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Will Schlageter wanted to make the most of every moment in his long-awaited rookie year

“I want to win. I want to beat this course. I want to hit that buzzer and I want to prove myself.”

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Imagine a scene from a movie. A character has fallen, defeated, and out of now where the superhero rises up and whisks them to safety. Will Schlageter sort of had that happen during his rookie season on American Ninja Warrior.

After falling on the Beehive in Qualifiers, Will wasn’t in a position to advance. But thanks to season 12’s format, he was matched up with Joe Moravsky who had a chance to save him on the Power Tower. And save him he did. Will was given a second chance and a ticket to the Semi-Finals.

If there’s anyone who can properly appreciate a save like that, it’s Will. He’s been more than a little in love with the show for years. At age 14, he tried so hard to get on the show that the production team allowed his dad to run the course for him. His dad... wasn’t quite a Ninja, and Will has been waiting and training all these years for the chance to do it properly.

Unfortunately, in the Semi-Finals, Will missed the cut off for advancement when he fell on the Corkscrew. We spoke to him just before that run where we learned just how deep his passion goes. He was running the course on a sprained ankle.

“Oh, man. My first run did not go how I hoped or planned it would go. I fell on the Beehive. Now, part of that is because when I was warming up, I sprained my ankle and I sprained it really bad. It was really swollen the last two days, black and blue. It’s still black and blue, but it’s mostly pain-free now. Yeah, it’s not like my ankle affected me on the Beehive, but it was another thing on my mind. And it was distracting me from being really present and in that obstacle, at the moment.

I was already thinking about the next obstacle with spinning balls (Spinning Bridge). I didn’t want to risk further injury on that. And I was already trying to figure out my game plan. And I should’ve just stayed in the moment on those honeycombs. Thankfully, Joe Moravsky, the legend himself, speed demon extraordinaire, beat the Mega Wall and got the second fastest time. And brought me back, with Jeshuah (Lewis), on the Power Tower. Love him, really feeling blessed that he was able to do that. And hopefully I can turn it around this time.”

So how was his ankle heading into the Semi-Finals? Will says it was pretty good, but we can’t help but wonder if it was once again on his mind during the run.

“It’s probably at 90%, already. The day I ran, it was only feeling like maybe 40%. But I did tons of rehab since having the injury and realizing I’m still going to be here. I’m going to have another chance. So lots of deep squats, ankle circles, just spending time on my foot in different positions, trying to get it comfortable in the same ranges of motion I’m used to. So, physically my ankle is fine. At this point though, I definitely have a little bit of nerves where I feel almost like I need to prove myself because I fell so early last time and I know I can do better. So, I’m going to go out there and try and do better.”

We have a feeling this taste of Ninja Warrior only further fueled Will’s love of the sport and the competition.

“Oh, man. I want to test myself. I’ve been training for seven, eight years now and I want to... I mean, God dammit, I want to win. I want to beat this course. I want to hit that buzzer and I want to prove myself.”

With devotion and intensity like that, there’s no way Will is down and out after this season. Any bets on seeing him back next year?