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American Ninja Warrior Season 9 Power Rankings

Summer is the doldrums of football season. At this point, the only kind of NFL news (outside of a contract extension) is bad news. Since there hasn’t been any news about Battlebots being renewed for a third season, I’ve turned my attention to another summer television staple: American Ninja Warrior. It has become a staple of my summer tv schedule over the last few years and has produced some unbelievable moments – from Geoff Britten becoming the first to complete all 6 stages in a season to Jessie Graff becoming the first woman to complete Stage 1 at the Vegas Finals.

Ninja Warrior is also great because it brings together people from all walks of life to try their hand at defeating the course. To succeed, you need a combination of speed, agility, body control, upper body strength, grip strength, and precision. There is much less “head-to-head” competition and more of a camaraderie of “everyone against the course.” The City Qualifiers and City Finals courses will feature great stories of people who have overcome adversity or are running the course to promote a certain cause. By the time the 75 Finalists (plus 10 Wild Cards) reaches Las Vegas for the National Finals, the truly elite ninjas tend to rise to the top. Over the last four seasons, only 94 ninjas have cleared Stage 1 in Vegas (an average of 23 per season, though that number includes the record 38 competitors from Season 7).  It took 6+ seasons of the show just for someone to complete the third (of four) Stages at the Vegas Finals course. Stage 3 was completed four times in the USA vs The World special that aired after Season 6. In the 7th Season of ANW, a “Total Victory” (completion of all four Vegas Finals stages) was achieved for the first time ever by Geoff Britten and Isaac Caldiero. In total, only 5 Americans have ever completed the grueling third Stage.

In anticipation of the start of the Season 9 on Monday, June 12, I devised a “Power Rankings” of veteran ninjas, taking into account their performances over the last 4 seasons. These 25 athletes are the top ninja competitors heading into Season 9 (with the caveat that I have no inside information on any rookies so they are not ranked).

Note: Isaac Caldiero, the first winner of American Ninja Warrior, retired from competition after his victory in Season 7. He is not listed, though would be in the Top 5 if he were on this list. Additionally, “The Natural” Elet Hall also retired after Season 7 and does not appear on this list. He would be in the Top 20 if he chose to compete in Season 9.

Honorable Mentions

 Brandon Mears and Dan Polizzi are known as the “Towers of Power” – two firefighers who are among the tallest ninjas in the competition. Mike Bernardo is another firefighter who is best known for his machine gun-esque approach to dominating the Salmon Ladders. Brent Steffensen was the “Last Man Standing” in Season 4 and has reached the Vegas Finals each of the last two seasons. Dustin McKinney took last season off due to a year-long tour of duty for the Navy after reaching Stage 2 in Season 7. Lance Pekus (the “Cowboy Ninja”) had a surprising early exit in City Qualfying last year after reaching Stage 2 in Season 7. Karsten Williams has reached the Vegas Finals each of the last 3 years but has never conquered Stage 1. Lorin Ball is a long-time competitor who surprisingly fell early in the City Finals last season after posting the fastest time in Qualifying 3 years in a row. Similarly, Tremayne Dortch had reached the Vegas Finals in four straight seasons before falling in on the Salmon Ladder in the City Finals in Season 8. Meagan Martin is one of the “Wolfpack Ninjas” who train as rock climbers in Colorado and has completed the Qualifying Course in all 3 seasons. Martin has reached the Vegas Finals in all 3 seasons but has yet to conquer Stage 1.

Najee Richardson was a rookie last year whose gymnastics background propelled him all the way to Stage 2 in Vegas. Michael Torres and Adam Rayl were also rookies in Season 8 who reached Stage 2. Brett Sims is a veteran of many seasons who reached the Vegas finals for the first time last year. Ethan Swanson also qualified for the Vegas Finals for the first time last season and reached Stage 2. Brian Wilczewski missed last season with an injury but has reached the Vegas Finals 3 times and made it to Stage 2 in Seaon 7. Dan Yager also reached Stage 2 in Season 7 but fell early on the City Finals course last season. Kacy Catanzaro was the first woman to complete a Qualifying Course and complete a City Finals Course, but has fallen on some bad luck the last few seasons and seen some early exits. Michelle Warnky was the second woman to complete a City Qualifying Course and has qualified for the City Finals and earned a wildcard spot in the Vegas Finals each of the last four seasons. Jesse “Flex” Labreck was able to qualify for Vegas in her rookie season and looked strong on Team Ninja Warrior this year.

The Top 25

25. Nicholas Coolridge

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Wave Runner in Stage 2
Best Finish: Reached Stage 2 last season

Coolridge was one of a handful of rookies that burst onto the scene is Season 7, completing both the City Qualifying and City Finals courses. His rookie campaign ended with a fall on the Jumping Spider in Vegas but came back to conquer Stage 1 last season.

