Joe Moravsky returned for his seventh season on American Ninja Warrior with a very specific goal in mind for the Baltimore Qualifiers. He wanted that Mega Wall and he wanted it bad. After missing it by just a few inches in season 10, Joe didn’t forget that feeling.
Everything fell into place to return him to the base of the 18-foot wall. None of the other five obstacles gave Joe any trouble. But the Mega Wall proved to be insurmountable that night. No one was able to tackle it.
We’re sure Joe wasn’t happy about the outcome, but there’s still a big season ahead of him. Joe made it into the City Finals, where the Safety Pass is on the line for Las Vegas if he can get himself to the Power Tower.
Before the season got started, We sat down with Joe to get his thoughts on what he feels will be a huge year for him on the course.
Responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
Missing the Mega Wall in season 10
“I was still a finisher and it was all good. But missing the Mega Wall was still on the forefront of my mind. Vegas Stage One, sure, I fell. But that didn’t hurt as much as missing that 18-foot wall. It really didn’t. It was really frustrating. And I have put so much time and thought and effort into figuring out why. Up until three days ago, I thought it was one thing and one thing alone, and that was my run up.
You know, I practice with a certain amount of steps and when I got to the show and tried the wall, they gave me a half a step more to run. When I saw this, I was like, ‘All right. You know what? Instead of moving up closer to the wall, people thinking I’m crazy, I took that extra half step.’ And that extra half step dropped my steps back. Even though I thought I’d be able to lengthen it and make up the difference, I didn’t. I watched the video a few months ago and I was like, ‘Whoa.’ If you’re at the start of the wall, my foot’s usually within six inches from the front of the wall when I start. My foot was a foot and a half back. I was behind a foot and a half. I still got my fingertips over the top or just at the top. Imagine if I got my steps right.”
Preparing to take it on again this year
“It really is going to come down to breathing on the course. Breathing on the course, pacing myself so when I get to the wall, I don’t plan on being physically tired when I get the wall. I know a lot of people don’t say that, but I shouldn’t be tired when I get to the wall. It’s going to be my cardio and my quads. I want to make sure the legs are ready.
Going back to what we were talking about, it’s disappointing looking back at last season. Not just the 18 foot wall, but obviously Vegas Finals is ... To fall on the Double Dipper ... Failure is the greatest teacher. Sometimes you need to fail to get woken up. You get so comfortable. You kind of go on autopilot. Oh, Joe Moravsky’s on Stage One in Vegas. He’ll make it through, no problem. He’s done it five items before. Only done it five times. Wow. Okay.
Joe Moravsky, Vegas Stage One for the sixth time. He’s going to make it through. Sure enough, I didn’t. People just expect greatness from great athletes, but we’re human. We’re not super heroes. Maybe to some. You get woken up. And that’s why season eight, when I fell on Stage Two, it woke me up. It refocused me in a way that I hadn’t been refocused in years. I’ve been saying all along coming back to Baltimore is poetic because it started here and I want it to end here. I want it to be the winning season for me.”
On the training injuries he sustained in the weeks before Qualifiers
“My goodness. Let me start with the forehead. The forehead. I smacked myself in the head with a bar about two weeks ago. I was doing a workout in my basement, pulled the bar from the placing it was in. I transferred down to that bar forgetting, just forgetting how sensitive it is and how it could slide out. I pulled it right out while my body was leaning back. Pulled it right into my head. Fell flat on the floor. My elbow actually still hurts. They said at the hospital I should get x-rays. I was like, ‘No, I’ve hit my elbow before.’ And now just laying on the bed it hurts. I’m like, ‘You know what? Maybe I should have gotten an x-ray.’ I might have a fractured elbow for all I know. But it’s been almost two weeks. I know contusions hurt like that for a while. I know my forehead still hurts.
