As 16-year-old Josiah Pippel navigated American Ninja Warrior’s stage three obstacle Pipe Dream, co-host Matt Iseman said, “stage three is not easy” but “these ninjas tonight are crushing it.”
They were: The previous 13 seasons of the NBC show had just five people make it to stage four combined. American Ninja Warrior season 14 had five in one night: Kaden Lebsack, Jay Lewis, Josh Levin, Josiah Pippel, and R.J. Roman.
All five faced off on the final 80-foot, 30-second rope climb for $1 million.
There was another first: No one has ever made it to stage four twice, but 16-year-old Kaden Lebsack did.
Last season, he was the only competitor to make it to stage four—and also the youngest ever—and was unable to complete it in 30 seconds; while he didn’t get the $1 million, he became Last Ninja Standing and won $100,000 then.
Incredibly, all five finalists made it to the top of the stage four tower, though none of them did it in 30 seconds required for the million.
Side note: NBC sure saves a lot of money on this show! Only two people have ever won that ultimate prize: Isaac Caldiero in 2015, and Drew Drechsel in 2019. (Drew is now in prison, facing life in prison.)
Since no one won that $1 million, season 14’s final five were competing for the fastest time to win the $100,000. The winner was Kaden Lebsack once again; he beat Jay Lewis by about one second.
It’s “all of us together versus the course,” Josh Levin said after failing to make it to the top of stage 4 in 30 seconds.
There were some disappointments: Flip Rodriguez, who’s never made it past stage two during his 12 years of competing, did this year, but but fell on the stage three obstacle Ultimate Cliffhanger.
This year, the first year that the show allowed teenagers to apply (they were recruited last season), nearly half of the contestants who made it to stage three were 18 or younger.
Do the teenage contestants actually have an advantage? Here’s what AWN’s showrunner told me.
Jay Lewis, who’s 18, entered stage three with a perfect season, without falling once, something only three other contestants have done in the show’s history: Geoff Britten in 2015, Daniel Gil in 2019, and Kaden Lebsack last year.
“Can Jay do what his mentor Joe has only dreamed of?” Matt Iseman asked/taunted after a montage of his mentor Joe Moravsky falling on stage three during seasons six, nine, and 11 at the same spot. (Joe was watching via Zoom because he was not allowed to compete during stage 1.)
What happened on ANW stage three
The finale began with several contestants attempting stage two, starting with “Country Boy Ninja” Josiah Singleton, a grad assistant at Liberty University, used his safety pass only to fall from the same place on his first try.
Meanwhile, 5’2″ Nate Hansen, the “Gnarly Ninja,” finished stage two with nine seconds to go.
No female competitors finished stage two, and of the 11 who made it to stage three, almost half were teenagers. There was just one person not in their teens or 20s who made it to stage three.
Here’s how they did on stage three, which does not have a time limit:
- Matt D’Amico, 21, fell on Flying Bar
- Kaden Lebsack, 16, made it to stage 4
- R.J. Roman, 25, made it to stage 4
- Josiah Pippel, 16, made it to stage 4
- Ethan Bartnicki, 17, fell on Pipe Dream
- Jay Lewis, 18, made it to stage 4
- Max Feinberg, 17, fell on Chop it Up
- Nate Hansen, 21, fell on Eyeglass Alley
- Cam Baumgartner, 24, fell on Pipe Dream
- Josh Levin, 28, made it to stage 4
- Flip Rodriguez, 33, fell on the Ultimate Cliffhanger