Carlton HaselrigThe honor came just days before Haselrig's 50th birthday on Friday, Jan. 22 ... and less than six months until he is to be welcomed as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla. this June.
As heavyweight at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, Haselrig holds the distinction of being the only individual to win six NCAA titles in wrestling, claiming three championships in NCAA Division II (where Pitt-Johnstown normally competed) in 1987-1989, then three times in Division I those same years. (Back then, Division II and III champs qualified to compete at the Division I championships that same year.) Haselrig compiled a career record of 143-2-1 at UPJ, including an NCAA record of 122 consecutive matches without a loss. In 2005, Haselrig was one of fifteen named to the NCAA 75th Anniversary team as one of the greatest college wrestlers since 1928, joining other greats such as Dan Hodge, Dan Gable, John Smith and Cael Sanderson.
Haselrig won a 1984 PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) state wrestling title on his own because the Johnstown High School didn't have a team at the time. That situation has been rectified ... and, in fact, Haselrig was honored at a dual meet between Greater Johnstown and Richland, held at the Garfield Gymnasium at Johnstown Middle School, home to the Trojan high school wrestling team. A banner honoring Haselrig was unveiled in the gym.
The mat great knew he would be honored before the dual, but did not know in advance that the City of Johnstown had declared Tuesday to be Carlton Haselrig Day.
"It left me speechless," said Haselrig, who has returned to Johnstown to help coach football and wrestling at the high school. "I didn't know all that was going to happen. I'd seen some posters up, but I didn't know I'd be honored in that fashion. I'm totally honored and lost for words."
Those honoring the heavyweight great made a point of acknowledging Haselrig's return to his hometown to impart his knowledge and experience with the community.
A proclamation from Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic stated Carlton Haselrig Day was "in recognition of his many accomplishments and for being an inspiration to the students at Greater Johnstown School District and the citizens of Johnstown."
"He's come back home to share all of his expertise and excellence and tutelage with all of the coaches and players here at Johnstown," said Tony Penna Jr., Greater Johnstown's athletic director. "For that, we can't thank him enough."
Pat Pecora, long-time, legendary Pitt-Johnstown wrestling coach, also acknowledged Haselrig's involvement with his high school alma mater.
"It's good to see him at this point in his life, where he's back in with his community as a coach, as a mentor, that all of these men and women are looking up to in this Johnstown area," Pecora said. "He's very good at that role."
"If anybody deserves a day after him, it's Carlton Haselrig," Pecora continued. "He's truly, truly someone special who accomplished some amazing things. As we used to say, the amazing Carlton Haselrig. Congratulations, Carlton."