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National Finals night two, Stage One recap: Success didn’t come without surprises

We’re happy with the number of Ninjas advancing, but there were still moments we wish we didn’t have to see.

David Becker/NBC

Night two of the American Ninja Warrior National Finals brought the conclusion of Stage One. We saw 12 Ninjas hit the buzzer on the first night. They’ve now been joined by 16 more, meaning 28 Ninjas will head onward in the competition!

While we were thrilled with all the buzzers, there were more than a few jolts to the system along the way. Drew Drechsel needed to use his Safety Pass. Jessie Graff fell much earlier than we’d have predicted. Sean Bryan left the season on an extremely painful note, and there are no women heading on to Stage Two.

Let’s see what happened.

By the numbers:

  • Course completions: 16
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Spin Your Wheels: 1
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Twist and Fly: 4

The course:

  • Archer Alley
  • Spin Your Wheels
  • Double Dipper
  • Jumping Spider
  • Tire Run
  • Warped Wall
  • Diving Boards
  • Twist and Fly
  • Time limit: 2:30

The highlights:

  • Caleb Bergstrom and his sister, Caitlyn, made up the first brother/sister duo to ever qualify for the National Finals. Caleb’s rookie season included the Mega Wall in Atlanta. At the National Finals, he landed on his behind from the Double Dipper and survived a stumble on Tire Run. But it was the balance/agility obstacle, the Diving Boards, that ended his season.
  • It was all about timing for Nick Hanson. He’s timed out two of the the three times he’s been on Stage One. No one wanted to see that happen again. Nick moved well through the course, keeping the clock in mind. He had no issues on Tire Run and had about a minute left after the Warped Wall. A fall on the Diving Boards threw a wrench in Nick’s plan. He pulled off a great save, but it cost him the clock. He rushed to grab for the cargo net as the course flashed red and he missed the transfer.
  • Rookie Taylor Amann is a model and pole vaulter. After a strong showing in the Oklahoma City region, she was ready for the National Finals. Unfortunately, she charged the trampoline of the Jumping Spider with a little too much aggression. She barely hit the trampoline, got no bounce, and hit the water.
  • Casey Suchocki had his grandpa and his new wife on the sidelines. He finished Stage One last season and was looking to do that again. Casey seemed relaxed and loose heading into Tire Run. He had a perfect trot across the Diving Boards and jumped into Twist and Fly. Casey only had 15 seconds remaining while he was on the cargo net, which caused a little stress for those watching. We all breathed a sigh of relief when he reached the buzzer with four seconds left.
  • Garrett Lam ended his season on Twist and Fly.
  • Caitlyn Bergstrom was out on the Double Dipper.
  • Scott Behrends hit the water from Tire Run.
  • Tiana Webberley couldn’t participate in season 10’s National Finals after a knee injury. She earned her way back this year and it was time for her to shine. She took a step by step approach to Tire Run and almost fell when the big tire spun forward. Tiana saved it, but time was now a factor. The clock ran out as she was stuck making multiple attempts on the Warped Wall.
  • 19-year-old Seth Rogers goes by “Big Red” with his 6’3” frame. He’s a Ninja Warrior super fan who’s been training for this moment since he was 13. But he hasn’t hit a buzzer yet this season. His Stage One run included a few scary bumps along the way, including landing low on the Jumping Spider, and falling forward off Tire Run. But Seth pulled it together in the end. He sprinted across the Diving Boards and hit the cargo net from Twist and Fly with 22 seconds left. His rookie year will now include Stage Two!
  • Matt Dolce was out on Spin Your Wheels.
  • Julius Ferguson hit the water from the Jumping Spider.
  • Dustin Rocho made it all the way to Twist and Fly.
  • Brian Burk has been an inspiration all season. His runs in Los Angeles were bubbling over with infectious joy. Brian has high functioning autism and Ninja Warrior has helped him come out of his shell. His season ended after a bad landing from the Double Dipper, but we’re already awaiting his return next year!
  • Sean Bryan has made it to Stage Three twice in a row, which is a pretty massive accomplishment. He’s been nursing an ankle injury all year, but it turns out we didn’t need to worry about the ankle with this run. When Sean hit the Jumping Spider slightly unevenly, his shoulder popped out of its socket. (Woo, it was hard to look at.) He somehow managed to keep himself wedged into the obstacle with one arm dangling while he got himself to the edge of the course. The course medic was able to pop the shoulder back in, to Sean’s obvious relief, but his season was over.
  • Karsten Williams is in the midst of his best season ever. After scoring the Mega Wall and completing the City Finals course in Oklahoma City, he faced Stage One. Karsten passed the Double Dipper that got him in Season 10. He was a bit cautious on Tire Run but he was still pacing safely within the time he needed. When he reached the buzzer, he broke his “Stage One curse” after seven long years!
  • Mady Howard ended her season on the Double Dipper.
  • Anthony DeFranco went out on the Jumping Spider during his last two visits to the National Finals. This time, the clock was his enemy when he timed out on Twist and Fly.
  • Dave Cavanagh had the Safety Pass from the Baltimore region, but he’ll be carrying it with him to Stage Two after he completed the course with no trouble.
  • Drew Drechsel shared the exciting news that he’s about to be a dad! Drew and girlfriend, April, are expecting a little boy in December. But it was all business on the course. Drew plugged in his headphones and hit the obstacles. Everything looked to be going fine until one misstep on the large tire of Tire Run sucked the momentum out from Drew’s run. He missed the handle and hit the water. Everyone, the Ninjas and the audience, were stunned into silence. Drew had never fallen on Stage One before.

