Posts Tagged ‘James McGrath’

Top Stories from Venice Finals

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

A few days late I just finished watching the Venice Finals, and wanted to share what were the top stories for me from the Venice City Finals of American Ninja Warrior.  As always, this is just one man’s take of what jumped out to him from watching the show.  As a competitor, and a competitor with friendships with other competitors, my view is obviously somewhat biased by my experiences, so take it all with that grain of salt!

Biggest Obstacle Downgrade Ever – The Flying Nunchucks in the qualifying round of Venice was the single hardest obstacle in any of the qualifying rounds in American Ninja Warrior 5, and they massively downgraded it by changing it out and putting in the weak lame Trapeze Swing for the Venice Finals.  Nobody fell on it, nor came close to falling on it.  It was a blatant move to ensure more competitors went deeper into the course.  I can understand it though, as we’d be bummed if only a few competitors got to try the cool obstacles like the Rope Maze and the Cliffhanger in the latter part of the course, but it was still the biggest obstacle downgrade ever in American Ninja Warrior history.

The Beast Means Business – James “The Beast” McGrath dropped the hammer and got the fastest time of the Venice Finals as he blazed through the course, only one of four competitors to finish the tough course (yes, it was still very tough despite the Biggest Obstacle Downgrade Ever!).  James is consistently one of the top ninjas, and a legitimate threat to be the first American Ninja Warrior.  I call James “The Patron Saint of Walkons” because in American Ninja Warrior 3 he walked on and made it all the way to the Ultimate Cliffhanger in Stage 3 in Japan.  Everybody who has ever walked on to American Ninja Warrior (including me) wants to be James “The Beast” McGrath when they grow up.

Jessie Graff Fails at Warped Wall – The 28 year old stuntwoman from Santa Monica was the first woman to have ever advance to the city/regional final round, and demonstrated that was no fluke with a strong run in the Venice Finals making it all the way to the Warped Wall.  She didn’t really come close to completing the Wall, but my sense is that with some focused training on it this amazing athlete will get it the next time she confronts it on the course.

Dustin Rocho Bounces Back from Injury, Gets 2nd Fastest Time – In American Ninja Warrior 4 this dedicated dad, humble guy, and generous soul (did he really give away his house to a family in need?) went out on a nasty fall on the Jump Hang that ruptured his ear drum.  This season he delivered an inspired run finishing the course in the 2nd fastest time and advancing to the National Finals in his hometown of Las Vegas.

David Campbell Secures 5th Mt Midoriyama Visit – Upfront I have to say that as a long-time Sasuke (Ninja Warrior Japan) fan, I have mixed emotions with American Ninja Warrior branding the National Finals in Las Vegas as Mt Midoriyama.  But it is clear they are, so no point battling against it.  That point aside, David Campbell further cemented his status as one of the true superstars of American Ninja Warrior by competing the Venice Finals course and advancing to Mt Midoriyama (there, I said it) in Las Vegas for a record 5th time.

Jesse La Flair Fails on Cliffhanger – Like I said before, I love watching Jesse La Flair run, you should check out his videos on YouTube.  I was interested to learn that he’s been with his wife for 13 years since the 9th grade, so much respect there.  He fell in the Venice Finals on the Cliffhanger, which was really no surprise since they’ve been showing that fall in TV promos for the last month!   Many people didn’t realize the guy falling in the promos was him, and NBC had a fail when it showed that promo ad immediately before his run, and many people recognized that it was him for the first time.  Social media blew up about that mistake #NBCfail.

Mario Mendoza and Daniel Dick Represent the 40 Year Olds – Last season in American Ninja Warrior 4 I was proud to be the oldest guy who advanced to the Midwest Finals when I was 40.  Here in Venice in American Ninja Warrior 5 there were two strong 40 year old competitors who advanced to the city finals:  Mario Mendoza and Daniel Dick.  Both of them had fantastic runs, with Mario Mendoza advancing to the National Finals in Las Vegas.  Congrats to both guys for holding it down for we middle-aged guys 😉

Team Douglas Represents – The Douglas brothers did fantastic in Venice with both Andrew and JB advancing to the city finals.  Andrew Douglas, who finished the qualifying course, caught a tough break and clearly slipped on the Quintuple Steps and went out early.  JB, the big brother who fell in his qualifying run but still advanced to the city finals, had an amazing run and was one of four competitors to hit the buzzer on a very difficult course.  There was a heartwarming story about JB helping a young boy who had selective mutism find his voice through their friendship, which made me root hard for him.  I’m a sucker for anybody who helps kids, so count me a JB fan.

