Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

Upset on the Mat

Henry Cejudo had so much working against him. The son of illegal immigrants from Mexico grew up in crime-ridden apartment complexes. After spending years fighting with his older brother, Angel, in close quarters, he followed Angel onto the wrestling mat. He had no college wrestling experience, having decided to train for the Olympics full-time instead, and finished 31st at last year's World Championships. Just 21-years-old, Cejudo would contend in 2012, the thinking went: this trip to Beijing just offered some experience. But Cejudo defied wrestling wisdom, upset the '06 world champ in the first round, and made it all the way to the final, where he drove Japan's Tomohiro Matsunaga onto his back to clinch gold. He became the youngest wrestling champ in U.S. history. American flag draped over his shoulders, Cejudo ran around the venue crying, in one of the more moving celebrations at the Games. "I'm dreaming with my eyes open right now," he said.