CENTENNIAL, Colo. (3/18/13) -- Four gold medals from Colorado Army National Guard wrestlers contributed to the Army team victory at the Armed Forces Wrestling Championships March 16-17 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
The Armed Forces Wrestling Championships featured freestyle and Greco-Roman teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.
It was a dual-meet style competition between the four military branches that established a team champion in each style and an overall armed forces team champion.
In addition, individual medals were awarded in each weight class and in each discipline.
The Army team won the overall championship, which combines the results from the Greco-Roman and the freestyle competitions. The Army went a perfect 6-0 in the dual meets, defeating Air Force 22-8, Navy 26-6 and Marines 25-6 in freestyle; and defeating Air Force 26-1, Navy 24-6 and Marines 14-13 in Greco-Roman.
Colorado National Guard Soldiers contributed to this dominating performance by winning four gold medals and one silver medal.
Sgt. Nathan Engel of Company A, 3rd Battalion 157th Field Artillery, ended the competition a perfect 6-0 and won gold medals at 55 kg. (121 lbs.) in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. Only two other competitors won gold in both disciplines.
Engel is also the only one to repeat as Armed Forces Champion.
“It is fun to compete against the other services because of the rivalry, but at the end of the day we are all still one team one fight,” said Engel
Sgt. Spencer Mango, 60 kg. (132 lbs.), and Pfc. Joseph Betterman, 66 kg. (145.5 lbs.), both of the 188th Forward Support Company, also won gold in their weight class in Greco-Roman and each finished a perfect 3-0. Both were competing up a weight class from their usual weight division.
“This tournament is special to me because all the armed forces can get together, compete and display our skills,” said Mango. “Today we got to prove that the Army has the premier wrestling program in the country.”
Pfc. Pete Gounaridis, Company B, 3rd Battalion 157th Field Artillery, won a silver medal in Greco-Roman 96 kg. (211.5 lbs.). Sgt. Oscar Wood, Company A, 147th Brigade Support Battalion, was a 2004 Olympian who is typically a coach for the team, had to fill in and wrestle Greco-Roman 84 kg. (185 lbs.). Wood won his first match but was injured and had to end the day early.
The Colorado National Guard wrestlers brought a lot of experience with them to the Armed Forces Wrestling Championships.
Mango is a two-time Olympian (2008 and 2012), Betterman is two-time Greco-Roman World Team member at 66 kg. (145.5 lbs.), and Engel placed 3rd at the 2011 U.S. Nationals and is a two-time Olympic trials qualifier.
“This event is outstanding, not only because of the great rivalry between the branches of the armed forces, but also because of the talent,” said Event Director Floyd Winter. “We have Olympians, World Team members and national champions in the field each year. It is one of the best Olympic-caliber events in the United States.”
All five of the Colorado National Guard Soldiers are currently members of the U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program, based out of Fort Carson, Colo., which provides outstanding Soldier-athletes the support and training to compete and succeed in national and international competitions leading to Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Army has now won team overall Armed Forces Wrestling Championships for the last 13 years and will look to continue its dominance next year.