Olympian Ellis Coleman tosses Xavier Johnson in the 67 kg Greco-Roman Challenge Tournament semifinals.
Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors

Olympian Ellis Coleman tosses Xavier Johnson in the 67 kg Greco-Roman Challenge Tournament semifinals.

USAWInternationalCollege2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials

Ellis Coleman wins another challenge tournament to reach another best-of-three championship final

by Cody Goodwin, Special to TheMat.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ellis Coleman reached back in time on Friday, and finds himself two wins away from another trip to the Olympic Games. Again.

Coleman navigated the 67-kilogram challenge tournament to reach the best-of-three championship finals at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling here at the Bryce Jordan Center.

The 32-year-old Chicago native won three matches on Friday by a combined 20-5: a 9-0 technical fall over Peter Ogunsanya, a 4-0 decision over third-seeded Robert Perez III, then a thrilling 7-5 semifinal victory over a red-hot Xavier Johnson.

Coleman is no stranger to this kind of stage. Back in 2012, he made the U.S. Olympic Team at 20 years old. He was the youngest member of the U.S. team that summer in London. He went 0-1 — and hasn’t been back since.

He’s come close in recent Olympic years. In 2016, he stumbled to a fourth-place finish at the Trials. In 2020, he won the challenge tournament but was swept in the best-of-three finals by Alejandro Sancho, 2-0 and 3-1.

Here he is again, on the cusp of another Olympic team. He was outstanding in his march to the finals. He scored nine points in less than 90 seconds to beat Ogunsanya, forced two passives and scored late in the first to beat Perez, then used an explosive 5-point throw to outlast Johnson and advance to Saturday’s series finals.

In his way is Sancho, who’s been the U.S. rep each of the last two years at the world championships in addition to making the 2020 Olympic team. Sancho took down Jamel Johnson, 10-4, and Pat Smith, 3-2, to advance.

Coleman knows him well, and has been on this stage before. If he can conjure the same magic he found on Friday, he may find himself in Paris later this summer.

Here’s a quick weight-by-weight rundown of what happened on Friday night:

60 kg — Ildar Hafizov and Dalton Roberts will clash again for a spot on the Olympic roster. Both of these guys have repped the U.S. at this weight every year since 2017 — Hafizov in 2017, 2019, 2022, 2023, and in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics; Roberts in 2018 and 2021. Even more, Hafizov beat Roberts to make the team in both 2023 and 2022 while Roberts beat Hafizov to make the team in both 2021 and 2018. Consider this one the rubber match … until the next time.

67 kg — See above.

77 kg — Kamal Bey, at 26 years old, will face the 44-year-old Aliaksandr Kikinou in the best-of-three finals here. Bey rolled through Vincent Dolce, 9-0, and RaVaughn Perkins, 7-1, to reach the final. Kikinou won 6-0 over Jesse Porter then outlasted second-seeded Benji Peak, 7-6, in the other semifinal. He’ll be seeking his third appearance at the Olympic games. He previously competed for Belarus in 2004 and 2012. Bey is seeking his first trip to the Olympics.

87 kg — Payton Jacobson stormed out of the 7-seed to make the best-of-three championship finals. He knocked off second-seeded Richard Carlson, 4-0; third-seeded Zac Braunagel, 6-0; then outlasted 2020 Olympian John Stefanowicz, 1-1, in the finals. He’ll face two-time world-teamer Spencer Woods in Saturday’s best-of-three.

97 kg — Joe Rau muscled his way through the challenge tournament with a 7-0 win over Brandon Marshall, a 5-1 win over David Orndorff, then a 5-3 win over Nick Boykin in the finals to reach the best-of-three championship series. Rau was in this exact spot in 2020 before losing a controversial series for John Stefanowicz. On Saturday, he’ll get Alan Vera for the Olympic spot.

130 kg — Aden Attao was another under-the-radar younger wrestler — he’s a freshman at Oregon State — who was primed to break out at this year’s tournament. He did make the challenge tournament finals, but ran into Adam Coon, a past world silver medalist-turned-professional football player-turned Senior-level wrestler again. Coon ran through Attao, 9-0, punctuated by a late 4-point throw, to advance to the best-of-three finals.

60 kg: Ildar Hafizov (U.S. Army WCAP) vs. Dalton Roberts (U.S. Army WCAP)

67 kg: Alejandro Sancho (U.S. Army WCAP) vs. Ellis Coleman (U.S. Army WCAP)

77 kg: Kamal Bey (U.S. Army WCAP) vs. Aliaksandr Kikinou (New York AC)

87 kg: Spencer Woods (U.S. Army WCAP) vs. Payton Jacobson (Northern Michigan/Sunkist Kids WC)

97 kg: Alan Vera (New York AC) vs. Josef Rau (Titan Mercury WC)

130 kg: Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kid WC) vs. Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC/New York AC)

87 kg: Payton Jacobson (Northern Michigan/Sunkist Kids WC) dec. John Stefanowicz (U.S. Marine Corps), 1-1

97 kg: Josef Rau (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Nicholas Boykin (Sunkist Kids WC), 5-3

130 kg: Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC/New York AC) tech. fall Aden Attao (Beaver Dam RTC/New York AC), 9-0

Ildar Hafizov (U.S. Army WCAP) tech. fall Sammy Jones (Sunkist Kids WC), 9-1

Dalton Roberts (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Max Black (Northern Michigan), 5-2

Alejandro Sancho (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Pat Smith (Minnesota Storm), 3-2

Ellis Coleman (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Xavier Johnson (U.S. Army WCAP), 7-5

Kamal Bey (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. RaVaughn Perkins (New York AC), 7-1

Aliaksandr Kikinou (New York AC) dec. Benji Peak (Norther Michigan/Sunkist Kids WC), 7-6

John Stefanowicz (U.S. Marine Corps) dec. Mahmoud Sebie (New York AC), 3-0

Payton Jacobson (Northern Michigan/Sunkist Kids WC) dec. Zachary Braunagel (Illinois RTC/New York AC), 6-0

Josef Rau (Titan Mercury WC) dec. David Orndorff (Ohio RTC/Titan Mercury WC), 5-1

Nicholas Boykin (Sunkist Kids WC) fall over Diante Cooper (Air Force RTC), 1:24

Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC/New York AC) tech. fall Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm), 9-0

Aden Attao (Beaver Dam RTC/New York AC) tech. fall Courtney Freeman (U.S. Marine Corps), 10-2