Athlete of the Week

Elk River senior heavyweight Seth Hopkins is declared the winner after his 228-weight match against Annandale-Maple Lake's Kessler Kenning at the Elk River Invite on Jan. 11.

Elk River senior Seth Hopkins can thank a teammate’s father for his career as a varsity wrestler.

When Hopkins was in fourth grade, Gary Clem, the father of Hopkins’ teammate Gage Clem, saw Hopkins’ strength on the football field and contacted his father, Josh, telling him to sign his son up for wrestling.

After watching one of his cousin’s wrestling practice, Seth Hopkins confirmed that he wanted to wrestle in high school.

“I knew it would help me in football,” Hopkins said. “I always loved football. That was my main priority. Initially, I wrestled so I could get better at football, but as the years went on, I grew to love the sport of wrestling. That’s why I continue to do it to this day.”

Head coach Bryan Kulm said Hopkins is a hard worker who comes prepared for each meet and practice.

“If I could have another 20 guys like Seth with his attitude and his work ethic and what a nice, kind person he is, I’d take that in an instant,” Kulm said. “He leads by doing the right things. That’s something that you don’t find every day.”

Hopkins played on Elk River football’s Team 128 that made it to the Class 5A state semifinal in November. He was an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman. Hopkins recorded three sacks in 2019—two in the regular season and one in the Class 5A quarterfinal against Moorhead on Nov. 9.

Senior Colton Pool said Hopkins made every wrestling practice when there wasn’t a football game, practice or scrimmage.

“He was in here right away and got right into it,” Pool said. “[He] sets the tone and sets the pace for other wrestlers to follow. He’ll motivate the guys and sets the tone pretty high and sets a good example to follow. If he’s working hard, you see other people working hard and busting their butts and going at it with their teammates, you’re going to do the same thing.”

With the Summer Olympics in Tokyo only six months away, Hopkins said he didn’t watch any 2016 Olympic wrestling matches on television and wasn’t inspired by any Team USA wrestlers. Instead, his wrestling hero is former Minnesota Golden Gophers heavyweight Tony Nelson. Nelson wrestled for the Gophers from 2010-14, winning the NCAA heavyweight championship in both 2012-13 and 2013-14 as well as three Big Ten championships.

“He was just a big guy and he’s so athletic,” Hopkins said. “It just amazes me how good he was at the collegiate level for the Gophers.”

When he’s not pinning down opponents or preparing for football season, Hopkins is busy studying math, which is his favorite school subject. Hopkins is planning on majoring in a math-related field, where the possibilities, from algebra to calculus, are endless.

Hopkins said people who understand math are needed in society in order to solve humankind’s most challenging problems. 

“You always need these people to solve these problems,” Hopkins said. “More math problems keep coming out every day and you need people to figure those out in every aspect.”

Elk River hasn’t had a state champion at the individual level since 2002. Hopkins’ goal for this season is to end that 17-plus year drought by winning the heavyweight title in February at Xcel Energy Center.

“I think it’s an achievable goal,” Hopkins said. “I’ve always wanted to be the best in everything. This year, I really want to get that state title, look back and [say] all that hard work paid off. I’m going to keep grinding in the room. I’m going to listen to my coaches. They’re going to give me great advice and I’m going to work harder than I have ever before.”

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