24. Andrew Lowes

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Sonic Curve in Stage 1
Best Finish: Reached the penultimate obstacle on Stage 2 in Season 6

Lowes is a gymnastics instructor and has competed on American Ninja Warrior since Season 4. He has reached the Vegas Finals in 4 of the last 5 seasons and conquered Stage 1 once (in Season 6). Lowes competed in Team Ninja Warrior this past season and should be considered a threat to add a fifth trip to the Vegas Finals to his resume.

23. JJ Woods

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Big Dipper in Atlanta City Qualifying
Best Finish: Reached Roulette Row on Stage 2 in Season 7

After reaching Stage 2 in Vegas in Seasons 6 and 7, JJ Woods looked primed for another big showing in Season 8. Unfortunately, his run was cut short when he missed the transition to the cargo net on the second obstacle in city qualifying. Woods had a good showing in Team Ninja Warrior competition and is very capable of making it back to Vegas this season.

22. Jo Jo Bynum

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Giant Log Grip on Stage 1
Best Finish: Reached Stage 2 in Seasons 6 and 7

Bynum has reached the Vegas Finals in all three of his competitive seasons. Last season was the first time he failed to defeat Stage 1 after making it to Stage 2 in both prior seasons. Bynum has yet to complete a City Finals course, but his speed through the obstacles has enabled him to qualify for Vegas. His best City Finals showing was last season when he reached the penultimate obstacle and he is should get another crack at the Vegas course this season.

21. Grant McCartney

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Down-Up Salmon Ladder on Stage 2
Best Finish: Reached Stage 2 in both Season 7 and Season 8

McCartney made waves as a rookie in Season 7 when he showed off his slick dance moves atop the Warped Wall and after hitting the Stage 1 buzzer. “The Island Ninja” hails from Hawaii and got his strength from surfing and doing all the other crazy stuff Hawaiians do. He has reached Stage 2 in Vegas in both of his competitive seasons, falling on the Salmon Ladder obstacle both times.

20. Paul Kasemir

Season 8 Result: Did not compete
Best Finish: Reached Stage 2 in Seasons 4, 5, and 6

Paul Kasemir took Season 8 off as part of a 1-year hiatus from ninja competition after his wedding. After spending the better part of the last year travelling the world with his new bride, he returned to Team Ninja Warrior competition this season. It is still unknown if he will be returning to the regular American Ninja Warrior competition, but if he does he is absolutely a force to be reckoned with. Kasemir reached the Vegas Finals in 4 straight seasons and conquered Stage 1 three times.

19. James McGrath

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Jumping Spider on Stage 1
Best Finish: Reached Stage 3 in Season 5

“The Beast” has competed since Season 2 and has reached the Vegas Finals in each of the last 5 seasons. He was one of just 4 competitors to complete the Atlanta City Finals course last season. Unfortunately, his recent runs in the Vegas Finals have flamed out quickly as he has not made it past the Jumping Spider (the fourth obstacle of Stage 1) in any of the last 3 seasons.

18. Thomas Stillings

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Down-Up Salmon Ladder on Stage 2
Best Finish: Reached Stage 2 each of the last two seasons

Thomas Stillings has an informal rivalry with his training partner Daniel Gil and the two have gone back and forth putting up the fastest times on Qualifying courses. He has conquered Stage 1 in both of his competitive seasons but has yet to make it through Stage 2. In Season 7 he fell on the Unstable Bridge and in Season 8 on the Down-Up Salmon Ladder. Stillings has the speed and skill to make some noise in this competition.

17. Neil Craver

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Wave Runner on Stage 2
Best Finish: Reached Stage 2 each of the last two seasons

Neil “Crazy” Craver is best known for his wild antics and style, usually wearing gold body paint on the course. During Team Ninja Warrior this season he talked about training with flaming objects to increase his concentration. He has completed Stage 1 in each of the last two seasons and is definitely a contender to make it back for a third straight season. Interestingly, Craver has never completed a City Finals course, though he came close in his sophomore season reaching the final obstacle.

16. Jamie Rahn

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Giant Log Grip on Stage 1
Best Finish: Reached Stage 2 in Seasons 5 and 7

“Captain NBC” is best known for his bright green hair and is the highest ranked of the ‘costumed ninjas’ on this list. Rahn has reached the Vegas Finals in four straight seasons, falling on Stage 1 in Seasons 6 and 8 and progressing to Stage 2 in Seasons 5 and 7. Rahn has been very good in City Qualifying and City Finals courses and should be considered one of the favorites in his Qualification group to make his fifth straight trip to Vegas.

