The Paper photo by Lori Poteet 
Rulon Gardner (right) shows a chopping move to start a match at Wabash’s Little Giant Team Wrestling Camp on Thursday.
The Paper photo by Lori Poteet
Rulon Gardner (right) shows a chopping move to start a match at Wabash’s Little Giant Team Wrestling Camp on Thursday.
He's still a kid at heart.

A two-time Olympic Greco-Roman medal winner, Rulon Gardner solidified himself as one of the top wrestlers in the world.

He intimidated opponents with his size and physicality, outmaneuvered them with his skills and outperformed them on the mat.

Now, instead of dropping opponents to the ground, he's teaching the next wave of future wrestlers - like he did Thursday at Wabash College's Little Giant Team Wrestling Camp. And Gardner cherishes teaching every minute.

"I want to see (the kids) learn something they've never seen before and can use the rest of their lives," said Gardner, who a Gold-Medalist at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia and a Bronze-Medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. "If I give back to the kids and can give them something back for the rest of their lives, that is great . . . I try to think of what's one thing I can show the kids that they've probably never seen before and what's one thing that will stick with them the rest of their lives."

In its third year, the Little Giant Team Wrestling camp focuses on teaching young wrestlers (ages 8-years-old and up) fundamental skills and team building exercises. Wabash College wrestling coach Brian Anderson had four Olympic wrestlers teach in this week's camp, which runs until Saturday.

Gardner, along with 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist Brandon Slay, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Kendall Cross and 2004 Olympic Team member Eric Guerrero are teaching 170 wrestlers in the five-day Wabash College camp.

Anderson has brought in seven Olympic wrestlers in three years, with Steven Abas (an Olympic Silver Medalist in 2004 two years ago) Sammy Henson (a two-time Olympic Silver Medalist in 2000 two years ago) and Joe Williams (a two-time Olympian last year).

He wanted to give younger wrestlers a chance to work with the best in the world.

"I wanted to try and draw the big-name guys," Anderson said. "Most college campuses get college coaches. When you see kids out there joking around with Olympians, it brings a difference to the camp."

Gardner, 36, doesn't mind talking about his the blockades that could have stopped him from wrestling. Instead, he used them as motivation.

Diagnosed with a reading comprehension/speed of reading learning disorder while growing up, he struggled taking tests all throughout his childhood.

"I'd be the last one done. I didn't have confidence. Today, I'd probably have (Attention Deficit Disorder)," Gardner said. "Wrestling taught me how to focus. You had to physically control yourself and have to realize where you are at all times on the mat."

The youngest of nine children, Gardner started wrestling when he was 6-years-old and kept going despite plenty of roadblocks.

He didn't make Star Valley's High School (Wyo.) wrestling team until his senior year - while one of his four older brothers did, tormenting him. But he kept going and continued to wrestle.

After graduating from Star Valley in 1989, Gardner attended Ricks Junior College, graduating from there in 1991 before heading to the University of Nebraska. But of his 64 credits, only 16 transferred over.

"They told me I'd never make it," Gardner said. "I said give me a chance and I'll prove everyone wrong."

And he did. Gardner graduated in 1996, with a Bachelor's of Science Degree after he majored in Physical Education and Health.

Four years later, he became an Olympic Gold Medalist and then he made the 2004 Olympic Games, earning a bronze medal.

But that's what he's been doing all his life - and he continues to teach young wrestlers today.

Two Montgomery County high school wrestlers - Crawfordsville's Dylan McBride and Chaz Brock - acknowledged the camp's definitely been worth the experience.

Brock, who wrestled at 215 pounds this past season and will be an incoming senior, said he learned lots of new drills to do individually and as a team.

He learned some moves to work on for his high crotch and headlock and also learned other set-up shots.

"Some of the shooting drills I really liked," Brock said. "On the first day and every day after, we'd come in and then he'd make us do 20 push-ups. It makes us stronger."

McBride, an incoming junior, wrestled at heavyweight last year and hopes to wrestle there again. He learned new moves on takedowns and better ways to get into position.

It's been a long week for McBride.

Besides participating in the wrestling camp, he is also helping out at Crawfordsville's Youth Football Camps this week. But he enjoys both.

"I like doing it but I get really tired," McBride said. "I go home, take a shower and go to bed."

As for Gardner, he has now opened up a health club in Utah and is also a motivational speaker.

He travels and speaks about 250 days a year and left late Thursday for Boston for a speaking engagement at John Hancock Insurance and Financial Services.

He loves motivational speaking and working with kids just as much as wrestling.

"Some people say I should still be wrestling," he said. "But I'm content."