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US wrestler Cejudo wins gold medal

Beijing, China (Sports Network) - United States freestyle wrester Henry Cejudo was a surprise gold medal winner in the men's 55-kilogram weight class on Tuesday at the Beijing Olympics.

Cejudo defeated Japan's Tomohiro Matsunaga in the final to claim the U.S.'s third wrestling medal here following bronze-medal wins by Adam Wheeler in the men's Greco-Roman 96 kg class and Randi Miller in the women's freestyle 63 kg class.

Russia's Besik Kudukhov and Bulgaria's Radoslav Velikov shared the bronze medal.

Like he has his whole life, Cejudo battled adversity on Tuesday. He fell behind in each of his first three matches, losing the first period in all three, before using technique and his excellent conditioning to come back.

But in the final against reigning Asian champion Matsunaga, the 22-year-old Cejudo, a first-generation American with Mexican-born parents, swept his way to the gold medal by winning both periods.

"It's all rolling into one," said coach Terry Brands. "He's so physical, trains so hard, and is beginning to wrestle with his head. He'll be around in the years to come."

With his background, it's a wonder he's here at all.

When his father was in and out of jail during his childhood, Cejudo's mother moved the family away and was forced to work several jobs to support them by herself.

In 2005, Cejudo ended up being the first high school athlete to win a senior national championship since USA Wrestling became the sport's governing body in 1983.

"He's done an unbelievable job of overcoming his background, not becoming a victim and making the most from the circumstances he's been given," said Brands. "Everything he's accomplished, he's done for himself."

Cejudo, the three-time reigning Pan American champion in the weight class, was competing in his first Olympics. He finished 31st at the world championships last year.

Also on Tuesday, Mavlet Batirov of Russia defeated the Ukraine's Vasyl Fedoryshyn to win gold in the men's freestyle 60 kg class. Fedoryshyn won the silver, while Iran's Seyedmorad Mohammadi and Japan's Kenichi Yumoto shared bronze.

American Mike Zadick was added to the 60 kg competition after USA Wrestling made a formal request upon hearing Bulgaria has withdrawn its athlete in that weight division due to an injury.

The 2006 world silver medalist, Zadick was eliminated with a loss in his first match by Fedoryshyn.

08/19 07:02:40 ET