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Knapp shares journey as ‘American Ninja Warrior’ at Bay View

By Anette Aubinger

HOWARD – It isn’t often that students meet a TV celebrity. It’s even less often that celebrity grows up in their home town. But in the case of Drew Knapp, a 2013 Bay Port High School graduate, both is true.

Knapp grew up in Suamico. His parents are Craig and Deidre Knapp and he has two brothers, Carter and Dalton.

He also appeared on six episodes of “American Ninja Warrior.”

Knapp spoke to the students at Bay View Middle School Friday, Dec. 15.

His message was not only about his journey appearing on the show, but had the theme “Tough times don’t last. People do.”

Knapp’s journey includes the story of his brother, Dalton who also appeared on “American Ninja Warrior.”

Knapp was in sixth grade when his brother Dalton in fifth grade was diagnosed with Stage IV leukemia.

Knapp said his brother had an extreme fight to live. His brother battled the cancer for a year at a Milwaukee hospital.

He had transfusions, part of his lung was removed and he had no muscle.

A stem cell transplant to got him through.

“I stayed beside him, he never once complained,” Knapp said.

In 2008 his brother came home where he recovered fully.

That year in school an essay topic was heroes. Knapp wrote about his brother.

Knapp got interested in becoming a Ninja Warrior when he and his brothers would watch Japanese Ninja Warriors or “Sasuke” before “American Ninja Warriors” aired.

Showing Bay View middle school students on Friday, Dec. 15 his talent climbing a rope to the ceiling and hanging from the rafter was Drew Knapp. Knapp was a two-time contestant on American Ninja Warriors. He is a Bay Port graduate. Photo by Annette Aubinger

Knapp laughed because he said he along with his brothers Dalton and Carter were known as a “bunch of monkeys.”
They would constantly practice moves.

Knapp and his brother Dalton wanted to appear on the American version of the popular show.

They trained – starting climbing from the basement of their house to the top floor never touching the ground.

Their back yard was also a training ground. They had no formal coaches, just a lot of practice and gymnastic classes.

In 2016 Knapp appeared on “American Ninja Warrior.” He did not make it to the finals.

Then it happened. The second year in 2017 it was brother vs. brother or Dalton vs. Drew as both appeared on the show.

“I was so thankful I could compete with my brother. I was cheering him on,” said Knapp.

Knapp said his brother just missed going to Vegas. He said from battling cancer to competing in the show is a huge testimonial to his dedication and work.

Between 2016 and 2017 Knapp competed in six episodes.

Knapp told the middle school students how he got to the goal of competing was not being afraid to set big goals.

He began taking opportunities. He learned from his brother who battled cancer to not take anything for granted.

His message to the students – take time explore your passion and your interests.

He was 17 when he decided he wanted to be on “American Ninja Warriors.”

He trained for four years. Over 77,000 applied to be on the show 600 competed and he was one of the competitors.

“I was committed and stuck with it” he said.

The path to get there was a curvy one too.

“I didn’t have a roadmap, but I had a goal,” Knapp told the students.

His message was that students are never too young to follow your goals and dreams.

They can start whenever you want it’s just a matter of staying committed.

This was true for Knapp. He applied for a third time to appear on the show and made it.

He will film in spring and the show will air in summer.

Knapp ended by telling the students, “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”

Knap also followed his dream and he is building a gym on American Blvd. in De Pere called Warrior Jungle.
It will be open in March.

Principal of Bay View Middle School Steve Meyers thanked Knapp and reminded the students of Knapp’s message – they can do anything they want if they have the passion and are inspired.

The students ended the assembly by shouting, “Don’t stop Knapp.”

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