- Posted April 24, 2012 by
Iowa City, Iowa
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Salute to troops
Three Soldiers make U.S. Olympic wrestling team
By Tim Hipps
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Three Greco-Roman wrestlers in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program earned Olympic berths at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials for Wrestling, April 21-22.
Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers, Sgt. Spenser Mango and Spc. Justin Lester won their weight classes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to earn spots on Team USA for the 2012 Olympic Games, scheduled to run from July 27 to Aug. 12, in London. All three Soldiers are stationed at Fort Carson, Colo.
Two-time Olympian Byers won the 120-kilogram/264.5-pound division in two straight matches of a best-of-three final series against Michigan Wrestling Club's Steve Andrus of Manhattan, Kan., by scores of 1-0, 1-0 and 2-0, 2-0.
"Just know that I did everything that I can do to get this done, that's the plan," Byers, 37, of Kings Mountain, N.C., said of heading to London with the goal of winning an Olympic gold medal. "That's the way I'm going into it. I'm just on a mission, and I'm not letting any distractions, including my own, get in the way. I just have to get this done."
"Nothing is more important than this medal right now. Nothing. I can put a dent in a tank right now the way I feel. I'm just going to keep this training going and stick with it."
Mango took the 55-kilogram/121-pound division by pinning New York Athletic Club's Max Nowry of Wheeling, Ill., at 1 minute, 53 seconds of their first match, and prevailing 1-0, 3-0 in the second.
"Everything went my way today," Mango said. "Everybody's tough. We wrestle each other all the time. Fifty-five is such a tight-knit group. We've wrestled each other multiple times and we know what each other's go-to moves are, so it's tough."
Mango, too, will be making his second Olympic appearance.
"The first time, I'll admit, I was surprised myself," he said. "I knew I could do it, but I hadn't did it yet. This time, it's all business -- need to bring home some medals.
"I've wrestled almost all the top guys in the world in my weight class. I know what I need to do -- just really get out there and get after it. You can't make any mistakes on the world level; the guys are too good. I just need to keep sharpening what I do and constantly work on defense."
Mango joined the Army since his first Olympic experience and expects the move to reap dividends in London.
"The Army has the best program in the United States," he said. "In the training room, I have Marco Lara, Nate Engel, Jermaine Hodge, Jeremiah Davis -- all those guys right around my weight that are great wrestlers doing great things by helping each other, sharpening each other. I'm just really grateful for the opportunity that the Army has given me."
Mango, 25, of St. Louis, Mo., has matured immensely since competing in the 2008 Beijing Games.
"I do feel more like a veteran," he said. "Lester and Byers are a little in front of me experience-wise, they've been doing it a little bit longer, but I'm definitely not the new kid on the block anymore."
Lester defeated Minnesota Storm's C.P. Schlatter of Minneapolis in two straight matches to claim the Olympic berth at 66 kilograms/145.5 pounds. After winning the first match, 1-0, 2-0, Lester scrambled to a 2-0, 1-2, 1-0 victory to avoid a third match.
"That sounds a lot better than just world team member Justin Lester," he said of being announced as a U.S. Olympic team member. "I'm definitely glad to tack that onto some of my accomplishments, but this is only the first part. We've got a lot to do before we get to London."
Lester, 28, of Akron, Ohio, wrestled throughout the day and night with a businesslike approach, willing his way through the pain of undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Jan. 17.
"It was a good day," he said. "I had some tough opponents, but I really couldn't get going the way I wanted to go, that's partly because of my competitors being so tough, and my knee also hampering me a little bit. But I got the job done. That's all that matters.
"The only thing I kept hearing in my mind was my mom saying, 'You better win. Get it done. You better win.' That's the only thing I could think of the whole time."
The Army almost put a fourth Soldier on Team USA, but Sunkist Kids' Ben Provisor of Colorado Springs, Colo., defeated WCAP Sgt. Aaron Sieracki of Fort Carson two matches to one for the Olympic berth at 74 kilograms/163 pounds. Sieracki will serve as an Olympic alternate.
WCAP Sgt. Iris Smith earned a No. 3 spot on the U.S. National Team for 2012-2013 with a 1-0, 0-4, 1-0 victory over Gator Wrestling Club's Kristie Davis of Yukon, Okla., in the women's true third-place match at 72 kilograms/158.5 pounds.