In 2008, one-time Valley resident Henry Cejudo became the youngest American Olympic wrestling gold medalist. His story of realizing a dream against all odds is on stage Friday, March 16 at Arizona State University in Tempe, with plenty of wrestling action along the way.
Adapted from the book “American Victory,” by Cejudo and Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke, the play by the same name charts Cejudo’s struggle for identity as he quests after Olympic Gold.
Born in poverty to undocumented migrant workers and raised by a single mother, Cejudo wrestled his way to two state championships while at Maryvale High School in Phoenix.
At 21, he went all the way to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, scrambling to qualify for the U.S. team from a ranking of 31st in the world and coming from behind in four consecutive matches to win the gold medal.
ASU student Alberto Ley plays a teenage Cejudo in the show. Ley worked for more than six months with ASU wrestler David Prado to perfect the wrestling moves required for the role. Prado portrays Cejudo’s opponent in the show.
The true story is adapted for the stage by Jose Zarate and directed by Guillermo Reyes. It’s part of the Arizona Centennial Project New Works Series.
The real Cejudo, 25, told Sports Illustrated magazine that he will retire from freestyle wrestling after the 2012 Olympics, which he’s training for at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. He plans to earn a degree in business administration, work as a motivational speaker and start a family after the London Games.
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