HOLT, Mich. – In the 2016 individual state championship tournament, Holt wrestler Kolin Leyrer lost in the semifinals. He was the state’s top wrestler for much of the year, but losing meant Leyrer watch the wrestler he just beat the week before go on to win the state championship at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
That night, he went to coach Rocky Shaft and said he wanted to shut it down and not finish out the rest of the tournament.
“It was kind of a low point,” Leyrer said.
After a long conversation, and some encouragement from Shaft, Leyrer finished the tournament and finished in fourth..
This season proved to be different for the senior, as he finished 41-2. His only two losses were to out-of-state opponents, and he dominated every wrestler he faced at The Palace on his way to winning the 27th individual state championship in the history of Holt wrestling.
His loss in 2016 helped pave the way to 2017’s state title.
“It was ingrained in him that, ‘I don’t want to be losing at the end of my senior year. I want to make something of that senior year’,” Shaft said. “The idea of being a state champion in wrestling in kind of something.”
Leyrer faced stiff competition in the state tournament. But as he did his whole high school career, where he won 86.3 percent of his matches, he prevailed over the top wrestlers in the state.
In the opening round, Leyrer pinned his opponent in less than a minute. In the next two rounds, he beat the fourth and fifth ranked wrestlers in the division one 160-pound weight class, by scores of 4-3 and 9-3 respectively. Finally, Leyrer took down Will Marano, a junior from Dearborn Edsel Ford High School, to capture the state crown.
With all the accolades that came Leryer’s way this past season, the multi-sport athletes did face challenges. Most notably, he is a member of Holt’s golf team and the football team’s starting quarterback. Leyrer said that juggling the three sports was difficult at times with football and wrestling overlapping, but it taught him to stay organized and focused on his goals.
“The good athletes know that sports are something you work towards,” he said. “‘I want to be on that team. I can’t be getting distracted by other things.’”
Looking back on his four years as a Holt wrestler, Leyrer feels very fortunate to have endless support from his family.
“Not many people get to say that their great uncle is their head coach,” he said. “It’s kind of been a family tradition and that was the mindset all year. He’s (Shaft) my uncle and my dad wrestled for him too. So it was cool keeping the tradition going. Having my brother being able to coach me was second to none.”
Shaft will remember Leyrer as a student who was dedicated and went above and beyond to improve.
“He leads by example,” Shaft said. “He has such a good work ethic. He’s there, which is a big thing for kids nowadays just to show up to practice. He does the extra workouts with a bunch of the other guys. He’s always doing stuff to make himself better.”
With an official commitment to wrestle at Eastern Michigan next fall, Shaft had once piece of advice for one of the best wrestlers to walk through the doors of Holt.
“Get to class,” he said.