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Jarred Oftedahl, Benilde-St. Margarets, top, wrestled Kyle Schoenecker of Chisago Lakes at the state wrestling meet.

For most of his life, Jarrod Oftedahl's quirks led to trouble.

Now, they've made him a state champion.

Oftedahl, a 5-9, baby-faced redhead with an unorthodox style, beat Fergus Falls' Abbot Aho 8-6 for the Class 2A 113-pound championship on Saturday. Oftedahl did not one but two backflips after winning, understandable considering that the odds were long that he would ever reach this level.

"If it wasn't for wrestling," said his mother, Karen Black, "he'd probably be in jail."

Growing up in Chaska with his mother and older sister, Oftedahl spent much of his youth getting into scraps, a symptom of ADHD and the lack of a father figure. He tried hockey, but it never clicked. Wrestling never was considered until it was recommended to his mother following, of course, a fight. The father of Oftedahl's foe, after watching the fight play out, pulled her aside.

"He told me to get him into wrestling," Black said.

Oftedahl threw himself into the sport, enduring a string of losses but developing an unconventional style thanks to a strong upper body and longer-than-normal legs. Victories began to mount, but still the anger remained.

"I would get mad real easily," the reserved Oftedahl said.

"Other people would get so mad at him, but really he's the nicest kid in the world," Black said. "He's very caring. He loves kids. But people didn't see that."

It was another fight, this time at a wrestling camp, that brought him to the attention of Benilde-St. Margaret's coach Larry Allar. Watching Oftedahl brawl on the mat, Allar saw potential.

"I talked to him about coming to Benilde-St. Margaret's," Allar said. "There was talent there."

Allar, a Greco-Roman wrestling specialist, schooled Oftedahl in the finer points of Greco-Roman, so well that his protégé won a national championship last summer.

Finally a success, Oftedahl's hard edge softened.

"That's when I started to feel confident," Oftedahl said. "I knew I was good enough to win."

A scholarship to St. Cloud State, the No. 1 team in NCAA Division II, awaits. He wants to major in criminal justice. He still holds out hope for the Olympics, assuming the sport is reinstated.

"He's had so many things working against him," said his mother. "He's got a future now."

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