Chris McCooley’s beard is impressive.
The 32-year-old York Township resident trims it every three to four weeks, but figures it’s been at least four years since he last shaved.
His beard sways from side to side as he runs, jumps and climbs over obstacles on ninja warrior courses. It’s that combination, the beard and his skill on those unique obstacles, that has earned him a spot as a finalist in Wahl’s “Most talented beard in America” contest.
McCooley, a billing specialist for a local physical therapy practice, looked at the other nine finalists and was surprised to be in their company.
“I mean the one guy paints with one hand and does origami with the other,” he said Friday night. “I think what I do, I just climb on walls. I’m honored and excited they picked me to be a finalist.”
McCooley, who is originally from Buffalo, N.Y., was encouraged to send in a video after his partner’s cousin heard about the contest on the radio. Wahl, a maker of grooming equipment, wasn’t just looking for a bearded face, it also wants someone with a bit of talent.
Half of the finalists are musicians or singers, including one man who plays the sax while figure skating. Other talents include fire baton twirling, balancing and wood-working.
Now that the finalists have been named, Wahl is asking the public to vote on their favorite “talented beard” through the company’s website. Voting ends Dec. 9, and the top three vote-getters will win $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000.
McCooley, who wrestled at Elizabethtown College and has been doing adventure races since 2010, knows exactly what he will do if he finishes in the top three.
The first step will be to help pay down debt his family incurred when his grandparents were sick. Anything left over will go into the wedding fund for he and his partner.
McCooley has been training and competing in ninja warrior events for the last four years. He tried to get on the “American Ninja Warrior” TV show, but he hasn’t made it that far.
The competition is a race over obstacles that test balance, quickness, strength and agility against the clock.
He hasn’t found a ninja gym to call home yet since moving to York in August, but he’s looking at a couple.
He was very active in his gym in Buffalo, and hopes to find that same thing here.
“It’s a great community, they are super supportive,” McCooley said. “It doesn’t matter if you are an excellent athlete or never watched the show. It’s a community that makes you feel good to be a part of.”
His video entry opens with McCooley and a young boy talking about his nickname, “the Bearded Wonder.”
Grayson, the boy in the video, was in a ninja tots class that McCooley taught from time to time. The two would also see each other around the gym and at competitions.
“One day his mom came up to me and said Grayson has a nickname for you,” McCooley said. “He was like 4 or 5 at the time. The beginning of the video is me asking him about his idea and him telling me. He came up with it on his own.”
And now, if he gets enough votes, the beard that led to a nickname could also lead to some cold, hard cash.
Shelly Stallsmith is a trends reporter for the York Daily Record. She can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at @ShelStallsmith.
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