As we reported, 2012 Olympian and two-time Junior World bronze medalist Ellis Coleman (66 kg, Army/WCAP) competed in the 2017 CISM World Championships in Lithuania on Friday and was forced to bow out of the tournament due to an apparent illness. The incident took place in his first and only match of the day against Poland’s Dawid Karecinski, who earned a bronze at the Military Worlds last year and also owned a prior victory over Coleman from the 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix. But given his resurgence in 2017 along with the updated ruleset, this seemed to be a favorable match-up for the WCAP star this time around and it appeared to be going in that direction until things went south.
However — Friday wasn’t the first time Coleman’s body stopped cooperating. His symptoms, which were later discovered to be indicative of Celiac Disease, began becoming an issue for the 26-year-old at the start of the summer and affected him throughout the entire lead-up to the Senior World Championships in August. Word had originally filtered out during World Team Camp that Coleman was limited during the practices, and now the reason why is clear.
In a conversation earlier today, Coleman relayed what happened on Friday at the Military Worlds, how this all cropped up in the first place, and also what this all means for his competitive future in the short-term.
5PM: What exactly happened to your body at the Military Worlds on Friday?
Ellis Coleman: My body was shutting down, but I’ve been sick for quite awhile now. My body started shutting down, I started going numb, and my muscles were really straining while I wrestled.
5PM: You were sick going into Lithuania, right?
EC: Yes. The first time I got sick came between Georgia and Hungary, that tour we went on. We were doing a lot of training there and I noticed I wasn’t recovering well, and I started losing a lot of weight. When we got back, I kept training because we had World Team Camp. During World Team Camp, I had the same problem. I wrestled one match one of the days and I couldn’t finish my match. My body was just so tired, I felt like I was cutting weight the whole time I was wrestling. So I had to go to the doctor and get a bunch of tests done and they couldn’t figure out what was going on with me. This wound up taking an extended amount of time and I still continued to train for the Worlds because it’s the biggest competition of the year.
Eventually, I got some blood test results and it turned out that I had an infection and Celiacs Disease.
5PM: Before your match versus Karecinski on Friday, did you feel this coming while you were warming up or did it not present itself until after the match had already begun?
EC: No, I already knew it coming on. I knew. Even after I got back from Hungary and before Worlds, my biggest thing the whole time was World Team Camp. I practiced for half of the World Team Camp. I missed every single second practice, I only practiced once a day, and then all of the other extra practices I stopped going to. Like Coach Lindland had us do a practice where we had to run outside. I ran one lap around the track and I wound up having to go to the hospital because I couldn’t move. After that, they just had me start taking time off before the Worlds.
I was taking time off and my weight was good because I was already losing weight from the illness. My body wasn’t recovering, though. The biggest thing from my coach was for me to get it through to my mind that I wasn’t sick before the World Championships. That was the biggest thing for him, to have me convince myself I wasn’t sick so it wouldn’t affect my wrestling. But even after Paris, I didn’t want to compete in these (the CISM) World Championships because I wasn’t getting better or recovering at all. But they kept me on the mat and wanted me to wrestle, so I wrestled. Before the competition, everyone knew. I talked to the trainers and said, Look, I’m not 100%, I’m still hurting from the same thing as before. If no one was going to say anything about me wrestling, then I was going to, and that’s what I did.
5PM: Going by how I understand the events on Friday, the way it sounds is that the second period began, you started wrestling, and then you were pulled. Is that correct?
Ellis Coleman: Yeah, so the first period I went out there and I told myself, because I lost to this guy before, but I told myself, I’m just going to wrestle as hard as I can and whatever happens, happens. Like usual, you know? So I went out, wrestled hard, and I don’t remember the score. I think I was winning because I know for sure he didn’t score in the first period. And then right when we got to the break, I went to the corner, took a knee, and said to my coach, There’s something wrong, there’s something going on. He said, ‘What’s up? Is it your head, do you have a concussion?’ I told him no, to try and stall time. Then my entire body started going numb and everything started burning. So he threw the brick to try and buy me extra time to recover before the next period started again.
So I stayed on my knee and tried to breathe in and out, and basically just recover as best I could in that amount of time. And then I went back out there, started wrestling, and couldn’t move at all, pretty much.
5PM: How do you feel today?
EC: I feel alright. If I’m just going about my day, I don’t have anything going on outside of stomach pain and fatigue. I feel very, very tired. But I can go about my day and take care of what I have to take care of. Once we figured it out, I’ve been starting a gluten-free diet to help myself get better, so now it’s just a matter of timing. It affects me most when I start training or when I exert myself physically. That’s when I feel it the most.
5PM: I know you would never, ever, ever reach into your pocket for an excuse, but is it fair to say you were absolutely nowhere near 100% at the World Championships in Paris?
EC: Oh, yes, for sure. I mean, I don’t like saying stuff like that, it just doesn’t sound right. But in my mind, I know I wasn’t 100% at the World Championships. Even when I was done wrestling (Mate) Nemes — because I am in good condition, I am a tough wrestler, I wrestle hard, and I go all out, that’s what I’ve been good at and known for — I sat down on the mat. I just sat there. Coach looked at me and I looked at him and said, “I wrestled as hard as I can and I am completely exhausted right now.” That’s what I told him.
And I was just thinking about that when we got back, how I felt in Paris and then how I had the Military World Championships afterwards and I wasn’t near 100% for that, either. Because I have never felt like that after matches, especially at a big competition like that, something I trained a bunch for where my conditioning should be through the roof. I still felt like that. I wrestled the whole six minutes, but I was dead at the end of that match.
5PM: What is the plan for you right now competitively? Are you taking a pronounced break so your body can catch up and then you’ll be back sometime in 2018?
Ellis Coleman: That’s the plan. Right now, the plan is to take a big break until I recover and feel good and have it under control because I’m probably going to have it for the rest of my life. And then I am going to figure out what’s next for me and once I have it figured out, however long that takes, I’ll decide when I’ll be hopping back on a mat. But I know for sure I won’t be wrestling for at least two months.
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