MARQUETTE— Twelve United States Olympic Education Center Greco-Roman wrestlers earned All-America honors during the U.S. Nationals April 23-26 in Las Vegas. To become an All-American, a wrestler must finish in the top seven of his weight class at Senior National Championships
Northern Michigan University junior Spenser Mango (St. Louis, Mo.) and USOEC assistant coach Jim Gruenwald (Marquette, Mich.) took home national titles in the 55 and 60 kilogram categories, respectively.This is Mango’s first national title at 55 kg. He was named Outstanding Wrestler for the tournament.
“I’m so happy for Spenser. Last year he came in fifth and now he’s a national champion,” said head coach Ivan Ivanov.
Jim Gruenwald, who recently came out of retirement, won his title by defeating Joe Betterman (Chicago, Ill.), who trains at the USOEC but is not part of the resident program. Betterman’s second placed qualified him for the Olympic Trials for a second time.
“I didn’t want to look back at the time 10 months later and say I wish I would have. Even though I am 38, I’m not by any stretch of the imagination an old man, but I am old for the sport right now,” said Gruenwald.
Other USOEC wrestlers earning All-Americans acclaim were NMU senior Jacob Curby (LaGrange, Ill.) with fourth at 66 kg, and at 74 kg sophomore Talon Knox (Salt Lake City, Utah), with seventh; junior Andrew Bisek (Chaska, Minn.), second place; and seniors Jake Fisher (Platte City, Mo.) and Cheney Haight (Orem, Utah), finishing third and fourth, respectively.
NMU junior Chas Betts (St. Michael, Minn.) and Jason Plamann (Kaukauna, Wis.), who trains at the USOEC as a facility-use athlete, placed third and sixth at 84 kg. Also making the cut were sophomore Peter Gounaridis (Leominster, Mass.) at 96 kg and freshman Peter Kowalczuk (Oak Park, Ill.) at 120 kg.
Ivanov was pleased with the volume of medals his team has earned. “Compared to last year, there are more All-Americans on the team. Not only are they qualifying, but they’re taking the top spots and earning gold, silver and bronze medals,” he said. “Becoming an All-American lets everyone know that you are one of the stronger candidates for the trials.”