That was one injury. And then another one was just rock climbing and I did what I’ve done over and over again but wasn’t warmed up properly for the move I was in. A pocket with my middle finger and my ring finger. And I was campusing, so I had no feet on the wall. And I was transferring ... While holding those two fingers in, I was transferring from a big hold to another hold around a corner. I had to kind of pull up, go weightless for that split second to give myself enough time to reach the next hold. And I reached the next hold, but I kind of fumbled for it because it was a blind reach. It was around a corner hanging off of a like stalactite looking obstacle or feature, rather.”
“I kind of missed it and it caused me to fall a little so I caught it a little late. And because of that my two fingers slipped out of the pocket while fully tensed and that motion causes big time injuries in climbing, especially when you’re only using two fingers. And I went to two doctors. We were tossing around the idea of an MRI, but we were like, ‘Well, listen. Why do an MRI? You have ten days to the show. If you get an MRI and it’s bad, you’re not going to be able to compete, most likely. And if you get an MRI and it’s good, you can compete.’ They were like, ‘But only time’s going to tell anyway. Why don’t you just wait two days. If it still is terrible, then we’ll bring you in. But if it’s better, then you just save money on MRIs.’ I was like, ‘Okay. Fine.’ Waited two days. It got better. I can confidently say right now it’s like 85 to 90%.
I’m a little stressed, but adrenaline’s a great thing. There are no ruptures in the arm. It’s really just strains all along the muscle and in the muscle belly and in the tendons. Slight, slight tears, but nothing to where I should rupture. Is it in my head? A little bit, but what’s more in my head is how focused I am about getting back to that 18 foot Warped Wall. I am so focused. Really nervous, but thankful that we have three tries this year. That’s always nice. But I’m telling you, first try is definitely going to be the most important for me.”
Facing the possibility of the Power Tower
“I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about that Speed Pass and Qualifying night and how important it could be. But I just got to focus on doing what I do. I’m pretending the rules haven’t changed. And I’m just going to do what I do. That’s kind of what makes me unique. I can continue to do well every year because I can believe in myself and I do it. I just go out and do it. Some people get bad luck. I get that. Or an injury happens, I get that. Certainly, now. I just got to go out and do what I do.
I’m going to tell you right now, Qualifying night if I know I have ten seconds to get first or second and the Mega Wall’s right in front of me, I’m going to take 20 because I want that Mega Wall. Finals night’s a different story. Finals night to get a redo in Vegas changes everything. And to have Drew Drechsel, Flip Rodriguez, to have The Kid have retries, what? That’s not good. I’m especially concerned about Flip this year. Really happy for him. But he just ... Strength doesn’t scare me. Focus does combined with strength. And Flip is just a different person this year. He looks really focused. I’m excited to go up against him.”
Editor’s note: To clarify, Joe was speaking hypothetically when discussing names and the Safety Pass. Ninjas he thought would be in the running for the passes, that would perhaps give him a run for his money if they had re-dos on later stages.
Taking on the competition in the later stages
“Of course, it’s you versus the course, but I’m thinking long term Vegas Finals Stage Two, Three, maybe Four. Yeah. Of course, it’s you versus the course, but when a million dollars is on the line you’re going to be a competitor before a friend. Of course. You can ask any Ninja. It’s fact.
No one would ever say, ‘I hope you win. Get that million. I don’t hope I get it myself.’ No way. This is a competition. This is sporting event. I love all these guys, but I’m here to win, not make friends. I know it’s kind of straight to the point and kind of, I don’t know, blunt. I’ll make friends. I love all these guys, as I’ve said over and over, but I’m here to win.”
Goals for season 11
“There’s always short term goals, long term goals. Short term, get to City Finals night with an 18-foot Warped Wall under my belt. And then long term is at a minimum, get back to Stage Two because I need redemption on Stage One. And then ultimate goal is finally beat Stage Three. You know, Stage Four has always been on my mind. I’ve trained rope. I’m ready. Long term goal is beat Stage Three and win this whole thing. Let’s do it.”