Olympic Wrestling: Why Ellis Coleman Needs More Than Flying Squirrel to Medal

Dan KuklaCorrespondent IIIAugust 6, 2012

Ellis Coleman's "Flying Squirrel" is a sight to see, but it's also a very risk move that won't pay off against Olympic competition.
Ellis Coleman's "Flying Squirrel" is a sight to see, but it's also a very risk move that won't pay off against Olympic competition.

United States 60 kg Greco-Roman wrestler Ellis Coleman became an internet sensation with his "Flying Squirrel" take down in the World Junior Championships, and that is exactly why he is vulnerable at the 2012 London Olympics.

The move once caught his opponents by complete surprise. Fans are hoping to see it again during Monday's competition. So are his rivals.

The "Flying Squirrel" is spectacular to watch, but it is an extremely risky move that leaves Coleman open to devastating counter attacks. If the 20-year-old runs into an opponent anticipating the maneuver, his first trip to the Olympics will end quickly.

“I basically just pull the guys head down, somersault over him landing on my feet, grab his waist and then pull him over,” Coleman explained in an article by Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph. “If I get enough air on my jump, they won’t be able to stop it. I have used it about 12 times now and it has worked every single time."

"When I first did it, I was losing and it was just something that came into my mind. The reaction has been crazy ever since, with kids coming up to me and contacting me on Facebook. They all want to talk about the flying squirrel."

This is not only Coleman's first appearance on the U.S. Olympic Team, but also his first time competing for a Senior World-level team. That lack of experience will show if the young star becomes too concerned with pleasing the crowd via highlight take downs. Bringing his own pet flying squirrel named Rocky is a sign that too much focus is on the limelight.

Coleman needs to catch his opponents off guard. His "Flying Squirrel" can no longer provide that key element of surprise as all of his rivals have likely heard of it and studied it. They will have found effective ways to counter it with an even more damaging take down of their own as well.

The "Flying Squirrel" worked well against junior competition when no one knew the move. The Olympics feature better challengers who will be much more prepared.

Coleman drew the No. 16 spot and will face 2011 World bronze medalist Ivo Angelov of Bulgaria in his first match.

Current and former world champions Omid Noroozi (IRI) and Hasan Aliyev (AZE) drew to opposite sides of the 60kg bracket and enter as the weight-class favorites.

Noroozi is also the 2010 Asian Games gold medalist and 60kg winner at the 2012 world cup of Greco-Roman wrestling. Aliyev dominated 2010 competition en route to European and world championships. His only losses at the 2011 European and world championships were third-period force-outs.

Angelov, 2010 world No. 2 Ryutaro Matsumoto (JPN), world runner-up Almat Kebispayev (KAZ), 2011 European champion Revaz Lashkhi (GEO) and world No. 3 Zaur Kuramagomedov (RUS) are the other medal contenders, according an Olympic News Service release posted on The Mat.

It's a stacked field that will test America's young rookie. He needs more than a single gimmick move to advance, much less medal.

Coleman hinted that he's got more than a Flying Squirrel up his sleeve in London. Wilson's article revealed that Coleman's brother taught him an even riskier spin move that might get its first trial on Monday.

Also competing for the U.S. on Monday is Chas Betts (84 kg) and Dremiel Byers (120 kg).

Betts drew the No. 13 spot and will face Keitani Graham of Micronesia. A win advances him to face the winner of the match between 2010 World silver medalist Pablo Shorey of Cuba and 2009 World bronze medalist Habibollah Akhlaghi of Iran.

Byers is America's best chance for a medal of these three, but even that is a long shot in a bracket that features five world champions. He drew the No. 6 spot and will face Muminjon Abdullaev of Uzbekistan. A first-round victory likely advances him to face 2011 World Champion Riza Kayaalp of Turkey. A trip to the third round most likely pits him against five-time world champion and 2008 gold medalist Mijian Lopez of Cuba.

Byers placed seventh at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as one of the most accomplished Greco-Roman wrestlers in U.S. history. He was a 2002 World champion, a 2009 World silver medalist and a 2007 World bronze medalist. He has been on eight straight U.S. World or Olympic Teams since 2005.