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.
Rhoades said Ann Peery Ritter, president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, was supportive of the organization’s goal to replace the ring.
Carlton Haselrig’s uncle, Bruce Haselrig, himself a member of multiple halls of fame for his career as a wrestling official, appreciated the kind act.
“I’m elated that somebody would do that,” Bruce Haselrig said. “There certainly are a lot of good people out in the world. It’s pleasing to see this. The fact that Michelle wants to give this to her son is something special.”
The ring was stolen a few years ago, Michelle Haselrig said, but was brought back to the forefront after Michelle Haselrig shared a bittersweet Facebook memory that had appeared on her social media page on Aug. 19.
Within 24 hours, the post rekindled a search for a precious ring presented to Haselrig upon his induction as a distinguished member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The induction ceremony was held in June 2016.
The ring featured Haselrig’s name as well as his recognition as a distinguished member of the hall. It included a gem and small diamonds in the crown area.
When interviewed for an Aug. 21 Tribune-Democrat story, Rhoades said the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame hoped to replace the ring.
Also a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Rhoades provided first-hand insight to the significance of earning such a prestigious ring during the earlier interview.
“I’m wearing my ring right now. Every time I leave the house, it’s on my hand,” Rhoades, of Bald Eagle Area, said then. “It’s a special thing to anybody who is a wrestling individual. It’s the highest honor you can get. I wasn’t a distinguished member like Carlton. I went in based on lifetime service to the sport of wrestling.”