Rulon Gardner was the youngest of nine children born to Reed and Virginia Gardner on August 16, 1971. He was raised on a dairy farm in Wyoming, where the family grew crops and milked cows twice a day. 

Rulon’s wrestling career began when he was six years old. Star Valley would have a wrestling camp for one week every year, which always concluded with a tournament on the weekend. Rulon participated in this from age six until he started junior high school at 12 years old.

Rulon began a regular wrestling season while in junior high and continued with the wrestling seasons until he graduated with a degree in physical education from the University of Nebraska. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Rulon continued his Olympic wrestling pursuit with full-time dedication.

As a member of the 2000 US Olympic wrestling team, Rulon was pitted against Russian legend Alexander Karelin in what can only be described as a David versus Goliath scenario. Against harrowing odds, Rulon emerged as the victor. In doing so, he immediately captured the admiration of Americans, winning the gold medal in one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history.

Rulon returned to the Olympics in 2004 to defend his title and won the Bronze medal. In 2010, Rulon was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

In 2002, Rulon faced a serious life-threatening situation. During a snowmobiling trip with some friends in Star Valley, Wyoming, he became separated from the group and fell into the freezing Salt River with his snowmobile. The sun began to lower, and the temperature, which had been twenty-five degrees, began to drop. He tried to get out of the valley but couldn’t get out. Ultimately, his snowmobile became stuck between two large boulders. After falling into the river four times, Rulon could not move any farther and decided to build a shelter and wait for a rescue team.

After several hours in his makeshift shelter, he stopped shivering and started having visions, which led him to believe that he was probably dying. He remained stranded for 18 hours. When he was eventually rescued, he was experiencing hypothermia and severe frostbite. Due to the physical damage, a saw had to be used to remove his boots. He was afraid that he would lose both of his feet, but fortunately, he only lost his right toe to amputation. In just one year, he went through rehabilitation and was back on the mat. In 2004, he won a bronze medal at the Olympics.

Unbelievably, that wasn’t Rulon’s only near-death experience with hypothermia. In 2007, Rulon and two friends crashed a lightweight aircraft into Lake Powell, Utah. The three men swam for over an hour in 44-degree water to reach the shore. They spent the night in freezing temperatures with no fire or shelter. In the morning, they were able to flag down a passing fisherman who picked them up.

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. This inspiring memoir tells the story of his impoverished upbringing as one of nine children in a close-knit Mormon family on a farm in Wyoming, where unceasing chores led to tremendous strength at an early age. Rulon also describes his Greco-Roman wrestling career, his Olympic victory, his academic struggles, and an account of his near-death experience after the snowmobile accident.

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Rulon did an outstanding job! Not only was his speech great, but he stuck around for two hours to sign autographs. I would absolutely recommend him for another conference.
– American Skandia
Rulon was a charmer. He is a very compelling speaker. He comes across as your all American hometown boy. We liked the tennis shoes. Another plus: He recites his presentation without ever going to the podium. His practice makes perfect. He was a hit.
– Mechanical Contractors of America
Rulon was an outstanding success at our meeting in Cancun last week. He did a great job. He really played to the audience and they loved him. His warm, open personality and sense of humor were evident both on and off-stage. At the end of the interview, he posed with the attendees while everyone took pictures.
– International Business Machines Corporation

Booksby Rulon Gardner

Never Stop Pushing

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