Olympic medalist Cejudo visits Grand Junction

DANIELLE STOMBERG/The Daily Sentinel
U.S. Olympic Gold medalist Henry Cejudo talks to high school wrestlers Saturday afternoon about his Beijing experience.



U.S. Olympic gold-medal-winning wrestler Henry Cejudo made it look easy, but several high school wrestlers learned his success wasn’t always easy.

Cejudo, the only American wrestler to win a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, spoke to a small crowd of wrestlers, coaches and some parents about his childhood Saturday afternoon at Grand Junction High School’s auditorium.

“You’re going to have to work for what you get,” two-time state champion and Norwood High School senior Stryker Lane said. “He had a tough life, but he didn’t let it stop him.

“I think a lot of people expect things to be given to them, but you’ve got to go for it. You’ve got to put in the hours.”

Cejudo, 21, grew up the son of an immigrant and was raised with six siblings by his mother, who worked two jobs. Cejudo attended 13 different elementary schools growing up and “never had Christmas presents,” he said.

“It’s good to see him being all famous to be here,” Central High School junior Jesus Rodriguez said. “In his family, he grew up with seven (siblings including himself) and that’s the same with my family. He fought through all the struggles to make it. It is inspiring.”

“It was a great experience to see him,” Central junior Jaqub Gurule said. “Everything he said, I tried to take in.”

Cejudo didn’t start wrestling until he was 11 years old in an inner-city program started from scratch, but by the time he reached high school he was winning club state titles. He was a four-time high school state champion, including twice at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs, but his goal has always been to win an Olympic gold medal, he said.

He won the 2006 U.S. Nationals and placed second in the junior world championships. In 2007,

Cejudo won the Pan American Games gold medal and the U.S. National championship.

He won the 55 kilogram (121 pounds) Olympic gold medal in August, four years after he started training for the Olympics in Colorado Springs. He promised the audience at Grand Junction High School he’ll return to compete in the 2012 Olympics and go for another gold medal.

“For the most part, I think the kids know of him, but for him to actually be here they can see it for themselves,” Grand Junction coach Bud Glover said. “They could see he started out with nothing. It shows how much you put into it is what you get out of it.

“This is something that was real. Hopefully this will give the kids an extra spark.”


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