In order to fully understand the gravity of importance of the Stanford Wrestling Program in my life, as well as the lives of its alumni, current and future student-athletes, it is helpful to juxtapose the program and the message delivered by current Stanford University President, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, concerning the new vision for the future of Stanford University. In his message, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne outlined the foundation of Stanford, stating that the University must always stay true to its values, including integrity, diversity, respect, freedom of inquiry and expression, tenacity and optimism. He continued, stating that the universities values support a mission to extend the frontier of knowledge and solve real-world problems, to prepare students to think broadly and critically and to contribute to the world.
As a young, high school wrestler from St. Louis, I was the epitome of a “real world problem.” Being raised in the turbulent environment that plagues many of St. Louis’s African American youth, I was overly optimistic in my hopes to attend a university with a Division I wrestling program. My imprudent optimism was quelled as a consequence of my unique circumstances. I was raised in a single-family household for the reason that my father was murdered while going to work when I was one year old, leaving my mother with three children to support financially. If I were to find a way to afford to attend a University, I would constitute the first generation of my family to pursue a degree. In addition to these inopportune circumstances, I was an African American male which amplified the obstacles I would need to overcome.
The Stanford Wrestling Program, in a sense, changed my life not by altering, but by providing and building a path for which my life could be directed. In doing my part and earning acceptance into the school on an academic front, the Stanford Wrestling Program took me under its wing. My coaches and teammates built and reinforced positive traits associated with the University as well as with leaders – integrity, hard work, diversity, respect, tenacity - and helped me grow into an educated man, equipped to contribute and make a difference in the world. I not only graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Human Biology, but also contributed to many student lead organizations, programs, and community service events lead by the Black Community Services Center and Black Volunteer Student Organizations (BVSO) as well as my active membership in Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Athletically, I was a two-time conference champion and obtained All-American status twice on the Division I level.
As a result of the Stanford Wrestling program’s emphasis on the same values, missions, and foundations embodied by the University and President, the wrestling program, in conjunction with the University, has provided me with the skills, mindset, and resources to continue to pursue athletic excellence as well as to pursue my passion: building bridges for those students and student-athletes who come from situations similar to my own. I am now rightfully optimistic in my ability to change the world. On the athletic front, I have made five USA Wrestling National Teams, represented the United States in two World Cup appearances, placed 9th in the 2019 World Wrestling Championships, and am a 2021 Olympic Hopeful. Additionally, I am currently involved in the creation of the Black Wrestling Association in support of African American wrestlers of all ages around the nation. Academically, particularly in a philanthropic capacity, I will be attending graduate school in 2022, pursuing an MBA in Healthcare Administration with hopes of easing the health-related burdens of families from underserved communities.
To conclude, neither my academic and athletic accomplishments nor my future endeavors would be possible without the Stanford Wrestling Program.
The Mission: To extend the frontier of knowledge, solve real world problems, and prepare students to think broadly and critically and to contribute to the world.
The Fulfillment: Stanford Wrestling provided me with an opportunity and has instilled values within me such that I am changing the world, academically, by critically examining and contributing to continued efforts to expand diversity on multiple fronts, while performing at the highest level of athletics.
The Method: Stanford Wrestling has enhanced the University’s ability to fulfill its mission, for me, by providing opportunity and inherently doing their part to solve a real world problem. Stanford Wrestling changed my world, and in doing so, afforded me the opportunity to change the world of others.
I am forever indebted to all involved in the Stanford Wrestling program and look forward to its continued growth.
- Ryan Mango