UNLV graduate designed an ‘American Ninja Warrior’ obstacle

Jelani Allen wasn’t the only valley resident who made the trip to the “American Ninja Warrior” tryouts in Kansas City, Missouri. But 24-year-old Kevin Brekke was the only one who showed up already a winner.

The Henderson native, who just graduated from UNLV with a degree in entertainment engineering, won the show’s design-an-obstacle contest, and his creation, Crank It Up, was unveiled as part of the course.

Brekke never misses an episode of the show and, considering his major, would think up obstacles as he watched. “Over the years, I would always just have designs that I would just draw,” he says, “and that was as far as they would go.”

But by winning the design contest, he was able to show up on set and see his creation — a series of three crankshaft-type handles that contestants must maneuver to the top of the obstacle — fully realized.

“Pretty much almost every element of my design was involved in it,” Brekke says of the finished product, “and it was really tough for people to get through.”

“I was a little bit concerned that it would take out too many people,” he continues. “But, overall, everyone I talked to there said it was one of the most fun obstacles that they ever did.”

Contestants train all year for their shot at qualifying, and some of them were, in fact, eliminated by failing to complete Crank It Up. So how does it feel knowing he ended people’s dreams for the year?

“Yeah, it’s — I guess I didn’t really think about that 100 percent,” Brekke says, interspersed with sighing and laughter.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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