the Pan American Games.
Capt. Jon Anderson and Sgt. Whitney Conder struck gold and Sgt. Spenser Mango won bronze helping Team USA clinch the title.
All three Soldiers are members of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP.
"We came here to win medals and we were able to do that, so I'm just excited for the entire team," said Shon Lewis, head coach of the Army WCAP team, who also served on the U.S. Pan American Games staff.
"As we head to Las Vegas for the World Championships," Lewis said, "this is an upbeat. We still have a lot of work to do, but I'm encouraged with how we performed."
Anderson defeated Venezuela's Querys Perez by a 9-0 technical fall in the men's 85-kilogram/187-pound Greco-Roman finals at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Mississauga Sports Centre's Hershey Centre, July 15.
"We're on the warpath," said Anderson, who is working toward the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games. "We're on a mission, and we're not going to stop, not until we get to the top."
Anderson, who finished second in the 2015 U.S. World Team Trials, used a relentless, hard-charging attack to defeat Perez.
"It was a lot of hard work, but it felt amazing to hear our national anthem being played after I won," said Anderson, 30, a Virginia Beach, Virginia, native, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. "I'm proud to take home this gold medal for our country. It means a lot."
Anderson and Conder each took a victory lap around the mat clutching a U.S. flag after their wins.
"That was cool," Anderson said. "Ever since I was a little kid starting to wrestle, I saw videos and pictures of guys doing that. I waited for my day, and today was the first of many."
Conder won her gold medal in the women's freestyle 53-kilogram/116-pound division with a 3-2 victory over Alma Valencia of Mexico, July 16.
Conder said keeping a good stance and good position were the keys to her championship performance.
"I knew she was definitely a tough opponent," Conder said, "so I just had to keep on her, know what I needed to do and just go after her.
"It's amazing to be able to show the country what I can do, and be able to show the Army what I can do, as well," said Conder, 27, of Puyallup, Washington. "This is definitely a good springboard to know that I can beat some of the top. I'm just setting myself up to win."
In her semifinal match, Conder pinned Yamilka Del Valle of Cuba while leading 6-2.
"She came out and wrestled tough against the Cuban and got a pin," Lewis said. "Going into the finals, she said she had never wrestled against her before, but they had scrapped in practice during international training. She came out here and pulled the trigger - wrestled a really smart match and was very technical.
"She did what she had to do. She's a professional."
Mango, a two-time Olympian, prevailed 6-3 in the men's 59-kilogram/130-pound bronze-medal match against Jansel Ramirez of the Dominican Republic.
"It's always nice leaving a tournament with a win in your last match," Mango said. "I really wanted to win a gold medal here. I got the Cuban out of the way in my first match, but I made some mistakes in my next match."
Mango defeated 2014 world fifth-place finisher Ismael Borrero of Cuba 3-3 on criteria in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Andres Montano of Ecuador in the semifinals, leaving him with the bronze medal.
"I was leading 1-0, and I went out for a front headlock and tried to force something I didn't need at all," said Mango of the semifinal bout. "I gave up four points. I had to go for broke after that. I tried and it didn't work out. I need to learn from that."