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'Wrestling and Football' exhibit at 2018 NCAAs

Stephen Neal

Imagine coming face-to-face with four former NFL stars with a combined total of nine NCAA wrestling championships among them ... all in one place.

You can meet this heavyweight lineup of athletes -- Curley Culp, Bob Golic, Carlton Haselrig, and Stephen Neal -- as well as experience the "Wrestling and Football" exhibit at the NCAA Wrestling Fan Fest event taking place during the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Cleveland in March.

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame is partnering with the Pro Football Hall of Fame to create this exhibit which showcases the connections between the sport of wrestling and football. The "Wrestling and Football" exhibit will be on display at the NCAA Wrestling Fan Fest in the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland -- Hall A on March 15-17. Held in conjunction with the Division I Wrestling Championships held at nearby Quicken Loans Arena, the Fan Fest is free to the public.

In addition to the "Wrestling and Football" exhibit, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame will also host a roundtable discussion -- moderated by Sandy Stevens -- featuring the wrestlers-turned-football players Curley Culp (Pro Football Hall of Fame member and NCAA wrestling champion) ... two-time wrestling All-American and 14-year National Football League veteran Bob Golic ...six-time NCAA wrestling champion and NFL veteran Carlton Haselrig ... and two-time NCAA wrestling champion and three-time Super Bowl Champion Stephen Neal.

The four former athletes will discuss their careers in wrestling and how wrestling played an instrumental role in their success on the gridiron.

The event will be held on Thursday, March 15, from 4:15-5 p.m. on the Fan Fest Main Stage in the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland -- Hall A in downtown Cleveland, a few short blocks north of Quicken Loans Arena.

Culp, Golic, Haselrig and Neal will sign autographs immediately following the discussion.

Curley Culp wrestled at Arizona State and won the national title at heavyweight in 1967 while also capturing the Gorriaran Award for most falls after pinning opponents in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. As a high school wrestler in Yuma, Culp won back-to-back Arizona state heavyweight wrestling championships in 1963 and 1964. In addition to wrestling for the Sun Devils, Culp was an All-American in football at Arizona State who then played 14 seasons in the National Football League with the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions from 1968-1981. He helped Kansas City win the Super Bowl in 1970 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio in 2013.

Bob Golic wrestled for the now-defunct mat program at the University of Notre Dame where he was a two-time NCAA All-American at heavyweight, finishing fourth in 1977 and third in 1978. He lost in the winner's bracket both years to three-time NCAA champion Jimmy Jackson. Golic was an Ohio state heavyweight wrestling champion, defeating Harold Smith, who represented the United States at the World Championships in 1981. He was a two-time All-American in football for Notre Dame in 1977 and 1978, and helped the Irish win the national title in 1977. Golic played 14 seasons in the National Football League with the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Raiders from 1979-1992.

Carlton Haselrig competed back in the era when NCAA Division II champions could compete a few days later in the Division I tournament. Three years in a row (1987, 1988 and 1989) he won the DII title for the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and then captured the DI crown, finishing with six national championships, a record that will not be broken. Despite not having played football since high school, Haselrig was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 12th round of the 1989 National Football League Draft. He played four seasons for the Steelers, being selected to the Pro Bowl in 1992, and one season with the New York Jets. Haselrig was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 2016.

Stephen Neal was a two-time NCAA champion (1998 and 1999) and four-time NCAA All-American at California State University, Bakersfield, finishing fourth as a freshman and second as a sophomore. He won a gold medal at the World Championships in 1999 and won the FILA (now United World Wrestling) Outstanding Wrestler award, presented to the best wrestler in the world. After placing second at the 2000 Olympic Trials, Neal turned his attention to professional football. Despite never playing football at Cal State Bakersfield, he played 10 years in the NFL for New England and helped the Patriots win Super Bowl titles in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Neal was welcomed as a Distinguished Member into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012.

Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, weighed in on the powerful connection between the wrestling mat and football field.

"There have been countless football players who say that wrestling played a big role in their accomplishments on the football field," said Smith. "We have four individuals who achieved success in both sports, and are looking forward to hearing their stories about wrestling and how it helped them in the National Football League and beyond."

Admission to the NCAA Wrestling Fan Fest -- and the "Wrestling and Football" exhibit -- is free and open to the public. A ticket to the NCAAs is NOT required.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, March 15
  • 3-7 p.m. NCAA Fan Festival and Win Magazine Memorabilia Show, Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland -- Hall A
  • 5:15-6 p.m. National Wrestling Hall of Fame Roundtable Discussion "Wrestling and Football"
  • 6-6:30 p.m. Autograph session with Curley Culp, Mike Golic, Carlton Haselrig and Stephen Neal

    Friday, March 16
  • 2-7:30 p.m. NCAA Fan Festival and Win Magazine Memorabilia Show, Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland -- Hall A

    Saturday, March 17
  • 3-7:30 p.m. NCAA Fan Festival and Win Magazine Memorabilia Show, Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland -- Hall A

    While in the Cleveland area for the 2018 NCAAs and Fan Fest, visitors may wish to also include a side trip to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, approximately one hour south of downtown Cleveland on Interstate 77.
  • Comments

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    IdeaMark (1) about 5 months ago
    UPDATE:
    Here are a couple other events coinciding with the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships:
    > The two wrestlers involved in the greatest upset in NCAA finals history -- Larry Owings and Dan Gable -- will be featured in a public event at 2018 NCAA Fan Fest on Saturday, March 17. https://intermatwrestle.com/articles/19872
    > Wrestle Like a Girl Empowerment Clinic on Saturday, March 17. http://intermatwrestle.com/articles/19753
    Also -- check out InterMat's go-to guide for things to do in Cleveland while not watching the NCAAs. http://intermatwrestle.com/articles/19854
    Mark Palmer,
    Senior Writer, InterMat