Van Buren Boy Lives Out Dream, Competes On American Ninja Warrior Junior

VAN BUREN (KFSM) — For 10 seasons, the show American Ninja Warrior has inspired millions of people around the country and world. Matthew Nichols, a 12-year-old Van Buren native, is one of the masses that watch the show.

But there are still seven years until Nichols can try out to be on his favorite show. Until this summer, when American Ninja Warrior Junior filmed its first season.

"He was begging me to audition or send in submissions, and I thought, you know why not let a kid dream. Why not him," Joy Nichols, Matthew's mother said. "We’ve always called him a monkey child from the time he was little. He was up on top of a cabinet, climbing door frames every time I turned around."

"I just begged her. I told her I want to do it, and she said we'll see. But I told her we had to do it," Matthew said.

Then, good news arrived. Matthew was one of 32 boys in his age group selected from over 100,000 applicants. At the time of the show, Matthew was 11 and competed in the middle age group of 11 and 12-year-olds. (There is also a 9/10-year-old group and 13/14-year-old group).

"I got home from my Grandma's house, and my mom told me I got selected, and I couldn't believe it," Matthew recalled. I ripped my shirt off and went crazy."

Matthew plays baseball and football, along with being a six-time state champion wrestler. But with little to no ninja experience, Nichols turned to Shaun Summers, a Van Buren native, and two-time American Ninja Warrior contestant.

"He had him doing things that I didn’t even know were possible for a 12-year-old boy," Joy said.

"They make it look so easy but when you actually try it, it’s not," added Matthew.

The Nichols built their own salmon ladder and pegboard, and before long, Matthew was ready for his run under the bright lights.

"And then when I went to the actual competition it was just amazing because I got to meet all these people I’ve seen on TV," said Matthew. "It meant a lot because they showed me how to do some of the obstacles and that was just great."

Nichols and the other young ninjas were mentored by some of the top competitors in the world including two of Matthew's favorites, Najee Richardson and Drew Dreschel.

The process inspired the Nichols to open up their own Ninja training facility at Cardio Studio in Van Buren. You can bet the entire community will be supporting current and future ninja Matthew Nichols throughout the show.

Season one of American Ninja Warrior Junior premieres on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 6 p.m. on Universal Kids.