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Rulon Gardner returns home to sign autographs at Wyoming High School State Championships



2000 Olympic Gold Medalist Rulon Gardner returns back to his native state of Wyoming to sign autographs at the 2001 Wyoming High School State Wrestling Championhips at the Casper Events Center in Casper, Wyoming. The Wyoming High School Activites Association has sponsored Gardner's return to the Wyoming State High School Wrestling Championships. Gardner was greeted by an enthusiastic standing ovation as he entered the Casper Events Center. Gardner reminded the crowd that always doing your best and being proud of where you are from is more important than any medal. He urged the wrestlers to have good sportsmanship both on and off the mat. Gardner thanked the Wyoming people for their support and said there's "no people, no place better than Wyoming." Gardner won the Class 3A Heavyweight Wyoming State Championship title in 1989 when he was a senior at Afton High School. Gardner has moved on to become one of the best known American wrestling athletes after his 2000 Sidney Games upset of the legendary Russian Aleksandr Karelin, "The Bear," who previously had never lost an international wrestling competition. Gardner signs his autograph in the first photograph below on the back of the shirt of a young wrestling fan, one year old Chance Leonhardt of Casper. Chance's uncle, top ranked Bryce Leonhardt of Casper Natrona, will be battling in the championship finals tonight for a 4A State Championship title at 112 pounds. Leonhardt won the State Championship title last year at 103 pounds and is currently ranked number three among the Nation's Best High School Seniors by Wrestling USA Magazine. In his final high school season, Leonhardt has not lost to any Wyoming high school wrestler. The other two photographs show Rulon with his Wyoming fans, both young and old, alike. Hundreds of his fans stood in line patiently waiting to visit with the Olympic Champion, but because of his schedule Rulon was not able to give an autograph to everyone in line, as he was off to the Eastridge Mall at 11 AM to sign autographs at Wyoming Shirts and Gifts for another three hours before departing to Texas. Gardner will be traveling this week to the Hungary Grand Prix International Wrestling Tournament with the US Greco-Roman Team and will also compete in April at the U.S. National Championsihps in Las Vegas. Photo credit to G. Scott Novotny of Casper.
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