Olympian to visit wrestlers

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— Michelle Caragol, a board member with the Yampa Valley Wrestling Club, describes this week as a "wrestling extravaganza."

Steamboat will host Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner on Thursday and two of the biggest wrestling tournaments of the season this weekend.

"We planned to have Rulon visit the same week as the high school wrestling season kicked off," Caragol said. "We are hoping to spark some interest in the sport of wrestling in our community and feel like this is a great way to do it. It is also a terrific opportunity for the young wrestlers in our community to meet a legend in the sport."

The Yampa Valley Wrestling Club arranged to have Gardner, who became a household name after upsetting Russian Aleksander Karelin to win the Olympic Gold medal in 2000, visit Steamboat Springs this week to speak with young people. He is scheduled to speak at the high school auditorium from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday, and the program is open to the public.

Following the speech, Gardner will host a clinic for select high school, middle school and club wrestlers.

Caragol said the club was able to get Gardner to come to Steamboat Springs through its own fundraising efforts, donations and the generosity of several local businesses that stepped forward to help.

Thursday's events will kick off a big weekend for wrestlers in Steamboat and the surrounding area. The Steamboat Springs High School team will open its season the next day with a 6 p.m. dual match against Rangely. On Saturday, Steamboat Springs High School will host the biggest high school tournament of the season, the Carl Ramunno Invitational. The Yampa Valley Wrestling Club also will host a Peewee tournament at the high school Sunday.

The tournament will feature eight teams and 130 wresters between kindergarten and eighth grade. The junior wrestlers will wrap up their season the following weekend in Craig.

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