HOLT, Mich. (WLNS) – At Holt, the expectation each year is to win a regional title. For the second straight season, the Rams accomplished that goal by taking down Jackson in Division 1 regional final 71-4.

What makes this regional title special for the Rams is that they did it less than a year after head coach Rupert “Rocky” Shaft died at the age of 65. Shaft coached the Rams for four decades and led the program to three state titles.

“There was a lot of motivation. We want to dedicate everything we’re doing this year for him,” Holt junior wrestler Ryan Mosher said. “He coached me when I was a freshman and sophomore, and I knew him when I was younger and I remember looking up and hoping that he would be my coach.”

Holt’s first-year head coach, Stan Granger said, “I learned a long time ago, when somebody passes, you see the world for them. So they get to see the world through your eyes, and that was my whole thing. I’ve been trying to give them the impression, ‘look, he’s not here, but we don’t want to send him a sad world and we want him to see what we’re doing.'”

“That perspective on this whole thing has been huge for us,” Granger added.

Granger was an assistant for 23 years under Shaft and took over the program this past season. He knew the expectations Shaft had set for Holt wrestling, which made the transition that much easier.

“He’s done a really good job,” Holt senior wrestler Grant Bachman said. “He sits us down occasionally and makes sure that we’re focused and working hard. When we don’t do something great, he lets us know, and then he also does a good job of letting us know we did a good job. So there’s a good balance.”

With this being the first season the Michigan High School Athletic Association has recognized female wrestling in the state finals, there’s another story within the Rams’ season worth telling.

Clara Holtry was the team manager five weeks ago, but decided to participate in the sport she has loved since a young age.

“I decided I wanted to compete because it’s really fun,” Holtry said. “There’s a rush of your body being able to do things that’s not specific. I play softball, but that’s specific because I use my arms and I use my legs to do one thing. You’re just using your whole body in wrestling, which is really cool because you learn things about how you move and how you think.”

Granger said, “When the girls show up, the only thing that we all care about is just putting in the effort day-in and day-out, and the guys have embraced that. I have never experienced, in this room, any kind of rejection for the females.”