HOLMEN — Fourteen years ago, the Holmen High School boys basketball team came one game shy of the WIAA Division 2 state tournament, suffering a 50-46 overtime loss to Altoona in a sectional final.
It’s a game that is brought up frequently at the Vikings’ alumni weekends — both fondly and painfully — and still clear in the memory of Ryan Meyer, who was a senior on that 2005-06 team.
“That gym at Marshfield is huge, and the fact that we had people from Holmen from the bottom of the bleachers all the way to the top and it was so loud in there,” Meyer said. “I remember the first time I caught the ball I dribbled left and made a shot, and I didn’t realize what happened. It was one of those moments where you almost black out for a second.”
Meyer was a leader for Holmen then — he scored 24 points in that sectional final loss — and he’s a leader now.
On Monday, he was named the Vikings’ next head coach, and he replaces Steve Blank, who stepped down at the end of this past season after 24 years at the helm.
“It means so much to me,” Meyer said of being able to coach at his alma mater. “It’s kind of humbling to take over a program, especially after a legendary coach like Coach Blank, and then now to be the person that takes the program over after him and inspire kids that go to the same place that I did, it’s a dream come true.”
Meyer has long aspired to be a coach and originally majored in education at Viterbo, where he also played basketball for a season, with hopes of following that dream. He changed majors to business management — he owns Greater Than Gear, a Holmen company that sells uniforms to sports teams — and thought that goal might have been just out of reach.
But Meyer stayed around the game after graduating from Viterbo in 2011 — and around Blank. Meyer helped out at Holmen’s basketball camps, and Blank often asked him if he’d like to join his staff as an assistant. Ahead of the 2018-19 season, Meyer said yes.
“At the time, I was just hoping I would get to be a part of the program for a long time,” Meyer said. “... Being a part of this program was my main goal. I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else.”
Just two years later, he’s the head of the program. The decision to apply for the position after Blank stepped down was an easy one, Meyer said, especially after players asked him if he was interested.
“That meant a lot to know that they would want me to be their coach,” Meyer said. “I didn’t really hesitate.”
Meyer takes over after the Vikings went 8-16 and advanced to the regional semifinals this past season. He’s been picking Blank’s brain as he gets settled in, though Meyer noted he won’t be a carbon copy of Blank as he looks to jumpstart a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2014-15, the last time Holmen won the MVC.
“I believe you want to have an identity, and that’s something we’re going to do is create an identity as a program,” Meyer said. “From that, I think things change depending on the skillsets of the players and the team that you have around you. I think you have to be willing to adapt to their strengths a little bit as well.”
Meyer would like to spread the floor, attack the rim and create opportunities for players to make plays. He hopes to guide teams to successful seasons, which he believes goes beyond wins and losses.
“That’s every kid’s dream, probably every coach’s dream, to get down to the Kohl Center, play at the state tournament,” Meyer said. “I just want to see our kids inspired to play basketball and learn the things that come with playing sports and being a part of a team and leadership.
“Ultimately, if we can do those things, we don’t have to get down to the Kohl Center to be successful.”
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