WARREN, Mich. - De La Salle Collegiate teacher Ron Barger marked his sixth decade as a wrestling referee when he worked a match last month.
Barger joined his high school wrestling team at Taylor Center High School midway through his junior year, and earned all-area honors his senior year in 1977.
“The wrestling bug had me hooked,” said Barger, who teaches engineering.
During college, at Eastern Michigan University, he spent some of his winter break at his younger brother’s wrestling matches. Barger’s former coach saw him and asked him to consider officiating.
Barger began his officiating career during the 1978-79 season, beginning with a match at Highland Park High School. He has been at over 80 schools in his 40-plus-year officiating career, for league meets, as well as working district and regional contests for the Michigan High School Athletic Association. He enjoys the Saturday tournaments, and the camaraderie afterwards, reminiscing with fellow officials over that day’s matches as well as ones that happened years ago.
“The shortage of officials in our state and throughout the country is the reason I am booked from the first possible date until the end of the season,” Barger said. “We must encourage our wrestling seniors to become officials. They can earn some extra cash from the sport they love.”
During his professional career in industrial technology, Barger continued refereeing. He noted that for one dual meet, he brought all three of his now adult children, then aged 8, 6, and 3, when a babysitter backed out and his wife, Patricia, a nurse, was working. He was able to publicly thank her for her support when he was honored at the annual officials banquet at Michigan State University, as part of the recognition of officials registered for 20, 30, 40, and 50 years.
Barger joined the De La Salle faculty in 2014. He had posted his resume on a job site, and was contacted by the administration to apply for the teaching opening in computer-aided design. Barger’s classes include various engineering courses as part of the Project Lead the Way curriculum, emphasizing design.
During his professional career, he held varied jobs, including a lengthy stint with the KMart Corporation, designing store layouts on the CAD system.
Barger serves as the head coach for the Pilots’ junior varsity golf team, and also coaches De La Salle’s FIRST Robotics team, the AutoPilots.