COLEMAN SCOTT: Inner strength pays off with bronze

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LONDON -- The third round of the Olympic bronze medal wrestling match is winding down, and Waynesburg's Coleman Scott trails Japan's Kenichi Yumoto by one point.

Twenty seconds remain in this wild ride that would have been unfathomable four months ago. Tick. Nineteen. Tick. Eighteen. Tick. Scott, a 5-foot-8 Western Pennsylvanian, has to do something.

In the stands of ExCel Exhibition Centre stands John Yates, who coached Scott at Waynesburg Central High School. He's wearing a red, white and blue "Coleman Scott: Cowboy Up" T-shirt, and he's not worried.

"He was losing in the state finals his senior year with 10 seconds to go and won it," said Yates, coach at Waynesburg University. "I never count him out until the final buzzer."

Down on the floor stands Scott's coach the past eight years, Oklahoma State's John Smith, a two-time Olympic gold medalist. He's right there in the thick of it, knowing what this young man has been through to get here, and Smith's not worried, either.

"Even in college," Smith said, "it seemed like his best matches came at the right time."

Time is now the enemy, but Scott changes that in a heartbeat, driving Yumoto to the mat for a tying point with 10 seconds left in the two-minute final period. And, for those who have lost track of Scott the past eight years while he has been training for this moment in Stillwater, Okla., here's what you need to know about Cowboys: When they get the right leverage, they may never let go.

So Scott rides Yumoto and pushes him back again with 1:57 showing on the clock, earning two points for gaining an exposure. When time expires, and the score shows, 3-1, in favor of Scott, he releases Yumoto and falls backward.

Scott can't contain himself. He just beat Yumoto, 0-1, 3-0, 3-1, on Saturday night in the 60-kilogram (about 132 pounds) division to win a bronze medal. He looks up and sees 95 family and friends spread throughout this converted convention center, holding up American flags and going into hysterics. Scott puts his hands behind his head and lets out a disbelieving smile. Then, he raises his arms to the sky.

No, he won't get what he came for -- a gold medal -- but that bronze means he will have something to give those people in the crowd for all of their support. In his mind, they helped him prove a lot of others wrong.

"I've read some previews, and nobody gave me a chance," Scott said. "I got [angry]. Then, I thought to myself, 'Well, I haven't done anything. College is over, and I haven't done anything. They have a right to say I'm not a title contender.' I turned it into motivation."

Mostly, Scott hasn't needed to manufacture reasons to be focused to the highest degree. He has a 1-year-old daughter, Leighton, at home in Oklahoma with his mother-in-law, and a wife who has been working to support his dream of winning Olympic gold.

Maybe the three victories Saturday in international competition will win him some more grants and sponsorships to keep pursuing gold to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. And, if not, his young family will try to make do as his business degree sits gathering dust.

"We want the gold," said his wife, Jessica, whom Scott met at college. "I don't want him to have any regrets. That's my biggest thing. No regrets."

Still, it has not been easy.

"We're not a normal family," Jessica said. "He doesn't work eight to five. We have different schedules. He stays home with the baby during his off time."

Saturday night, they will both talk to Leighton over Skype. She won't understand what her daddy did across the Atlantic Ocean against a man from Japan, but someday she will.

"All she says is 'Da-da,' that's her favorite word," Jessica said.

Scott's golden dream died in the semifinals when he lost to eventual tournament champion Toghrul Osgarov of Azerbaijan.

Scott feels as if he didn't give Osgarov his best shot, but he also knows how far he has come since showing up at April's Olympic trials in Iowa as the third-seeded wrestler in his weight class.

That day, Scott won the trials, but it came with an asterisk. The top two seeds, Reece Humphrey and Shawn Bunch, were not there because they were overseas trying to qualify the United States in their weight class. Scott would have to beat Humphrey and Bunch in a wrestle-off in New York's Times Square in June, and, of course, he did.

"Times Square prepared him for this," Yates said.

Scott says he doesn't plan to bring the bronze to Waynesburg. It would just feel wrong to bring home anything but gold. Still, Yates and Scott's family from the area will have a tale to tell.

"He's achieved at every level," Yates said, "and now he's achieved at the world level. He might not have the color of medal he wanted, but, from the look on his face, he was pretty satisfied."

olympics - olympicsfeatures

J. Brady McCollough: and on Twitter @BradyMcCollough. First Published August 12, 2012 4:00 AM


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