IOWA CITY, Iowa – American wrestler Ellis Coleman is taking “The Flying Squirrel” to London.
The 20-year-old Coleman is anxious to show the world there’s a lot more to him than just one crazy move.
Coleman, best known for an unorthodox flip move over opponents, beat Joe Betterman in the 60-kilogram Greco-Roman division to earn a trip to the London Games on Sunday night in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Jake Herbert, Jared Frayer, Tervel Dlagnev, Ben Proviso and Sam Hazewinkel also claimed spots on the U.S. team.
Clarissa Chun became the first American woman to qualify for the Olympics, and Elena Pirozhkova made the team for the first time.
Henry Cejudo, who won a freestyle gold medal in Beijing in 2008, lost to Nick Simmons in the semifinals earlier Sunday and promptly retired.
Coleman didn’t need to break out the move – made famous when he did a standing flip over his opponent, grabbed him by the waist and tossed him to the mat at last year’s Junior World Championships – to upset the top-seeded Betterman, whose clinics he used to take part in when he was younger.
“People are like, ‘Oh, you’re the Flying Squirrel. You’re just a kid who just hits a flip and is a YouTube sensation,’ ” Coleman said. “Now they’re like, ‘Oh you’re the Flying Squirrel. But there’s more to it than just that move.’ There’s a little bit more grit, a little bit more technique, a little bit more agility and just more versatile human being back there. I like to have that back it up.”
Coleman, from Oak Park, Ill., just outside of Chicago, said he’s used the move just over a dozen times in his short career. But when he went for a simple flip over air to celebrate his milestone win, Coleman landed on his head instead.
“I’ve got a bunch of better flips. I was a little tired right there,” Coleman said. “You’ll see a better one in London.”
Coleman’s breakthrough was a key highlight in a thrilling final session in Iowa City, which drew near-sellout crowds for all four sessions.
Former Iowa State star Travis Paulson moved up from 74 to 84 kg in freestyle so he wouldn’t compete with twin brother Trent, who failed to reach the 74-kg final Saturday.
Paulson won the first match, but Herbert rallied with wins in the final two matches.
Herbert lost to Cael Sanderson with a trip to the world championships on the line in 2011, but he redeemed himself by beating Paulson.
“I’ve been hurt, I’ve been injured. I’ve been emotionally hurt. It’s a great honor to be able to come through, come back and dig deep.” Herbert said.
Cejudo’s comeback bid ended when he fell to Simmons in a thrilling 55-kg freestyle match; 3-0, 5-9, 5-2. The 25-year-old Cejudo removed his shoes after the loss, flung them into the crowd and abruptly announced his retirement.
Cejudo joined Kurt Angle (1996), Rulon Gardner (2000) and Cael Sanderson (2004) as former champions who’d plotted comebacks with various levels of intensity during this Olympic cycle.
Only Cejudo competed in Iowa City.
None of them will be going to London.
“It’s just too bad the way it ended, but I’m OK. I gave it my all. I tried and I didn’t succeed. There’s different goals in my life now,” Cejudo said.
Simmons then suffered an agonizing upset, losing in overtime in the last period of the last match against Hazewinkel, who scored on a dramatic leg clinch.
Hazewinkel’s father, David, wrestled for the U.S. in 1972.