Season 10 of American Ninja Warrior (ANW) ended recently without anyone completing stage 3. American Ninja Warrior is a competition that tests people’s overall fitness with a gauntlet of obstacles testing everything from grip strength to balance and coordination. Contestants must also worry about their speed, as some of the obstacles have time limits. For those unfamiliar with the structure of the competition, contestants must be selected to compete in a qualifier. After that, they compete in the city championships. From there, they are flown out to Las Vegas, where they attempt to complete stages 1, 2, and 3. If anyone manages to complete stage 3, they move on to stage 4 which is a 75-foot rope that must be climbed in under 30 seconds
NJIT’s own Ryan Rattazzi competed in this season of ANW. At 6’5” and 215lbs, Rattazzi is leaner than average, but still heavier than most athletes participating in such competitions. In contrast to most traditional sports, being heavy is not desirable. “Having to hang for such an extended period of time while carrying more weight than everyone else is a disadvantage.” Rattazzi has been ninja-training for more than a year and has played sports since childhood. At Sayville High School, he played football, basketball, and was a Division III county champion in high jump. Rattazzi said, “As a little kid I was always a monkey, climbing trees and monkey bars. Being generally athletic and strong definitely helps to make the transition to ninja, but I still have a lot of training to do, being years behind the rest of the athletes.”
Originally, Rattazzi thought he would not be able to compete this season, but a rule change lowered the minimum age requirement from 21 to 19, allowing him to compete. Prospective ninjas must submit videos, however most people who submit a video entry will not be accepted. Rattazzi said getting his call was “like a dream come true, going to compete with so many athletes [I’d] been watching on TV for seven years. It was funny, I got my call in the middle of Biofluid-Mechanics.”
Rattazzi was originally scheduled to compete in the Philadelphia qualifiers, however severe weather cut that specific event short. Rattazzi said, “It was an unfortunate, unpredictable circumstance because that course looked tailored to my strengths. It had long lashé’s and big reaches which helps me since I was the tallest and heaviest ninja in Philly.” The early cancellation meant that Rattazzi was flown out to Minneapolis to compete in their next qualifier. The Minneapolis qualifiers contained an obstacle called the ring jump. The ring jump was the third obstacle, and set a record claiming 38 of the 99 competitors including Rattazzi who placed 34th—just four spots shy of advancing to the city finals.
Looking forward, Rattazzi wants to continue competing in ninja contests. He said, “It was a surreal experience—I want to go back. I’m going to train to get better.” He hopes to get back on the show, but in the meantime, is competing in local competitions and training just as hard. Rattazzi spent his summer training future ninjas at Obstacle Athletics in Deer Park, Long Island. He maintains an active presence on social media and can be followed on Instagram @ryanrattazzi