The Sunday Greasy Pole competition is called the Walk of Champions for good reason.
The final day of the St. Peter's Fiesta features a greasy pole comprised of former champs, and those walking in the name of former champs. This year, the champs all delivered in one of the most exciting Sunday competitions we have seen.
There was close call after close call, but in the end, Jake Wagner stood above the rest by hauling down the flag in the third round for his second championship. He also won the Sunday 2015 title.
"You're up there with a whole bunch of champs and anybody can win it," the 21-year-old Wagner said. "I got a little scared after my second walk because I had two bad walks in a row. Luckily I got another shot and the third walk felt amazing."
One-by-one the former champions and proteges stepped up on to the 40 foot, grease (and apparently donut) covered telephone pole and delivered several strong walks.
The former champions put on a show in round two as Mark Allen, Stew McGillivray, Nick Avelis, Joe Sanfilippo, Vinny Parisi, Sandy Palazzolo and Jake Wood all threatened.
By the time the second round was nearing an end, there was little grease left on the pole, and it started a streak of four straight walks that came inches away from ending the competition.
Joe Frontiero started the run as his outstretched finger tips came a few inches away from grasping the flag at the very end of the second round.
Randy Sweet, the Friday and Saturday winner, nearly became the second walker in the history of the competition to take down three straight flags but just missed taking it down to open up the third round. Sweet also walked the length of the pole to open the competition but walkers can not take the flag down in the opening round, which is the courtesy round giving every walker in the field a chance to compete. Jake Wood remains the lone walker to win on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he accomplished that milestone in 1999.
Friday 2015 and Saturday 2016 champion Lenny Taormina was next, and he came as close as one can to winning without taking the flag down. Taormina, known for his quickness and speed on the pole, raced towards the flag and slipped onto his stomach just at the end of the pole. The two-time champ was able to grab the flag but he was not in position to pull it down.
That set the stage for Wagner, who charged at the flag and took it down for his second Sunday title in the last three years.
"Lenny left the pole bouncy as heck for me," Wagner joked. "I just did what I did when I won the last time. I waited until I had everything blocked out and I just went for it. You have to have the right mentality, if you have to dive for it, dive for it. If not, you still go after it as hard as you can."
Sweet goes back-to-back
Randy Sweet was a mere inches away from making history, but he still had an incredible weekend of greasy pole walking for himself.
The 24 year-old was a first time walker this year and was the 36th walker on the 44-walker Friday competition. After two strong walks, Sweet took the pole down in the third round, and he did it again on Saturday.
As the first walker in the field, Sweet nearly ended it before anybody even got a chance in Round 2, but came up just short. He would finish the job in the third round for back-to-back flags.
Winning the greasy pole two days in a row is no easy task. Since the greasy pole added a third day of competition in 1999, only three walkers have won two days in a row. Wood did it in 1999 and McGillivray was the last to do it in 2004. Sweet is now in elite company as Wood has seven greasy pole championships and McGillivray has six.