Nineteen-year-old Nathaniel Coleman took first place at the 2016 USA Climbing Bouldering Youth and Open Nationals championship, ending the decade-long reign of former champion Daniel Woods.
Climbers from all over the nation gathered in Madison, Wis. for the competition. Coleman, who recently returned from a semester of climbing in Europe to start as a freshman in computer science, took gold in the Men’s Open category, beating nine-time national champion Woods.
Bouldering, a form of rock climbing where participants scale walls from 10 to 20 feet tall without any rope, was originally a method to practice high climbs and new moves in a safe environment. However, it has since transitioned to its own sporting event.
For competition purposes, climbers must complete what they call problems, and traverse certain spaces on the bouldering wall using specific colored handholds. Successfully navigating problems determines competition ranking, with champions typically completing either four or five.
Climbing has been an integral part of Coleman’s life for the past decade. He started when a friend invited him to join Momentum Climbing gym. From then, Coleman has spent over a decade training and was one of the initial members of Team Momentum.
After three years of competing, Coleman placed first this year in both the youth and open nationals — a rise from placing 13th and fifth in the previous two national championships. Additionally, Coleman also received the 2016 North Face Young Gun Award.
“It came as a total surprise,” Coleman said. “They hadn’t told me I was nominated or that I had won before the competition.”
The award, according to the North Face website, spotlights newer climbers who hold values of the climbing community and embody the next generation of the sport.
Jeff Pedersen, Momentum CEO and one of Coleman’s first coaches said, “[Coleman’s] commitment to excellence and an unwavering positive attitude make him a role model for young climbers.”