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Ellis Coleman

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Ellis Coleman
Ellis Coleman 2013.jpg
Coleman in 2013
Personal information
Born (1991-08-16) August 16, 1991 (age 26)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.[1]
Height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Weight 60 kg (132 lb)
Sport Greco-Roman wrestling
Club NYAC, New York

Ellis Coleman (born August 16, 1991) is an American wrestler from Chicago who won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials to compete for the United States team in the Greco-Roman 60 kg competition of Wrestling at the 2012 Summer Olympics at the 2012 Olympics.[2] Coleman overcame challenging life conditions after being enrolled in youth wrestling classes. As a high school senior for Oak Park and River Forest High School finished third in the state wrestling championships. On several occasions, Coleman executed a takedown by jumping over his opponent and grabbing him as he flew over his back. Coleman is sometimes referred to as the Flying Squirrel for this takedown move that he has made famous.[3]


Coleman was raised by his single mother, Yolanda Barral, in Chicago, Illinois. Coleman describes his biological father, Lewellis Coleman, as a person who was "in and out of jail [his] whole life."[4] Apart from visiting him in jail, the only memory he has of his father is the time his father sold all the family's televisions and the PlayStation for drugs.[5] Federal records describe his biological father as a "career offender" with 19 aliases.[4]

His mother raised the family, including Coleman's brother (Lillashawn)[4] and sister,[5] in the Humboldt Park community area, then the West Side and finally Oak Park.[4] Coleman describes his stepfather as a long-time gang member with an extensive criminal record. After enduring formative years with gunfights outside elementary school, home loss due to an apartment fire, and expulsion hearings, his stepfather, Mose Oliver, introduced him to wrestling to keep him out of trouble.[4] Federal records confirm that Oliver is an alleged 1990s gang enforcer who served time from 2004 to 2011 for participation in Operation Day Trader.[4] The wrestling started in about 2001.[6] By sixth grade both his father and stepfather were incarcerated and his father figure was his wrestling coach, Mike Powell.[7] Coleman attended Ella Flagg Young elementary school.[4] Barral raised her family with little assistance away from the gang influences of the West Side.[8] She applied for section 8 assistance.[4] Coleman, who was nearly expelled as a sophomore,[4] graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, IL in 2009. He has studied at Northern Michigan University.[9]

Wrestling career[edit]

As a high school senior at the 2009 Illinois High School Association Class 3A tournament, Coleman endured his only loss of the season to Maxamillian Schneider of Lane Technical College Prep High School to finish third and end the season with a 49–1 record.[10] Following the loss, his heart rate reached 225, necessitating treatment by paramedics.[4]

In 2011, a video of Coleman was posted to YouTube.[11] Subsequently, Coleman gained a cult-following for the recording of him performing a move at the 2011 World Junior Championships that he calls "The Flying Squirrel", which involves somersaulting over his opponent just before his takedown.[12][13][14] He has performed the move at the 2009 Sunkist Open against Joe Betterman.[4] He also performed the move against Iran's Mehdi Zidvand at the 2011 World Junior Championships.[4][10] Coleman claims he has used the "Flying Squirrel" move over a dozen times in competition.[3] The move was ranked third on the ESPN 2011 Best of the Best Highlights.[15] He appeared on ESPN's morning shows, such as ESPN First Take.[4] The move made him so famous that he received lucrative offers to begin a professional wrestling career, but he declined in favor of continuing his Olympic dream.[5] Coleman credits his brother for the move.[6]

Ellis defeated Betterman 2 to 0 at the finals of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.[2][15] Coleman had attended Betterman's wrestling clinics when he was younger.[3] Coleman is the youngest member of the American wrestling delegation going to the Olympics.[5] After Coleman qualified for the Olympics, he realized that his mother, who works in customer service for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, could not afford to attend due to financial hardship. Coleman was living at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on a limited monthly stipend from the United States Olympic Committee and could not assist her. Powell rented Coleman's family a one-bedroom flat in London out of personal funds and the Oak Park High School wrestling program subsequently raised $14,000 to ensure that his mother, aunt and siblings could attend.[8] Coleman dropped from the 66 kg division to the 60 kg division for the Olympics.[16] Coleman lost in the first round of Olympic competition to Ivo Angelov of Bulgaria by a 3–1 score.[17]

2012 Olympic American gymnast Gabby Douglas also became known for the nickname "Flying Squirrel".[18] In an attempt to solidify his nickname while training in Colorado Springs, Coleman purchased a pet flying squirrel that he keeps in a cage and feeds apples.[19][20] His Twitter handle is @daFlyinSquirrel.[18]


  1. ^ "Ellis Coleman". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. 
  2. ^ a b Branch, John (2012-04-22). "The Face of U.S. Wrestling Will Change for the Games". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  3. ^ a b c "Coleman earns bid to London Games". Fox Sports. 2012-04-22. Archived from the original on 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hamilton, Brian (2012-06-30). "Coleman's 'iron will': Oak Park wrestler endures, well, just about everything to make Olympic team". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  5. ^ a b c d Pitts, Byron (2012-06-21). "Wrestler Ellis Coleman takes the "flying squirrel" move to the Olympics". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  6. ^ a b ""Flying Squirrel" Ellis Coleman Ready For London". NBCChicago. 2012-06-29. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  7. ^ Mastony, Colleen (2011-06-15). "Coach weakened by disease inspires wrestlers: Former college All-American came to embody the values he preached". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  8. ^ a b St. Clair, Stacy (2012-06-30). "Flying mother will see 'Flying Squirrel': Yolanda Barral on her way to watch son in London". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  9. ^ "USA Wrestling". Retrieved 2012-05-26. 
  10. ^ a b "Wrestling - Oak Park grad Ellis Coleman goes viral with flying takedown". Chicago Tribune. 2011-08-02. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  11. ^ St. Clair, Stacy and K.C. Johnson (2012-07-26). "Olympians with Illinois connections". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  12. ^ Treadway, Daniel (2011-08-01). "Ellis Coleman's Amazing Flying Greco-Roman Wrestling Takedown (VIDEO)". Retrieved 2012-05-26. 
  13. ^ "Ellis 'The Flying Squirrel' Coleman rolling with Ben Askren (video)". 2011-08-02. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  14. ^ "College Wrestling: Ellis Coleman's Incredible Leaping Takedown". Bleacher Report. 2011-08-02. Retrieved 2012-05-26. 
  15. ^ a b Hersh, Philip (2012-04-22). "Coleman earns spot on U.S. Olympic team: Wins Greco-Roman 132-pound class at trials". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  16. ^ "American Coleman to cage 'Flying Squirrel'". NBC. 2012-07-26. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  17. ^ "Men's 60kg Greco-Roman". Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  18. ^ a b St. Clair, Stacy (2012-07-25). "'Flying squirrel' wrestler on his pet flying squirrel: 'He bites me all the time'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  19. ^ Mihoces, Gary (2012-07-25). "Called 'Flying Squirrel,' Ellis Coleman owns one, too". USA Today. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  20. ^ Smith, Cameron (2012-07-25). "Ellis 'The Flying Squirrel' Coleman has a real flying squirrel for a pet, and his name is Rocky". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2012-07-28. 

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