STILLWATER, Okla. – Three wrestlers in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program earned spots on Team USA for the World Championships at the 2013 U.S. World Team Trials, June 21-22.
Sgt. Spenser Mango, Spc. Justin Lester and Spc. Caylor Williams will compete Sept. 16-22 at the 2013 FILA Wrestling World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
An unprecedented eight Soldiers reached the finals of the U.S. World Team Trials, including four in two weight classes, ensuring that at least two Army wrestlers would make Team USA.
Mango, a two-time Olympian who will make his fourth appearance at the World Championships, won two straight matches against WCAP teammate Sgt. Nate Engel in the best-of-three finals of the Greco-Roman 55-kilogram / 121-pound division.
Lester, a 2012 Olympian who earned his sixth trip to the World Championships, defeated WCAP teammate Pfc. Ellis Coleman in two consecutive matches in the 66-kilogram / 145.5-pound Greco-Roman division.
"I've just been feeling good," Lester said. "I'm having fun again, and that's what it's all about. When I'm having fun, I'm wrestling well. Still got awhile to go – got to get my offense clicking. Obviously my lungs are back. Just get my moves clicking, and I'm going to be ready to go by Budapest."
Lester welcomed Coleman's move into his weight class and onto the Army WCAP squad.
"He's somebody else I have to beat," Lester said.
"We're going to be battling until these shoes are off,” he added, “but until then, I expect him to push me and I'm going to push him to make him a better wrestler."
Williams, 22, a 2013 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, prevailed in two matches against New York Athletic Club's Marcus Finau in the Greco-Roman 96-kilogram / 211.5-pound class.
"The same way I came into this tournament – nobody knew who I was, I wasn't a favorite – that's the same way I feel about the world," Williams said. "The No. 1 guys from Russia, Cuba, Hungary – I'm ready to wrestle all of them. I've wanted to make the national team and the world team for a long time.
"This stuff is all cool," Williams said after receiving his Team USA uniform from USA Wrestling Director of National Teams Mitch Hull. "But I don't really care – I'm trying to win the Worlds."
Williams praised the Army for renewing his wrestling life after UNC-Greensboro dropped its wrestling program.
"I thank WCAP for picking us up and taking us to the next level," he said. "It's the No. 1 team in the country right now."
WCAP head wrestling coach Shon Lewis said he is glad to have Williams on his squad.
"He's so explosive," Lewis said. "He's one of our new guns, and we're happy to have him. He's working hard, and he's hungry. As long as he stays hungry, and he stays humble, I think he's going to do great things.”
After wrestling through a daylong challenge tournament, three other Soldiers reached the finals. They will serve as alternates for the World Championships.
Capt. Jon Anderson dropped two straight matches to 2011 U.S. World Team member Andy Bisek of the Minnesota Storm in the finals of the Greco-Roman 74-kilogram / 163-pound weight class.
Anderson, 28, a 2006 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, defeated Minnesota Storm's Jake Fisher to reach his first final in the U.S. World Team Trials. He saluted Family Members and Army fans for their support from the grandstands at Gallagher-Iba Arena on the campus of Oklahoma State University and others watching on the Internet.
"I'm pumped," Anderson said. "I've got my Family out there: my wife, my parents, brother in law, a bunch of guys came down – even my old commander that I went to Iraq with, he's here watching, and his wife. It's awesome that I've got all my Family watching online, too. All the hard work paid off."
Spc. Peter Hicks lost to reigning national champion Jordan Holm of the Minnesota Storm in the 84-kilogram / 185-pound Greco finals.
Reigning national champ at 51 kilograms, Pfc. Whitney Conder, wrestling up a weight class, lost to 2012 World silver medalist Helen Maroulis of New York Athletic Club in the women's freestyle finals at 55 kilograms / 121 pounds. Conder, 25, was a 2007 Junior World champion.
"She really showed her toughness by coming here to compete and going against women five or six kilos heavier than she is, and knocking them off," Lewis said. "Right now, she's ranked No. 2 at 55 and ranked No. 1 at 51."
Fresh off an Olympic cycle, the Army wrestling team already has reloaded.
"By far, this is the strongest and the deepest team that we've had," Lewis said. "We put three on the team, and we had a chance to put four or five on the team."