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    A student is looking to follow his childhood dream of becoming an American Gladiator.Chris Qualls, senior communications and geology major, followed that dream all the way to an audition in Chicago.

    “American Gladiators” is a tournament-style show with events including obstacle courses, jousting, tug of war, rock-climbing walls and other competitions designed to test physical strength.

    “I loved the show as a kid,” Qualls said. “My roommate and I TiVo the old episodes on ESPN Classic every night.”

    NBC announced in August it would be reviving the 1990s hit “American Gladiators” and would be holding casting calls across the country to audition the new breed of gladiators and guest fighters.

    While there is a casting call in Arlington on Sept. 22, the date coincides with the homecoming game, Qualls said. Instead, he attended auditions held Sunday in Chicago.

    Out of about 350 people, Qualls was one of four called back for a second meeting next week in Dallas.

    A month ago, Scott Nichols, senior advertising/public relations major, said he was glancing through an issue of Time magazine when he came upon information about the show and casting.

    Nichols approached his best friend and roommate, Qualls, with the idea.

    Qualls said it didn’t take him very long to decide he wanted to audition.

    “It took about 10 minutes,” Qualls said.

    Qualls’ mother, Donna Davis, said he exemplifies the qualities that his gladiator hero, Nitro, portrayed.

    “Chris always encourages others and lifts them up,” Davis said. “Nitro would encourage others and I would point that out to him.”

    Davis said she believes her son has the ability to overcome any obstacle.

    “He isn’t afraid of anything,” Davis said, “except me.”

    Nichols said he has been a coach and cheerleader for Qualls through the process.

    He was there cheering when Qualls was put through an endurance obstacle, which included as many pull-ups as possible in 30 seconds, 10 up-downs, a ladder exercise, running cones and ended with a 40-yard dash, Qualls said.

    Nichols has even gone so far as to start a blog chronicling the road to Gladiator Arena.

    Qualls described the whole experience as surreal.

    If he is chosen he already has some ideas on what he would like to be called.

    “I would love to be the next Nitro,” Qualls said. “Except my gladiator name would have to be Big Baby.

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