Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

American Ninja Warrior

Moose Lake native competes on the popular show


Meghan Walker

Moose Lake will be able to watch one of its own, David Moonen, 22, compete on the popular television show American Ninja Warrior. Moonen, a 2015 graduate of Moose Lake High School, recently participated in the show's Tacoma qualifiers for its 11th season.

According to NBC, the action-packed series follows competitors as they tackle challenging obstacle courses in city qualifying and finals rounds throughout the country. Top competitors in each of the city finals rounds move onto the national finals, where they compete on a four-stage course that includes multiple obstacles on each stage. The winner, who must complete all four stages, including the final 75-foot rope climb, will take home a grand prize of $1 million.

Moonen is no stranger to physical challenges. General fitness has been a focus in his life since he was young, spending much of his free time in the gym starting in seventh grade. During high school he played football for the Rebels as well as track and field and baseball.

"When I was in high school, football was the main focus and therefore it shaped the way I approached fitness," Moonen said in an email interview. "However, my dad would joke about and challenge me and my brother to physical challenges more in the realm of calisthenics and body control."

After high school, Moon went on to Winona State University. While at WSU, Moonen became a second lieutenant for the National Guard of Wisconsin. He trained at the WSU gym while also doing army physical fitness.

During his sophomore year at college, his father, Mike Moonen, was diagnosed with cancer.

The news changed how Moonen went about training. "Because calisthenics felt more connected to my family and my dad, and I still had an over the top gym addiction, I shifted my focus in the gym."

The change also brought him more into the community of the Ninja Warrior competitors. In fact, he trained with another competitor, Roo Yori, for a time in Rochester but was not able to continue doing so this year while balancing his busy schedule.

The training set the ball rolling though, according to Moonen. "It resulted in me thinking it would be a cool opportunity to apply and try to accomplish something with my family and my dad in mind on the Ninja Warrior stage."

Moonen tried out for season 10 of the show but didn't get selected. Shortly after, his father beat cancer. However, his focus in the gym remained.

His training continued while he was also finishing college, performing his National Guard duties, and becoming CEO of the Merrimack Canoe Company. Juggling his many commitments came with its own challenges.

"I just tackled the biggest things first and did my best," Moonen said. "Graduating college and commissioning in the army had set requirements that could not be budged, and running Merrimack came with many, very large hurdles. But the gym is a very comfortable place for me and served as my escape."

All his hard work paid off. When he tried out for season 11, he was selected.

To apply for the show, applicants have to fill out an extensive questionnaire and submit a video 2-3 minutes in length. In his video submission, Moonen highlighted his very Minnesotan lifestyle and his canoe company.

Meghan Walker

"I did a couple pull ups with a canoe and it worked out."

Tackling the qualifier came with more challenges than just the physical obstacles. One in particular was being in the spotlight with a large crowd watching and cameras recording every second.

"I was not prepared and not sure I ever will be. I was definitely out of my element. I wish I had a football helmet and pads on so I could melt out of sight behind my linemen."

So how did he do? We won't know until the episode airs since Moonen can't tell as part of the show's rules. You can watch his performance on June 24 at 7:00 pm on NBC. Family and friends will have a viewing party at Doc's Sports Bar & Grill in Sturgeon Lake while the episode airs.


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