NewsJesse Grupper

Jesse Grupper Looks To Climb Higher Up The World Rankings After Breakout Season

by Bob Reinert

Jesse Grupper reacts after climbing in the men's bouldering event during the 2022 IFSC Climbing World Cup on May 28, 2022 in Salt Lake City.


Athletes can experience breakthroughs at unexpected times. Take competitive climber Jesse Grupper, who had his during the 2022 world cup season.


Grupper, 26, had set a goal of earning one medal during the climbing campaign. Instead, he ascended a total of four podiums, including a pair of gold medals. Overall, he finished third in men’s lead and fifth in men’s bouldering & lead among the world’s climbers.


“It definitely felt like a breakout year,” Grupper said. “It felt like something just clicked within this long journey.


“I’ve been doing this sport for over 14 years, and the 15th year was the year that it all kind of came together, and I was able to really show myself on that stage. It was pretty cool to be able to have those pieces come together.”


Grupper discovered the sport at age six when older sister Maddy began taking climbing lessons.


“I had a ton of energy as a kid,” he said. “I started competing when I was like nine or 10. I guess I haven’t really stopped since.”


Currently, Grupper is competing in the 2023 world cup season, which began April 21-23 with a bouldering event in Hachioji, Japan.


“Pretty exciting to kick off the season there,” Grupper said. “I’m predominantly a lead climber. So, it’s been really interesting and fun for me to switch gears and kind of get into this bouldering shape. The (USA Climbing) training center has been a huge help in that journey.


“It’s cool to feel like an expert in a sport for so long and then still have so much to learn within it. I’m enjoying the ride, and I feel like I’m making steady progress.”


Grupper, from Upper Montclair, New Jersey, is just happy to be healthy after beginning this year with a knee injury and a bout with COVID-19.


“I was just climbing in the gym, like a normal session, and I just did kind of a regular hook move that I had done several times before,” said Grupper, “and I just heard a pop, came down and couldn’t use my leg like I normally do.”


He was diagnosed with a grade 2 lateral collateral ligament sprain. Two weeks later, COVID-19 hit, and he was bed-ridden for a few days.

Jesse Grupper competes in the men's bouldering event during the 2022 IFSC Climbing World Cup on May 28, 2022 in Salt Lake City.


Grupper recovered quickly enough to win team trials, the second selection event for the U.S. team.


“It’s incredibly exciting for me to know that I was able to persevere through those challenges,” he said. “I think that experience was a good reminder, in a lot of ways, of just how lucky we are to be doing what we love.”


Since graduating from Tufts University with a degree in mechanical engineering, Grupper has been in and out of the competitive climbing scene but retained his passion for the sport even while working on human performance for a time at a Boston bio-design firm.


“I just didn’t feel done, so then I came back to the circuit after another couple of years,” Grupper said. “I’ve always been quite driven to constantly improve in the sport.


“I was always pretty serious about and dedicated towards it. I prioritized that as my sort of main activity in high school and then even in college.”


Grupper still enjoys the sport in much the same way he did as a kid.


“Climbing is also a little bit of a game in some ways,” he said. “You have to have fun while you’re doing it. There has to be some play element for you to continue to enjoy it.”


His confidence in bouldering is steadily increasing. But, Grupper is also eager to turn his focus to his strongest event and push himself to a new level in the lead rankings.


Grupper hopes to reach his first world championships in August in Bern, Switzerland. Beyond that is the goal of reaching the Olympic Games Paris 2024.


“The Olympics have always been something that are appealing to me,” he said. “The in-between steps are also exciting. The Olympics are, of course, like an amazing dream.”


Grupper said he continues to be drawn to climbing because it requires many different physical abilities.


“It’s just incredible that you can still learn and still find new avenues to improve yourself,” Grupper said. “I’m definitely grateful to continue the journey and see where it takes me.”

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.