Coronado honors Olympian
Cejudo on alma mater: ‘I basically learned to read and write here’
Before an appreciative crowd of Coronado High students, 2006 alumnus Henry Cejudo made his triumphant return Oct. 28.
Flanked by school cheerleaders, he strode into the school gymnasium holding a large American flag, then circled the gym, shaking hands, acknowledging the applause and giving special waves to friends and family.
“I had a dream - to win an Olympic gold medal,” the 21-year-old wrestler later told the all-school assembly, standing in the middle of the gym floor while the cheers rolled down.
Cejudo (pronounced say-WHO-doe) took first place in the 55-kilogram (121-pound) freestyle classification Aug. 19 in Beijing, making him not only the first Olympic champion in Coronado history, but the youngest wrestling gold-medalist in history.
He described moving to Colorado Springs from Arizona at age 16, which put him close to the Olympic Training Center (OTC). It also took him away from his mother (who had been raising him alone); he moved in with his older brother, also a wrestler, who was already training at the center.
“How many of you would move away from your mother at age 16?” Cejudo asked the students. “It was a tough road.”
But he never wavered in his quest. Coronado wrestling coach Matt Brickell said Cejudo told him of his gold-medal aspirations the first time they ever met.
From a purely athletic standpoint, the youth nicknamed “the Aztec Warrior” did not disappoint. In Arizona, he had won two previous state high school wrestling championships, and at Coronado he claimed two more, never losing a match.
Earning a Coronado diploma was the challenging part. He credited school staff for helping him move forward. “I basically learned to read and write here,” he said. “You guys are the best.”
After graduation, Cejudo spurned college scholarship offers and kept on training and competing through the OTC.
He was not expected to win at Beijing, having placed just 31st at the previous year's world championships. “He shocked the wrestling world,” Coronado High School Athletic Director Dave Howard said afterward.
In his talk Oct. 28, the champion offered advice to Coronado students. “Hard work pays off,” he said, and instructed them never to lose sight of “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
In addition to Brickell and Howard, other assembly speakers were CHS Principal Susan Humphrey, Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, District 11 Deputy Superintendent Mike Poore and USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender. Howard unveiled a poster of Cejudo that will hang in the gym and Bender presented him with a championship ring.
Afterward, Cejudo signed autographs in the school's commons area for students during their lunch breaks.
Westside Pioneer article