Four with Pennsylvania Ties Enter National Wrestling Hall Of Fame

STILLWATER, Okla. – The 40th Edition of the Honors Weekend at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame had a distinct Pennsylvania flavor to it.

Half of the honorees have strong ties to the Keystone State, as Carlton Haselrig (Johnstown), Joseph Galli Jr. (Valley) and the late Dick Wilson (Washington/Trinity) each grew up in western Pennsylvania and wrestled for high schools there while Texas native Brandon Slay wrestled collegiately at the University of Pennsylvania. Even one of the two high school honorees – Dave Schultz award winner Mark Hall II of Minnesota – is linked to Pennsylvania, as he has committed to wrestle for Penn State in the fall.

Nearly all of Haselrig’s hall of fame career was spent in Pennsylvania. He won a PIAA championship in 1984 despite the fact that Johnstown didn’t have a team at the time. Given special permission to be a one-man team by the school, he went 10-0 – with all of his matches coming in the postseason – to capture the heavyweight title in Class AAA.

“To me it was just like showing up to wrestle,” Haselrig said. “I didn’t care what anybody else said. I was going there to win, that was the purpose of why I went in there. I had wanted to win a state championship. I had seen so many state tournaments with my uncle Bruce, who refereed a lot of them.”

After spending a year at Lock Haven where a knee injury wrecked his plans to wrestle and play football, Haselrig transferred to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. All he did there was win a Division II national title as a sophomore. Back then, small-school champions were invited to compete in the Division I Tournament. Haselrig did, and he won that as well. He repeated the incredible feats as a junior and a senior, making him the only wrestler in history to win six NCAA titles.

Haselrig went 143-2-1 during his remarkable career, which landed him a spot on the NCAA’s 75th anniversary team.

The accomplishments didn’t end with his college wrestling career, however. Despite not playing college football, Haselrig was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and quickly developed into a Pro Bowl guard. That career was derailed by substance abuse issues, but Haselrig overcame his troubles to find even more athletic success, as he became a champion in mixed martial arts before retiring from competition.

Pat Pecora, Haselrig’s coach at Pitt-Johnstown, said the Hall of Famer’s career was a case of fact being stranger than fiction.

“Imagine I was going to produce a movie,” Pecora said, “and some guy came up to me and said, ‘Hey, let’s make a movie about a young man who goes to a high school that doesn’t have wrestling team and wins a state title.’ ‘Wow, that’s a pretty good movie!’ ‘Hey, wait, let’s have him go to the local college and win a national title! No, let’s have him win SIX national titles! No, it’s not over yet. Let’s have him go and play for the local football team that is the Super Bowl Champions and become an All-Pro football player even though he didn’t play football in college!’ Who’s going to believe that?”

Slay was the other wrestler with Pennsylvania ties inducted as a distinguished member on Saturday night. An accomplished high school wrestler in Texas, Slay helped turn Penn into a national power. Slay likes to say that the Quakers went from 90th in the NCAA tournament to ninth, and he played a big role in that, as he became the school’s first All-American in 33 years when he was an NCAA runner-up in 1997. He showed that success was no fluke by placing second in the national tournament the next year as well.

Slay’s biggest success came in 2000, when he won Olympic Gold for the United States in Sidney, stunning reigning Olympic champion Bouvaisa Satiev of Russia along the way. Shortly after winning the gold, Slay was approached by another Olympian who asked if he was going to get his name engraved on the back of the gold medal. “I said, ‘No, I’m not going to get my name engraved on the back of a medal,” he recalled. “He was like, ‘Why not? It’s awesome!’ And I was like, “It’s not just mine. It’s not just my medal. It’s a plethora of people’s medal.”

Since retiring from competition, Slay has remained a big part of the USA Wrestling program, as he’s served as assistant freestyle coach and led the development program. During that time, he’s helped mentor a number of Pennsylvania wrestlers, including Franklin Regional’s Spencer Lee, who Slay will coach in the Junior World’s tournament in Macon, France, in September.

Slay will have even more opportunities to coach Keystone State wrestlers, as he’s leaving USA Wrestling to coach at the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center later this year.

Dick Wilson, who died in 2009 at the age of 75, made a remarkable four Olympic teams. He competed for the United States Greco-Roman teams in 1956, 1960 and 1964 and freestyle in 1960. He etched his name into the history books as the first American to compete in – and win – a Greco-Roman match at the 1956 Olympics.

Wilson won a WPIAL title for Trinity High School.

“That was a hotbed for high school wrestling back in those days,” said his son Bruce, who represented his late father at the ceremony. “He won the WPIAL, which was a big deal to kids in western Pennsylvania, and was second in the state of Pennsylvania.”

Dick Wilson’s biggest successes came after he left the Keystone State and joined the Army. He wrestled for the Army training team in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.

“He really went from being a very good high school wrestler to an Olympic-caliber wrestler,” Bruce Wilson said.

After serving in the Army, Wilson attended the University of Toledo, where he was a three-time NCAA runner-up. Two of those losses came to another Hall of Famer with Pennsylvania connections in Lock Haven’s Gray Simons.

Wilson returned to coach at his alma mater from 1967-74, winning a MAC championship in 1969. He also coached Greg Wojciechowski to the 1971 NCAA title.

Joseph Galli Jr. made the most of his opportunities – on and off the mat.

“I attended Valley High School in the WPIAL, which I believe is the toughest wrestling region in the United States,” Galli said.

The winner of the Outstanding American Award, Galli shows what hard work and persistence can lead to in life. Although he was a talented high school wrestler, Galli never won a state medal – as he went 1-1 at the PIAA tournament his senior season. Still, he was invited to compete in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic. He was a decided underdog facing a three-time Ohio state champion. Although he trailed 10-2 in the second period, he didn’t give up or hang his head. He just went out and pinned his opponent.

That caught the eye of North Carolina coach Bill Lam. Before long, Galli had given up his dream of wrestling for Penn State – coach Rich Lorenzo didn’t recruit him – and signed with the Tar Heels.

It turned out to be a great decision. His pin in the ACC finals as a senior gave the Tar Heels the tournament title and the education he received helped him rise to one of the top positions at Black and Decker.

Lam said it all came down to Galli.

“I said, ‘Joe, I don’t want to put any pressure on you – but if you don’t win, we’re not going to win this tournament. … And if you don’t pin him, we’re still not going to win.”

Much as he would do in his business career, Galli delivered the goods.

Prior to the conference tournament, Lam said that he rode Galli hard.

“I’d say ‘Dammit, Galli! Dammit, Joe! Dammit, Galli!’ ” Lam recalled. “He said, ‘Coach, by the end of the week, I thought my first name was ‘Dammit!’ ”

After 19 years at Black and Decker, Galli served as the chief operating officer at before returning to his passion at Techtronic Industries in 2006. He is the chief executive officer for TTI, which makes Milwaukee and Ryobi brands as well as vacuum cleaners from Orek, Hoover and Dirt Devil. Milwaukee Power Tools has been a major supporter of wrestling over the years.

“The principles that you live through the sport and that you learn through that sport, you have to apply them to your life,” Lam said. “Joe’s probably done that in the business world probably better than anyone I know. He’s gone and taken the principles of hard work, perseverance, self-discipline and … when you get knocked down, get back up, and carried into the professional field.


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