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Henry Cejudo prepares for a golden moment

August 19, 2008 | 12:51 am

Henry Cejudo of the U.S., right, battles Azerbaijan's Namig Sevdimov during their 55-kilogram freestyle match Tuesday in Beijing. He's been an underdog most of his life. He wasn't even the wrestler most people thought would represent the United States at 55 kilograms (121 pounds) in freestyle wrestling at the Beijing Games.

Once Henry Cejudo, a Los Angeles native who was born to Mexican parents, did secure the spot, his weight class was stacked with former world champions and big-name wrestlers with championship pedigrees.

But in less than two hours, Henry Cejudo might be a gold medalist.

He takes on Japan's Tomihiro Matsunaga, who upset 2007 world champion Besik Kudukhov of Russia in the semifinals, in the final match at 2:20 a.m. PDT. Cejudo has already defeated 2006 world champion Radoslav Velikov of Bulgaria, Besarion Gochashvili of Georgia and Namig Sevdimov of Azerbajian. He lost the first round to all three before rallying to victories.

American teammate Mike Zadick of Great Falls, Mont., is one victory from wrestling for a bronze medal at 66 kilograms. If he defeats 2007 world bronze medalist Bazar Bazrguruev of Krygyzstan in an elimination match at 1 a.m. PDT, he'll take on Kenichi Yumoto of Japan for the bronze later this morning.

-- Dan Loumena

Photo: Henry Cejudo of the U.S., right, battles Azerbaijan's Namig Sevdimov during their 55-kilogram freestyle match Tuesday in Beijing. Credit: Ed Wray / Associated Press

For the record: An earlier version of this post said Tomihiro Matsunaga was the 2007 world champion. He was the 2008 Asian champion. He defeated 2007 world champion Besik Kudukhov of Russia in the semifinals.