Waynesburg rallies for wrestler headed to Olympics

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Chris Scott Burge was standing in New York's Times Square, looking at the oversized billboards and flashing lights, when it hit her.

"I twirled around, and I thought, 'We're from Waynesburg, Pa.,'" she said.

Ms. Burge, 60, was there June 7 to see her nephew, Coleman Scott, wrestle outside in the middle of the square for a chance to go to the Olympics.

Mr. Scott, 26, also a Waynesburg native, defeated the top two wrestlers in his weight class in the country that day, securing his place in this summer's Olympics in London. He will represent the United States in the 60-kilogram class Aug. 11.

Having a native son in the world's top sporting event has energized this town of about 4,000 near the West Virginia border, where businesses still line the main street and the stately columns of the Greene County Courthouse stand as the town's centerpiece.

Residents, in particular, are buying Coleman Scott T-shirts, which proudly state "From Pennsylvania to London," in droves. The sales are part of a series of events Friday and today to raise money for about 70 of Mr. Scott's relatives to travel to London to watch him compete. (His mom and dad are each one of six children and he says it escalates from there.)

Events Friday included a rally on the courthouse steps and a meet-and-greet at a local Giant Eagle, with T-shirts for $20 and the chance to take a photo with Mr. Scott for $5. Today there will be a wrestling clinic and another supermarket gathering.

Gary Zimmerman, 55, a union pipeliner who lives two blocks from where Mr. Scott grew up, cheered with the rest of the crowd as Mr. Scott pulled up to the courthouse steps in a white stretch Hummer limousine.

Mr. Zimmerman was in St. Louis when Mr. Scott won the 2008 NCAA championship for Oklahoma State with the fastest pin at the event in 30 years -- 49 seconds. But making it to London is another matter.

"I've got my fingers crossed that I'll win the Powerball in the next couple weeks, but there's no way I'll afford it," Mr. Zimmerman said.

"I'm excited," Mr. Scott said as people buzzed around him in front of the Giant Eagle's checkout counters. "I still feel like I've got to prove myself."

He said his mental toughness has been a key to his success. Since graduating from Oklahoma State, where he is now a coach, in 2008, he has been ranked in the top three nationally. In college, he was a four-time All-American in addition to being a 2008 NCAA champion. At Waynesburg Central High School, he had a career record of 156-12 and was a state champion three times.

"I've just sort of figured things out mentally, knowing what to expect," he said.

Joe Throckmorton, 49, the wrestling coach at Waynesburg Central, started coaching Mr. Scott when he was 6 years old. Mr. Throckmorton pointed to the quality of the wrestlers in Waynesburg and at Oklahoma State.

"He's had the best workout partners, and that's what makes you," he said.

Mr. Scott is not the only Western Pennsylvania native who will be wrestling in the Games. Jake Herbert, 27, of Wexford, will represent the U.S. in the 84 kg class.

Mr. Throckmorton has led the fundraising effort for Mr. Scott. Organizers hope to raise $40,000 to $60,000 over the two days and were at about $20,000 mid-day Friday. He said the community was showing its appreciation for having something to be proud of.

"I said to the local TV station, usually they only cover us when something bad happens," Mr. Throckmorton said.

At the courthouse rally, Mayor Blair Zimmerman presented Mr. Scott with the key to Waynesburg. "We are going to put some gates up under the overpass so from now on you're going to have to call Coleman to unlock it," Mr. Zimmerman joked to the crowd of about 100.

The ceremony ended with Mr. Scott addressing his hometown fans.

"I just can't wait to get to London and represent Waynesburg and represent the greatest country in the world, and put those stars and stripes on my back."

olympics - sportsother

Peter Sullivan: psullivan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939. First Published June 30, 2012 4:00 AM


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