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UNK professor Bryce Abbey wins $100,000 in TKO finale

“Battle Royale” – Pictured: Jacob Ehm, Kevin Hart and Bryce Abbey. The top five contestants with the fastest times return to compete in an epic battle royale for the $100,000 grand prize, on the season finale of TKO: TOTAL KNOCK OUT, Friday, September 21 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Kevin Hart is the host. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In a daunting four-stage obstacle course, Bryce Abbey beat four other competitors in front of thousands of people, including TV host Kevin Hart, to win $100,000 on the CBS finale of TKO: Total Knock Out.

His strategy?

“There was none,” said the Goodland, Kansas, native. “There was no time to practice or plan or anything.”

Instead, he said, it was “go as hard as you can and try to avoid any of the things being thrown at you.”

The TKO battle station included four zones: a plexi-walled platform with wobbly ledges, a balance beam with an unstable bridge in the middle, a leap challenge with disoriented saucers and an intense series of rotating grinders. As if navigating through these stations wasn’t challenging enough, the contestants fought off over-the-top projectiles thrown by other competitors in an effort to knock them off and slow them down.

Abbey, an associate exercise science professor at UNK, said his focus was beating the giant foam hammers at the end. If he was struck by them, he could fall off the obstacle course and end up in water, potentially setting him back.

“Staying dry was going to be the difference in losing or winning the competition,” Abbey said.

Finishing with a speedy time of 2:08, Abbey set the bar high for his four competitors. The closest time was 2:19, by Brandon Beem, an obscure sports champion from Iowa. Abbey said he has remained in contact with his fellow competitors since the show.

Though Abbey won the fierce competition and towering cash prize, he is no stranger to success.

A four time All-American wrestler, Abbey holds UNK’s record for most career wins with 134. In addition, Abbey became the first Loper wrestler to be awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship in 2005.  He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree at UNK, then earned his Ph.D. in Human Services from UNL.

TKO offered Abbey the type of competitive challenge, like those he faced while wrestling, in which he has long thrived. In fact, he said that the “competitiveness was the most fun part.”

This was a different kind of accomplishment, however.

“To have the opportunity to be on TV, to meet Kevin Hart, to compete for $100,000 was just an absolutely amazing experience,” Abbey said. “But then to win it—it was awesome. But I wouldn’t compare it to my athletic accomplishments because it’s a different experience for me.”

Wrestling since he was five years old, Abbey was recruited by UNK wrestling coach Marc Bauer and found a “perfect fit” at UNK. He has been officiating high school wrestling since 2005 and has officiated the state tournament for a few years. He has also officiated for the NCAA wrestling tournament.

“For me, athletics was different because I prepared and a part of it was so much of my life,” Abbey said. “Wrestling and my experiences were bigger than TKO.”

Despite the differences in Abbey’s experiences, he will always remember the “high-adrenaline” obstacle course.

Abbey used the $100,000 to pay off his student loans and plans on taking his family of four on a nice vacation.

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