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He gave everything he had on American Ninja Warrior—and gained much more

09/14/16 - BOSTON, MA. Josh Levin, EÕ17 poses for a portrait on Sept. 14, 2016. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Josh Levin had given American Ninja Warrior everything he had. When he lost his grip on a tricky obstacle and fell into the water, ending his thrilling run on the NBC reality show this season, he was physically and mentally drained.

But, as he had been all season, Levin was upbeat when he spoke last week, two days after the episode aired. “I feel very satisfied,” he said. “I did the best I could’ve done. I’m very proud of how it went.”

Levin completed two stages of competition in Los Angeles to advance to the national finals in Las Vegas, which aired over the past several weeks. Of the hundreds who participated on the show, he was among only a handful of competitors to make it to stage 2 of the finale. The show provided the champion climber with challenges that tested his agility, his strength, and his mind. But it also provided a national platform to raise awareness for a cause of great personal importance: organ donation.

A driving motivation throughout the competition was his rock climbing mentor Stacey Li Collver, who is on a wait list for a second double-lung transplant. “It’s been a really powerful experience, and I’ve taken this to be much bigger than myself.”

In fact, he noted that approaching the competition as an opportunity to support this cause—and not just for personal accomplishment—actually alleviated much of the pressure. He knew that regardless of how he performed, he’d be helping people—a mindset he said that allowed him to have more fun and provided a richer experience.

I feel very satisfied. I did the best I could’ve done. I’m very proud of how it went.
— Josh Levin, E’17

Still, Levin is a fierce competitor, and this is hardly the last we’ll see of him on this national stage. He will next be seen competing on Team Ninja Warrior, a spinoff of the series that will air in the coming months. And he’s eager to apply for season 9 of American Ninja Warrior and continue training to improve his performance if he makes it.

Levin is a mechanical engineering major and co-founder of the Northeastern Climbing Team. He has also worked on co-op at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he was part of a team designing the Mars 2020 rover.

Northeastern student Josh Levin competes on Stage 2 of the American Ninja Warrior season 8 finale in Las Vegas. Photo by David Becker/NBC

Northeastern student Josh Levin competes on Stage 2 of the American Ninja Warrior season 8 finale in Las Vegas. Photo by David Becker/NBC

On American Ninja Warrior, he discovered that the training and skills that have contributed to his rock climbing success—upper body strength, coordination, grip strength, and problem solving—all helped propel him through American Ninja Warrior. He said the fun of participating on the show was encountering entirely new obstacles, ones that forced him to make dynamic movements and use his lower body strength much more than he’s used in climbing.

“It’s also made me a better climber,” he said of competing on the show. “I did more upper and lower body training. My balance and agility is better. I’m more aware of how to move myself through the air. There are a lot of things I can still improve on.”

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