Longtime Rochester wrestling coach leaves a legacy

Rochester Post | Published February 17, 2017

 Frank Lafferty, right, hands Shwan Shadaia his medal after winning the 189-pound state championship in 2013.

Frank Lafferty, right, hands Shwan Shadaia his medal after winning the 189-pound state championship in 2013.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

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On March 2, the prep-wrestling community will descend on the Palace of Auburn Hills for the individual state finals.
The top wrestlers and coaches from across the state will be on hand, but one will be missing.

Rochester High coach Frank Lafferty died Feb. 15 after a bout with pancreatic cancer.

He was 67.

Lafferty coached the Falcons since 2003 and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame last year. He will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame this May in Ann Arbor.

He led the Falcons to a regional championship in 2013 and won three district titles.

According to the school, Lafferty was 223-165 heading into this season and had produced 38 state qualifiers and 25 All-State wrestlers.

In 2013-14, he coached Shwan Shadaia to back-to-back state championships at 189 pounds.

Following the first state title, Lafferty leapt in Shadaia’s arms, flipping the script on the scene that often plays out after a state final.

“I’m too old; I wasn’t catching him,” Lafferty said smiling at the time.

“I’m not sure he could bear my weight, so I thought we’d come up with a new twist,” Shadaia added with a laugh.

Lafferty was a state champion himself. He helped lead Pontiac Northern to a team state title his senior year in 1967 and also won the individual crown at 180 pounds that same year. He was named Oakland County Wrestler of the Year that season.

Lafferty’s coaching career spanned five decades with stops at Clarkston High among others, but to many, he was more than a coach.

Mike Holtz, who is coach of rival Rochester Adams, served as an assistant to Lafferty at Rochester before taking over his current role.

Holtz called Lafferty “one of the most loyal, humble, caring individuals” he knew.

“He would give you the shirt off his back and then go borrow money to buy you another one, that was just the kind of guy he was, always caring for others over himself,” Holtz said. “His wrestlers and staff knew that he genuinely cared about them on and off the mat all season long. That is something that can't be said for every coach out there.”

Holtz said Lafferty was always there to listen and was one of his best friends.

“We lost one of the good guys. He definitely will not be able to be replaced,” Holtz said.

Troy High coach Joe Wood wrestled for Lafferty while he was an assistant at Clarkston and then later was on Lafferty’s staff at Rochester.

“There were very few people that were as influential in the wrestling world as Frank,” Wood said. “I was lucky to be able to be so close to him.
“I am forever grateful for being able to have him in my life as I am sure so many others are. … I love my coach and will miss him greatly.”

The visitation is frm 2-9 p.m. Feb. 19 at Lewis E. Wint & Son Funeral Home in Clarkston. The funeral is the following day at 12:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

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