In his first ever greasy pole competition, Derek Hopkins made it look easy as he walked he way out to the end of the 40-foot greased telephone pole with not so much as a slip. Unfortunately for Hopkins, that was was in the courtesy round and he was not able to pull down the flag and earn the win because every walker gets a turn in the courtesy round.
Instead, Hopkins had to wait for what must have seemed like an eternity as 50 more walkers had a chance, 38 of them a chance to win, before he got a second walk.
"I honestly didn't think I'd get another chance, there are so many great walkers up there," Hopkins admitted.
But with a few close calls mixed in, Hopkins did get a second chance, and he turned in another flawless walk to take home the Friday Greasy Pole championship. Hopkins will now walk first in Saturday's competition back at Pavilion Beach (4:45 p.m.).
The 2019 Friday champ is now a second generation winner as his father, Rich Hopkins, took down two greasy pole flags in 1996 and 1997. The Hopkins' are now just the fourth father and son duo to win the greasy pole joining John "Beanie" and Paul Nicastro, Joe "Black" and Peter "Black" Frontiero, and Chris and Ross Carlson as the only father and son tandems to win the greasy pole.
"It feels crazy, I grew up watching the pole and my dad won before me," the younger Hopkins said. "I grew up waiting for this day and I can't believe it's here."
After Hopkins' great walk in the courtesy round, the 39th walker of 50 on the list, he watched as fellow competitors Joe D'Amico, Cam DeCoste, Dakota Zappa, Gave Castiello, Michael Russo and Santo Parisi turn in great walks and nearly pull off the win.
"Anything can happen up there and a bunch of guys came super close," Hopkins said. "I give credit to all of them. If someone grabbed it before me I would have been super pumped for them. So many deserving walkers up there."
That set the stage for Hopkins' second walk, and he again made it look easy. The 2019 Friday champ did not have to rely on a nifty leap, or a slick grab, he simply walked the length of the pole and walked through the flag.
"I felt relieved when it got to me in the second round," Hopkins said. "But then I was a bit nervous because I had 40 feet in front of me. I was just hoping for the best. I sat back, waited for the pole to stop shaking and just went for it."