Brent Steffensen Fails on the Salmon Ladder – Brent, one of the top consistent competitors in American Ninja Warrior and the guy who went the farthest in American Ninja Warrior 4, came to a shocking end when he slipped on the Salmon Ladder ending his season.  You could see he fell out of his rhythm, and his fall reminds us all how difficult each and every obstacle is, and any one can end our season at any moment on the course.  Brent is a great guy, and a fierce competitor, and he’ll be back strong in American Ninja Warrior 6, no doubt.

Here are the Venice competitors who advanced to the National Finals in Las Vegas…er…Mt Midoriyama:

  1. James McGrath – Clear
  2. Dustin Rocho – Clear
  3. JB Douglas – Clear
  4. David Campbell – Clear
  5. James Eggiman – Failed Spider Climb
  6. James Sclar – Failed Spider Climb
  7. Jesse La Flair – Failed Cliffhanger
  8. Dan Mast – Failed Cliffhanger
  9. Brian Krestch – Failed Cliffhanger
  10. Luke Carson – Failed Cliffhanger
  11. Lance Pekus – Failed Cliffhanger
  12. Justin Walcker – Failed Cliffhanger
  13. Levi Keller – Failed Rope Maze
  14. Mario Mendoza – Failed Rope Maze
  15. Will Roberts – Failed Rope Maze

Top Stories from Venice Beach Opening Round

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

We saw some great stories and shocking moments in the Venice Beach city preliminary round competition.  Though this is certainly not a comprehensive treatment, for me these were the top stories of the opening round in Venice.

Top Veterans Deliver Top Performances, Advance – Although they got different degrees of TV coverage, a handful of the top long-time American Ninja Warrior veterans put in dominating performances.  Shane Daniels (2nd), David Campbell (3rd), James McGrath (5th), Brian Kretsch (7th), and Brent Steffensen (11th) showed that although there are many new amazing competitors on the scene, the traditional pantheon of top dogs are not ready to be displaced.

Derek Nakamoto Falls Early – Derek Nakamoto had a truly amazing rookie season performance in American Ninja Warrior 4 when he not only lit up the Southwest Regional Finals with the 7th fastest time in a stacked field, but blew everyone away with the fastest time in Stage 1 of the National Finals in Las Vegas.  Expectations were high for Derek entering American Ninja Warrior 5, and despite the motivation of his own traditional Japanese drum section playing for him on the course, he slipped up on the Floating Chains and fell to the gasps of the crowd.  Even the great ones fall early in competitions, proving that any obstacle can reach up and abruptly end your season.  I think despite the early exit in American Ninja Warrior 5, we’ll see great performances from this talented and focused 22 year old in many future seasons.

Flying Nunchucks Take Down Many – In what most likely proved to be the toughest single obstacle of any preliminary course in this year’s American Ninja Warrior, the Flying Nunchucks took down a long line of new and veteran competitors, including studs like Paul Darnell, Michael “Frosti” Zernow, Kyle Cochran, and Brian Orosco among others.

David Campbell Delivers the Goods – David Campbell is a legend in the Ninja Warrior crowd for his focus and discipline as a competitor, and for being one of the few American competitors who got to compete in Sasuke (Ninja Warrior Japan) multiple times before American Ninja Warrior even existed.  In American Ninja Warrior 3 he went farther than any other competitor, and fell on the second-to-last obstacle in Stage 1 of the National Finals last season.  One thing that sets David apart is his consistency, he rarely trips up early in competition, and this year was no exception as he delivered the 3rd fastest time.

The Frame Slider Takes Out Grandpa Ninja – Kelvin Antoine, one of the show’s true stars with fans and fellow competitors, delivered one of American Ninja Warrior 4’s most inspiring performances by being the oldest competitor at age 53 to ever complete the preliminary course.  His warm personality and positive attitude make him a great spokesman of the “age is just a number” philosophy that he often quotes.  Although his American Ninja Warrior 5 run ended early with a fall on just the second obstacle, the Frame Slider, it doesn’t change his inspiring message and journey, and I’m sure we’ll see Grandpa Ninja back on the course defying his age often in the future.

