More often than other sports, wrestling has a way of delivering cruel and sudden endings.
Those that succeed at the top level must train year-round, undergoing rigorous workouts and strict diet programs that overrun their life.
And after 365 days of exhausting work, the dream they continually strive for is often yanked away in a few brief moments, whether it be an extended six-minute match or an immediate pin.
For the past three years, that's how it has been for former Oklahoma State wrestler Coleman Scott.
After a successful college career, Scott set his sights on a spot with the U.S. national team. And to achieve that dream, he spent the majority of his 20s in the training room.
For the most part, it translated to the mat. But each of the previous three years, his dream was cut short near the pinnacle, losing when he had a shot to make the team.
“I've had a lot of struggles,” Scott said. “The first couple of years out of college, I couldn't buy a win, it seemed like. I was just losing to guys that I didn't think I should have.”
But those rough times have hardened Scott, providing constant motivation during the never-ending workout sessions.
“I think I had to go through that to get where I am now,” Scott said. “It was tough being third the last three years, knowing you just came up a little bit short. It's another year that you can just go to the World Championships and watch. I actually didn't go last year because I was tired of going to the first two. I just said: ‘I'm tired of going. I'm tired of being a training partner. I'm going to go make the team.'”
And for Scott, the fourth year was the most important. London 2012 gave him a shot at the Olympics.
With legendary wrestlers John Smith and Kenny Monday as his trainers, Scott made the necessary strides.
“I've coached him and seen him since he was a freshman here,” Smith said. “His level of maturity right now on the mat and what he expects out of himself out on the mat has never been as aggressive as it has been up to this last six months. His best has come out here in the end. Like he said, it's probably part of that journey, that disappointment.”
To exorcise those lingering demons, Scott was put in the most intimidating of environments. He had to win six straight matches outside, in the middle of New York's Times Square.
“It was definitely the craziest venue,” Scott said. “I've never wrestled outside. It was literally in the middle of everything with cars honking. Our locker room, per se, was across the street under the awning at the hotel. To get to the match, we were weaving in and out of business people in suits everywhere to get to the mat.”
But when he did, Scott won all six matches, culminating in a championship win over Shawn Bunch that clinched his place on the U.S. Olympic team and spilled over into an emotional celebratory scene.
“This is the best feeling ever,” Scott said to the New York Daily News after the win. “What a great night. You couldn't ask for a better place, the best city in the world, and I guess now it's a little better…(Now) I'm going to go win gold in London.”