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Former Champion Wrestler And East County Mom Hopes To Inspire

El Cajon's Afsoon Johnston is the topic of a new book, which details her personal journey from Iran to the United States where she helped break barriers in women's wrestling

NBC Universal, Inc.

Afsoon Johnson is the first to admit, she embodies the American Dream.

She is an entrepreneur, wife, and mom who just so happens to be a former wrestling champion.

Johnson was born in Iran where wrestling is the national sport, so long as you're a man.

But Johnson's father, as a progressive thinker and champion wrestler himself, wouldn't deny his daughter the chance to follow in his footsteps.

"And when his only child ended up being a girl, not too many dads -- especially not too many Iranian dads, I would imagine -- would take their little girl and say 'come over here let me teach you some wrestling,'" said Johnson.

In 1984, Johnson's parents came to San Jose seeking political asylum. In Northern California, she learned English and pursued the all-American dream as a cheerleader.

But at Independence High School, a school known for its state championships in wrestling, cheerleaders doubled as stat girls. 

"When I started keeping stats for the wrestling team, I thought I know this team, I know this technique and I can beat the current 98-pounder out there," she said.

The coach said he legally couldn't stop her, but wanted to talk to her father. 

"'I don't think your father is going to want you wrestling boys,'" she recalled. "So he called my dad and my dad said, 'This is great, of course she can wrestle.'"

Not only did Afsoon beat the 98-pounder, she then went on to wrestle all four years. She finished with a winning record after competing against only men.

At UC Davis, she became one of the first official female NCAA wrestlers and went on to win the first-ever world medal for the U.S. team.

Johnson's rise to wrestling prominence is the focus of a new book called "Afsoon" which also details her time as a coach, trainer, and ambassador of women's wrestling.

The book's release had been planned to coincide with the 2020 Olympics, but with its cancelation and now rising tension in America, she believes the timing was still perfect.

"We felt like people needed some hope, people needed some inspiration, people needed a good story, a motivational inspirational story," said Johnson.

To learn more about Afsoon's book and the legacy she helped create by beating the boys, go to her website.

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