10 Youngest ‘Survivor’ Contestants Ever

Sami Layadi Brandon Hantz and Will Wahl

YouTube Sami Layadi, Brandon Hantz, and Will Wahl.

Age and youth has always played a crucial role in the game of “Survivor.” Whether it’s at the expense of the older players – who have a tendency to often get voted out first – or younger players – who have often lied about their age in order to appear older to their tribemates – age can have a serious effect on anyone’s game.

As Mike Gabler mentioned in the “Survivor 43” premiere, only one person over the age of 50 has ever won the game; younger people are far more likely to take home the prize. But who are the youngest contestants to ever compete? Well, as of season 43, it just so happens that there have been exactly 10 teenagers to ever compete on the show (the minimum age to compete was lowered to 18 from 21 in 2008).

Here is a comprehensive list, as of 2022, of the 10 teenagers to have competed on “Survivor” (Note: the ages listed here are in reference to contestants’ ages at the start of the game):


10. Keith Sowell, ‘Edge of Extinction’ – 19 Years, 10.5 Months

In 2018, Keith became the eighth teenager to ever compete on “Survivor” when he appeared in season 38, “Edge of Extinction.” However, despite his youth, he did not fit in well among the tribe, and was voted out second for his poor challenge performances (and lack of swimming ability in particular).

Despite remaining on the Edge for 11 days, Keith, along with fellow Edger Wendy Diaz, soon raised the flag and went home shortly after failing to return to the game via the Edge of Extinction challenge on Day 17.


9. Brandon Hantz, ‘South Pacific’ – 19 Years, 7.5 Months

Brandon Hantz flexing muscle

GettyBrandon Hantz at the “Survivor: South Pacific” season reunion in 2011.

Brandon’s youth was more or less irrelevant as he tried to keep something other than his age hidden from the rest of his tribe – his family history. Likening it to “being related to Hitler,” Brandon was famously the nephew of “Survivor” supervillain Russell Hantz, but tried to shun his past in an attempt to revamp the Hantz family name. However, his attempts did not last long, and once his Upolu tribe found out who he was, they embraced him as one of their own. He was finally voted out when Upolu was down to five, however, after being considered too much of a jury threat (quite the reverse of his toxic uncle).

 

Brandon returned the following year for season 26, “Caramoan,” but soon proved that he was not equipped to return, suffering a mental breakdown on Day 13 and forcing his tribe to sacrifice immunity and hold an impromptu Tribal Council to eliminate him.


8. Sami Layadi, ‘Survivor 43’ – 19 Years, 6 Months, 2 Weeks, 5 Days

Sami, the 19-year-old pet cremator, is the newest in a long lineup of teenagers who expect to usurp Fabio Birza as the youngest winner ever. In the ongoing season, Sami has so far proven his worth to his Baka tribe both physically and intellectually, but it is unknown how long that will last for him. No doubt Sami – who has told his tribe he’s actually 22 – has a lot to overcome, but it’s still possible he could become “Survivor’s” first-ever teenage victor.


7. Jessica Peet, ‘David vs. Goliath’ – 19 Years, 5 Months

In 2018, 19-year-old waitress Jessica Peet was placed on the underdog “David” tribe for the famous “David vs. Goliath” divide. However, despite her age, she became the first person voted out (but second person eliminated, after the medical evacuation of her tribemate, Pat Cusack, three days prior) after the majority of the tribe became threatened by the connections she had with other tribemates.


6. Natalie Tenerelli, ‘Redemption Island’ – 19 Years, 3 Months

Survivor Redemption Island final 3

GettyNatalie Tenerelli with her co-finalists, Rob Mariano (L) and Phillip Sheppard, at the season’s reunion show in 2011.

Famous for being one of the members of “Boston Rob” Mariano’s dominant Ometepe alliance, Natalie Tenerelli eventually became the first – and so far only – teenager to reach the Final Tribal Council in season 22, “Redemption Island.” She did so alongside Boston Rob, who famously likened her more than once to a “daughter” (at that time, Rob indeed had two young daughters waiting for him at home).

