Mathis Owhadi is known in the American Ninja Warrior community as “The Kid.” At a young age, he started training at Iron Sports, Sam Sann’s gym in Houston, TX. That means he’s had years of experience working with Ninjas like Daniel Gil and Barclay Stockett.
As a Business major at the University of Houston, he competed on Team Ninja Warrior: College Madness and blew everyone away with his talents. He returned to the format with Ninja vs Ninja on Daniel’s team Iron Grip, making it all the way to the finals.
When we heard the age limit on American Ninja Warrior was coming down from 21 to 19, we had a strong hunch who would turn up on the course. We weren’t surprised when we saw Mathis step up to the Dallas start line. And we weren’t surprised when he finished the Qualifying course. The grueling City Finals course can be a whole other beast, but Mathis still managed to live up to the hype the show put on him. As a 19-year-old rookie, he was through to the National Finals with two buzzers under his belt already.
The Ninja protégé took a few minutes to talk with us about getting called up to the big leagues, and the background that led up to his unforgettable debut.
“It was a surreal moment. I thought I had two more years to train. All of a sudden I had like a month. I was super happy but it was like, okay, now it’s real. I realized how serious things just got. I couldn’t just mess around for the next two years. I have to zone in on dieting and training.”
“I try to limit my possibility of failure by watching other people go, seeing what they do. Seeing what they fail on. Seeing what people succeed on and if it’s in a certain way. If it looks really good, really easy, I’ll do it that way. If I see a lot of people failing using the way I wanted to do it, I won’t do it that way.
If I’ve already done something similar, that boosts my confidence a lot. If it’s a brand new obstacle I haven’t seen before, that’s when it’s kind of like, I take a more cautious approach to make sure I don’t fall.”
“Drew Drechsel came down to Houston like four years ago and he was training me in parkour and I was doing his classes. Seeing him compete and the level he’s at and the way he thinks about everything, talking to him about that stuff, kind of pushed me to want to do it as well. Seeing other people have so much fun with it and make a career out of it and inspire people.
Training with Daniel Gil is amazing. We push each other. Barclay Stockett. The whole community in Houston is great. I think that’s what’s kept me going for so long. I think it if was just Ninja and not the people, I’d be like, ‘Alright, this is cool.’ But it wouldn’t be something I’d want to do for seven years in a row. But the people are amazing. Everyone is nice. It’s a family. That’s really what’s kept me going.”
“(Ninja Warrior has) made me a better person in general. I never found one sport that I was really attached to, passionate about and wanted to get good at. I played basketball. Played football. Did all these things because other people were doing it. Then I found Ninja, and no one else in my high school was doing it. It felt really unique. Something that I could do that nobody else that I knew was doing. That made me want to do it even more.
It helps me stay motivated. If I tell myself that I’m studying for a test or something and when I’m done with this I can go train. It’s made me approach obstacles in life like obstacles on the course. You think about the different ways you can get past something. That’s helped me in my non-Ninja life. I see a problem and I analyze it. How can I fix this? How can I get over this?”
“Being on Team Ninja Warrior: College Madness and Ninja vs Ninja definitely helped me. I know what the pressure is going to be like. I know how nervous I’m going to get. I’m going to get nervous no matter what. Step up there. My heart is pounding. But as soon as they say go, I zone in and the nerves go away and I’m just having fun on the course.”
“I want to make sure I get to Vegas. Then I definitely want to get through all the stages, climb the rope and win. That’s my expectation. But I know that anything can happen on the course. I could slip up on the first step, or I could miss a rope grab. But I definitely think I’ll hit a good amount of buzzers this year.”