Zack Kemmerer knows quite well was it’s like to be a “warrior.”
He was very much one at Upper Perkiomen: A two-time PIAA Class AAA wrestling champion and four-time state medalist with an area-best 199 victories by the time he graduated in 2007. Kemmerer remained one at the University of Pennsylvania, a three-time NCAA qualifier who ranked fourth in the Ivy League school’s mat program for career wins (117) and first in single-season victories (39).
He continues to be one nowadays … though on a different field of athletic battle than a wrestling mat.
Kemmerer is part of a spin-off of the “American Ninja Warrior” reality television series currently broadcast by NBC, this version called “Team Ninja Warrior – College Madness” and appearing on the Esquire Network.
“At my core, I’m a competitor,” he said. “I was a top wrestler in my day. I feel I’m able to adapt and do the right things physically.”
The ANW spin-off will pit 16 teams of two men and one woman, representing colleges throughout the United States, on a dual obstacle course. The first four episodes of the five-episode series, which started Tuesday, will set a field of four for the finals scheduled for a Dec. 20 telecast.
The format of each episode features the two leading teams facing off in a relay race, with the winner qualifying for the finals. Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila, of “American Ninja Warrior,” will host alongside Kacy Catanzaro, an ANW competitor of legendary status who will serve as the sideline reporter.
“I saw this on the internet,” Kemmerer said, “and another student who saw it said I should totally do this. So I made out an application and went to Los Angeles to compete.”
Kemmerer is captain of the three-person team representing the University of Wisconsin. He is teamed with Andrew Philibeck, who is pursuing a degree in Business Administration and Marketing; and Taylor Amann, a Division I pole vaulter going for a degree in Retailing and Consumer Behavior.
Kemmerer’s athletic activities have been in complement to his academic pursuits. He graduated from Penn in 2012 with a BA in Chemistry and Philosophy, then went on to obtain his masters in Chemistry at Villanova University. He is presently halfway toward reaching his PhD.
Kemmerer and Philibeck have a common athletic background. Both were accomplished wrestlers — Philibeck was a state-tournament runner-up while attending Freedom High School — and both have climbing experience.
“We went to the ninja competition and did well,” Kemmerer, a PhD candidate in Biochemistry at Wisconsin, said. “We have a great connection.”
Amann, in turn, has involvement in club gymnastics as an athletic pursuit.
“We definitely had less time together than I hoped,” Kemmerer said. “We had to find time to train together. Andrew is doing a business internship, and Taylor has been back at her home.”
The Wisconsin team will run side-by-side with a team from the University of Maryland to start their episode, which will be televised on Dec. 13. Other teams in the competition, paired with an emphasis on long-standing athletic rivalries, come from UCLA, Southern California, Florida, Georgia, TCU, Houston, Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Connecticut and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“With the college teams, the focus is more on school spirit,” Kemmerer said.
“Team Ninja Warrior: College Madness” is part of the second season of “Team Ninja Warrior” that was announced in May.
The debut episode of “Team Ninja Warrior” set records as the most watched series premiere, in the 18-to-49 age group, in Esquire Network history. Throughout the season, the series continued to draw audiences, peaking at a finale ranking as the second most-watched original telecast in network history. Currently, this season overall ranks as Esquire’s most-watched original series in network history.