This September, Matthew Freitas ’19 competed on Season 12 of American Ninja Warrior. A former lacrosse and wrestling captain at CM, Matthew is now a sophomore goalie for the top-ranked Williams College lacrosse team and trains part-time as an American Ninja Warrior.
At the age of 11, Matthew lost his left leg in a horrific car crash. His life goal, he says, is to inspire people with disabilities and to remind them that they’re capable of achieving anything an able-bodied person can.
Read our Alumni Spotlight Interview with Matthew, who will stop at nothing to make his wildest dreams a reality.
Mr. Kotsopoulos: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Matt. You were a two-time Boston Globe All-Scholastic in lacrosse at CM and you’re now a collegiate athlete at Williams. Why did you decide to try out for Season 12 of American Ninja Warrior this spring?
Matthew Freitas: Thank you for having me! Appearing on American Ninja Warrior has always been a childhood dream of mine, right up there with playing college lacrosse. When I’m home in Weymouth, I work part-time at an American Ninja Warrior gym. However, I honestly didn’t expect to compete on the show until after I graduated from college. The tryout schedule for American Ninja Warrior (ANW) lines up too closely with lacrosse season.
MK: What changed, then?
MF: I’d have to say the pandemic changed everything. Last spring, in the middle of my freshman year at Williams, our lacrosse season got cancelled and I got sent home from school.
MK: Your lacrosse team began its season 4-0. How disappointed were you to have it cancelled?
MF: It was crushing, without a doubt. We went into the season with the goal of winning a national championship and had nothing to show for it.
MK: Wow, that’s a lofty goal. What made those expectations so high?
MF: Our team had made it to the Division III Final Four the year before I had arrived and we had entered the season as the top-ranked team in the country. Through four games, we were undefeated. But then the pandemic occurred and there’s no telling what could have happened next.
MK: That’s so disappointing. That must have lit a fire underneath you then, right?
MF: I’d say so. It was a big reason why I wanted to find something else to compete in after our season got cancelled. After I got sent home, I decided to throw together a tryout video and reach out to the ninja warrior gym I work at to begin training. I wanted to show people just how hard our team had worked our butts off to try and win a National Championship. I wanted to provide a tangible result. That’s what made trying out for American Ninja Warrior seem like a great next step.
MK: How did the tryout process unfold?
MF: Basically, the show takes thousands of applicants in the form of a video tryout. You submit a video that explains why you’re fit for the contest and that you’re strong enough to compete in the courses. This year, they took 150 applicants for a socially distanced “bubble” version of the contest.
MK: Once your video was accepted, what happened next?
MF: When I was selected, the other contestants and I flew out to a recording studio in St. Louis where we needed to stay in an isolated bubble for four days. It was sort of like what the NBA is doing in Orlando right now. It was four days of qualifying, recording a special All-Stars episode, two days of a semi-final round, and one day of a final “power tower” tournament where you race against someone else.
MK: That’s incredible! What would you say is more difficult: A lacrosse shutout in the MIAA playoffs, or nailing a course run in an American Ninja Warrior contest?
MF: Wow, I mean, those are both so tough. In a lacrosse game, it’s so much more prolonged and you’re reacting to someone else’s actions. Whereas, in a ninja warrior contest, it’s you versus the course. You’re going up against different inanimate objects, but at least you know what you’re going up against.
MK: You’re someone who certainly has never backed down from a challenge. In fact, you’ve always embraced those challenges. When you lost your leg in a car crash at 11 years old, you refused to let that get in the way of playing college lacrosse. Where did you learn to harness this sense of resiliency?
MF: Well, in my opinion, I don’t think resiliency is something you can build on your own. In life, you can only get up so many times by yourself. At CM, I was given a community that wouldn’t let me lay on the ground after getting knocked down. I had friends and mentors who expected me to rise to the occasion in the classroom, on the wrestling mat, and on the lacrosse field. They pushed me to be a better version of myself every single day.
MK: At CM, you were so much more than a lacrosse player. You were a captain of the wrestling team, a peer minister, a member of the National Honors Society, a Kairos leader, and a proud member of the Scholars Program. Why did you make it your prerogative to get so involved?
MF: The short answer is that I just love to do things. Realistically, I like making an impact and making sure my time is meaningful wherever I go. The best use of my time was working to better myself and the CM community. There were so many opportunities for me to make my impact and for me to better myself. Kairos was a life changing experience for me, as was the Scholars Program. The Scholars Program helped me develop my writing skills and was the most college level course I had ever taken. It made the transition to Williams so much easier.
MK: What would you tell a current CM student right now who is hesitant about going after a goal that feels too far-fetched?
MF: I’d tell them that I’m missing a part of my body and that it hasn’t stopped me from competing on a fitness-based television show and on a college sports team. It goes to show that it doesn’t matter what your goal is: just put your head down and go after it. If that goal sounds farfetched, then you’re letting people put walls in your way. No goal should ever be seen as far-fetched as long as you’re willing to do the work to make it around those walls.
MK: Thank you for your time Matt, and good luck on your future ANW competitions!