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'Flying Squirrel' ready to make impact on Olympic stage

Ellis Coleman reacts to a question during the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman press conference on Wednesday afternoon in London. John Sachs photo.

LONDON – Ellis Coleman is a rising star in the world of wrestling.

And beyond.

Nearly a year after gaining national acclaim on ESPN for his “Flying Squirrel” move from the 2011 Junior World Championships, Coleman drew his share of media attention at the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman press conference on Wednesday afternoon at the Main Press Center.

Now a 2012 U.S. Olympian, Coleman’s compelling story has earned national acclaim on the CBS Evening News. ESPN The Magazine is working on a story on him this week. He was scheduled to appear on NBC's Today Show on Thursday.

He faced his share of off-the-mat obstacles while being raised by his mother, Yolando Barral, who plans to be in London for the Olympics.

Coleman will compete at 60 kg/132 lbs. at the Olympics. He is scheduled to compete on Aug. 6 at the ExCel Center in London. Coleman placed third in the last two Junior World Championships.

“My expectations are to bring home a medal – a gold medal,” he said. “I know I am capable of doing it. I have trained like I am capable of doing it. There is no doubt in my mind I can do it. I trust in myself and I believe in my training. I’ve won two Junior World medals and I know I can compete against the best guys in the World.”

Coleman, who turns 21 shortly after the Olympics, is a legitimate gold-medal threat. He moved down a weight class this year after previously wrestling at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.

“I talked with my coaches about moving down a weight class this year to 60 kilos,” Coleman said. “I knew it was going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I knew I had to totally commit to it in order for it work out for me. I decided to go all-out with it. I started getting my weight down and started running and started dieting. It’s worked out great for me.”

Coleman’s “Flying Squirrel” story has taken on a whole new meaning. Coleman said he now has a pet squirrel that he keeps in a cage at home. He said he purchased it for $500 at a mall in Colorado Springs.

“I have been embracing the whole ‘Flying Squirrel’ thing,” Coleman said. “My pet squirrel, I keep him in the cage and he hops around all the time. It’s pretty cool.”

Coleman is one of six top wrestlers on the U.S. Greco squad that includes World champion Dremiel Byers and two-time World bronze medalist Justin Lester.

“I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to wrestle in the Olympics and be a part of this team,” Coleman said. “I just have to go out and do what I am capable of doing. I’m excited to see what I can do.”
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