The CrossFit Games “Carson Era”: 15-6 Men’s Rankings

June 29, 20239 min read

Contributions from Brian Friend and John Young

Image Credits: CrossFit LLC

Continuing our countdown of the top male athletes who competed at the CrossFit Games during the “Carson Era” (2010-2016). Today we start with 15 and will work our way down to six. 

15. Noah Ohlsen

Noah Ohlsen Games 2015 copy
  • 3 appearances
  • Best: 8th 2014 and 2015
  • Average finish: 10
  • Event wins: none

“Ohlsen made himself relevant and known from his first season at the Games. Back-to-back 8th place finishes put him on the map. He slipped back to 15th in 2016 which prevents him from being any higher on this list.” – Brian Friend

14. Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson

Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson Games 2016 copy
  • 3 appearances
  • Best: 3rd 2015
  • Average finish: 12
  • Event wins (1): Murph 2015

“I think most would be surprised to find out BKG’s rookie year was 10 years ago. Although he only had 3 years in Carson he showed improvement and sustainability with a 26th, 3rd and 8th. He has one pretty memorable event win in “Murph” 2015 but his crowning achievement is making the podium that same year. Only having three years in Carson is the only thing holding BKG from being higher on the list.” – John Young

13. Jacob Heppner

Jacob Heppner Games 2016 copy
  • 3 appearances
  • Best: 7th 2016
  • Average finish: 11
  • Event wins (2): Midline Madness 2015, Handstand Walk 2016

“Jacob Heppner also only had three years in Carson and though he doesn’t have a podium finish like Gudmundsson, he does boast constant improvement and more consistent finishes across those three years with an 18th, 10th and a 7th. He also has two event wins to BKG’s one which justifies his placement here.” – John Young

12. Cole Sager

Cole Sager Games 2015 copy
  • 3 appearances
  • Best: 5th 2016
  • Average finish: 9
  • Event wins (1): The Separator 2016

“Like BKG, Sager made his debut in 2014, ten seasons ago. Like Heppner, his consistency gives him the edge despite not having that podium finish. With overall finishes pf 17th, 7th and 5th, he’s was moving in the right direction throughout his tenure in Carson, capping it off with the memorable win on “The Separator”, high above the crash pads doing ring handstand pushups in the famous tennis stadium.” – Brian Friend

11. Kyle Kasperbauer

Kyle Kasperbauer Games 2013 copy
  • 3 appearances
  • Best: 3rd 2012
  • Average finish: 12
  • Event wins (1): Double Banger 2012

“In the year Kasperbauer finished third he only had one finish outside the top-20, a 23rd place finish on ‘Chipper’. He won “Double Banger’, was second on ‘Fran’, and third on ‘Pendleton 2’. This became the blueprint that modern day athletes (BKG comes to mind) would need to replicate if they wanted a chance at a podium finish. Pretty good at everything, not terrible at anything, excellent at one or two things.” – Brian Friend

**As we get into the top-ten, it’s worth mentioning that although they weren’t in the exact same order, Brian and John both independently selected the exact same group of top ten men from this era. **

10. Spencer Hendel

Spenser Hendel Games 2015 copy
  • 5 appearances
  • Best: 5th 2015
  • Average finish: 15
  • Event wins (4): Killer Kage 2011, O-Course 2012, PTTM 1 and 2 2015

“Hendel is, if you ask me, a critical character in the history of the CrossFit Games. He rededicated his training during the 2014-2015 season in an effort to achieve a better finish at the Games, which he achieved. He did so by setting aside the heavy barbell, knowing he was already amongst the strongest, and instead investing in his capacity. Back-to-back event wins on Sunday in 2015 cemented his legacy, but iconic event wins on “Killer Kage” and the “O-Course” (following Pendleton 1 & 2) make Hendel a fantastic candidate to kick off the top-ten countdown.” – Brian Friend

9. Matt Chan

Matt Chan Games 2012 copy
  • 4 appearances
  • Best: 2nd 2012
  • Average finish: 9
  • Event wins (2): Skills 2 2011, Rope-Sled 2012

“Both John and I had Chan in the nine spot. Amongst the greats from his generation, but not competing the last three seasons in Carson holds him back a little. His most iconic win came in “Rope-Sled” en route to a second place finish in 2012. That season alone holds a lot of weight, but averaging a placement inside the top ten for a career on the men’s side is a nice nod towards his fitness over the four-year stretch during which he was a fixture in the men’s field.” – Brian Friend

8. Graham Holmberg

Graham Holmberg Games 2010 copy
  • 5 appearances
  • Best: 1st 2010
  • Average finish: 10
  • Event wins (3): Pyramid Double Helen and Clean/Ring HSPU 2010, The End 1 2011

“Graham Holmberg was very difficult to rank amongst the greats because he definitely belongs, but how much weight does his 1st place since it was arguably in the easiest year to win while the Games was in Carson. However, he has 3 event wins and is the only man on the entire list to beat Rich Froning. He also maintained a level of fitness from 2010 to 2015 (last year competing at the Games) few others have even reached. There are quite a few people who were successful in the early Carson era and the sport outgrew their fitness capabilities. This was not the case with Graham, which is why he deserves to be in the top-8. An argument could be made for even higher.” – John Young

7. Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey Games 2015 1
  • 5 appearances
  • Best: 4th 2015
  • Average finish: 7
  • Event wins (2): Sprint Course 1 & 2 2015

“The first person on our list with at least 5 appearances that were all within the top-ten. Bailey is amongst the legends of this time period amassing 30 top-ten finishes (averaging six per year), constantly being a presence in the final heat, and to cap it off, has one of the best highlights from his event wins when he leaps a hurdle and catches his sunglasses all in one motion. Fans of the sport back then could not think about the Games without thinking about Dan Bailey.” – Brian Friend

6. Scott Panchik

Scott Panchik Games 2015 copy
  • 5 appearances
  • Best: 4th 2012 and 2013
  • Average finish: 5
  • Event wins (1): Fran 2012

“Panchik showed up in 2012 and immediately put the men’s field on notice with eight top-ten finishes, winning the final event that year (Fran), and taking 4th overall as a rookie. This included finishing ahead of Jason Khalipa, Dan Bailey, Graham Holmberg, and Ben Smith that year. Fourth would stand as his best finish (he’d match it in 2013), but what really separates Panchik from many others is that he never had a bad year. His worst finish in Carson was 6th twice, and he averaged a fifth place finish across the five years he competed there. Only the lack of a podium finish keeps him out of our top-five.” – Brian Friend

We wrap on the the “Carson Era” men with the top-five, coming soon!

**If you like the contributions of John Young during this article please consider buying him a cup of coffee, all proceeds will go to him** 

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Brian Friend

Brian stumbled upon CrossFit in the Fall of 2013. He has been a writer, data analyst, content creator, commentator, and broadcast coordinator. He's worked at a majority of the largest CrossFit competitions over the last three seasons, is a regular guest on the Sevan Podcast, and has been amongst the leading sports analysts in the sport in recent years. He has a passion for advancing the sport of CrossFit, and spreading the CrossFit methodology, by living it out in both his personal and professional life.


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