By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, thanks to the kindness of an anonymous donor, will replace the late Carlton Haselrig’s stolen hall of fame ring and present it to his family, according to the organization’s treasurer.
“We took it on as a challenge and we felt it was something that needed to happen,” said Lloyd Rhoades, treasurer of the state chapter of the national hall, during a telephone interview on Wednesday. “We had a donor step forward and the donor is covering the cost of the ring. The donor wishes to remain anonymous.”
Carlton Haselrig was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016 and was presented the ring during an induction ceremony in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Haselrig’s widow, Michelle, fought back tears upon learning of the news.
“I want to thank the donor,” Michelle Haselrig said. “It just means a lot to me that they are going to replace the ring. Oh my. I was just sitting here at work and we were just talking about Carlton and reminiscing. I feel his presence everywhere. Every time I do, something positive happens.
“This is one of the best things in the world to happen. This will mean so much to my family and my son, Carlton Jr.”
Carlton Jr. serves in the U.S. Army, and Michelle Haselrig said her son may soon be deployed overseas. The family wants Carlton Jr. to have his father’s ring, she said.
Carlton Haselrig Sr. died on July 22 at age 54 after a lengthy illness.
From 1987 to ’89, the former heavyweight won six national wrestling championships, three apiece in NCAA Division I and II – a feat that won’t be achieved again after the so-called Haselrig rule was implemented to prevent Division II and III wrestlers from competing in the Division I national tournament.
After his wrestling career at Pitt-Johnstown, where Haselrig went 143-2-1 and had 122 matches without a loss, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the 12th round of the 1989 NFL Draft even though he never played college football.
Haselrig advanced from the practice squad to play in the Pro Bowl on former coach Bill Cowher’s Steelers teams. Off-field issues with alcohol and substance abuse cut short a promising career, though Haselrig eventually turned around his life and gave back to the local community by coaching youth and high school football and wrestling.
“I want whoever is out there – and they can remain anonymous – to know I am so humbled and so thankful for this,” Michelle Haselrig said.