North Union’s Donnie Wasserbeck gives instructions during the Division III state wrestling tournament. NU’s former head coach continues to help the program as a volunteer.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
With a huge smile on his face, one of the table workers approached the man sitting by mat side during Saturday’s final day of the Division III state wrestling tournament.
“What’s this dinosaur doing here?” he said with a laugh.
He was referring to former North Union High School head wrestling coach Donnie Wasserbeck.
The men shook hands as another worker also went up to greet Wasserbeck before a match at The Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
Wasserbeck, who spent more than two decades as the Wildcats’ head coach, is still around to volunteer as an assistant at the state tournament.
Wasserbeck, a North Union High School graduate, began his coaching career with NU’s junior high program back in 1980.
A few years later, he took over the varsity team and had a good deal of success.
“I think we qualified somewhere around 25 wrestlers to the state tournament during that time,” said Wasserbeck, prior to a match by NU’s Dylan Thompson on Saturday.
“I think we had somewhere around 10 or 12 of them finish as state placers,” he added. “I really haven’t kept track of that.”
Wasserbeck has meant so much to the NU mat program that several years ago, the school renamed its annual invitational that is held in late January after him.
Just what does Wasserbeck bring to the Wildcat program as a volunteer?
“Well, I think I bring a little more of an ‘old school’ approach,” he said. “The basic sport of wrestling hasn’t changed all that much, but I think I can help make guys a little tougher as they prepare for their matches.
“I think the guys still appreciate some of the old style stuff that I can give them.”
He did say the sport has evolved a little bit since he last was the Wildcats’ head coach.
“It’s a little quicker and the athletes have gotten stronger,” said Wasserbeck. “However, the basic strategy hasn’t changed all that much.
“Wrestling is still wrestling.”
An added bonus the past couple of years as a volunteer is that Wasserbeck has been able to help a family member become a better wrestler.
“My grandson, Alec O’Reilly, is a junior and he’s been wrestling all the way through,” said Wasserbeck. “I’ve got another one in elementary school who is going to be coming up in the next few years.”
While Wasserbeck helps out where he can, he doesn’t take anything away from North Union head coach Garrett Andrews.
“Garrett does a great job with our program,” he said.
Wassserbeck, who played football and wrestled during his student days at North Union, indicated he’s not looking to give up the sport any time soon.
“I just can’t stay away,” he said. “I just enjoy it too much to do that.”
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