The National Wrestling Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday that it will host “Miracle on the Mat – Gardner Shocks Karelin” at 2:45 p.m. on March 21 on the main stage at the NCAA Wrestling Tournament Fan Fest in The Armory in Minneapolis.
The event will feature the video from the 2000 Olympic Games when Rulon Gardner upset three-time Olympic champion and nine-time world champion Alexander Karelin, followed by a roundtable discussion featuring Hall of Fame Distinguished Members Gardner, Dan Chandler and Mike Houck.
Prior to the video and stage presentation, Chandler, Gardner and Houck will be joined by Minnesota Wrestling Greats for an autograph session at 2 p.m.
Held in conjunction with the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Fan Fest is free to the public. Fan Fest will be open from 1-6 p.m. on Friday, March 20, and from 12-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 21.
After showing the historic video, the trio will discuss Gardner’s shocking victory over the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame member who is considered the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time.
Gardner was quietly confident going into the 2000 Games in spite of the fact that legendary heavyweight Karelin stood in his way. Great defense kept Gardner in the match and in the second period, when they started in the clinch, Karelin briefly lost his grip to give up his first point in six years and the Olympic gold medal.
“It’s been 20 years since Rulon Gardner stunned Alexander Karelin to win the Olympic Greco-Roman heavyweight gold medal, and it remains one of the most incredible and inspirational events in sports history,” said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the Hall of Fame. “We are excited to give fans at the NCAA Wrestling Championships the opportunity to relive the excitement of the match and hear insight and stories from Rulon, his corner coach Dan Chandler and Mike Houck about the greatest upset in Olympic wrestling history.”
Gardner returned to the top of the podium the next year, becoming the first U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler in history to win both a World and Olympic gold medal. Two years later, after losing a toe in a snowmobiling accident, he won the 2003 World Team Trials and finished 10th in world competition. His amazing recovery was completed in 2004 when he returned to the podium, winning a bronze medal to become only the second U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler to win two Olympic medals. Gardner was honored with the 2000 James E. Sullivan Award, the 2000 ESPY for Male Olympic Athlete and the 2000 U.S. Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 2010 and into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum’s Alan and Gloria Rice Greco-Roman Hall of Champions in 2011.
One of the most successful Greco-Roman wrestlers and influential Greco-Roman coaches in U.S. history, Chandler was Gardner’s corner coach in 2000. He has been a member of the U.S. Greco-Roman coaching staff for every Olympic Games since 1988, including being head coach in 2012, while also coaching several U.S. World teams. He was a member of U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman teams in 1976, 1980 and 1984 and competed in the world championships in 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981 and 1983. Chandler was a 12-time national Greco-Roman champion, capturing seven AAU titles and five United States Wrestling Federation/USA Wrestling titles, and a two-time Pan American gold medalist. Chandler was an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota from 1975-85 and was the head wrestling coach at St. Thomas University from 1986-88. The Minnesota native has been a leader at the state and local level, including serving as a state coach for Minnesota USA Wrestling and the Minnesota Storm. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 2013.
Despite odds stacked against him, including three former champions in his weight class, Houck made history in 1985 when he became the first American to win a gold medal in Greco-Roman, defeating defending world champion Igor Kanygin of Russia in the finals. He was a four-time Greco-Roman national champion, capturing three USA Wrestling titles and an AAU title, and competed in three world championships. He narrowly missed competing in the Olympic Games, finishing second at the trials in 1984 and 1988. He coached the U.S. Greco-Roman national team from 1990-95 and was instrumental in developing the U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete program. During his tenure, the United States finished in the Top 10 in the world championships four out of five years and won the Pan American Games for the first time ever. U.S. wrestlers won six world or Olympic medals, including a gold in 1995 by Dennis Hall, a Distinguished Member inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011. Houck was named Sportsman of the Year for 1985 by the United States Olympic Committee and was nominated for the Sullivan Award. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 2008 and into the Greco-Roman Hall of Champions in the Charter Class of 2009.