USA Greco

Ellis Returns at Armed Forces; Johnson & Epps Qualify for Olympic Trials

ellis coleman, 2024 armed forces championships
Ellis Coleman -- Photo: Armed Forces Sports

On Saturday, 2012 Olympian/multi-time US World Team member Ellis Coleman helped a generously-loaded Army team capture the ’24 Armed Forces Championships title.

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In what was his first competitive appearance since Match 2 of the ’20ne Olympic Trials, Coleman won two bouts, both of which accompanied wide dual meet victories for his squad. He was greeted right out of the gate by a very skilled and familiar opponent — Jamel Johnson. Johnson was once a teammate of Coleman’s for Army’s World Class Athletes Program before the latter continued his career with the Marine Corps. In ’19, the pair faced off at Final X: Rutgers to determine the 67 kg spot on that year’s World Team. Coleman won the series, but Johnson has remained an impactful presence in the US even amid the dissolution of the All-Marine Team as a full-time entity.

When they met yesterday, there were differences. Neither athlete had been able to prepare as ardently as usual for competition. It was also the first time that Coleman and Johnson battled one another at 72 kilograms (as opposed to 67). One more would be that because of the Marine Corps not fielding a squad, Johnson yesterday competed for Navy.

To Whom Belongs the Glory graphic

Most would expect a tightly-wound contest between the two. That’s what they got on Saturday. What they did not was offense. Coleman prevailed 4-0 on the strength of two passivity points and two step-outs. Considering the circumstances, it was an adequate display for both competitors.

Coleman pinned Air Force’s Nate Johnson in the final dual meet of the afternoon. As for Jamel Johnson, he had defeated his pseudo namesake in the opening dual although Navy eventually fell by five points to Air Force on the team scoreboard. With his performance on Saturday, Jamel Johnson qualified for the upcoming Olympic Trials, as did several other notable Senior competitors.

OTT Qualifiers

The current selection procedures for Greco-Roman wrestling at the US Olympic Team Trials are, purposely, limiting. A debate rages regarding the logic and necessity pertaining to such restrictive stipulations given the developmental state of the US program at large. One facet of the procedures that made sense this year, and always does, is the availing of Olympic Trials spots for military servicemembers via placing in this event. And because Armed Forces allowed for the top placewinners in each weight class to earn bracket positions in said Trials (as well as to those who placed second if the #1 in their weight categories were already qualified), nine other athletes apart from Johnson were able to secure entry in the biggest and most important domestic tournament held every four years.

Billy Sullivan (Army) went 2-0 on Saturday to finish first at 55 kilograms. He had been involved in a very tough and contentious affair with Mitch Brown (Air Force). It was 3-1 for Sullivan heading into the latter stages of the second period when confusion ensued. Brown had latched a front headlock and from underneath Sullivan rose to his feet wrapping the body. He then walked his hold towards the boundary but, in an instant, Brown responded with a dynamite finish on the front headlock. He was initially awarded five for the maneuver; but after an Army challenge and extensive subsequent review, the score was updated to 7-1 for Sullivan with the ruling based on his having created the action for the hold. Brown, for his part, was undaunted, this despite such a thrilling near-miss on the throw. They restarted with just :32 remaining in the match and Brown quickly found double overhooks to gain four points. Then Brown scored a step-out point with under :10 to go and had trimmed his deficit to 7-6.

There was more. On the last reset, Brown once again clamped double overhooks and bodied Sullivan to the mat. The officials quickly confirmed four points. But with eagle eyes they watch, does Army. Brown had not yet reached his feet at the conclusion of both the action and the match itself before the Army corner had tossed the challenge brick. Army was insisting that offensive legs were responsible for the score. Upon review, they were purportedly proven correct and Brown’s points were wiped off the board and Sullivan had the decision 7-6.

Dalton Duffield (Army) — who was runner-up to Brady Koontz (TMWC/Dubuque RTC) at Final X: Newark this past June — earned his spot in the Olympic Trials without any such drama. Competing at 60 kilograms, Duffield won via technical superiority over Sheldon Ealy (Navy) and Siavash Sarvestani (Air Force) respectively.

It was a productive day for Sidney Flores of Air Force, who briefly provided a stiff test to two-time World Team member Dalton Roberts (Army) in the first period before Roberts was able to notch a pin in the second. Flores downed Pablo Monreal (Navy) in the first dual of the morning to finish second to Roberts, thereby qualifying for the Olympic Team Trials.

Bittersweet it was for ’22 US Open runner-up and all-around talented Pete Ogunsanya, from West Point but on loan to All-Army for the event. Ogunsanya defeated Dominic Bruinius (Navy) in his first match to get one win out of the way. In the Army/Air Force dual, Brian Fiery executed a headlock for two points only to have Ogunsanya reverse position and score four from a reverse lift. Not wishing to waste the lock, Ogunsanya attempted to re-launch Fiery, who on the back-end of the sequence used his right arm, inadvertently or otherwise, to interfere with Ogunsanya’s legs as a defensive measure. He was immediately cited for a caution-and-two, but that was not the problem. Ogunsanya had collapsed in pain and could not continue the match. Fiery was disqualified for the infraction. It was also learned later that Ogunsanya had torn his ACL.

In the country’s second toughest bracket at the Olympic Trials, Vincent Dolce (77 kg) from Air Force will be planting his flag. Dolce put together a nice, crisp effort to defeat Dan Richardson of Navy via VSU before falling to Justus Scott of the Army in the last dual of the afternoon.

