Hamden resident Drew Drechsel has earned the title of “American Ninja Warrior“ after successfully completing all stages in the series’ national finals Monday night.
And with the title comes a $1 million prize.
Drechsel, director of New Era Ninjas in Hamden, won the competition on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” in Las Vegas.
Drechsel was profiled in the January 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine. He said he got his start by backflipping off of vending machines in high school and spent time working at a used car lot. It didn't take him long to climb (and run, and jump, and backflip, and swing) his way up the ladder of success.
The 30-year-old Drechsel, who was the “Last Ninja Standing” in 2016 and 2018, became the third person in the series’ 11-season history to successfully complete all stages.
What will Drechsel do with the money?
He told USA Today that $400,000 “has to be set aside for taxes because it’s technically a game show.” But with what’s left, “I do have family that I want to take care of, I have a baby boy on the way and want to make sure that he’s going to be set, and I am looking to move back down to Florida (from Connecticut) to be closer to my family.”
In an interview with the New Haven Register last year, he said “I got into it not knowing what ‘American Ninja Warrior’ was. They had told me it was an obstacle course TV show and they thought I’d be really good at it,” said Dreschel. “I had no idea it was as awesome as it is.”
The sport has taken him across the country and the world — including to Hamden, where he instructs students at New Era Ninjas, part of New Era Gymnastics.
In his first season, Drechsel found success, but ultimately was waylaid by a knee injury. While competing in Japan, he came down awkwardly on one leg, tearing multiple ligaments, cracking and chipping bones.
As his career has continued, Drechsel said the chance to parlay his success into inspiring and helping young people with the help of his fellow ninjas has been enjoyable.
He can help them be safe as they pursue their own ninja dreams — a far cry from his own backyard wrestling days power-bombing (a pro wrestling move) his friends — offer them a healthy, enjoyable form of exercise, and share lessons that resonate in the sport and beyond.
“I still consider myself way down (low) when it comes to celebrity status or being famous — I’m still just someone that people know from the show — but I still think I’m doing the best I can to impact people in a positive way,” said Drechsel. “And that’s super-cool to me.”
Previous reporting by Ben Lambert was used in this story.