Ryan Mango '09

After Whitfield, Ryan Mango ‘09 attended Stanford University where he earned a B.S. in Human Biology in 2013. A decorated wrestler, while at Stanford, he was a two-time NCAA Div. 1 All-American, two-time Pac12 Champion, and four-time NCAA Div. 1 Qualifier. Currently, he is a Sergeant in the United States Army World Class Athlete Program. Ryan’s wrestling accomplishments are vast: he was a U.S. World Team Member in 2019, finishing 7th as the World Wrestling Championships, five-time National Team Member, Military World Silver Medalist (2017), two-time U.S. Open National Champion (2018, 2019),  and Pan-American Games Champion (2018). He is also a Board Member of the Black Wrestling Association.

How did Whitfield prepare you for college and beyond? 

Whitfield prepared me for college, as well as life, by providing unmatched academic and athletic opportunities while simultaneously cultivating a foundation of values from which I could build. When I first arrived at Whitfield as an 80-pound 8th grader from a low socioeconomic family, I had never experienced such a vibrant environment. What I quickly learned and began to appreciate was that the same vibrance I naively associated with bright lights, great lunches, and clean desks was actually something entirely different. That is, the vibrance, in its purest form, was deeply rooted in the Whitfield community and the individuals within. Every person with whom I engaged during my time at Whitfield, from classmates to teachers to custodians, was special in the way that they all worked together to build a positive, communal synergy. This synergy, the core of the Whitfield community, helped equip me with the tools necessary to be successful as a first-generation college student at Stanford University. Without the relationships, foundational principles, hard skills, and soft skills I learned at Whitfield, my career and life would not be what it is today.  

What are you most thankful for from your Whitfield experience, both in and outside of the classroom?

The breadth of classes at Whitfield paired with the unique and successful teaching style allowed me to challenge myself in all areas of study. It also afforded me the opportunity to begin to unveil my passion for biology and the sciences at a young age, which made the transition to college much easier. I am thankful that Whitfield allowed me to get more out of school rather than looking at it as a mundane but necessary task. 

Outside of the classroom, I am thankful for many things Whitfield provided, but I am most thankful for the opportunity I was provided. I am thankful for Coaches Charlie Sherertz and Buddy Smith for connecting me with the school and taking a chance on me. I am thankful for all of the teachers I had for pushing me to not only do well but exceed the standard. I am thankful for the staff and the entire community for helping build the educational and social foundation necessary to be successful in any situation. 

What were some of your favorite classes at Whitfield? Why?

My two favorite classes at Whitfield were Biology and Ceramics. Biology at Whitfield opened my eyes and made me realize my love of science. It was the first time I was anxious and eager to attend a class. Whitfield supplemented this fondness by making the classes interesting, allowing us, as students, to work with cadavers and run gel electrophoresis, among other things. Rather than relying solely on the book and reading all day, we were actually performing the experiments pictured in the book, which helped me apply the information I learned and have fun doing it. My second favorite class at Whitfield was ceramics. Before Whitfield, I had never seen a potter’s wheel and generally had no knowledge of art and its processes. Whitfield provided yet another unique experience by offering this class to students. To this day I still love “throwing.”

Describe your career. 

My career thus far has been a bit unconventional. After wrestling for four years and graduating from Stanford University, I decided to forego graduate school for the time being and continue chasing my dream of becoming an Olympic and World Champion. This led me to employment at a few different Division I universities, finally settling at the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program, where my older brother, Spenser, was already a two-time Olympian and transitioning to a coaching role. For the last five years, I have been chasing my goals. After the Olympic Games, now in 2021, I will be exiting the Army and shifting focus back to education. I will pursue an MBA in 2022 and hope to focus on general management or consulting within the healthcare sector. Although it will be sad to leave wrestling behind, I can honestly say that I made the right decision in chasing my dream. Without the chase, whether successful or not, I would have resented myself for not trying. I have no regrets, a refreshed mind for academics, and the sagacity gained from serving our country and traveling the world for the last five years.