The US Army World Class Athletes Program will not be sending any wrestlers to the 2020 US Nationals this week in Iowa. So, let’s get that out of the way.
But that fact alone is why getting Army assistant Spenser Mango (and for that matter, Marine head coach Jason Loukides) on the record right now is especially pressing. For the first time in what could only be described as many decades, a US National tournament will take place without the Army’s participation. Coach Mango discusses the strange feeling that surrounds Army at the moment and what they are doing in the meantime to remain motivated.
After that, it is a stream of hypotheticals, ranging from potential dates for returning to full practices, to what the plan might look like if a November World Team Trials event appears on the schedule. As always, Mango is as forthright as he could possibly be, inviting the audience in to his line of thinking amidst questionable and confusing times. But because competition, recent or in the near-future, is not part of the discussion, this report is more abbreviated than usual.
5PM: First off, what is the current status related to Army/WCAP practices? Has anything changed since we last covered this topic over the summer with the military article?
Coach Spenser Mango: We still don’t have physical contact. We have been doing social distancing, weightlifting, cross-training, and just trying to make the best of what we have.
5PM: Is there any word as to when this could potentially change? I ask if only because I had heard that there might have been other sports within WCAP that were on the cusp of receiving permission to make competition/travel plans for themselves that were outside of the scope of restrictions.
SM: Well, yeah, the ball is rolling. Other sports have received permission to go TDY, which is “temporary duty”. Wrestling still hasn’t been authorized for physical contact but I think it’s getting close.
5PM: You have a couple wrestlers, and who immediately comes to mind is JD Souza, who haven’t gotten on the mat in a while. That they’re not able to participate in the Nationals, is it more bothersome to them than it is your crew of superstars who have competed much more recently by comparison?
SM: Yes, I think it is. The injuries kind of plagued us a little bit there. For the guys who are coming back from injuries, I’m sure they want to get on the mat, get as many matches as they can, and get out there to compete before we start rolling into the Olympic Trials. But unfortunately, they are not going to be able to go to the Iowa Nationals, so we’re just going to have to look for other opportunities to get them some matches.
5PM: October 5 is the big day since that is when it will be decided if there will be a World Championships for the Seniors. USA Wrestling hasn’t announced specifically what they plan to do, whether that is turn the Nationals into a Trials, or hold a Trials tournament in November. If there is a November Trials — and if via procedures you have guys already qualified to compete — is there a date threshold you need to resume activity that WCAP would have to meet in order to feel comfortable sending athletes?
SM: Yeah, you could just see what’s going on with the NFL and the amount of injuries they’ve had without a preseason. I really wouldn’t feel comfortable sending athletes without the proper amount of time to get their bodies back into that grind of being able to wrestle and compete, and even train. I think we would definitely need a good little bit of time to prepare our bodies and our minds for competition before we would even consider going to a World Team Trials.
5PM: If there is indeed an opportunity in November, has the Army coaching staff discussed what the minimum amount of time necessary, or even a hard date, that would have to be met?
SM: We were thinking that in a perfect world we would want six weeks. But I think we could make it happen in four, though I think that’s pushing it. Hopefully it won’t come down to having to make that tough decision. We were really hoping for a good six weeks of training.
5PM: This is the first time in so long, decades in fact, that there will not be an Army representative at a US Nationals. Is this the most bizarre thing you’ve ever encountered in your career?
Coach Spenser Mango: Yes, definitely. We’re having a National tournament. There are a lot of people who won’t be participating. With the circumstances, there isn’t any prize money, a lot of the guys haven’t even been training yet as far as having an adequate amount of time to prepare, and we won’t be there. I was looking at the registrations and saw that the entry numbers were pretty low. Oh, and it’s no scratch weight at the tournament. This is an interesting Nationals. It’s the first of its kind, and hopefully the last, as well.