However, Natalie’s youth and inexperience ended up playing a key role in her downfall; the jury saw her as strategically incompetent and a coattail rider of Rob’s, awarding the latter the million dollars in a landslide 8-1-0 vote, while Natalie received no votes.


5. Swati Goel, ‘Survivor 42’ – 19 Years, 2 Months

Last year, Swati competed in “Survivor 42,” and it quickly became clear how strongly her Ika tribe segregated themselves based on age, as she bonded quickly with 24-year-old Tori Meehan and 21-year-old Zach Wurtenberger. However, that alliance quickly fell apart, and Swati and Tori turned on Zach on Day 3 after Ika lost the first challenge, leading Zach to be eliminated unanimously. When Ika lost immunity again on Day 9, Swati soon became the next target after it was discovered she had told almost all of her other tribemates that they were her “number one,” leading to her prompt elimination.

Eventual winner Maryanne Oketch gave Swati a shoutout in her Final Tribal Council speech, in which she said that she noticed early on how younger players, including Swati, were targeted early, leading Maryanne to play a more under-the-radar game. It worked out for the then-23-year-old, who soon became the fifth-youngest winner in the history of the game.


4. Julia Sokolowski, ‘Kaôh Rōng’ – 18 Years, 11 Months, 3 Weeks, 1 Day

Julia Sokolowski

YouTubeJulia Sokolowski at “Ponderosa.”

To this day, Julia is the only 18-year-old female to ever compete on the show. She turned 19 on Day 10 of her season, “Kaôh Rōng,” but was eliminated a few weeks later, on Day 29. She would end up casting her jury vote for her close friend and ally, Michele Fitzgerald, who would become the 7th (now 8th) youngest winner of all time.


3. Michael Yerger, ‘Ghost Island’ – 18 Years, 11 Months

Michael Yerger

GettyMichael Yerger at the Wolk Morais Collection 7 Fashion Show in 2018.

One of only four 18-year-olds to ever compete, Michael Yerger famously tried to hide his age from his tribemates. Although he was eliminated on Day 29 after a tiebreaking vote, Michael would soon help to make “Survivor” history after voting for Domenick Abbate as a juror, causing the first-ever 5-5 tie jury vote. Zero-vote second-runner-up Laurel Johnson became the tie-breaker vote, where she would vote for her ally Wendell Holland, who then became the winner of the season.

Michael turned 19 one week after filming for the season completed.


2. Spencer Duhm, ‘Tocantins’ – 18 Years, 10 Months


Survivor Tocantins – Meet SpencerSpencer Duhm (19) Hometown: Lakeland, Fla. Occupation: Student2009-01-16T00:40:11Z

At the time, Spencer Duhm was the youngest contestant to ever play “Survivor.” Taking advantage of the then-recent rule change that those aged 18-20 could start applying, Spencer took advantage of this at only 18 years old, and became the youngest contestant to ever compete on “Tocantins.” Spencer was placed on the ill-fated Jalapao tribe, and was eventually voted out before the merge, on Day 15.

Interestingly, Spencer – who is gay and tried to hide his sexuality from his fellow tribemates – ended up dating Todd Herzog, one of the youngest “Survivor” winners ever. However, the relationship would not last.


1. Will Wahl, ‘Millennials vs. Gen X’ – 18 Years, 8 Months

In the years since Spencer Duhm’s appearance on “Survivor: Tocantins” in 2009, only one person has surpassed him as the youngest to ever compete.

Fitting for the season, which was divided not only by age but by generation – Will Wahl became the youngest-ever “Survivor” contestant when he appeared on season 33 in 2016, starting off at only 18 years and 8 months old. It is a record he holds to this day. However, his fate was sealed on Day 34, after he was voted out for betraying his alliance.

“Survivor 43” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

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