Cejudo named 2008 John Smith Award winner, as USA Wrestling’s Freestyle Wrestler of the Year
Henry Cejudo (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) has been named the winner of the 2008 John Smith Award as the Freestyle Wrestler of the Year by USA Wrestling. It is the first time that Cejudo has won this prestigious award.
The award is named in honor of two-time Olympic champion and four-time World champion John Smith.
Cejudo captured the gold medal at 55 kg/121 lbs. in men’s freestyle at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China at the age of 21, becoming the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion in history. He was the only U.S. men’s freestyle wrestler to win a medal at the 2008 Olympics.
Cejudo defeated Tomohiro Matsunaga of Japan in the gold-medal match, 2-2, 2-0. Among his four wins was an opening round victory over 2006 World champion Radislav Velikov of Bulgaria. Cejudo lost the first period of his first three Olympic matches, but came back strong to win them all in the full three periods.
Cejudo won a gold medal at 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Las Vegas, Nev. in June, defeating 2004 Olympic silver medalist Stephen Abas in the championship series, two matches to one.
He also won a gold medal at the Pan American Championships in Colorado Springs in February, qualifying the USA to compete in the Olympics at his weight class. He defeated 2007 World bronze medalist Andy Gonzalez of Cuba in the finals.
Cejudo placed second at the 2008 U.S. Nationals, his third straight year in the national finals.
After the Olympics, Cejudo received major international attention for his victory, appearing on major media shows such as the Tonight Show, the Today Show, the Oprah Winfrey Show, ESPN Sports Center, Ninja Warrior and many others.
Cejudo was a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete during the 2008 season. He came directly to the USOTC as a high school junior, and trained there for four years leading up to his Olympic title. He captured two state titles for Maryvale High School in Phoenix, Ariz. as a freshman and sophomore and two state titles for Coronado High School in Colorado Springs, Colo. as a junior and senior.
PAST JOHN SMITH AWARD WINNERS AS FREESTYLE WRESTLER OF THE YEAR
2008 – Henry Cejudo, Colorado Springs, Colo., Sunkist Kids
2007 – Daniel Cormier, Stillwater, Okla., Gator WC
2006 – Bill Zadick, Colorado Springs, Colo., Gator WC
2005 - Tolly Thompson, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2004 - Cael Sanderson, Ames, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2003 - Cael Sanderson, Ames, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2002 - Joe Williams, Iowa City, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2001 - Joe Williams, Iowa City, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2000 - Brandon Slay, Amarillo, Texas, Dave Schultz WC
1999 - Stephen Neal, Bakerfield, Calif., Dave Schultz WC
1998 - Sammie Henson, Norman, Okla., Sunkist Kids
1997 - Les Gutches, Corvallis, Ore., Sunkist Kids
1996 - Kendall Cross, Raleigh, N.C., Sunkist Kids
1995 - Kevin Jackson, Phoenix, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
1994 - Melvin Douglas, Mesa, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
1993 - Terry and Tom Brands, Iowa City, Iowa, Team Foxcatcher
1992 - John Smith, Stillwater, Okla., Sunkist Kids