Carlton Haselrig, Steelers Professional Bowler and NCAA wrestling champ, dies

PITTSBURGH — Carlton Haselrig, a Professional Bowl proper guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers within the early 1990s who can be the one wrestler in NCAA historical past to win six particular person nationwide championships, died Wednesday. He was 54.

Pat Pecora, who coached Haselrig to heavyweight division championships at each the NCAA Division II and Division I ranges within the 1980s on the College of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, stated Haselrig had been in declining well being lately. The college stated in an announcement that Haselrig’s loss of life was as a result of pure causes.

Haselrig, who did not play a down of faculty soccer after struggling an harm throughout his freshman 12 months at Lock Haven, spent 5 years within the NFL after the Steelers took him within the 12th spherical of the 1990 draft. His profession was reduce brief within the mid-1990s as a result of a battle with alcohol and substance abuse. He dabbled in combined martial arts within the late 2000s, going 3-2 earlier than retiring.

Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania — about an hour east of Pittsburgh — the 6-foot-1, 295-pound Haselrig tried to play faculty soccer for Lock Haven earlier than transferring to his hometown faculty. Athletic and exceptionally quick for his measurement, Haselrig put collectively a run unprecedented in NCAA historical past.

Haselrig captured the Division II titles in 1987, 1988 and 1989. NCAA guidelines on the time permitted particular person champions within the decrease divisions to compete within the Division I championships. Haselrig received the Division I title every year, resulting in the formation of what turned often known as the “Haselrig Rule,” which prevented decrease division wrestlers from competing in Division I. At one level, Haselrig received 122 consecutive matches.

“We achieved one thing which may by no means be damaged,” Pecora stated.

Requested what made Haselrig excel, Pecora burdened that it wasn’t simply Haselrig’s immense bodily presents.

“Mentally he simply had a singular outlook, he simply wasn’t intimidated,” Pecora stated. “He did not know that simply since you went to a small college you were not imagined to beat somebody from a much bigger college. To him that was like saying, this man comes from a much bigger home, he ought to beat you up. He did not consider in that.”

The itch to return to soccer got here earlier than Haselrig’s senior 12 months. He explored the opportunity of transferring to Pittsburgh’s primary campus however ended up staying at Pitt-Johnstown. Pecora invited a handful of scouts to an open exercise a number of months earlier than the draft. Quick on expertise however lengthy on expertise, Haselrig made fairly the impression on Steelers common supervisor Tom Donahoe.

“Carlton got here in and I keep in mind Tom saying, ‘I have not seen shoulders on a person like that since [Hall of Famer] Joe Greene,'” Pecora stated.

Whereas a number of the scouts hinted at making an attempt to signal the unproven Haselrig as an undrafted rookie free agent, Donahoe pledged to seize Haselrig with the Steelers’ ultimate choice within the 1990 draft, an settlement he and Pecora got here to following a prolonged sit down following the exercise.

“I advised him, ‘Ship Carlton and the hardest participant you’ve got right into a room and inform him just one will come out, I do know which one is popping out,'” Pecora stated with giggle.

Haselrig turned a starter in his second season in 1991 and earned a Professional Bowl choice in 1992 whereas opening up holes for NFL speeding chief Barry Foster. He began 36 video games throughout 4 seasons with Pittsburgh earlier than getting launched earlier than the 1994 season as a result of off-the-field considerations. He returned for a one-year stint with the New York Jets in 1995, taking part in in 11 video games earlier than leaving the game for good.

Haselrig was inducted into the Pitt-Johnstown Athletics Corridor of Fame in 2009. He’s additionally a member of the Nationwide Wrestling Corridor of Fame and the Division II Wrestling Corridor of Fame, amongst different honors.

Survivors embrace his spouse, Michelle, and 9 kids.

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