The final round of the American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs Ninja qualifiers was everything except neat and tidy. There was a shocking upset when the brand new Wisco Warriors swept the veteran Superhero Squad. The Hazard Brigade, led by the experienced Mike Bernardo, face the new team Tri Hards.
While they were new to Ninja vs Ninja, team Tri Hards was loaded with existing talent. Captain Sean Bryan, Rebekah Bonilla, and Adam Rayl were all National Finalists during season nine of American Ninja Warrior. In their few seasons on ANW, they’ve quickly won fans over with their incredible speed and accuracy. It was the general fan consensus that the team was stacked.
However, while the teams did battle against one another, another foe quickly rose to the surface. The fifth obstacle on the course, the Floating Monkey Bars, was responsible for 12 falls that night. In order to pull out the win and move on to the playoffs, the Tri Hards had to out-navigate the other teams, as well as adapt on the fly to an obstacle that was perfectly unruly.
To learn more about what went into that bumpy evening, and how the Tri Hards survived, we caught up with team captain Sean Bryan.
Don’t miss team #TriHards on #NinjaVsNinja this March. See all your faviorite #ninjas from #AmericanNinjaWarrior compete head to head starting March 1st on #USANetwork. This is going to be #EPIC!!!! @anwnation @usa_network #becourageous #fitness #health #obstaclecourseracing #ocr #madness #wow #strong #strength
Your first experience with this format was last year on Team Ninja Warrior, as an alternate on the NorCal Ninjas. What made you want to be part of the full show this season?
SB: I was actually hoping for it the year before, but I guess I didn’t do well enough to be asked to be a captain. Then I guess I did well enough this year on the show for people to recognize me as someone who could be a captain. So I was certainly blessed to be able to take on that role this year.
What made you select Adam Rayl and Rebekah Bonilla as your teammates?
SB: We all met in Los Angeles while doing Ninja things. From the very beginning, Adam and I had this little rivalry. Not a rivalry like head-butting, but a rivalry like the true competitive spirit where you’re pushing each other to be your best. We kept in touch and went to a couple local competitions together. We were online showing each other what we’ve got, giving each other challenges. I just knew from that point that if I was a captain I wanted him on my team.
Rebekah absolutely crushed it. I thought that she would be an awesome person to be on the team and she was training with Adam. So what better person to communicate with than someone who’s already on the same page with Adam?
In the Tri Hards first match-up against the Hazard Brigade, both you and Adam fell on the Floating Monkey Bars. Can you tell us what was going on with that obstacle?
SB: When I first did it, I was planning on doing it a little conservatively, but (Mike) Bernardo does what he does best and just goes all out. He started to pull away and I thought there was no way I could do this any other way and keep up that pace unless I take that same risk. I ended up paying the price for it and falling. So I thought, “It’s okay. Adam is going to win this.” And when he didn’t I was very surprised. I guess he was going a little too fast as well. That’s what Adam’s really good at, going really fast.
So I thought, “Alright, we’re not completely dead yet. We’re not swept yet.” We were really relying on Rebekah to carry the team, and she did that sure enough. She won her heat and then she gave me a little bit of a head start on the relay. I kept that little bit of a head start to win the next race.
On the relay races, you opted for a run order of Rebekah first, you in the middle, and Adam on the last leg. How did you come to that order?
SB: We wanted Rebekah to go first because the women were tending to go first and we wanted to match up the women. And we thought she might be able to get us a good head start, which she did do. Adam was actually a little anxious to do the Tilting Ladders and I knew he could certainly do the last two, so I ended up taking up the middle obstacles. It ended up working out pretty well because I was able to get an even bigger lead on the Tilting Ladder.
Because Adam fell on the fifth obstacle in his own heat, he was a little nervous to do that one as well. But I told him, “Don’t worry. We’re going to give you enough of a lead where you can take your time.” And he took his time and we were able to do well.
Going into the final round, the Tri Hards faced another new team, the Wisco Warriors, who had swept the Superhero Squad. What were your thoughts on that team?
SB: I wasn’t too sure of the capabilities of the Wisco Warriors beforehand because they’re a new team. When I saw that they swept the Superhero Squad, I was just floored. I was thinking, “Oh my, I was actually concerned about the Superhero Squad and they just got swept. Who are we going up against? This is going to be crazy.”
But it played out how it played out.
In that final match-up, everyone on the team fell at the Floating Monkey Bars. Rebekah and Adam still won their heats because they reached the obstacle first. You almost made the dismount and then fell back into the water.
SB: Oh yeah, that one where I landed on my butt again. I forgot about that. After recently having a broken tailbone, I ended up landing on my butt again, hurting it more. But that’s alright.
On that one, I remember being confident going into the whole thing, wanting to take my time on the bars. I thought I needed to get that last little push ahead on the dismount and I decided to do the continuous laché into the dismount. The bar did not react how I expected it to react, so I ended up falling there.
I don’t really remember what Rebekah and Adam did throughout their runs. I do remember them falling on the bars though.
Did you ever have a moment as a team where you discussed those bars, considering the falls happening?
SB: Yeah. We discussed it right away when I fell. I said we shouldn’t do this hopping technique because it’s pretty dangerous. So if you’re at all ahead just be consistent and do it where you put your front hand forward and leave enough room for the second hand to enter the same cradle. Take your time and be precise with it.
I think Rebekah was a little nervous about it as well. We were trying to coach her through it while she was up there too, but in the excitement, it’s hard to really listen while you’re there and everything is going on at the same time. I do remember screaming really loud while she was going.
The Tri Hards finally pulled out the win in the relay race. There were a lot of emotions and adrenaline. How were you all physically feeling?
SB: I was just really ready to move on. I thought we got out the jitters. All of us had made some mistakes. I was thinking at that point we’d gotten rid of all our mistakes, we’d gotten out the jitters, we’re having more fun now. We’d made it further than a lot of the teams did, so let’s just continue this with high energy.
Coming in as a new team, did you feel that was added pressure or added motivation?
SB: As a new team, I don’t think that made a difference in terms of pressure. But there was a different pressure because a lot of people were saying from the beginning that we were their pick. I wasn’t sure why, or what sort of things they had to base that one. Perhaps Adam’s performance at the Wolfpack Ninja Tour the past couple of times. Maybe my performance during the regular season.
I don’t think it changed the amount of pressure. At least for myself. It may have been a pressure situation for Adam and Rebekah. We talked a lot about strategy and focus and it wasn’t a concern of ours at that point.
Did you discuss any strategy changes that we can expect to see in the upcoming playoff episodes?
SB: Not really changes. Just more focus and better communication in terms of strategizing beforehand.
The Tri Hards will return to the Ninja vs Ninja course in a few weeks for the playoff episodes.