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Rochester wrestling coach Frank Lafferty dies

  • Rochester wrestling coach Frank Lafferty passed away Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. (MIPrepZone file photo).
  • Rochester wrestling coach Frank Lafferty passed away Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. (MIPrepZone file photo).
  • Rochester coach Frank Lafferty talks with his wrestlers after a tournament. (MIPrepZone file photo).

Long-time coach was beloved in community

Despite his illness, Frank Lafferty entered his 13th season as Rochester head wrestling coach with all the enthusiasm and excitement of past seasons.

"He's a fighter," said Rochester assistant coach Erik Vernon three weeks ago at the Macomb-Oakland Duals, when it was apparent the illness was taking its toll on the veteran coach.

Lafferty passed away Wednesday from a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 67.

"Frank and I ... we've been friends for a long time," said Oxford coach Paul McDevitt. "We coached against each other when he was an assistant at Clarkston and we've had some good rivalries over the years. He was fiery, but he was also a very gracious, well-liked coach. He was a great role model. He prepared his kids to do their best, and left it in their hands."

Lafferty is one of the 2017 inductees for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Michigan Chapter.

He was a state champion wrestler on the Pontiac Northern High school team which won the state title in 1967 under late coach Bill Willson.

At Rochester, he coached 38 state qualifiers and 25 all-state wrestlers on teams that won three district titles and a regional championship. He had a 223-165 career dual meet record.

He was a long-time assistant coach at Clarkston High under head coach Mike DeGain for some 20 seasons with the Wolves. All three of his sons wrestled at Clarkston.

Lafferty was disappointed he didn't get the head coaching job at Clarkston when DeGain left, but he got the head coaching position at Rochester.

Even though he was still upset about the Clarkston position, he reasoned with himself. "It was hard to get over my disappointment," he said, "(but) then I was thinking, 'how can I tell the kids when things don't go your way, you can't give up?'"

Rochester continued to get better under his leadership and reached the team state tournament under the current format (since 1988) for the first time in school history in 2013 when the Falcons knocked off perennial power Oxford and won the regional championship.

Ken Corr, a Pontiac activist, was a teammate of Lafferty on the state championship team at Pontiac Northern.

"We used to wrestle against each other in practice (and) sometimes I tried to go the other way," recalled Corr. "His work ethic was something. (But) you couldn't meet a nicer person. Even though he was a state champion, Frank was just a down-to-earth guy."

West Bloomfield coach Greg Alessi, who had coached the Lakers for more than 30 years, reflected on his relationship with Lafferty.

"Frank and I had a connection because of Pontiac," said Alessi, who graduated from Pontiac Central. "He was self-deprecating, but loved to compete and loved coaching wrestling. A great ambassador for the sport (and) loved by a lot of coaches."

Lafferty was a U.S. Navy veteran and retired from Grand Trunk Railroad.

Frank leaves his wife of 45 years, Gloria, and sons Frank N. Lafferty II, Jeremy (Cori) Lafferty and Joshua (Nicole) Lafferty.

Funeral service is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. Monday at the Lewis E. Wint & Son Funeral Home in Clarkston where friends may visit from 2-9 p.m. Sunday. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Online Guestbook www.wintfuneralhome.com.

Last Updated: 2/17/2017 11:23:11 AM EST


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