By Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public AffairsAugust 6, 2012
LONDON (Army News Service, Aug. 6, 2012) -- Sgt. Spenser Mango learned in London that much work must be done if he wants to medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Mango, a wrestler in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, finished ninth in the Olympic Greco-Roman 55-kilogram/121-pound division Aug. 5, at the ExCel Centre in London.
"I've got to work hard," said Mango, 26, a native of St. Louis, Mo., who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. "That's all I can do if I want to make it back in 2016. I'll just go back and work hard in the practice room and come back next time and give it another shot.
"I'm going to keep going. I can't retire. I love doing this."
Mango opened in London with a victory over Egypt's Mohammed Said Abouhalima before losing to silver medalist Rovshan Bayramov of Azerbaijan and bronze-medalist Mingiyan Semenov of Russia.
"I wrestled tough," Mango said. "That's all I can do is go out there and give my best. I did that today, and it wasn't my day. It's not so much better wrestlers -- anybody can be beat on any given day. That's what I always believe."
"Nobody comes in already with the gold medal around their neck."
Mango opened the one-day tourney with a 6-1, 1-0 victory over Egypt's Mohammed Said Abouhalima.
"I was able to put some points on the board and come out of there with a win," Mango said. "It was a good start to the day."
Mango lost his second match 4-0, 4-0 to Bayramov, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist and reigning world champion.
"He's a great wrestler and today was his day," Mango said. "He's tough. The thing is, I knew the moves he was planning on doing before he did them, and I still wasn't able to stop them today.
"I knew on top he went for a side lift to the left, and I was kind of setting up to stop it, and he was still able to get me up and throw me for one [point]. And on his feet, I knew that he would drop down under and attack the body, and he was able to get that on me, too."
After waiting to see if Bayramov made the final, which opened the door for Mango to wrestle again in repechage -- giving him another shot at the bronze medal -- the Soldier knew it would be even more difficult to land on the podium.
"I was pretty confident that [Bayramov] would bring me back through," Mango said. "I went to the back and kind of just took a nap for a little bit and iced up and prepared myself for tonight because I was pretty confident that he would be in the finals."
In the first round of the repechage, Semenov defeated Mango, 2-0, 1-0, and went on to secure the bronze medal.
"He's a very tough competitor," Mango said. "He got on top and I defended good for 20-something seconds. Then he switched to a higher lock and just got my ribs a little bit and I went over for a turn. It was a good match."
Mango worked hard to wrestle back the tears welling in his wide eyes as he explained the feeling of being eliminated from the most prestigious tournament in the world.
"It's rough. I'm not going to lie," Mango said as his voice cracked with emotion. "You work so hard for this, and then, it's over."
Mango, who finished eighth in his weight class at the 2008 Beijing Games, realizes now that there is no substitute for Olympic experience.
"It was not so much an eye-opener for me this time," he said. "I knew what to expect. I've seen almost all my competitors that were in the bracket. I've seen them wrestle before or I've wrestled them. I pretty much know everybody. Just more matches against these guys I think will definitely play a big part."
Mango also knows better than to take anything for granted.
"Now, the board's clean," he said. "It's starting over again. Just because I'm here this year and was here in '08 doesn't mean 2016 I'll be there. Got to start back working hard in the room and take it one practice at a time and work on getting a little bit better every day."
This time around, Mango represented not only Team USA, he also wrestled as a Soldier in the U.S. Army, a decision he fully supports.
"It's been a lot different for me," Mango said. "The Army World Class Athlete Program is a great program. Coach [Shon] Lewis has been there every day with me. We cut weight together, go to workouts together -- he comes into my room to make sure I'm eating right."
"The support and the love that he and the rest of the Army staff gives, it's unbelievable. That [wrestling] room is the best room in the country. We've got all our guys sharpening each other in that room and we're going to get things done."
Speaking of getting things done, Mango now has time to take his wife Leann on a honeymoon. They recently sandwiched their one-year wedding anniversary celebration between a WCAP Olympic Media Day and a U.S. Army Soldier Show performance on Fort Carson.
"Barcelona, with the wife," Mango said as he wiped tears away from his eyes. "Finally get to go on a honeymoon."