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Former state champ finds success on TV

06/09/2009, 12:10am CDT
By Nicholas Kartos

A Wisconsin native will be going for his third title since 2005 on national TV on Wednesday night. 

I'm not talking about the NBA Finals or the NHL.  I'm talking about the MTV Real World/Road Rules Challenge series.  Hang with me for a second.  

Of course the Real World was the first reality show on television, starting a trend that looks like it has no end.  They followed up the successful Real World series with Road Rules, a sort of Real World on wheels, with some extreme challenges thrown in.  When Survivor sparked a new genre of competition-based reality shows, MTV utilized the popularity of their reality shows and the personalities on those reality shows into the Real World / Road Rules Challenges.

Now in it's 17th season, the Challenge, which features a couple different recurring themes, keeps on increasing the stakes and the prize money.  They also pick some great tropical or otherwise interesting locations.  This season, dubbed The Duel II, will reward $100,000 to the winner at the end of the show.

That is where Landon Lueck comes in.  Lueck graduated from River Falls high school in 1999.  An accomplished high school athlete, a D2 tennis doubles state champion his junior year and a fifth place state wrestler as a senior.

In 2004 he got the opportunity to appear on the Real World season that took place in Philadelphia.  Fast forward to 2005 he appeared in his first challenge, The Inferno II, and took the competition by storm.  He won 4 out of the 8 individual competitions and ended up on the winning team at the end, taking home a ¼ share of the $275,000 grand prize.

2006 brought on the Guantlet II in which Landon once again did the state proud, being on the winning team of 9 that ended up splitting the $240,000 grand prize.  

After taking a break to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Landscape Architecture, Landon made his return to the challenge in The Duel 2.  He enters Wednesday night's season finale as not only one of the final four male contestants, but one who has won 5 of the 9 individual challenges.   

I had a chance to catch up with Landon on his strategy for the game and some of the things I am curious about as a staunch fan of reality TV and the Real World franchise.

WSN:  Are you paid to be on the show in addition to the potential prize money?

LL: Yes, since I have done two previous challenge shows I receive a flat payment up front and if I stay through the final week (of six) I receive more money.

WSN: What did you do to get yourself in shape for the show?

LL: I race professionally for a mountain bike team out of Boulder Colorado called Mafia Racing.  I ride my road bike almost everyday.  I commute to work 35 miles round-trip and try to get a 100-mile ride in every other Saturday.  I also began doing push-ups again to gain a little strength and size up top.

WSN: How important does the social game play in addition to the physical / challenge side?

LL: For the females it is crucial.  For the men, it is quite different.  If you win the challenges and are a threat you earn respect.  It s a totally different game with the females (except for Rachel of course).

WSN: As prize money gets bigger it seems that people are partying less, is that accurate?

LL: Very accurate.  Or rather, as the partiers leave the house, the more serious players are left who haven t been partying much at all the entire show – MTV just decides not to show that (of course – that s not nearly as exciting I guess).

WSN: As an outsider it seems like you take these challenges more business-like and less for trying to get more TV time.  What is your main motivation to participate in these shows and how long do you hope to do them?  

LL: The travel is the primary reason I choose to participate with these shows.  Secondarily the money is a strong pull – obviously.  The chance to win $100,000 in six weeks would pull just about anyone into this ring.  Being on MTV was super cool and now I m trying to transition to my real world of the professional world in landscape architecture.

WSN: How does MTV go about picking who is selected to be on these shows?

LL: I have no idea.  I would think it s who s most popular or who gets the most ratings but at the end of the day….I have no idea.  

WSN: Who is the toughest competitor you've faced during your three challenges?

LL: Alton.  The man is carved out of wood.

WSN: Who would you least want to see on the wrong side of a dark alley?

LL: CT – he s such a punk.

WSN: Did anyone else think it was lame that Mark "retired" and gave up his bandana to Derrick and then came back to the show?

LL: No.  I think we all wanted Mark to come back.  He is one of my favorite cast members from any show and we are friends outside of the show – probably more than anyone else.  When asking Mark about that he said that it was never the plan to actually retire so….no idea.  Just a little show biz thing maybe.

Root Landon on Wednesday night at 9 on MTV. 

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