Wresters Betterman, Mango are friends, rivals

By: Brent W. New sports@gazette.com
January 30, 2014 Updated: January 30, 2014 at 9:59 pm
Caption +
Joe Betterman vs. Spenser Mango in the 59 kg Greco-Roman finals at the Dave Schultz Memorial. Photo by Robbert Wijtman.

With the help of each other, Joe Betterman and the smaller and younger Spenser Mango have had outstanding Olympic wrestling careers.

They pushed each other at practice at Northern Michigan and Army, and then stayed close through their respective rises in USA Wrestling for the past decade.

Thursday, however, they were lined up against each other in the Greco-Roman 59 kg-championship match (130 pounds) in the Dave Schultz Memorial at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

"We stopped being so friendly once we hit the mat," Mango said.

By the end, Betterman, 29, overcame an early deficit to win a 4-2 decision over Mango, 27, who he helped recruit to Northern Michigan and Army.

In the process, Betterman won his fourth Dave Schultz title and was named Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament after he overcame a 2-0 deficit with a quick takedown and two-point turn to take a 4-2 lead by late in the first period.

He was one of five Americans to win a title in the eight weight classes at Day 1 of the three-day tournament.

"It always good for us to see we have two Americans in the finals here," Betterman said. "Spenser and I always made each other better, and today was no different."

Betterman, who knew he wasn't going to fool Mango with any tricks, focused on keeping his balance and held off Mango in the final two rounds to preserve the 4-2 decision.

"We know everything about each other - I mean we were in each other's weddings. So it was just me doing what I do best against his best. We knew what was coming. I just got this one," Betterman said.

It was a little strange, they admitted. See, usually the two are able to root for each other in different weight classes.

Thursday, however, Betterman and Mango are in the same weight class after FILA, the sport's international governing body, changed the lowest Greco weight class to 59 kilos.

Betterman, who competed previously at 60 kilo, had to drop three pounds, while Mango (55 kg) had to gain nine pounds.

"Everyone is stronger and taller up here," said Mango, who placed fifth in the World at 55 kg. "I wasn't thrilled that my weight class went away, but hey, now I get to eat a little more and don't have to starve myself."

As far as his friendship with Betterman goes?

"We are still friends," Mango laughed.

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