American Ninja Warrior is a serious competition that requires intense physical training from the contestants. It is a spin-off of the Japanese television series Sasuke, and it features hundreds of competitors attempting to complete a series of obstacle courses of increasing difficulty. Only two competitors over the last 10 seasons have completed the courses in the finals to hit all six buzzers, and only one has won the cash prize.
Casey Suchocki wants to be the next to hit that final buzzer. One-thousand people tried out the first season. Seventy-seven thousand tried out for the last (ninth) season. Producers select 100 contestants from the thousands of applicants to participate in each regional qualifier. They also select 20 to 30 "walk-ons" – who may wait weeks camping outside to get a chance on the course. Clearly, just getting to compete is a big deal.
Suchocki started training for American Ninja Warrior as soon as he was old enough (21). He began going to try outs in 2013. It took several years of training, and several tries, before he made it onto the show.
“The first year, I went to try out in Denver. Was too far back in line to even try out. The second time, I made it through the walk-on line, but dropped it in the fourth obstacle – they told me my grip strength needed work. Third week was wait for walk-on. Was in Atlanta. Made a bit impression. Was able to hit the buzzer. Made it at fifth place in my "rookie" season, and made it to it to Las Vegas (final taping), but fell on the fourth obstacle again. They asked me back the next year.”
His training schedule is intense. For the past several years, he has gone to the gym about five days a week, for two to three hours a day.
“The race is the fun part,” Suchocki said. “I have sacrificed a lot of time, and a lot of my wife's time, because she travels with me.”
He proposed to his wife, Ashley, on the show. She is a big part of his support team, along with fan favorite “Grandaddy” (Emmit Pitts of Tuscaloosa), who has also been on the show to support Suchocki.
“Grandaddy built an obstacle course for me in the backyard. He more or less raised me. The people on the show love him.”
His wife, his grandfather, and his work team have been a part of Suchocki’s success. He works for The Builder’s Group – a local construction firm.
“There are a lot of companies that wouldn't approve of this, but Builders Group has allowed me to go miss a few weeks of work to compete. They have worked to help me balance. This just goes to show how Builder's Group is supportive of their employees and their customers. Very family oriented,” Suchocki said. "If you are going to do something, you do it all out, and I am like that about my job too. Not only do I work at Builder's Group, but I coach the owner’s nephews through my training group at my gym where they learn to compete as American Ninjas.”
When asked what he thought of his performance, Suchocki doesn’t mince words.
“Granddaddy taught me to strive for perfection, and I haven't beat that. Where I am is pretty impressive, but some of the guys on the show are close to perfect. I won't be impressed until I hit six buzzers and am the next American Ninja Warrior.
“I am not impressed with my performance, but I am impressed with being able to show off my granddad and my wife. Those are the moments I look back on the most and feel the most proud of and feel make the most impact.”