GREENFIELD — Family matters to Josh Holden. Few things take higher precedent, he said, and his coaching philosophy echoes that emphasis no matter where he calls home.
It was the primary reason he stepped down as Greenfield- Central High School’s head wrestling coach last October to accept the same position at Southport High School.
Once again, it was the motivating factor as he now prepares for his return to Hancock County in 2016-17.
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“When I took this job (at Southport), I was in a little bit of financial difficulty, and I have a strong faith and had been praying. Out of the blue, Southport called me. It was kind of a blessing,” Holden said. “It was an opportunity to give my family a little bit more financial security, so we took the job.”
After six months on Indianapolis’ south side, Holden is coming back to where it all started, rehired as the Cougars wrestling coach last week by the Greenfield-Central Community Schools board.
“I love everything about Southport. The kids are great and work hard. I have no doubt in my mind that this will be a great school for wrestling,” Holden said. “It came down to a discussion my wife (Monica) and I had. It’s about taking our kids out of Greenfield, which is the only home they’ve ever had, a place they love.”
With their children, Isaiah and Harper, rooted in Greenfield’s school system, Holden felt the best course for his family’s future was in the past and the Cougars are eager to welcome him back.
“We’re excited about having him here again,” Greenfield-Central athletics director Jared Manning said. “We’re looking forward to him leading our wrestling program. I know there are quite a few people excited about having him back in the building.”
Initially, Holden intended to move his family into the Perry Township School system following his first year at Southport. However, after 12 years in Greenfield, the decision didn’t fit, said Holden, who put his children’s needs first.
“Greenfield is a known for us. We know it’s a good place for them, not that Southport wouldn’t, but they love it at Greenfield,” Holden said. “I don’t want to move my family away from a place that they love.
“Greenfield is our home. It’s my kids’ home. It’s where they want to be.”
Holden will take over the Cougars wrestling program for longtime assistant coach Ed Hamant, who served as interim coach in 2015-16.
Hamant was the program’s seventh head coach in program history since Bob Miller instructed Greenfield-Central’s first team in 1964.
A Decatur Central graduate, Hamant, 70, started working with the program more than 30 years ago. In his career, he’s helped coach the team’s first state champion, Terry Edon, at 155 pounds in 1978-79 and every state qualifier the past four decades, including Gavin Rose this past winter.
In February, Hamant became the third assistant coach to ever be inducted into the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.
In his first full season as head coach, Hamant steered the Cougars to a 15-12 team record, a runner-up placement at the Shelbyville Sectional and had five wrestlers advance into the New Castle Semistate.
“He’s been part of the program for so long, he knew how things had to be run and taking over the role as head coach for the first time, we were happy with what he did with the program,” Manning said. “He kept things moving forward, and we were pleased with how he approached things.”
Hamant will resume his career as an assistant coach alongside Holden, who he considers a good friend.
Holden, who was the defensive coordinator for the high school football team prior to his departure, will be a position coach under new head coach Adam Sherman this fall. He also will serve as the high school’s strength and conditioning instructor.
For the time being, Holden will split his time until Southport finds a replacement inside their wrestling room. Last season, the Cardinals finished third as a team at sectional with a champion at 195 pounds in junior Robert Clark.
Southport had two New Castle Semistate qualifiers.
“It’s bittersweet. Obviously, I love Greenfield. I love my coaches, I love those kids and the parents in that program have been nothing but good to me,” Holden said. “At the same time, I’m working out with two seniors-to-be on the Southport team because they don’t have a coach right now.
“It’s exciting, but at the same time a little heart wrenching to walk away from these guys at Southport because I couldn’t ask for more from them.”
Greenfield-Central pushed 10 wrestlers into the Perry Meridian Regional this past season, and freshman Gavin Rose advanced to the IHSAA state finals.
The 106-pounder accumulated a 20-10 record, competing in the first round at state in his first trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“You’re looking at six or seven guys that could potentially go to the state tournament and the school record is four,” Holden remarked on the Cougar’s potential in 2016-17. “They had five guys go to semistate, and that’s outstanding. The program is surrounded by good people, so it’s a great thing to be part of again.”
Holden first came to Greenfield-Central after graduating from the University of Indianapolis. He was hired by former athletics director Kevin Horrigan and took over for Lance Parsons, who coached the Cougars from 2001-04.
After an 8-12 inaugural season in 2004-05, Holden guided the Cougars to 10 winning campaigns in 11 years, a Hoosier Heritage Conference team title in 2011-12 and helped mentor an undefeated state champion in Josh Farrell at 152 pounds three years ago.
Involved in the sport for more than 30 years, Holden started wrestling in grade school and reached the pinnacle as a senior at Lawrence Central High School, winning the 140-pound state title with a 43-1 record in the last state meet ever conducted at Market Square Arena.
As a club wrestler, he captured two freestyle state titles, a pair of Greco state championships and graduated as Lawrence Central’s all-time winningest wrestler.
In college, Holden earned four varsity letters, was a national qualifier and a two-time Academic All-American.
Inside the Greenfield-Central wrestling room he coached 11 state qualifiers and seven state place winners. The program amassed a 165-95 dual-meet record during his tenure, second-best in school history behind Bill Yozipovich’s 19-year run of 247-81-3 from 1979-98.
In 2008-09, the Cougars reached 20 wins for the first time. The next season, Holden’s team continued to thrive and set another single-season record for victories at 21-5.
Holden’s wife teaches in the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County at Brandywine Elementary.
Holden’s Coaching Record
Year, Record, State Qualifiers
# – Hoosier Heritage Conference champions
$ – Individual state champion
Josh Holden Highlights
Record: 165-95 (at Greenfield-Central)
Winning Percentage: 63%
State Qualifiers: 11
State Place Winners: 7
Individual State Champion: Josh Farrell (152 pound at 48-0), 2012-13
Individual Semistate Champions 2
Individual Regional Champions: 11
Individual Sectional Champions: 16
Individual HHC Champions: 20
HHC Team Champions: 1 (2012)
Indiana All-Stars: 6
Records: wins in single season (21-5 in 2010-11)