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Wrestler Who Lost Toe Wins Match

November 10, 2002

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Rulon Gardner, the Olympic wrestling champion who lost a toe to frostbite, beat Eddy Bengtsson 3-0 on Saturday in the Kurt Angle Classic Greco-Roman event.

Gardner, who also wrestled late last month in Los Angeles, gained worldwide attention in the 2000 Sydney Games when he beat Russian’s Alexander Karelin in the heavyweight final. Karelin had not lost an international match in 13 years.

The Wyoming wrestler sustained frostbite when he was stranded for 18 hours in subzero temperatures during a snowmobiling trip in February. A series of surgeries and skin grafts, and therapy in a hyperbaric chamber saved all but the middle toe on his right foot.

``I should be on crutches at best,″ Gardner said. ``Now I’m back wrestling and able to dig, control and underhook. That makes me think I’ll make a complete recovery.″

For the next 5 1/2 months, Gardner said he will prepare for the national championships.

``I’m getting better, working toward overall mat control,″ Gardner said. ``I’ve been prepared mentally, but now I have a better idea of how much I can push myself.″

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