By Gary SheftickApril 10, 2016
IOWA CITY, Iowa (Army News Service, April 10, 2016) -- On the same day that his two-time Olympian brother Sgt. Spenser Mango left his wrestling shoes on the mat and retired from competition, Sgt. Ryan Mango qualified for the U.S. National Team.
It took a decisive win in his first round and another in his last against the same New York Athletic Club grappler, Nikko Triggas, for Ryan to take third place in the 59-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling competition of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, April 9, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
It wasn't quite enough to get him to Rio de Janeiro, but the top three finishers in each weight class qualified for the U.S. National Team, where they will help train U.S. Olympians and compete in other international matches.
Ryan's older brother Spenser has represented the USA in world championships every year since 2008 when he first went to the Olympics. Spenser has dominated the lower weight classes of Greco Roman wrestling in the USA for almost a decade, winning seven U.S. Open championships.
If Spenser would have continued in the tournament this weekend, the two Army brothers would have likely faced each other, and that has never happened in competition.
"We actually slipped by -- we never wrestled each other," Ryan said. "We saved my mother some grief. She's up in the stands and she (was) nervous we might wrestle."
Instead older brother Spenser lost to New York Athletic Club's Jesse Thielke in the second round of competition. Thielke went on to win the weight class and earn the right to represent Team USA in the Olympics.
"I knew this was going to be my last year," Spenser said. "I didn't think this was going to be my last day... so this one hurts."
"I guess it's inevitable for any athlete," he said. "You can't do it forever."
Younger brother Ryan, 25, said "It's tough, you know. It's maybe the second time I've ever seen him lose in his weight class since 2007 in the U.S."
It was the first Olympic trials for Ryan, five years Spenser's junior. In 2012, Ryan was wrestling for Stanford University as a two-time NCAA All-American. He enlisted in the Army last year and became an 88M motor transport operator before joining the service's World Class Athlete Program.
Going into his first match of the Olympic qualifier, Ryan said he was on his guard because Triggas had bested him in the U.S. Open during December in Las Vegas.
"He's got some funky stuff," Ryan said of Triggas, whom he ended up beating 8-0 after a gut-wrench and throw.
Then he lost an 8-4 decision to Army teammate Spc. Ildar Hafizov, who went on to the finals.
Ryan had to face Triggas again in the semi-final match for third place. After a series of challenges following a takedown, Ryan again won decisively, 16-7.
Also qualifying April 9 for the U.S. National Team was Hafizov, who placed second in the same weight class; and Sgt. Caylor Williams, who took second place in the 98-kilogram class of Greco-Roman wrestling, and Sgt. Randi Miller who took third in the 69-kilogram women's freestyle division. Sgt. Whitney Conder qualified for the U.S. National Team, April 10, by taking second place in the 53-kilogram women's freestyle division. Williams, Hafizov and Conder will be alternates on Team USA for the Olympics.
(Editor's note: Tim Hipps of U.S. Army Installation Management Command Public Affairs contributed to this article.)