Justin Walcker Overcomes Tourette’s, Dominates Course – In one of my favorite inspiring story-lines of last season and this one is Justin Walcker, who has overcome Tourette’s syndrome to be a top competitor in American Ninja Warrior.  American Ninja Warrior 4 was his rookie season where he advanced to the National Finals in Vegas.  This year in the prelims in Venice Justin proved that last season was no fluke by blasting through the course to hit the buzzer.  I predict we’ll see Justin excel for many seasons to come, and we should all be reminded by him that with focus and determination, many seemingly insurmountable challenges can be overcome.

Second Early Exit in a Row for Brian Orosco – Brian Orosco is a legitimate legend in the Ninja Warrior and parkour communities, having competed multiple times at Mt Midoriyama in Japan as well as being the star in the lone season of the short-lived (but pretty awesome) Jump City.  Last season he had a surprisingly early exit when he fell on just the fourth obstacle, the Jump Hang, in the opening regional round.  This year he made it one obstacle further to the Flying Nunchuks, a brutal obstacle where he was just one of many to fail this difficult vertical grip test, handing Brian his second early-exit in a row.

Cowboy Finishes Course, Hat Doesn’t Budge – Lance Pekus, a rancher from Salmon, Idaho, cruised through the course with his cowboy hat on without it ever falling off.  With so many amazing parkour studs, rock climbers, and stuntmen dominating American Ninja Warrior, I love seeing people of unusual backgrounds and training situations doing well on the course, it reminds the rest of us “common folks” that people of any background have a chance if they have the heart and determination to compete.

Dr. Noah Kaufman Fixes Shoulders, Destroys Courses, Gets Misquoted on Parkour – We all cringed when we saw American Ninja Warrior veteran Alan Connealy take an awkward fall out of the Frame Slider and dislocate his shoulder.  Fortunately for him Noah Kaufman, a fellow competitor waiting his turn to run, happened to be an Emergency Room doctor, and he was able to come over and deftly pop Alan’s shoulder back into place to a reward of a gasp of “ohhh, nice!” from Alan.  Noah then took his turn on the course and demonstrated a rock-climber’s strength by easily handling the Flying Nunchucks and finishing the course with ease.  In his interview Noah shared his belief that the first American Ninja Warrior would be a rock-climber, something I’ve also said for years – ridiculous grip strength and stamina will be required to make it through the late stages of Mt Midoriyama.  Apparently Noah was misquoted in the telecast when Matt Iseman said he called “parkour guys wusses” which was in fact was a joke between Noah and a parkour friend of his.  This has unfairly made Noah a flash-point in a newly created Parkour v Rock-Climbing debate, and I’ve heard directly from Noah that he has great respect for the Parkour athletes.

Jesse La Flair Floats to Top Time – I must admit, I love watching Jesse La Flair.  So smooth and effortless, so skilled.  Probably why his parkour videos on YouTube are so watched with millions of views.  He continued that theme by breezing through the course in the Venice prelims to the top time and making us all wonder what he’ll do next.

Badass Chicks on the Rise – Watchout men, there is no doubt that there are many badass women ninjas on the rise and getting stronger.  Jessie Graff made history be being the first woman to ever advance to the regional/city finals round, and Erika Schwarz and Kacy Catanzaro delivered inspiring strong performances making it all the way to the Flying Nunchuks.  I believe American Ninja Warrior 5 is the year that the women ninjas put the men on notice that they are for real, and American Ninja Warrior 6 will be witness to a true monster breakout performance by one of the many strong women ninjas in our midst.  My money says that American Ninja Warrior 6 is the season where we see a woman finish the preliminary course for the first time and smash that buzzer.

American Ninja Warrior 5 Premieres – Venice on Deck

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

The American Ninja Warrior 5 season premieres tonight, and kicks off the summer schedule. The airing format for this season is both sorta the same and slightly different from last season. What’s the same is that G4 and NBC will be sharing the show again, with G4 airing an episode on Sunday night and NBC airing an episode on Monday night, both in primetime. What’s different about this season is that G4 and NBC will each present a different edited version of the same region/round in a given Sunday-Monday episode pairing on back-to-back days.

This season there are only 4 regions, each representing different geographic coverage: Venice, Baltimore, Miami, and Denver. The opening regional round of Venice airs tonight on G4 and tomorrow night on NBC, and hosts some of the best known American Ninja Warrior competitors like David Campbell, James McGrath, and Brent Steffenson among others. It also hosts a few of the lesser-known American Ninja Warrior veterans who fellow competitors know have the goods, and are a threat for a breakout performance this season, like Paul Darnell and Brian Kretsch.

