Tyson Apostol is God’s Gift to the Challenge

We are two weeks into the Challenge USA, and one player has far and away shined brighter than the rest, and their name is Tyson Apostol. It’s funny to say Tyson has shined brightest when he feels and looks like a cold-blooded amphibian who thrives in water and waits for his prey to slip up so that he can eat. Whether through physical or strategic competition or simply roasting his fellow cast members, Tyson will jump on any opportunity that gives him an edge.

Tyson carries himself like a top player because he is one. The guy is a former collegiate swimmer, a former Pro Cyclist, a Poker Player, and, importantly, was able to become Sole Survivor, all while being authentically himself. There is a deserved arrogance to Tyson that plays incredibly well as he’s egotistical yet self-aware, and when it comes down to it, he has a sound mind and good heart. That good heart gets hidden behind many layers of wit and sarcasm, but it is a good one nonetheless.

Through the first two weeks of the Challenge USA, Tyson has taken control of the game and looks to be on another planet compared to his fellow male competitors. I want to break down how it’s come to be, what makes Tyson so unique, and how he projects from here.

ATHLETIC PEDIGREE and UNIQUE BODY TYPE

As mentioned above, Tyson has a real athletic pedigree. In high school, Tyson was Utah 5A Swimmer of the Year. He then gained a scholarship where he swam at the collegiate level for BYU. By accolades alone, Tyson already ranks as one of The Challenge’s greatest swimmers. After college, Tyson became a professional cyclist, touring Europe. The cardio and lung capacity required to cycle at the pro level is so insane that it inherently has prepared him to run any Challenge Final. We saw Tyson’s swimming and cardio in the second daily challenge, where he took more treks than any other player and did it all without breathing heavy (on purpose too).

Going into the season, I’ll admit, I had doubts about how Tyson would transition onto this show. Not because I didn’t think Tyson wasn’t a great athlete, it was more or less the factor that we’ve never seen someone with his body type compete on The Challenge, let alone do it at a high level. When you think of The Challenge’s GOAT competitors, it’s primarily guys between 5’9–6’0 and 175–200 lbs, and then you have CT as the outlier. Tyson is a lanky 6’2 and 165 lbs, and in all honesty, sometimes he looks like he weighs less. While there have been successful “thin” competitors ranging from Yes Duffy to Cohutta Grindstaff, their bodies were much more compact. The only person I’d compare Tyson’s body to who has had success is Kyle Christie, and Kyle had 15–35 lbs on Tyson (depending on how many vitamins Kyle took before the season).

INTELLIGENCE

We all know Tyson is a smart ass. He is so effortlessly quick and clever with his retorts and somehow manages to insult people without them being completely vengeful towards him. Tyson knows how to read people for what they are; additionally, he is a well-spoken and thoughtful man. Finding out Tyson didn’t graduate college is one of the least surprising things ever because he is so intelligent and such a self-learner that it’s impossible to imagine him thriving in a classroom. Tyson is someone who, if interested in a subject or game, will commit himself to mastery of it.

Over the last half-decade, Tyson got seriously into Poker, even competing in live events where he’s won some cash. Poker in the modern era is no joke and is a game that requires on-the-fly mathematics/problem-solving. The opening daily challenge of the season was proof of both Tyson & Angela’s intelligence, as they were able to solve their math equation rapidly. Puzzles shouldn’t be an issue for Tyson.

EXPERIENCE

Nobody on The Challenge USA has more experience competing on Reality TV than Tyson. He debuted on Survivor Tocantins in 2009 (filmed in 08), and Tyson was an immediate stand-out as a physical competitor. Tyson was a killer in team challenges and went on to win the first two individual immunities of the season. The moment he didn’t win, they were quick to boot his ass because he was a giant physical threat. Tyson’s losses are what forced him to learn and adapt.

In Tyson’s third season (Blood vs. Water), he dislocated his shoulder early in the season, an injury that Tyson quickly realized was a blessing in disguise. Tyson was able to play up the injury to where people didn’t look at him as the most prominent physical threat. Funny enough, when the lights shined brightest, an ailing Tyson was still able to win the final two individual immunities of the season to guarantee his spot at the Final Tribal Council, where he would take home the million-dollar prize. During his time on Survivor, Tyson learned to take advantage of specific moments and gauge the right time to give 110% in challenges. It is part of what threw me off the scent of the competitor Tyson would be on The Challenge because I saw him look weak in Survivor challenges, not realizing that was part of his Survivor strategy.

The Challenge is different from Survivor, and Tyson knew that. Tyson gave his all to win those opening challenges as he knew it would set a tone for the season where people wouldn’t be able to look at him as weak, and the ability to yield power early on could set up his long-term game in terms of alliances & deal. Experience is the main reason why Tyson’s succeeded in these opening missions. At this point in Tyson’s life, he is either seen every type of challenge or competed in something so high-stakes that the level of fear/adrenaline of anything he faces now is either equal to or less than that. Trying to win individual immunity with a million dollars on the line after 38 days of hunger will make grappling down the side of a building seem like a walk in the park. Whether it be an eating challenge, an obstacle course, or trivia, Tyson is ready.

WHERE DOES TYSON GO FROM HERE?

Going into this game, Tyson had the informal alliance/bond of his fellow Survivor cast members. The Survivor players are smart and professional. Even if they aren’t 100% personality matches, they know when you have the numbers advantage and there are no idols in play, rocking the boat might not be the best idea.

I cannot understate how paramount those opening two daily challenge wins were for Tyson in setting up his game from here on. By winning those first two challenges, Tyson has gained loyal allies in Angela Rummans and Justine Ndiba. If you could have a female ally from Big Brother and Love Island, it would be Angela and Justine; they are intelligent women and former college athletes. They loved partnering with Tyson so much that they want to do it again and maybe even run a Final with him. By winning the challenges, Tyson got to politic with various people who pitched themselves to him. James, Alyssa, and Xavier are all non-Survivor people who look to be on good terms with Tyson already.

Tyson has both quantity and quality of numbers on his side. The game is in the palm of Tyson’s hands, where I don’t even think he needs to win another daily challenge this season. All the men know he is a threat, the women see him as someone they want to partner with, and at this point, more money in his bank would only paint a target on him. An elite swimmer with great cardio who is capable with puzzles and who people want to work with sounds like a real threat to win it all. Tyson Apostol was born to compete on The Challenge, and the best part is he’s ready to put on a show while proving just that.

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Allan Aguirre

Allan Aguirre

26 years old. I blog about MTV's the Challenge and will dabble into other subjects occasionally. Follow me on Twitter for the occasional bad joke.