Parker High School wrestling coach to compete on American Ninja Warrior

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Andrea Anderson
April 13, 2015

JANESVILLE—In Daniel Jackson's three-minute long audition video for American Ninja Warrior, the Parker High School wrestling coach shows of his humorous side while showcasing his athletic abilities.

Jackson does “Rocky-style training where I'm just pushing myself to the limit,” he said in the video before he carries his 13-year-old stepson on his shoulders up 18 steps.

Jackson then gives a shout out to his alma mater, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

“Rocky had the eye of the tiger. I have the eye of a gopher,” he said wearing  a Minnesota Gophers hat.

American Ninja Warrior is a show where competitors attempt to complete a series of physical obstacles in regional qualifying to compete in regional finals. Those who complete the finals course advance to the national finals in Las Vegas.  There are five regions with numerous people competing in each. The seventh season begins airing in May.

During the video, Jackson slips in facts about himself.

The 30-year-old was on the University of Minnesota wrestling team. In 2007 he was part of the team that won the NCAA Division I Championship.

He has four children, including a stepson and stepdaughter, two adopted 15-month-old twins and wife, Trina.

He's a teacher at Edison Middle School. He works with at-risk kids and has wrestled for more than 18 years. He is a Parker High School graduate where he wrestled. He has been head coach at Parker for two years.

Jackson isn't one to brag about himself. In fact, his wife is the one who encouraged him to talk to the media.

Jackson's quiet demeanor amongst the public is a stark difference from his comedic self in the video and the larger-than-life personalities found on the TV show.

“I'll just do a couple reps for you to show you my massive strength,” the coach jokes in the video while flexing and quickly doing a few bench presses and pull-ups.

Jackson decided to audition for the show during winter break when his wrestlers needed some inspiration.

His wife has a saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” and Jackson told the wrestlers that when they hit the rough patch in December.

“If you want it, you have to go get it,” Jackson said.

Later that same week after the pep talk, Jackson was at home when the NBC show came on.

“I was sitting back watching it, and I looked over to my wife, and I said 'I could do that,'” Jackson said.

Then he realized he “sounded like everyone else,” he said, and his wife's mantra resonated his head. He decided to prove actions do speak louder than words and compete for a shot on the television screen.

Jackson sent the video in January after spending about three hours with his family filming throughout Janesville. A few weeks ago he got a call telling him to pack his bags and come to Kansas City, Missouri for regional qualifying.

Jackson and his team of five cheerleaders leave Wednesday morning. Regional qualifying is Friday with regional finals Saturday. There is no guarantee Jackson will make it on TV, but he said show representatives have contacted him for an interview.

“I wasn't expecting to be called back, but I did it to go back and tell my athletes and students that if you want something, pursue it, don't just sit back and wait for it,” he said.

Jackson is 5-feet 4-inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. He works out an hour a day, five days each week. Workouts include wrestling, weightlifting, and rock climbing, which is quickly becoming his favorite.

Jackson also watches and periodically tapes the show to research different techniques and obstacles.

One obstacle includes a tall warped wall similar to a half-pipe for skateboarders. Shorter people have struggled with the obstacle, Jackson said, but he's preparing for it by going to skate parks with his stepson.

When asked if he was concerned about the noise and cameras, Jackson said no. His days in wrestling have helped him learn to tune distractions out.

“This may be a different animal, but I'm hoping I can block it out,” he said.

The usual reaction when people find out about Jackson's upcoming adventure is “No way,” he said with a chuckle.

Trina was even shocked when her husband got the call.

“I'm sure millions of people send this stuff in,” she said.

As Jackson said at the very beginning of his audition video in front of the infamous Bessie the Cow, “I'll be ready for any American Ninja Warrior course you put in front of me.”

In the end, Jackson's goal is to finish the course. How long it takes doesn't matter. He wants to finish it to prove a point to his students and wrestlers.

“You can talk about something all day, but unless you do something, it doesn't matter. Hit the ground and go,” he said in the workout room of Parker High School.

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