Holt mourns the loss of longtime wrestling coach Rocky Shaft – “He was able to make wrestling fun.”


HOLT, Mich. (WLNS) – The Holt athletic community has lost another one of its tremendous mentors, as well as a great leader.

Longtime head varsity wrestling coach Rupert ‘Rocky’ Shaft passed away on Wednesday at the age of 65, which has left many in the community heartbroken.

Shaft was not only known for being one of the best wrestling coaches in the state of Michigan, but the country. Shaft was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Oklahoma as well as the Michigan Hall of Fame.

While at Holt he won 34 straight District Championships, while also guiding the Rams to three state titles. Then there were the individual champions. He helped 18 wrestlers win an individual state championship.

But it was Shaft’s warm demeanor, smile, and his positive approach to life that will leave the greatest impact. One of his former wrestlers, Mitchell Zajac, said Shaft always had a word – or two – of wisdom to share and he would often write hand-written notes.

“He was able to make wrestling fun when sometimes you know it was not,” said Zajac. “Just the way he was able to connect to the kids, and give those life lessons. You know, balled up into a quote, or into a saying, is something I know I’ll always remember.”

Holt’s Athletic Director Renee Sadler had this statement to share in regards to Shaft’s passing.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that the Holt athletic department shares the loss of Rupert “Rocky” Shaft, Head Varsity Wrestling Coach.  We can easily announce all of Rocky’s 47 years’ worth of wrestling records, how he coached Holt wrestling to 34 District Titles in a row, won 3 State Titles and coached 18 State Champions, but that would not begin to scratch the surface of the void we are feeling today.  Rocky was more than a wrestling coach.  To some, he was a father figure.  To others, a coaching mentor.  To all, he was a genuine caring friend that loved this Holt Community, loved his family and being a father of daughters, and loved coaching wrestling.  Rest in Peace Rocky, we had fun making memories.”

Both Holt’s Crisis Intervention Support Team and the Athletic Department have extended the offer of extra support to students today.

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