Holyoak takes over Aloha wrestling program
In the completely unofficial, strictly for water cooler discussion pantheon of Oregon high school head coaching jobs, Aloha has to be in the top ten.
Stuart Kearsley constructed a program founded on a blue-collar work ethic, hands-on instruction in the mat room and no holds barred fierceness come match time. He built Aloha into not just a Metro League giant, but a Class 6A contender, one that found itself in the top-10 standings at the state tournament every February.
Success as a high school program percolated to the youth levels where younger kids picked up the grappling bug and joined Aloha's pipeline, hoping to one day don the blue and yellow under the Warrior spotlight. Wrestlers who come through the Aloha youth program are often ready-made for the varsity level because of the expert coaching they receive early on. Hard work is instilled from the time these guys are in the third or fourth grade. They receive great tutelage at an important time in their development. Those who don't play multiple sports often wrestle and train year-round. Home dual meets are packed with fans. Fan support around Aloha is unequaled. Parents are fully invested in their kids' progress and often send more than one son or daughter through the program. Oftentimes the Warriors are one of the more well-represented schools at the state meet in terms of fan and alumni support.
Not any average Joe can come in and take over the outfit. There is pressure to perform and produce, especially with the legacy Kearsley left behind, but there is no doubt the Aloha coaching gig is highly sought after if it ever becomes available.
When the job was vacated last spring, Ron Holyoak's ears perked up. Holyoak was a familiar name to the Warrior community. He led David Douglas to a 6A state championship in 2013, building the Dons from the basement to the high-rise level, much in the same vein as Kearsley did with Aloha so long ago. The year prior, in 2012, the Scots took second at state, using a program that had upwards of 70 kids. David Douglas star Osa Odighizuwa was the chief rival of Aloha heavyweight Cortez Rodelo, which crossed paths with Holyoak and the Scots on the state stage many a year. Holyoak was the 6A Coach of the Year in 2013. Moreover, the head coach was praised for his pragmatic ethos, using wrestling as a vessel to teach his teams about real life, making it more about becoming better people than just triumphant athletes.
With such an exceptional resume, Holyoak was an easy hire, a head coach who can help keep Aloha atop Metro and maintain the Warriors' level of excellence.
"Aloha is a great school in a great school district, so I'm excited to be here," Holyoak said. "It's a great opportunity for me to see what we can do. We have a lot of things to work on. There are a lot of improvements to be made. I like our effort. We have a lot to learn, so we're going just going to keep working and getting better."
Holyoak is the assistant principal and head athletic director at North Marion. He coached at David Douglas for nine seasons from 2007 through 2016. Holyoak took three years off but with his oldest son starting to show interest in the sport and the Aloha job opening seemingly out of nowhere, the seasoned skipper jumped at another opportunity to get back on the sideline. Holyoak has two young boys, one will be five years old in March, the other is one. To get them involved and around the sport, he loves helped pull up Holyoak out west.
"As a wrestling coach and coaching high school kids, you have a huge impact on their lives," Holyoak said. "Being able to get back into it and help change kids' lives for the better is one of my favorite things. And, I'm very passionate about wrestling."
For all of David Douglas' success on the mat, Holyoak drew the most acclaim for his dedication to the team away from the sport. Holyoak was a winner, surely, but a more a coach of rectitude, one who was demanding of his wrestlers in the classroom as he was in practice. At David Douglas, grade checks for every grappler were required. Every wrestler received a folder with an academic progress report inside that he or she needed to get verified by teachers. Any wrestler who failed to turn in the report couldn't wrestle. Academic commitment is a program pillar. Unity is another. Holyoak believes his program should be tightknit, brothers and sisters bonded together, supporting one another in every endeavor. Any recently implemented culture takes time to settle in, but Holyoak said Aloha has a head start with its 'Ohana' family beliefs.
"We want men and women of character who are going to go out and be productive members of society and be champions off the mat," Holyoak said. "That's our number one goal. We focus on being the best people we can be. We feel if we're the best people we can be, then that will resonate on the mat. We love each other as a team."
Holyoak inherited a loaded, senior-heavy lineup. Colton Fleming (152 pounds) has been a star since his freshman year and clinched state berths multiple times. Kieran McCalpin (182 pounds) took third last year at the 6A state meet, the highest of all the Warrior state qualifiers. McCalpin is "a great kid" who works hard and has high expectations for himself, Holyoak said. Jonathan Flores-Garcia (132 pounds) is a senior transfer from Mountainside who is one of Aloha's hardest workers, according to Holyoak. Flores-Garcia qualified for state as a Maverick last season. Payton Volk (170) is a state placer, a tough worker and team captain. Drew Fritz (195) is a varsity mainstay with state experience. With five stars on the roster, the foundation for another great year has been laid. But Holyoak said ultimate success will be determined by Aloha's young grapplers, the same ones who have been groomed at the grassroots level, and their fast progression.
"We have some pretty good seniors who we're happy to have out," Holyoak said. "We expect a lot out of them, but they expect a lot out of themselves. We have some good older kids, but if we don't get our young kids to develop, we're not going to make it very far. Our success this year depends on how fast our young kids come along. We're working on getting them caught up and helping our older kids get a little bit better. We're working hard and heading in the right direction."
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