By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
Josh Mangle wrestled under some of the greatest coaches in Shikellamy wrestling history during his time in Sunbury.
Now a coach at Ursinus, Mangle may be a Phil Lockcuff-type coach or have an impact like Rob Johnson had, on one of the wrestlers under his watch. Mangle helped to coach the Division III Cultural Exchange wrestling team this summer in competitions throughout Europe.
The Ursinus coaching staff was chosen to coach the team which consists of wrestlers from eight Division III schools across the nation. The coaching staff for the competition rotates between schools each year and this year was Ursinus' chance.
The trip, which combines wrestling and training with time to discover culture along the way, consisted of stops in Paris, Istanbul, Turkey and four cities in Bulgaria including the capital of Sofia.
"It was a wonderful experience," Mangle said. "We got to know kids who we may only see once or twice at nationals and they got to know us."
After meeting with George Kalchev, the director of the Kalchev International Tournament in Sofia, Mangle and his crew had the chance to train in top Bulgarian wrestling facilities, including the Bulgarian Olympic training facility in Sofia and a mountain training facility.
While training with Bulgarian wrestlers, Mangle and his wrestlers had the opportunity to see how wrestling is perceived in the eastern European country.
"We were treated like rock stars," Mangle said. "Wrestling is their national sport and we were treated like heroes. We were wrestlers and everyone treated them with respect. It didn't matter (that) we were U.S. wrestlers."
Perhaps the enhanced personal treatment towards the wrestlers had an effect on their performance in the competition.
The team finished 2-2 in international competition and finished the tournament with a bang. On the final day of competition, the United States squad took home four individual championships and two runner-ups to win the annual tournament, which featured wrestlers from Bulgaria, Turkey, France, Ukraine and Norway, in addition to the United States.
Mangle remarked that it was the first time in his memory that a United States squad had two dual meet wins and first time that a Division III team won the Kalchev tournament.
The tournament victory is likely an achievement that everyone involved will remember for the rest of their lives but the team also had an impact outside of the competition.
During training, the United States wrestlers and Bulgarian wrestlers exchanged wrestling techniques and the Bulgarian wrestlers were able to get a taste of United States wrestling.
"It was good to see our guys embrace the international style of competition," Mangle said. "It was great (the Bulgarian wrestlers) were interested in learning our style as well."
While training with international wrestlers, Mangle said that he noticed that European wrestling is based on technique while United States wrestling focuses on conditioning.
Mangle said that the focus on technique allows European wrestlers to wait for a small mistake and pounce on an opening.
Off of the mat, Mangle and his wrestlers were able to gain an appreciation for the culture and lifestyle of citizens in other countries during the trip.
"It kind of opened their eyes to what is considered a high standard of living in other countries," Mangle said.
Among the differences between the countries the team visited and the United States, Mangle noted the history that is evident is European countries.
"When you experience (the world being) from Sunbury and the history aspect, standing in a building from 500 B.C., the history that is preserved there, it hits on you that the stuff is real," Mangle said. "If you take the time to explore the world, it's an awesome sight."
Reflecting on his time at Shikellamy, Mangle said that he learned how to be champion on and off the mat and has worked that into his coaching.
"It's more about how to prepare kids to be a champion in life and not just on the mat," Mangle said.
It is clear that a wrestling excursion through Europe has been an unforgettable experience for Mangle.
"I would recommend the trip to any Division III wrestler who was the chance to go," he said.