National Championship or bust for Mangrum
No. 3 Mike Mangrum, 141-pound senior, hopes to cement his OSU legacy with a national championship o
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 00:03
Last year, senior Mike Mangrum went into the NCAA Tournament ranked fourth in the nation with the goal of winning the 141-pound National Championship.
He finished fifth.
Most NCAA wrestlers would be content finishing top five in the entire nation. Mangrum wasn’t.
This year he enters the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 3 in the 141-pound weight class. In his last collegiate season, Mangrum has only one thing in mind.
“All I want is to win that national championship,” Mangrum said. “It would mean everything to me.”
It’s Mangrum’s fourth try at the NCAA tournament, something that’s almost unprecedented at Oregon State. It’s also his most realistic shot at winning the title since first qualifying in his freshman year.
“This is his fourth time going to the national tournament, the first [OSU wrestler] that’s done that since I’ve been here,” said head coach Jim Zalesky. “Last year he finally got that All-American status. When you get that All-American status you’re looking for that national championship, and that’s true for him.”
Mangrum’s growth as a wrestler during his OSU career has mirrored that of the program’s.
Oregon State was unranked when Mangrum first stepped onto campus in 2008, but has been incrementally better since.
After redshirting in his first season, OSU finished unranked in 2009, and again in 2010. The Beavers finished 21st in the nation in 2011, Mangrum’s sophomore year, 10th in 2012 and enter this year’s NCAA Tournament at No. 9.
It’s no coincidence that Mangrum’s arrival and OSU’s upward ascent happened simultaneously.
“He came here when the program wasn’t where it is now,” Zalesky said. “When he came here he was probably one of the top recruits in the country, and I sold him on Oregon State when it wasn’t where it is now. He’s meant a great deal to the program.”
If Mangrum could win a national title it would be the cherry on top of a historic OSU career. The senior from Auburn, Wash., currently ranks sixth all-time in career wins at Oregon State with 133.
One more victory would tie him with arguably OSU’s most prolific wrestler of all-time — two-time national champion Les Gutches.
“That’s going to be huge,” Mangrum said. “Coming to this school, you hear about the legendary wrestlers, and Les Gutches is right there up there.”
While the 141-pound senior will finish with more career victories than Gutches, it won’t mean much to Mangrum unless he can win the elusive national championship.
“It’s a huge honor,” Mangrum said. “But he’s a two-time national champion, so to really be able to stand up to what Les Gutches means to this school, I need to get a national title.”
While the national title is Mangrum’s ultimate goal, a Pac-12 individual championship is something he’s already accomplished — twice.
Last weekend Mangrum won his second consecutive 141-pound Pac-12 Championship, leading OSU to its second consecutive Pac-12 team championship in the process.
“Winning back-to-back was really nice,” Mangrum said. “It means I’m the first 141-pounder to ever have a Pac-12 title and to have back-to-back [individual] Pac-12 titles.”
Mangrum was the heavy favorite going into the tournament, but his performance was still pivotal in OSU’s team success.
The Pac-12 Tournament was also something of a tune-up for the NCAA Tournament. Mangrum didn’t face much competition, recording early-round pins in two of his three matches, but feels ready nonetheless.
Mangrum will use the next two weeks before the NCAA Tournament, on March 21, to fully prepare.
With three year’s experience, the senior finally feels he’s found the right mindset and approach to come out on top.
“Last year and the years before, I was tentative coming out to wrestle,” Mangrum said. “I think the difference this year is I’m going to go out there and just attack from the whistle until time runs out.”
Zalesky believes Mangrum is capable. There’s no question the 141-pounder is ready physically. Preparing mentally is the key this late in the season.
“I think it’s just mentally getting ready to wrestle,” Zalesky said. “Mentally getting ready for that tournament and thinking about what’s going on and what’s going to happen. The only thing you can control is that first opponent when you step onto the mat, and you need to be ready to go.”
No matter what happens in St. Louis, in two weeks, he will go down as one of the school’s all-time greats. But winning it all would put Mangrum in the argument as the best to ever wear the orange and black.