He climbed out of the water and threw down the Safety Pass he earned in Atlanta. He would get the chance to run again, but he was NOT happy about it.

  • Allyssa Beird was making her fourth appearance at the National Finals. She beat Stage One in season nine, but went out on the first obstacle in season 10. That didn’t happen again this time around. Allyssa looked strong through Spin Your Wheels and the Double Dipper. Her run sadly ended where Drew’s just had. She hit the big wheel of Tire Run at an awkward angle. She ran forwards and back while trying to steady herself, but ultimately fell into the water.
  • Chad Flexington (AKA: Ben Udy) might have a flashy personality, but he’s backed it up with skills throughout this season. It didn’t pay off this time around. When he let go of the Double Dipper bar too soon, he was wet and his mullet was at the bottom of the pool.
  • Verdale Benson was also out on the Double Dipper.
  • Exterminator Tyler Smith will head onwards to Stage Two!
  • Joe Moravsky had no trouble on the Double Dipper this year. He completed the course and will take his skills to the next stage.
  • Jody Avila moved well through the course. He looked confident working his 6’6” frame though the Jumping Spider. We thought he had Tire Run under control, but it spun away from him, taking him away from the handle and into the water.
  • Ethan Swanson was the fastest Ninja at both the Cincinnati Qualifiers and City Finals but he did not have a Safety Pass. That didn’t slow his fast feet. He still had 1:33 on the clock after the Warped Wall and landed high up on the cargo net of Twist and Fly. Ethan hit the buzzer with 41 seconds left, meaning he bumped Daniel Gil out of the top spot to this point.
  • Alex Blick was also able to complete the course.
  • “Iron” Josh Salinas had a bit of an Iron Man costume going on. He completed Stage One for the third time in a row.
  • Hunter Guerard had a big save on Tire Run. He’ll also move on to Stage Two for the third time.
  • Rounding out this group of three, Tyler Gillett made it to the buzzer for his third time.
  • After missing out on the National Finals for two years, Grant McCartney had tightened up his focus this season. Hopefully he could keep it that way on Stage One. He started off with extra swings on Spin Your Wheels that had us yelling, “Let go, Grant!” Grant landed low on the large tire of Tire Run and scrambled to save it. The clock was running and we were getting very worried. He only had about 30 seconds left on Twist and Fly. We need a nap after all that nail-biting excitement, but Grant made it to the buzzer.
  • Jeff Harris was out on the Double Dipper.
  • Rookie and walk-on Ben Wales completed the course.
  • Michael Torres and his Safety Pass will both head to Stage Two.
  • Then it was time for the long anticipated return of Jessie Graff! Jessie was the first woman to complete Stage One in season eight. She went out on the final obstacle in season nine and missed season 10 due to her work on the Wonder Woman film. Everyone had heightened expectations of her run. Which is why we were all so stunned when she missed the grab on on the Double Dipper bar and ended her season right there.

Jessie is the guest on the latest American Ninja Warrior podcast. There, she walks us through her season and all the highs and lows that came with it.

  • Back for his second run, an angrily-determined Drew Drechsel stepped to the start line. Returning to Tire Run, he nailed it this time around. Basically, he power walked through the course with time to spare. He shook his head as he hit the buzzer, moving on, but clearly not under the conditions he had hoped.
  • Stage One’s last runner was Mathis “Kid” Owhadi. He had the Safety Pass from the Oklahoma City region, which was good to know as he raced through the course at top speeds. His speed may have contributed to the VERY close save he needed on Tire Run. But then he was quickly back to running along. He hit the buzzer 10 seconds faster than Ethan Swanson’s time, sending him and his Safety Pass to Stage Two in the top position.

We won’t forget...

Sean Bryan’s exit. Whoa, that was a tough one to watch. But aside from just feeling for his pain, his ability to stay in control was highly impressive. He basically did the Jumping Spider one handed to make sure he didn’t fall into the water. We’re so glad he’s okay after all that.

We didn’t see that coming...

The two Safety Passes on Stage One. We’re well aware that anything can happen at any time on Ninja Warrior, but no, we would never have guessed that Flip Rodriguez and Drew Drechsel would be the Ninjas who needed the Safety Passes to move on to Stage Two. We’re certainly happy they had those second chances, but it’s scary to think they WON’T have them for the next stage.

Shout out to...

The women of this season. Unfortunately, this episode’s results mean that the women are done for season 11. But it’s been an incredible year for the women, showcasing all their hard work. Michelle Warnky and Jesse Labreck cleared City Finals courses, and so many more made it to the back half. Next season, we want multiple women on Stage Two.

Next episode:

  • National Finals: Stage Two - Monday, September 9 at 8/7c on NBC