Carlton Haselrig, legendary amateur wrestling great, mixed martial arts professional and NFL star, collapsed and died Wednesday morning at home in his hometown of Johnstown, Pa.. He was 54 years old.
The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat reported Wednesday that Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees pronounced Haselrig dead at 9:19 a.m. this morning. The coroner said Haselrig's death was initially believed to be from natural causes. An autopsy will be conducted.
Born in Johnstown, Pa., in 1966, Carlton Haselrig found success in multiple sports -- as a 1984 PIAA Pennsylvania state high school state wrestling champion, a six-time NCAA college wrestling champion (three NCAA Division I heavyweight titlewinner and a like number of NCAA Div. I titles for University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown (NCAA DII) -- before finding wider fame and fortune in the NFL playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, then later participating for a time in professional mixed martial arts.
Haselrig's first wrestling title was a 1984 PIAA Pennsylvania state high school state championship, despite his school (Johnstown High) not having its own wrestling team. Competing as a one-man team during his senior year, he went 10-0 and won the district, regional and state titles in the unlimited weight class.
In addition to his prep title, Haselrig also won two additional titles -- the 1985 Junior Greco-Roman World Championship, and 1986 Junior Freestyle World Championship.
Carlton HaselrigWhile in college at University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, Haselrig made a name for himself in a number of distinctive ways in multiple sports. Despite there not being a wrestling team at Johnstown High, Haselrig wrestled his senior year on his own, compiling a 10-0 record and winning the PIAA Pennsylvania state heavyweight title with a 10-0 record in 1984.
Haselrig continued his wrestling career locally at NCAA Division II University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, compiling an overall collegiate record of 143-2-1, including an NCAA-record 122 consecutive matches without a loss. He never lost a match at the NCAA Division I meet, going 15-0 at the heavyweight class in the 1987, 1988 and 1989 tournaments. (Note: Back then, champions crowned at the NCAA Division II or NCAA III automatically qualified to wrestle at the NCAA Division I championships. Haselrig was able to tally a total of six national titles -- the most of any collegiate wrestler. The "Haselrig rule" was changed not long after Haselrig was able to tally two NCAA titles in each Division while in college ... a record that remains to this day.)
After concluding his college football career at Pittsburgh-Johnstown, Haselrig turned his attention to the pros. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, becoming a becoming a Pro Bowl offensive guard in his third NFL season in 1992. After four years with the Steelers, Haselrig spent one season with the New York Jets before retiring from the NFL.
Carlton Haselrig continued his sports career in professional mixed martial arts in 2008. Before retiring, Haselrig compiled an overall record of 3-2 before retiring from MMA.
Carlton Haselrig was welcomed into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla. in 2016. Haselrig was also inducted into the Pitts-Johnstown Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.
In recent years, Haselrig served as an assistant coach of the wrestling and football teams at Greater Johnstown High School.
Just last year, Haselrig was the subject of a biography titled "Giant Killer: The Carlton Haselrig Story" by Kevin Emily, a long-time high school wrestling coach who was recently hired as an assistant coach at Lander College in Greenwood, South Carolina.