Marciano Ali was not anonymous prior to yesterday’s event, for he had made competitive appearances for the All-Marine Team as well as for Puerto Rico. Yesterday, in the non-Olympic class of 82, Ali held his own against three-time World Team member Kamal Bey (Army) in a 5-0 decision loss. Before that, he had pinned Samuel Adams (Air Force), which is the win that, assuming eligibility is not an issue, will send Ali to State College, Pennsylvania next month.

It might have been a surprise to some, but Final X runner-up Ryan Epps (87 kg) actually needed to place top-2 on Saturday to get himself into the Trials. Epps — who has been a US Open finalist and World Team Trials tournament champ, among other credentials thus far — barely missed out on making the cut in November at the Bill Farrell Memorial, where he placed second to Army teammate Timothy Young (who won this event at 97 kg). Epps also experienced a minor injury at the December Nationals and had to exit that event early. As for the Armed Forces Championships, the Minnesota product defaulted to ’20 Olympian John Stefanowicz (Navy) before VSU’ing Air Force’s Matthew Hahnrauch.

Diante Cooper (Air Force) took the spot at 97 kilograms, the weight category in which he had made a splash towards the end of the previous Olympic cycle. Cooper, who did compete in the Tokyo Trials, was absent from the domestic circuit over the past two seasons but was in fine form on Saturday against Ian Mills (Navy). The aforementioned Young, who was up from 87 but still looked imposing, defeated Cooper in the Army/Air Force dual.

And at heavyweight it was Jermiah Imonode, the former West Pointer who last year went 97 for the Army team. Imonode won by technical fall over Air Force’s Donald Degamo after being on the wrong end of a Courtney Freeman (Navy) drubbing in the opening dual meet.

Marines for Navy

The US Marine Corps functions under the auspices of the Department of the Navy. Since the All-Marine Team is currently not in operation, those athletes who either once competed for the service branch, or still do (such as Johnson and Freeman) suited up for Navy on Saturday. Below in list form are the four All-Marine alumni who appeared at the 2024 Armed Forces Championships and how they fared.

— Jamel Johnson (72 kg, 2nd)
— Marciano Ali (82 kg, 2nd)
— John Stefanowicz (87 kg, 1st)
— Courtney Freeman (130 kg, 1st)

2024 Armed Forces Championships Results

Army 33 — Navy 11

55 kg: Billy Sullivan (Army) def. Dominic Robertson (Navy) 10-2, TF
60 kg: Dalton Duffield (Army) def. Sheldon Ealy (Navy) 8-0, TF
63 kg: Dalton Roberts (Army) def. Pablo Monreal (Navy) via fall
67 kg: Pete Ogunsanya (Army) def. Dominic Bruinius (Navy) 10-0, TF
72 kg: Ellis Coleman (Army) def. Jamel Johnson (Navy) 4-0
77 kg: Justus Scott (Army) def. Dan Richardson (Navy) 8-0, TF
82 kg: Kamal Bey (Army) def. Marciano Ali (Navy) 5-0
87 kg: John Stefanowicz (Navy) def. Ryan Epps (Army) via injury default
97 kg: Timothy Young (Army) def. Ian Mills (Navy) via fall
130 kg: Courtney Freeman (Navy) def. Jeremiah Imonode (Army) 10-2, TF

Army 44 — Air Force 1

55 kg: Billy Sullivan (Army) def. Mitch Brown (Air Force) 7-6
60 kg: Dalton Duffield (Army) def. Siavash Sarvestani (Air Force) 8-0, TF
63 kg: Dalton Roberts (Army) def. Sidney Flores (Air Force) via fall
67 kg: Pete Ogunsanya (Army) def. Brian Fiery (Air Force) via DQ
72 kg: Ellis Coleman (Army) def. Nathaniel Johnson (Air Force) via fall
77 kg: Justus Scott (Army) def. Vincent Dolce (Air Force) 10-0, TF
82 kg: Kamal Bey (Army) def. Samuel Adams (Air Force) via fall
87 kg: Ryan Epps (Army) def. Matthew Hahnrauch (Air Force) 9-0, TF
97 kg: Timothy Young (Army) def. Diante Cooper (Air Force) 9-0, TF
130 kg: Jeremiah Imonode (Army) def. Donald Degamo (Air Force) 8-0, TF

Air Force 23 — Navy 18

55 kg: Mitch Brown (Air Force) def. Dominic Robertson (Navy) 10-2, TF
60 kg: Siavash Sarvestani (Air Force) def. Sheldon Ealy (Navy) 7-0
63 kg: Sidney Flores (Air Force) def. Pablo Monreal (Navy) 8-0, TF
67 kg: Brian Fiery (Air Force) def. Dominic Bruinius (Navy) 8-0, TF
72 kg: Jamel Johnson (Navy) def. Nathaniel Johnson (Air Force) 10-0, TF
77 kg: Vincent Dolce (Air Force) def. Dan Richardson (Navy) 9-0, TF
82 kg: Maricano Ali (Navy) def. Samuel Adams (Air Force) via fall
87 kg: John Stefanowicz (Navy) def. Matthew Hahnrauch (Air Force) 12-0, TF
97 kg: Diante Cooper (Air Force) def. Ian Mills (Navy) 10-0, TF
130 kg: Courney Freeman (Navy) def. Donald Degamo (Air Force) 10-0, TF

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