Bentley: Fresno man competes in 'American Ninja Warrior'

The Fresno BeeJuly 1, 2014 

Thaddeus Robeck liked to climb on things before he could even walk.

As he grew older, the Fresno resident took his interest in running, jumping and climbing and turned it into a career as a Parkour trainer at Gymnastics Beat. All of that wall climbing became the basis for his decision to try out for "American Ninja Warrior."

The summer competition show — now in its sixth season on NBC — is a test of speed, strength and agility as competitors make their way through difficult obstacle course challenges that most people fail to complete. The 31-year-old Robeck made it through the qualifying round held at Venice Beach. At 9 p.m. Monday, July 7, the show will include his attempt to complete the course and earn a spot in the national finals round in Las Vegas and a shot at $500,000.

"As a rookie, I didn't have high expectations. I didn't have a goal of total victory," Robeck says of his successful initial run. "I am pleased with my results from the qualifying round. I won't say I was surprised, but that I am satisfied with my success with the obstacle course."

His tryouts in Southern California were one of five held across the country. Other hopefuls faced the obstacle course in Dallas, St. Louis, Miami and Denver. Those who advance through the second round will go to the finals that feature a four-stage course modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama from the Japanese show. It's such a challenge that it has defeated all but a handful on the Japanese show.

Robeck turned to previous "American Ninja Warrior" contestant Jason Huewe to train for the show. Huewe has built a training course in his Clovis backyard that is so close to the actual challenges in the show, potential contestants travel from across the country to train there.

Robeck tried to get on the show in the third and fifth seasons. The Roosevelt High graduate changed the way he produced his video application and believes that is what got the attention of the producers this time.

"I know people who live their lives at 150% and they come across as going 100% on the show. I am normally a shy, quiet guy, but I knew I needed to step it up on the video to get noticed," Robeck says.

After running — and completing — the course the first time, Robeck realized that half of finishing is mental. Without complete concentration, it's easy to make one wrong step and get eliminated. His preparation to run the course the second time was mostly mental — going over each of the challenges by picturing himself getting through each one.

The obstacle that gave him the biggest problems was the Monkey Peg, where competitors must climb up the monkey bars and then use pegs to cross the rest of the way. Robeck doesn't have the arm length of other competitors, which made the pegs harder to maneuver. He still managed to finish the course in 2 minutes 43.66 seconds for the fifth-fastest time.

Robeck wouldn't say how he fares in the next round, but he says Monday's episode "will be big."

"American Ninja Warrior" is co-hosted by Matt Iseman, Jenn Brown and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila.

Opening the job vault

Fox News Channel talk show host Geraldo Rivera will be the special guest at the first Cumulus Broadcasting Fresno "Putting the Central Valley Back to Work Career Fair," 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 22 at Manchester Center.

Rivera will be joined by more than 70 employers and recruiters who will be at the event to hire for a variety of positions ranging from sales to manufacturing to medical services.

Cumulus Media has 460 owned-and-operated stations in 89 U.S. media markets including Fresno's KMJ NewsTalk 580 and 105.9, 93.7 KISS Country, Mega 97.9 and Y101.

"The Central Valley's job market is on the rebound," says Patty Hixson, Cumulus Fresno Market Manager in a news release to announce the event. "During this economic recovery, we recognize that many jobseekers are trying to reinvent their careers and find a better job. This is the perfect opportunity to match these employees with solid local companies with real vacancies to fill."

Rivera will be on hand to offer some straight talk to job seekers about how to land a job. The attorney, author and TV and radio personality has had no problem finding work since he was hired by WABC-TV in 1970 as a reporter. He hosted his own daytime talk show from 1987-1998.

Along with Rivera, on-air personalities from the local Cumulus stations will be at the event.

Some of the companies that are scheduled to attend include: Spherion Staffing Services; Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino; Cal Vet; Transamerica; California Highway Patrol; Children's Hospital Central California; Kerr Insurance Brokers; and Les Schwab Tire & Auto Center and Workforce.

To learn how your company can participate, go to


TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at

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