‘Dawg’ Offenberger chooses Rio Grande for wrestling
WATERFORD — Waterford senior Haden Offenberger is a “dawg” in more ways than one.
When he was in eighth grade, he advanced far in a spelling bee before coming up against the word “dogfight.”
“I thought they were trying to trick me,” Offenberger recalled, “so I spelled it ‘dawgfight.'”
From there, his parents and coaches gave him the nickname “dawg.” But he’s also a dawg on the wrestling mat, where he’s a three-time district qualifier and has played a crucial role in turning around the Waterford wrestling program.
He will take that dawg mentality with him to the collegiate level, as he has decided to continue his wrestling career at the University of Rio Grande.
This year is the first season the RedStorm have fielded a wrestling team, so Offenberger will be joining a program on the rise.
“Last summer I started looking around, figuring out where to go,” he said. “I saw Rio was starting a wrestling team so I emailed coach (Jason) Schweer. He told me I was the first wrestler to get a hold of him. We started talking, and probably in like July or August it got serious. I went and visited a couple times and really like it.”
Offenberger hopes he can help build something special at Rio Grande, much like he did at Waterford.
“My freshman year I think we had four or five of us,” he recalled. “We weren’t very big, but we started winning matches and placing high in tournaments. People started noticing us. We got better each of the past two years, and we’re having another dominant year this year so far.”
For the Wildcats, it’s been awhile since they’ve had a wrestler move on to compete in college.
“It’s special because it’s my son,” said Greg Offenberger, Haden’s father and Waterford’s head coach. “This is my fifth year as the head coach and he’s the first wrestler to go on to the collegiate level.”
Offenberger is also a football standout and was named third team All-Ohio as an offensive guard.
“He looked at playing football in college a little bit,” Greg Offenberger said, “but being 5-foot-6, 165 pounds, there’s not too many guards in college that are 165 pounds.”
Haden Offenberger has never let his size keep him from accomplishing his goals.
“The whole sport of wrestling, you get determination, a never give up attitude,” he said. “You just build like a mental toughness. I think that’s going to be crucial in college.”
While Offenberger is glad to have his college decision out of the way, he’s not looking too far ahead. He still has goals he wants to accomplish as a senior.
“His goal of course is to make it to state,” coach Offenberger said. “He’s been heartbroken the last three years.”
The younger Offenerberger has fallen just short of making it to state each of his three seasons as a prep wrestler and is hoping to get over that hump as a senior. He says he definitely has a chip on his shoulder.
“Yeah, it’s driving me insane,” he said. “I hope we get a postseason and I hope I go all the way to the Schott this year.”
Offenberger also hopes he has some company at the district meet this season.
“Our goal since freshman year is to take a bus to the district tournament” rather than going solo, he said.
Offenberger said he is leaning toward a major in education but isn’t 100% sure yet.
Right now, his focus is on finishing his senior season strong.
“This is the team I’ve been looking forward to coaching the last five years,” Greg Offenberger said. “I coach youth level all the way up to high school, and the guys I have now have all wrestled for me for five years. I’ve only got nine guys, but it’s a really solid nine guys. They all have been in the program for several years.
“Haden’s kind of been the face of the program. It’s helped my numbers, and it’s kind of put us on the map a little bit.”
Jordan Holland can be reached at email@example.com.