The CrossFit Games “Carson Era”: Top-5 Men’s Rankings

June 30, 20238 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). We round out the countdown today with the top five men from that era.

5. Josh Bridges

Josh Bridges Games 2016
  • 4 appearances
  • Best: 2nd 2011
  • Average finish: 6.5
  • Event wins (7): Beach, Triplet Sprint, Dog-Sled 2011, Legless, Naughty Nancy, “2007” 2013, Push-Pull 2014

“Nobody in the Crossfit world defines the word ‘icon’ better than Josh Bridges in the ‘Carson Era’. Other than Rich Froning, he has the most event wins on this list with seven. Along with that he gave us two of the most memorable moments in CrossFit Games history. The first being his victory in Push-Pull and beating Rich in the process. The second being his victory in 2016 ‘Murph’. Josh didn’t make the Games in 2015 when ‘Murph’ was programmed for the first time and it was won by a relative unknown at the time, an Icelander, named BKG. The games repeated ‘Murph’ in 2016 and for Josh it was personal. Ask any athlete who was out on the road with him and they would tell you no one was going to win that workout except Josh. The only thing stopping Josh Bridges from being higher on this list is that he never won the whole thing, but I think most would agree in the ‘Carson Era’ he is probably in the top 2 as far as impacting the sport.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muGj0XrH93wJohn Young

4. Jason Khalipa

Jason Khalipa Games 2014
  • 5 appearances
  • Best: 2nd 2013
  • Average finish: 6.6
  • Event wins (3): Row 1, Row 2, and Burden Run 2013

“It was unclear during the start of the ‘Carson Era’ how well the 2008 champion would stack up against the new wave of challengers. However, from 2012-2014 he had a bit of a resurgence placing 5th, then 2nd, then 3rd. Those last two finishes cement his legacy as one of the best to ever do this. No one was able to beat Froning during his run, and the other man who beat him in 2014 (see number 3 on this list) would become just as unbeatable before too long. Khalipa also revolutionized the training methodology for high level competitors through his work with Chris Hinshaw and subsequent performances on long events like Row 1 and 2 and the Burden Run in 2013. Running off three consecutive event wins at any point during any year of the CrossFit Games is reserved for very few athletes throughout the sport’s history; Khalipa is amongst that group.” – Brian Friend

3. Mathew Fraser

Mat Fraser Games 2016
  • 3 appearances
  • Best: 1st 2016
  • Average finish: 1.66
  • Event wins (2): Triable Couplet 2015, Ranch Trail Run 2016

“The only thing stopping Mat Fraser from being higher on this list was that the ‘Carson Era’ ended in 2016. His 3 appearances were 2nd, 2nd and 1st. His 1st place victory in 2016 was also the widest margin of victory anyone had ever done in CrossFit Games history. He is the only person who can even be mentioned with Rich Froning in average placement finish 1.2 to 1.66. One of Fraser’s most memorable accomplishments is dominating the ‘Ranch Trail Run’. Fraser was not known for being a very good runner up to this point, but this event was the welcome to the ‘Mat Fraser Era’. In the same Games he won his heat in the ‘Suicide Sprint’ which was another weakness he used to have. Nobody attacked their weaknesses the way Fraser did and it can be argued his fitness in 2016 might be the actual fittest any person on this list has ever been, Rich Froning included. Fraser has said himself he won 2nd place in 2015, the second “Fittest Man on Earth, while eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every night and working out 1-1.5 hours a day. I think Fraser should personally thank the next guy on this list because without him we would not have seen the absolute monster that he became.” – John Young

2. Ben Smith

Ben Smith Games 2015 copy
  • 7 Appearances
  • Best: 1st 2015
  • Average finish: 5.8
  • Event wins (3): Toes to Bar/Ground to Overhead 2010, Heavy DT and Soccer Chipper 2015

“The list of men who have beaten Mat Fraser at the CrossFit Games is two names long. Ben Smith is one of those names. While a lot of time is spent trying to decide whether to reward longevity versus short periods of excellence in the making of these lists, Smith makes it easy, because he did both. He is the only man on this entire list to compete at all seven CrossFit Games during the ‘Carson Era’. He won it once (2015), took second another time (2016), and third twice (2011 and 2013). As tempted as some might be to place Fraser ahead of him, there’s simply no precedent for it when talking about the ‘Carson Era’, Ben Smith is the clear choice at number two.” – Brian Friend

1. Rich Froning

Rich Froning Games 2014
  • 5 appearances
  • Best: 1st (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
  • Average finish: 1.2
  • Event wins (16): 
    • 2010: Deadlift/Pistol/Double Under and Push-Up/Overhead Squat
    • 2011: Skills 1, Rope Clean, The End 2
    • 2012: Chipper, Elizabeth, Isabel
    • 2013: Sprint Chipper, Cinco 1, Cinco 2
    • 2014: Overhead Squat, 21-15-9 Complex, MIdline March, Thick N Quick, Double Grace

“Rich Froning, the ‘King of Carson’ himself, not only dominated the era in terms of 1st place wins, but he also took the sport to heights I don’t think anyone could have imagined. What Michael Jordan did for basketball, Froning did for CrossFit. After his defeat in 2010 due to a rope…I mean Graham Holmberg, he reinvented the wheel on what was possible in the world of CrossFit. In terms of training volume, ability to recover and pacing, he was untouchable. Sixteen event wins and an average finish of 1.2 throughout the entire era is a crazy thing to fathom but those numbers alone don’t do it justice. It wasn’t just that he won, it was how he won. Froning on Sunday became a scary thing for his competition. During the four consecutive years he won the Games he won eight of the twelve final three events from each year including clean sweeps on Sunday in both 2013 and 2014. When he retired from the sport in 2014 he was dubbed ‘The Fittest man in History’, and at that point it was undeniably true.” – John Young  

**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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