15. Chris Wilczewski

Season 8 Result: Fell on the Double Wedge (penultimate obstacle) in Stage 2
Best Finish: Reached Stage 2 in Seasons 4, 6,  and 8

Chris Wilczewski has competed since Season 2 and has a strange pattern going of suffering bizarre falls in Qualifying courses in odd-numbered seasons (5 and 7) but seeing great success and reaching Stage 2 of the Vegas Finals in even-numbered seasons (4, 6, and 8). Chris will be looking to reverse that trend in Season 9 and make it back to Vegas for the second consecutive season. He made it all the way to the Double Wedge (the penultimate obstacle) on Stage 2 last year, his farthest run of his career.

14. Abel Gonzalez
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on the Paddle Boards in City Qualifying
Best Finish: Reached the Ultimate Cliffhanger in Stage 3 in Season 7

One of the biggest surprises of City Qualifying in Season 8 was Able Gonzalez’s fall. Gonzalez had reached Stage 3 in Season 7 and Stage 2 in Season 6 and was considered one of the favorites at the Philadelphia qualifiers. That said, Gonzalez’s team put on a good showing in Team Ninja Warrior and he looks to be primed for another solid showing this season.

13. Flip Rodriguez
 
Season 8 Result: Disqualified in Stage 2 for not using both boards of the Wave Runner
Best Finish: Reached Roulette Row (penultimate obstacle) in Stage 2 in Season 7

Flip Rodriguez was formerly known as “The Masked Man” but removed his mask before Season 7 and produced one of his best seasons yet. He topped that in Season 8 when he flew through Stage 1 and reached Stage 2. Unfortunately, Flip’s run was cut short when he leaped from the first board to the platform on the Wave Runner and did not use the second board as required by rule. Flip started ninja competition as one of the top free runners with great agility and speed. He still has excellent explosiveness in his legs (as displayed when he won the Extended Warped Wall challenge in the All-Stars event) but he has added an element of precision and technique which has aided him in the upper-body intensive obstacles. His skills have improved with each season and the arrow is clearly pointing up for Flip.

12. Ryan Stratis
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on the Flying Squirrel in Stage 1
Best Finish: Reached Stage 2 on Seasons 6 and 7

Stratis has competed on every season of American Ninja Warrior. He has been to the Vegas Finals in each of the last four seasons and has conquered Stage 1 twice. Last season, as he was recovering from shoulder surgery, he completed the City Qualifying course and didn’t fall until the penultimate obstacle in the City Finals. This was enough to earn him another trip to Vegas where he nearly cleared Stage 1 but his shoulder strength gave out on the last obstacle. Stratis should be fully recovered from the surgery heading into this season of American Ninja Warrior and he should be able to make a return trip to Vegas this season.

11. Travis Rosen
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on Snake Run in Stage 1
Best Finish: Reached Stage 3 on Season 5, first American to complete the Stage 4 Climb in USA vs The World

Rosen is one of the longest-running competitors on American Ninja Warrior, having competed since Season 2. He has reached the Vegas Finals in 5 straight seasons and reached Stage 2 every year except last year. His fall on Stage 1 last year marks a slight downward trend for Rosen after he reached Stage 3 on Season 5, fell on Stage 2 in Seasons 6 and 7, then fell on Stage 1 in Season 8. The 42-year old hasn’t showed signs of slowing down though and led a strong group in the Team Ninja Warrior competition this season. Rosen is still very capable of making it to Vegas and making noise once he gets there.

10. Jessie Graff
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on the Wave Runner in Stage 2
Best Finish: Completed Stage 2 in USA vs The World III

Wonder Woman is real and her name is Jessie Graff. Last season was a landmark year for Jessie Graff as she became the first woman to ever complete Stage 1 in Vegas. She followed up that showing by being the first woman to ever complete Stage 2 in the USA vs The World special. That completion made Graff one of just 3 Americans (and one of just 5 people worldwide) to have completed Stage 2 as it was aligned for Season 8. She has all the skills necessary to dominate a course and absolutely deserves to be listed in the elite tier of ninja athletes.

9. Kevin Bull
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on the Giant Log Grip in Stage 1
Best Finish: Fell on the Ultimate Cliffhanger in Stage 3 in Season 7

The Bull rose from near anonymity to stardom on Season 6, getting a shot as a walk-on competitor and conquered both the City Qualifying course and the City Finals course where he used his feet to get him through Cannonball Alley. He has reached the Vegas Finals in each of his three competitive seasons though has only progressed past Stage 1 once. In Season 7 he bested both Stage 1 and Stage 2 before falling on the Ultimate Cliffhanger on Stage 3. Bull is known for running fast and will definitely be a threat to put up some of the fastest times on the Qualifying courses.

8. Jake Murray
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on the Double Wedge in Stage 2
Best Finish: Reaching the Double Wedge (the penultimate obstacle) in Season 8

Murray was a rookie in Season 7 but he has reached Stage 2 in each of his two competitive seasons. Murray is known for going fast and having fun, with goofy displays such as eating a corn dog and doing a cannonball into the water after completing Stage 1 last year. Murray is a combination of personality and talent and was one of just four finishers of the Indianapolis City Finals course last year.

