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|DAY 6 NOTES: Greco-Roman stars Lester, Mango back in Fargo|
By Craig Sesker and Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
FARGO, N.D. - They are the two of the brightest young Greco-Roman stars in the United States Olympic Education Center program.
Two-time World Team member Harry Lester and reigning World University Games champion Spenser Mango, both resident-athletes at the USOEC at Northern Michigan University, have been on the FargoDome floor this week coaching athletes in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.
Mango's brother, 14-year-old Ryan Mango, already won a Cadet National championship for Missouri in Greco-Roman at 84 pounds. Ryan was undefeated in Cadet freestyle after the first day on Wednesday. Spenser, who placed second in the 2004 Junior Nationals and third in the same event in 2003, is helping coach his brother.
"I'm very proud of my brother, very proud of him," Spenser Mango said, flashing a smile. "I didn't start wrestling until my freshman year of high school and he started the year after that, so he's been at it for a little while. Our styles are pretty similar. He's a little bit taller and lankier than I was at that age. We definitely wrestle alike."
Both Lester and Spenser Mango have major meets coming up. Lester will compete at 66 kg/145.5 pounds at the World Championships this fall in Guangzhou, China, while Mango will wrestle at 55 kg/121 pounds at the Junior World Championships next month in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Lester won a pair of Greco-Roman titles during his days in Fargo. He won Junior Nationals in 2000 after winning Cadet Nationals the year before.
"I love Fargo - it was always one of my favorite tournaments in high school," Lester said. "It's really fun to be here and it's a great atmosphere to wrestle in with all the people."
It's been a busy summer for Lester. He not only is preparing for the World Championships, the Akron, Ohio, native also found time to marry his high-school sweetheart Ashley earlier this month. He is helping coach the team from Ohio in Fargo.
Lester hopes his experience from the 2005 World meet in Budapest, Hungary, will pay off for him this year.
"I'm a lot better prepared this year," Lester said. "My shape, my technique, everything is better this year. I've trained really hard throughout the summer. I will definitely be ready to go."
Mango is hoping to cap a strong season, that also included a runner-up finish at the U.S. Nationals on the Senior level, with a second World title.
"I've had a pretty good season," Mango said. "Winning Universities was good, but I also want to do well at Junior Worlds and come away with another gold medal. Winning Universities definitely pumps you up. I feel like that I can go with anybody at Junior Worlds now."
Mango said the USOEC program has been a good fit for him.
"We have great coaching and great practice partners, and all the guys are young and very hungry," Mango said. "We're all ready to take over the No. 1 spot at our weight classes. Having guys like Harry Lester, who has made two World Teams, he's always helping us out and giving us tips on strategy and showing us moves. He's a great guy. We want to follow up on what he's been doing. If he can do it, why not us?"
Lester said he's talked to some of the young wrestlers in Fargo about considering the USOEC program.
"If they do want to go Greco, there is a program and a place they can do that if they want," Lester said. "Our program is really rolling right now. We have a lot of momentum and we want to keep it going. Seeing Spenser winning University Worlds was very big for us. We're very, very excited to see him do that."
Mat and pairing officials march in Parade of States
Each year at the Junior and Cadet Nationals, there is a Parade of States, where each team entered in the tournament marches in to the applause of the fans in attendance. The athletes, coaches and team leaders for all of the states participate in this ceremony.
For many families, this is a meaningful part of the championships. Competing in the world's largest wrestling tournament is an honor for those involved. The Parade of States is a showcase of the magnitude of this event.
This year, for the first time in decades, the mat officials and pairing officials marched in the parade. There are over 200 volunteers who are working the event as referees or pairing officials, coming from all across the nation. They are all taking time away from their jobs and their lives to give back to the sport. Without them, it would not be possible to provide this competition to over 4,000 athletes and their coaches.
The mat officials were all in the blue polo shirts that they wear on the mat. The pairing officials were in their mango polo shirts provided by the tournament hosts. The officials were placed on the raised center mat, in the highest location of honor.
"We want to show appreciation for people who put in numerous hours to make our sport better," said Pete Isais, Director of National Events. "What makes USA Wrestling successful are the state leaders, the athletes, the coaches and the officials. Unfortunately, the mat and pairing officials don't always receive the same accolades as the others. We believe that they should be recognized."
Sue Siar of Pennsylvania, a longtime leader among pairing officials and a past USA Wrestling Official of the Year, remembers that the officials were part of the parade more than 20 years ago when the event was held in Iowa City, Iowa.
"We usually don't do this in the United States," said Bill Stecklein, treasurer of the U.S. Wrestling Officials Association, the organization for mat and pairing officials. "They often do this as major World Championship events. It is nice to do it here, and to be recognized as part of the wrestling family. I know I feel good when I march in at a World Championships or Olympic Games. This was a nice change."
Troy Steiner or Terry Steiner? Who can tell?
It is hard enough to tell the difference between identical twin brothers, especially when they are not together. In some cases, only those who know the brothers and see them regularly can identify them easily.
Consider Terry and Troy Steiner, the North Dakota natives who were stars at the University of Iowa and who have gone on to successful coaching careers. Terry is USA Wrestling's National Women's Coach and Troy is the new assistant coach at Oregon State University.
Terry was in Fargo during the Junior Women's National Championships, and left after the tournament to prepare for the U.S. Women's World Team training camps coming up in August. Troy arrived in Fargo later, one of the many Division I coaches who come to Fargo each summer to assess the talent in the competition for future recruiting efforts.
People often read the photo pass of those that they don't know in order to remember their names. However, this would not have helped with the Steiners today. Troy was wearing Terry's photo pass around his neck, which should truly confuse those who do not know them well.
"It was easier than getting my photo taken again," joked Troy.
Junior freestyle numbers in excess of 1,000
Another strong field was on hand when the ASICS/Vaughan Junior Nationals for freestyle kicked off on Thursday morning at the FargoDome.
There are 1,073 wrestlers taking part in the Junior freestyle competition.
Coming Up: Cadet National freestyle champions will be crowned
The mat on the elevated platform will take center stage again on Friday night when the Accelerade Cadet Nationals are held from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The day starts at 9 a.m. with Session III of Junior freestyle and Session IV of Cadet freestyle. Session IV of Junior freestyle will run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.