Utahn Cole Wadsworth is a titan. Not just because he’s athletic and ripped — he was actually a “Titan” on NBC’s competition series “The Titan Games.”
He made it through the first round of the grueling competition, and he came this close to making it to the finals. In the episode that aired Thursday, Wadsworth pushed his opponent to the brink of elimination on the Lunar Challenge — sort of a reverse tug-of-war in which both men pushed against opposite sides of a wall that moved along a big semi-circle track set 30 feet up in the air.
Wadsworth ran out of gas and was pushed all the way in the other direction, a shocking result. But then most of the people he grew up with in tiny Peoa in Summit County were no doubt shocked to see him on the show in the first place.
“Yes, they probably would be surprised, considering I was the smallest kid in my class,” Wadsworth said with a laugh. “Smaller than younger kids.
“When I played football, I had to play with the grade below me because I was so small. And even then, I snapped my tibia and fibula in half — compound fracture.”
In high school, he wrestled at 120 pounds, and he never had to struggle to make weight.
“I was a little guy,” Wadsworth said. “Most people that see me today who knew me from high school, are, like, ‘Holy crap.’ There’s been a drastic change.”
Clearly. Today, the 32-year-old is 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weights 180 pounds and has 6 or 7 percent body fat “most of the time, when I’m not competing.” And he competes a lot, at everything from wakeboarding to “American Ninja Warrior,” on which he’s appeared twice.
“That was something that I decided as I got older. I just wanted more for myself. I wanted to be able to compete in anything that comes up,” Wadsworth said. “It’s just been awesome for me to change my lifestyle and change the way that I’m training — just change how my body type is in order to be able to compete in stuff like this.”
He caught the attention of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the executive producer and host of “Titan Games." Johnson helped pick all the contestants, designed the challenges — which require brute strength, skill, speed and endurance — and is sort of a mentor/cheerleader for the contestants, giving out hugs and high fives.
“He’s one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and he’s also one of the nicest people you’ve ever met in real life,” Wadsworth said. “He was genuine. He was pumped when you’d win, he was sad with you when you lost. And it seemed like he really kind of did his homework and learned who we were and knew who we were. And that was really cool.
“So when you’re there and you know he’s watching, it gives you a little bit more motivation and also a little bit more pressure to perform better and impress him. So it was cool, but it was also nerve-wracking at the same time.”
As was the fact that none of the contestants knew what the challenges were beforehand, nor did they have a chance to practice before the cameras were turned on and they had to compete.
The winner, by the way, will pocket $100,000. The season finale airs Thursday at 7 p.m. on NBC/Channel 5.
For months before the show, Wadsworth trained three or four times daily, spending “hours and hours a day” in the gym. He trains all year, “but I really just amped up everything I was doing as far as speed training and endurance training and skill-set training and weight training and just kind of every type of training I could think of, because we didn’t know what the heck we were going to be doing on the show.”
In his first appearance in Episode 1, which aired back on Jan. 3, Wadsworth defeated one opponent in a challenge that called for them to knock down pillars with a wrecking ball, then edged a second opponent in a grueling obstacle course filled with physical challenges. And in both episodes in which he appeared, the show identified him as a farmer from Utah … which is, well, not altogether accurate.
Wadsworth did grow up on a ranch in Peoa, where he hauled hay and raced horses. And he and his wife, Brooke, have a horse-breeding operation in Utah. But he doesn’t plow fields and tend cattle or anything like that.
“I guess I wouldn’t call myself a farmer,” he said. “More of an urban rancher.”