Bring On the World (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday June 5, 2007 2:13PM; Updated: Tuesday June 5, 2007 2:13PM
Jorge Cejudo -- who also used the aliases Favian Roca, and Emiliano and Javier Zaragosa was no stranger to trouble. Throughout the 1990s he moved in and out of the California penal system for a variety of offenses. His crimes cost him more than his freedom; they also cost him his family. In May 1991, on the eve of his release from jail, Nelly Rico, the woman with whom he shared a home in South Central L.A., moved with her six kids to Las Cruces, N.Mex. The four youngest of those children (one girl and three boys) were Jorge's, including the baby, four-year-old Henry. "My mom didn't want to be around my dad because of the way he was," Henry says.
The splintered family spent 2 1/2 years in New Mexico before Nelly, now 47, moved them again, to Phoenix. Often holding down two jobs, and mostly doing factory work, she struggled to make ends meet. She and her children maintained no permanent residence, sometimes staying in a house or apartment for only two months and sleeping four or more to a bed while sharing living space with other families and friends. "We were never finished packing," says Henry's older sister Gloria. "We'd move from upstairs to downstairs in the same apartment complex."
In such close quarters (another sister, Christy, arrived in 1995) tempers were often on edge, and Henry fought frequently with his brother Angel, who was older by just 16 months. It was Angel who found his way to wrestling first, and Henry soon followed, thrilled, he says, with the idea that he could "get trophies for fighting." By the time he reached Phoenix's Maryvale High, he and Angel were dominating local competition. "Every time they left to go to a tournament, Mom ingrained in them that the way we lived should be a motivation to them," says Gloria. "She said that how [little] we had had nothing to do with who they were. They took that onto the mat with them. They still do."
Angel was the star back then, graduating from Maryvale in 2004 with four state championships and a career record of 150--0. He had scholarship offers from several college programs but no desire to continue going to school. When Dave Bennett, the national developmental freestyle coach for USA Wrestling, offered him a chance to join the resident freestyle program in Colorado Springs, he jumped at the opportunity. Bennett says that while he was arranging for Angel's arrival, somebody from Phoenix -- he doesn't remember who -- asked if Henry, then 17, could come along too. "And I thought, I like that idea," says Bennett.
Henry, who'd just won his second straight Arizona state championship, was already on the radar in Colorado Springs. He had spent several weeks early in the summer of 2004 training at the OTC with Patricia Miranda, who was a couple months away from winning Olympic bronze at 106 pounds in Athens in women's freestyle. She had first met Cejudo on a trip to Phoenix, during a training session at a local high school. "He kept taking me down," says Miranda. "He moved so well from position to position. Once we found out how well he challenged me, we wanted to include him in my every-day training."
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