7. Josh Levin
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on the Double Wedge in Stage 2
Best Finish: Completed Stage 3 in USA vs The World III

Josh Levin was a rookie in Season 8 who burst onto the scene after being the only competitor to complete the City Finals course in Los Angeles. Levin’s background is as a rock climber and he has been competing in rock climbing events since he was 7 years old. Levin was chosen to be part of the USA vs The World special and rocked out by becoming just the 4th American to ever complete Stage 3 (and the first person to complete the “new” Stage 3 that debuted in Season 8).

6. Geoff Britten
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on Snake Run in Stage 1.
Best Finish: First ninja to achieve Total Victory (Season 7)

After a surprising fall on Stage 1 last season, Britten announced via Instagram that he would be taking a few years off from American Ninja Warrior competition. That said, he still appears on this list as one of the only two competitors to achieve Total Victory and the only ninja to ever complete all 6 stages in a given season. Unlike other ninjas who have permanently retired, Britten’s retirement only seems temporary and he has still competed in Team Ninja Warrior events. If he does compete this season, he is very capable of achieving Total Victory once again.

 5. Daniel Gil
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on the Ultimate Cliffhanger in Stage 3
Best Finish: Reached Stage 3 in Season 8

Daniel Gil burst onto the scene as a rookie in Season 7, completing Stage 1 in Vegas and making it all the way to the penultimate obstacle of Stage 2. His sophomore season was even better, as he was one of just 2 competitors to complete the Oklahoma City City Finals course then one of just two competitors to make it through Stage 2 in Vegas. He came up just short of being the Last Man Standing after he fell on the Ultimate Cliffhanger on Stage 3. Gil has improved his finish each season and has all the skills for another deep run.

4. Ian Dory
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on the Propeller Bar in Stage 1
Best Finish: Fell on the last jump on the Flying Bar in Stage 3 (twice)

Ian Dory is a member of the “Wolfpack Ninjas,” a training group of rock climbers from Colorado that produced Isaac Caldiero (the first winner ever of ANW). Dory nearly became the first ninja to complete Stage 3 in regular competition in Season 7 but he fell on the final jump on the Flying Bar (the final obstacle of Stage 3). He got back to that point in the USA vs The World II but fell again on the final jump. Last season, he rolled through qualifying as one of only 4 competitors to complete the Indianapolis City Finals course. Surprisingly, he fell early on Stage 1 on the Propellar Bar. That said, Dory has the skills and experience to get back to the pinnacle.

3. Brian Arnold
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on the Double Wedge in Stage 2
Best Finish: Completed Stage 3 in USA vs The World

Brian Arnold, the leader of “The Wolfpack Ninjas,” has been one of the top competitors for a number of seasons. Arnold was the Last Man Standing in Season 5 where he nearly became the first person to complete Stage 3 but fell on the final jump of the Flying Bar. Arnold got redemption on Stage 3 in the first USA vs The World special, becoming the first American to complete the Stage. Arnold has yet to get back to that point in competition, falling on Stage 2 in each of the last 3 seasons. The last two years he has gone down on the penultimate Stage 2 obstacle. Arnold does not run with the pace of some of the other top competitors but rather takes a slow and methodical approach to the course, using his skills as a rock climber and his superior grip strength to navigate the obstacles.

2. Joe Moravsky
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on Wave Runner in Stage 2.
Best Finish: Last Man Standing on Season 6 (Fell on Hang Climb)

Prior to Season 8, “The Weatherman” had never failed before Stage 3. Last season, he was unable to complete the Invisible Ladder (the final obstacle in the City Finals) and fell on the Wave Runner on Stage 2 in Vegas. Moravsky has been the Last Man Standing previously and has put up blazing fast times in the past. He is fast and precise and is capable of putting up the fastest run on any given course on any given day. He has yet to conquer Stage 3, but he has the technique and upper body strength to get it done.

1. Drew Drechsel
 
Season 8 Result: Fell on Hang Climb in Stage 3, Last Man Standing
Best Finish: Completed Stage 3 in USA vs The World III

“The Real Life Ninja” is unquestionably the top ninja in the competition heading into Season 9. He has reached Stage 3 each of the last two seasons, falling on the Hang Climb both times. He conquered that obstacle (and the rest of Stage 3) to lead Team USA to victory in the most recent USA vs The World special, making him just the 5th American to complete Stage 3. Drechsel has a rare combination of speed, strength, agility and precision. He is at the top of his game and the top of the Ninja world and should absolutely be considered the leading contender to be the Last Man Standing and possibly top Mount Midoriyama this season.