At 14 years old, Spenser Mango was no one’s idea of an elite athlete. He weighed 88 pounds and entered Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis struggling to compete against guys twice his size on the football team. But the school’s wrestling coach saw something others didn’t and convinced Mango to try out for wrestling.Turns out, wrestling was Mango’s calling. He made the varsity team as a freshman, went on to win two Missouri state championships and later competed in two Olympics. Now 29, Mango is America’s top-ranked Greco-Roman wrestler in the 130-pound weight class.
STACK had a chance to lock up with Mango to learn more about his goals for the future and the training he’s doing to accomplish them.
STACK: You’ve turned your size into your biggest advantage. What’s your advice for athletes who feel too small to compete?
Spenser Mango: Stay at it. I didn’t break 100 pounds until my junior year of high school, and I didn’t know very many moves, but I wrestled as many matches as I could. Every practice, I tried to learn from the more experienced guys, and every day I found myself getting a little better. Eventually I was able to compete with those guys and surpass them.
How has your nutrition changed since high school?
No more starving myself to make weight. Now, to get ready for a match, I work out while eating fruits, vegetables and lean meats like chicken breasts. It’s a night-and-day difference. When you starve yourself, you don’t want to train, but when you eat regularly, you have the energy to get a good workout in.
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What’s your lifting routine?
Right now I’m doing high-intensity interval training, which helps improve both your strength and cardio. You do your lifts as fast as you can, then you have a break period and get right back at it. It’s perfect for wrestling because it simulates a match.
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You’ve been a force in U.S. Wrestling for nearly 10 years. What’s your secret to staying on top for so long?
Surround yourself with good people. Try to get the best coaching and training partners that you can. If you work hard in that situation every day, things will eventually take care of themselves.
HIIT the Weights
To perform Mango’s high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, complete the following six exercises as quickly as possible without letting go of the bar. Use a light weight.
- Front Squat
- Bent-Over Row
Sets/Reps: 6×6 with a 1-minute break between sets