Next week’s coverage will be of the Baltimore region, where yours truly competed. Set your DVRs for this season!

24 Advance to Stage 2 in National Finals

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Only 24 of the 100 competitors who advanced to the national finals of American Ninja Warrior 4 in Las Vegas completed Stage 1 and advanced to Stage 2. Derek Nakamoto killed it with the fastest time of 1:34.4. Tune in on Monday night July 23rd on NBC for the 2-hour season finale that shows these brave souls take their crack at Stage 2 and beyond, and find out if any of them became the first American Ninja Warrior!

Order #, Finalist, Time
1 Derek Nakamoto – 1:34.40
2 Lorin Ball – 1:37.22
3 Brent Steffensen – 1:41.00
4 Danny Johnson – 1:42.31
5 Kole Stevens – 1:42.33
6 Paul Darnell – 1:44.98
7 Elet Hall – 1:46.00
8 Drew Drecshel – 1:46.08
9 Ben Snead – 1:47.02
10 Ahmed Toure – 1:47.56
11 Paul Kasemir – 1:48.29
12 Remi Bakkar – 1:50.98
13 Travis Rosen – 1:51.00
14 James McGrath – 1:51.61
15 David “Flip” Rodriguez – 1:51.66
16 Brandon Douglass – 1:53.18
17 Sean Noble – 1:53.20
18 J.B. Douglas – 1:57.50
19 Brian Arnold – 1:58.16
20 Evan “Rocket” Dollard – 1:59.57
21 Chris Wilczewski – 2:01.26
22 Will Dodd – 2:02.23
23 Josh Lobeck – 2:06.08
24 Nathaniel Spencer – 2:10.00

National Finalists in American Ninja Warrior 4

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Here is a list of the 90 national finalists in American Ninja Warrior 4 who advanced to Las Vegas to compete on the Mt. Midoriyama replica uber-course that was built there. There will be 10 wildcards added to these 90 competitors to make an even 100 runners, which is the traditional number that competed in the original Ninja Warrior Japan (Sasuke) for many years. The identity of these wildcards will be revealed when the show airs.

15 finalists from each of the 6 regions (listed below in order of finish) fought their way through their respective regional rounds and then the regional finals to advance to the first finals of American Ninja Warrior held in the US. Mad props to all these competitors, and hit LIKE to applaud them and share this list to spread the word of their awesomeness!

Evan Dollard
Jesse La Flair
Kole Stevens
Remi Bakkar
Brent Steffenson
Chad Simpson
Derek Nakamoto
Dorian Cedars
Dan Mast
Paul Darnell
Sedderick Bassett
Ryan Thompson
Dylan Curry
Ronnie Shalvis Jr
Michael “Frosti” Zernow

Matthew Derouen
Andrew Karsen
Jack Morgan
Stephen Volcko
Arthur Skov
Michael Silenzi
Nick ‘Lovin’ Stephforn
Johnathan Morin
Scott Robinson
Will Dodd
Joshua Grant
Andrew Lowes
Nate Aye
Nick Kostner
Cade Halada

Tim Shieff
Luis Moco
Dan Galiczynski
Chris Wilczewski
Elet Hall
Travis Graves
Jesse Villareal
Christopher DiGangi
Andrew Wood
Danny Johnson
Bradley Smith Jr.
Phillip Pirollo
John Sapinoso
Matt Mings
Michael Pericoloso

James McGrath
Travis Furlanic
David Campbell
Sean Noble
Kyle Cochrane
Justin Sweeney
Josh Horsley
Nathan Sausedo
Justin Walcker
J.B. Douglas
Kevan Reoli
Ben Snead
Brian Kretsch
Gunner Bahn
Patrick McGrath

Paul Kasemir
Brandon Douglass
Brian Arnold
Jaret Salas
Kevin Klein
Sat Khalsa
Ahmed Toure
Josh Lobeck
Lorin Ball
Jake Smith
Bob Pondrom
Nathaniel Spencer
James Wyatt
Tremayne Dortch
Alan Connealy

David “Flip” Rodriguez
Drew Dreschel
Travis Rosen
Jared “J.J.” Woods
Michael Ekhert
Bull Bullard
Sean Morris
William Brown
Thomas Hall
Brendan Kelly
Andy Taylor
Adam Grossman
Niko Bogucki
Tony Reddick
Paul O’Connor