Barger, from Columbus, Ohio, earned his degree in business management with a minor in psychology. Upon graduation, he spent 10 years trading commodities for the David J. Joseph Company, a division of Nucor Steel, based out of Cincinnati. Barger traveled all over the United States and gained the knowledge and expertise to start his own business, not once, but twice.
“I wasn’t a straight ‘A’ student, but my management professor, Lowell Stockstill, pulled me aside and cared enough to help me out. He told me I should interview with this steel company. He felt like this was an opportunity for me,” said Barger, who came to Wittenberg to play football but fell in love with rugby instead.
“Of course, I wanted to work at J.P. Morgan like everyone else, but I decided to go to the interview not expecting anything. That interview was a life-changing experience for me. Sometimes we don’t see it, but it was a defining moment in my life.”
A former sponsored CrossFit athlete, two-time gold medalist at the Cornhusker state games, a three-time CrossFit games regional competitor, three-time world’s Toughest Mudder qualifier and a U.S.A. Triathlon national qualifier, Barger was a member and captain of Wittenberg’s rugby team. He then competed at professional level in England, New Zealand, and Tonga.
Barger turned his love of sports into a business, opening a gym while living in St. Louis, Missouri. Arch City Fitness became St. Louis’ No. 1-rated fitness studio for two years, but he gave it all up and returned home upon learning his father’s health was deteriorating. He then started the Champion Trading Group (CTG) in Columbus, a third-party purchasing and sales division for customers in the steel and metals recycling industry. CTG provides access to the industry’s top trading talent at a fraction of the cost and currently manages more than $250 million annually.
“Champion connects independent steel companies to the industry’s best traders servicing multiple accounts,” said Barger, who co-founded Wittenberg’s Tiger Tank and has provided participants an internship at his business.
Barger also co-founded the Make-A-Day Foundation in Columbus in honor of his grandfather, Ralph Emrich, as a project dedicated to providing service and assistance to those less fortunate.
The Make-A-Day Foundation is currently partnered with retired Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer and other Buckeye greats like Springfield native Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, and Cardale Jones to raise $100,000 to feed 20,000 neighbors in need during COVID-19. Companies like DSW, Tim McCarthy ’02 of Raising Cane’s Ohio, and many more have donated almost $90,000 in gift cards and other items to Barger’s endeavor. You can learn more at www.DoingBetterTogether.org.
“My cousins and I started this charity,” Barger said. “I’ve been so lucky with Champion taking off that I thought this would be a great way to give back to the community. My grandfather passed away when I was pretty young, but we wanted to start this organization in honor of him. About every six-to-eight weeks we host a pop-up event somewhere in Columbus. We have provided pop-up salons, restaurants, and even had a blanket drive to take care of our homeless brothers and sisters in Columbus.”
A specialist in small-business creation, sales, negotiating, business development, customer relations, and growing profit margin, his company has managed more than $750 million in its first three years under Barger’s leadership.