Rulon Gardner (born August 16, 1971 in Afton, Wyoming) is an amateur wrestler in the Greco-Roman discipline from the United States, most notable for his gold medal in the 2000 Olympics after defeating Russian Alexander Karelin, who was previously undefeated in 13 years of international competition. Gardner's win "shocked the wrestling world." His strength is often attributed to the physical labor he performed on the dairy farm where he grew up. A Mormon, he attended junior college at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) in Rexburg, Idaho and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor's degree in physical education though he has never taught in the classroom. He attended both Ricks and Nebraska on wrestling scholarships. His love is working with disadvantaged children and is currently making his profession as a motivational speaker.
On 25 February 2007, Gardner and two other men survived a crash when a light aircraft he was travelling in crashed into Lake Powell, Utah. The men swam more than one hour in 44 °F (7 °C) water to reach shore, and then spent the night without shelter. None of the three received life-threatening injuries.
He now owns a business called "Gardner's Country Village" in his hometown of Afton. It sells snacks and other items to travelers.
High School Years
Rulon Gardner attended Star Valley High School in Afton, Wyoming, and was a three-sport letterwinner and standout in football, wrestling and track and field. He was an All-State selection in both football and wrestling, and was also the 1989 wrestling state heavyweight champion. In track & field, as a senior, he took second at the state finals in the shotput.
As a wrestler Rulon would have most likely been a two time Wyoming State Wrestling Champion, yet his older brother Reynold was slightly better than he was. Rulon claims it was because Reynold played mental games on him and kept him from the varsity position until Reynold graduated. Reynold was the 1988 Wyoming State Heavyweight Champion and was on the championship team from Star Valley. Reynold went on to wrestle at Ricks College following his missionary service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church of which Rulon is also a member. Reynold was an NCJAA All American in 1992 and NCJAA Heavyweight National Champion in 1993.
Rulon is a great great-grandson of Archibald Gardner, one of the early settlers of Star Valley, Wyoming.
Gardner attended Brigham Young University-Idaho for two years and as a sophomore won the NJCAA national heavyweight wrestling championship. He then earned a wrestling scholarship to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At Nebraska, he finished 4th in the 275 lb. weight class at the 1993 NCAA Championships, earning All-American honors.
Gardner is most well known for his defeat of Alexander Karelin (Aleksandr) in the 2000 Summer Olympics. Karelin had been undefeated for thirteen years, and had not given up a point in six years, prior to his loss in the gold medal match to Gardner.
In 2001 Gardner added a world championship to his list of accomplishments with a victory in the finals over Mihaly Deak-Bardos of Hungary. His win made him the only American to ever win both a World and Olympic title in Greco-Roman wrestling.
After the 2000 Olympics he suffered a series of injuries from both a snowmobiling and motorcycle accident. These injuries included an amputated toe and a dislocated wrist, but he still went on to win the U.S. Olympic trials for his weight class and then to compete in the 2004 Summer Olympics. At the 2004 Olympics, he was unable to repeat his 2000 performance, although he did win a bronze medal. After the bronze medal match, he left his shoes on the mat as the traditional symbol of retirement from competitive wrestling.
Gardner fighting fellow Olympian Hidehiko Yoshida (gold-medalist in Judo) in mixed martial arts competition
Gardner has since begun competing in mixed martial arts and in 2005 he became the host for a professional wrestling league called Real Pro Wrestling.
Gardner will serve as an analyst for NBC Sports coverage of Wrestling at the 2008 Summer Olympics. 
Aside from his Olympic medals, his achievements include:
* U.S. Champion in 1995, 1997, and 2001
* James E. Sullivan Award for amateur athlete of the year, 2001
* Gold medal, World Wrestling Championships, 2001
* Jesse Owens Award, 2001
* United States Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year, 2001
* ESPY award for U.S. Male Olympic athlete of the year, 2001
* Pan American Games champion, 1998
* World Cup Champion, 1996
On the 31st December, 2004 Rulon Gardner fought Hidehiko Yoshida in a mixed martial arts bout for the Pride Fighting Championships at an event named PRIDE Shockwave 2004. Yoshida, in addition to being an MMA fighter, was a former Olympic gold medallist in judo.
Gardner won the bout via unanimous decision.
In 2005 Gardner published his autobiography (co-written by Bob Schaller), Never Stop Pushing: My Life from a Wyoming Farm to the Olympic Medals Stand, in which he describes his Greco-Wrestling career, his academic struggles (as someone who suffers from a learning disability) and an account of his near-death experience when getting stranded after a snowmobile accident.
Rulon Gardner has had an amazing streak of luck with survival. While in grammar school, Rulon was impaled by an arrow in a show-and-tell incident. In 2002, Gardner was stranded on a wilderness snowmobile trip and had to have a toe amputated after suffering frostbite. In 2004, he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. In February 2007, Gardner and two others crashed a Cirrus SR-22 airplane into Lake Powell. After surviving the impact, they were forced to swim in 44 °F (7 °C) water for over an hour. The three survived overnight without shelter or fire in 28 °F (−2 °C) air temperature. His amazing luck streak continued when a fisherman, out of his usual route, found and picked them up in the morning.
Rulon has been married and divorced three times, and has no children.