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News | Feb. 25, 2017

2012 Olympian Ellis Coleman aims for Armed Forces golds, with eye on 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling

The wrestling community has watched Ellis Coleman grow up before their eyes. It is hard to believe that he is already into his third Olympic four-year cycle, continuing his quest to be the best Greco-Roman wrestler on earth.

It seems like it was just yesterday that Coleman won two Junior World medals, became an internet sensation with the unbelievable Flying Squirrel move and compete the 2012 London Olympic Games as a 21-year-old. Can it be possible that Ellis is now considered a “veteran” on the international scene? Already?

Coleman, representing the U.S. Army, will be one of the prominent stars on display this weekend at the Armed Forces Championships, which will be held at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, Even though it is just February 2017, Coleman is looking ahead to the opportunity to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“In 2012, I made the team. In 2016, the whole quad, I was battling injuries the whole entire time. I wrestled one year. In 2016 was the only year that I wrestled healthy. Now I am starting off the quad well, injury-free. I want to look forward from here on out, keep grinding to make that 2020 team,” he said.

Coleman made the London Olympic team at 60 kg, where he had to drop a bunch of weight, but has been going at 66 kg for the last few years, a weight where he feels very comfortable.

“I feel great. They are talking about new rules, where people wrestle and weigh in on the same day, and then weigh in again the next day. I love those rules. I am still growing into the 66 kg weight class. It has been a great weight class for me. Being able to stay healthy and solid at my weight class, I will do fine. I will do what I have to do to take care of business,” he said.

People may remember the Flying Squirrel or some of the big throws he has made for highlight videos, but there is much more to Coleman’s attack which makes him a threat to win any match at any time against any opponent. He is confident in his abilities, but feels the difference has more to do with his heart.

“Going into this Olympic cycle is my feet, grinding with my feet, keeping my feet moving and pushing the pace. I am an athletic wrestler and can do athletic moves. I do throws here and there. I have a bag of tricks in my back pocket. For me, my biggest thing is my grit and my grind. When I am fighting, when I am picking the intensity up, when I am pushing the pace and moving my feet at the same time and keeping them off balance, that is the best thing. That is what I am going to use this whole quad,” he said.

Throw in a video of a healthy Ellis Coleman when he is winning big matches, and you see a man who really wants to be out there on the mat.

“I have always had fun wrestling. I have been wrestling my entire life. Sometimes I feel I have been defined by wrestling, because I have been doing it for so long. It is always going to be fun, because this is where my passion is, this is where my heart is, this is what I know. I am going to continue to have fun wrestling until the day I die,” he said.

We will also get to see Coleman do something on Sunday that he really enjoys. He is expected to double up this year at the Armed Forces Championships, going Greco-Roman on Saturday, then switching to freestyle on Sunday. Talk about freestyle, and Coleman’s big smile comes to his face.

“It is always good to grab legs a little bit and wrestle freestyle and have fun. The first year I wrestled freestyle, it was pretty fun, and to (Bryce) Saddoris in a close match. I always love to wrestle freestyle, because I get to change it up a little bit. It is a whole different feel than Greco-Roman wrestling. It’s better than doing the same thing all the time,” he said.

Coleman understands and respects the Armed Forces Championships, not just because it is a spirited competition, but because all of the athletes and coaches are part of a larger and more important national mission.

“We all get together. Every branch, every service, has their own thing going, fighting wars for our country. There are the Marines, the Air Force, the Navy, the Army. Before the competition, a lot of these people don’t get along. We fight because we have our own thing going. A lot of branches like to think their branch is tougher than the other branch. There is one common goal that we share together; we fight for our country and serve our country. It is good that we get to compete together,” he said.

Coleman is a leader on a talented Army team which has dominated the Armed Forces Championships. The Army has won 15 straight team titles in both freestyle and Greco-Roman, and is heavily favored to win the team title again this weekend in New Jersey. Coleman is aware of the streak, but doesn’t put any pressure on himself because of it.

“I like to say the pressure is more on Coach (Shon Lewis) to win. He holds that title. It is prestigious to win that many times straight. For the athletes, our job is to carry on with our work and compete as well as we can at our weight. We have to get the job done when we step on the mat. If everybody follows suit, we will come home with the victory again,” said Coleman.

There is a lot of wrestling going on this weekend around the country. So, Ellis, why should wrestling fans check out the live stream on and witness Armed Forces wrestling?

“I emphasize that you get to see all these branches of our nation get together to compete. Two, you get to see the Army win its 16th title in a row. Who doesn’t want to see that? And three, which should have been first, you get to watch me wrestle,” he said, flashing that famous smile once again.

At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

Event Schedule

Saturday, February 25
9:00 a.m. – Opening Ceremonies
10:00 a.m. – Greco-Roman 1st and 2nd Session (30 minutes after 1st session)
1:00 p.m. – Greco-Roman 3rd Session

Sunday, February 26
10:00 a.m. – Freestyle 1st and 2nd Session (30 minutes after 1st session)
1:00 p.m. – Freestyle 3rd Session


SATURDAY: Greco-Roman Mat 1

SATURDAY: Greco-Roman Mat 2

SUNDAY: Freestyle Mat 1

SUNDAY: Freestyle Mat 2