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Knapp continues to chase his dream with Warrior Jungle

By Ben Rodgers

DE PERE – A 2013 Bay Port High School graduate is living his dream with a brand new business in De Pere.

Drew Knapp is the owner of Warrior Jungle, an urban gymnastics facility where people train with many of the same obstacles and challenges featured on “American Ninja Warrior.”

Knapp has competed on the show twice, in 2016 and 2017. He will hear back about 2018 competition in the coming weeks.

But for now his main goal is helping people of all ages get in better shape through non-conventional means of exercise.

“Really we’re trying to open this for everybody,” Knapp said. “This type of thing is fun and it’s something that’s been missing from these kids’ lives or for adults that have grown up.”

Warrior Jungle features many of the same challenges on the show that focus on use of the entire body, not just the arms or the legs.

“Everything we’re doing here is going to help people get stronger and feel more comfortable in their bodies,” Knapp said.

But it was something in his younger brother Dalton’s body that gave Knapp the inspiration to chase his dreams.

On Jan. 8, 2008, Dalton was diagnosed with stage four Burkitt’s leukemia.

“As a kid in sixth grade that’s not something you expect to hear, that your brother has cancer,” Knapp said.

He and Dalton grew up watching “Sasuke,” the Japanese version of Ninja Warrior.

They were constantly bouncing off the walls inside and eventually turned the backyard into an obstacle course.

They knew they wanted to compete on national TV on the real course, but Dalton had his own challenges to overcome.

“He had a big obstacle to overcome,” Knapp said. “It was pretty hard on our family. He was in the hospital for 247 days that year.”

Dalton eventually had a stem cell transplant that helped eradicate the cancer, but upon being cancer free he was a shell of his former self, with far less muscle mass and much weaker tendons.

“Our competitive relationship helped push him to come back faster,” Knapp said.

Dalton did eventually gain the muscle mass back and competed with Knapp on “American Ninja Warrior,” in 2017.

The two worked side-by-side to achieve their goals, and with Dalton’s victory over cancer, the two learned the one ninja warrior skill that can’t be taught in a gym – mental toughness.

“That’s a huge part of being able to handle the nerves and everything the show presents,” Knapp said.

Warrior Jungle aims to help people with the rest of the equation.

“Everybody is pushing each other to be the best they can be and that’s the really cool thing about this,” Knapp said.

His goal to open this facility came in 2013, after he set the goal of competing on the show.

“At the end of the day I’m just walking around in the gym, closing things up and taking in the feeling this is what I dreamed. It’s coming together,” he said. “I don’t work for anyone else and this is what I get to do.”

Knapp does have some coaches to help with classes, another Bay Port graduate who competed on the show, Luke Chambers, and this summer Dalton, who is now studying at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Warrior Jungle is located on the corner of American Boulevard and Red Maple Road in De Pere.

More information can be found on Facebook by liking Warrior Jungle or at warriorjungle.com.

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