Wednesday night, NBC’s “Rock Center” will air a feature piece on Rulon Gardner, the 2000 Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling gold medalist whose post-gold medal escapades have come straight out of the “News of the Weird” archives: A 2002 bout with frostbite that cost him a toe, a 2004 motorcycle wreck, a mixed-martial-arts bout in Japan against a 1992 Olympic judo gold medalist (Gardner won), a 2007 plane crash, and an appearance on the NBC weight-loss reality show “The Biggest Loser.”
In its online teaser, NBC reports that as of February, Gardner needed to lose 45 pounds to make weight at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Iowa City in April.
What’s the military connection? It’s the man Gardner could find waiting for him on the other side of that scale.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers hasn’t been on reality TV or having sub-zero adventures over the past decade or so — he’s been on the mat, racking up a series of tournament titles that point toward a spot on Team USA in London this summer. He won the Dave Schultz Memorial International event at Colorado Springs, Colo., in February, placed seventh in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, enters the trials as the top-ranked heavyweight and a nine-time national champion … read his USA Wrestling bio if you’re still not convinced and don’t mind small type.
Byers and Gardner have tangled before, with mixed results. Come April, if Gardner makes weight and can come close to his 2000 form, they’ll likely square off in Iowa — soldier vs. Olympic icon/reality star.