Trio of UP Sports Hall of Fame inductees still active

Iron Mountain’s Wonders among Hall inductees

HARRIS — A trio of the 10 new Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame inductees are still active in their particular athletic activities.

That trio consists of John Barnes and Todd Dagenais, natives of Escanaba, and Al Mitchell, a Philadelphia native who lives in Marquette.

Joining them will be Jennifer (Kangas) Brody of L’Anse, William Mannisto of Bessemer/Hancock, Gerald Racine of Ishpeming, Eugene “Mickey” Valesano of Wakefield, Julie (Heldt) Wonders of Iron Mountain, the late Dewey Lane of Wakefield and the late Victor Turosky of Iron River.

To be eligible while still active, a person must have been in their line of athletics for at least 15 years. Inactive participants must have been retired for at least five years.

The selections were made recently by the UPSHF executive council that met at the Island Resort and Casino. They chose from 155 candidates in the pre-1970 division (three are selected) and 170 in post-1970 (seven are selected).

The 49th annual induction banquet is May 9 at the Island Resort & Casino in Harris.

The inductees:

Julie (Heldt) Wonders, Iron Mountain — A three-sport athlete at Lawrence, Mich. High School. Heldt was a three-time basketball MVP, played basketball and softball for four years and volleyball for three years. She played basketball for two years at Lake Michigan College and is in that school’s hall of fame and was an NJCAA All-American (1,103 points), then transferred to Northern Michigan University and set NMU’s single-season scoring mark of 715 points (1,208 career) and was team MVP, GLIAC player of the year and Kodak All-American in 1993.

John Barnes, Escanaba — Currently women’s basketball coach at Youngstown State University, Barnes has an overall 260-142 record, including 104-87 with the Division I Horizon League Penguins since 2013. He was 156-55 at Michigan Tech (2003-10) while building the Huskies into one of the premier programs in NCAA Division II. The former Tech cager led the Huskies into the Division II postseason five times and won three GLIAC titles. He was GLIAC coach of the year his final three seasons and in his final two seasons guided Tech to the NCAA D-2 Elite Eight. He was also an assistant women’s coach at University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and a men’s assistant at Tech and Lake Superior State University. Barnes was an All-U.P. cager at Escanaba, scoring 1,048 points, and played four seasons at Tech. He was also a player-coach for St. Nicolai Basketball Club in Denmark. (1996-97).

Jennifer Kangas-Brody, L’Anse — After a three-sport career at L’Anse High School, Kangas played golf at Michigan State University (team captain for two years) and for seven years on the LPGA Tour. She won the Upper Peninsula Ladies Golf Association tournament in 2003 and the Michigan Women’s Open in 1996. She was on the all-Big Ten team in 1996 after placing fourth in the league tournament. She played in the women’s U.S. Open in 1999 and 2001 and posted four victories on the LPGA Futures Tour (now the Symetra Tour) in 2003, her final pro season. Since 2005 she gives golf lessons and owns a retail golf operation at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club. She won 25 high school events and was second in the other one and was a three-time all-state selection. She was also an All-U.P. basketball selection and played volleyball.

Todd Dagenais, Escanaba — Head volleyball coach at NCAA Division I University of Central Florida since 2008, Dagenais is also a staple with the USA Volleyball program. He has a .660 winning percentage at UCF and with a 212-140 record is 25 wins away from setting a school record entering the 2019 season. He was on the USA 2004 coaching staff in the Olympic Games in Greece and served as Associate Head Volleyball Coach at Michigan State University from 1998-2003 and at University of Southern California from 2005-8. He was also an assistant coach at Northern Michigan. Dagenais has transformed the UCF Knights into a nationally-recognized program in his 11 seasons and twice has been named The American Athletic Conference coach of the year.

Dewey Lane, Wakefield — A three-sport athlete at Wakefield High School, the 1949 graduate inaugurated the football program at Ashley, Mich. High School in 1960, then two years later returned home. Lane spent 22 years as Wakefield’s head football coach, twice becoming U.P. coach of the year. He joined the Michigan High School Football Coach’s Hall of Fame in 1988. He also spent 11 years as the school’s track coach, three seasons as varsity baseball coach and two years as varsity boys basketball coach. Lane also spent 29 seasons as assistant basketball coach. Lane also helped save football at Wakefield and neighboring Bessemer by ushering in the Gogebic Miners co-op program.

William Mannisto, Bessemer — An all-around athlete and coach, Mannisto earned eight letters in four sports at Bessemer High School and was MVP of the 1949 football team. He had a U.P. record 54.6 run in the 440-yard dash in 1950. He played basketball and ran track at Gogebic Community College, then after a two-year hitch in the Army, he went to Northern Michigan University and was MVP of the 1955-56 basketball team. He coached basketball at Suomi College for two seasons, then led Bessemer’s baseball team to the league title in 1961 and was basketball coach at Hancock High School (85-42). He also assisted in football and track, spent four years as Hancock’s athletic director and five years as the city’s recreation director. He also officiated in four sports during the 1960s and 1970s.

Al Mitchell, Marquette — The Philadelphia native has been an influential member of the national boxing community for nearly 60 years and has touched the lives of many youngsters. Mitchell has worked with ring champions Vernon Forrest, Larry Nicholson, David Reid, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather, among more than 800 national champions. Mitchell, 75, has provided boxing instructions to hundreds of athletes at the amateur, Olympic and professional level. He also served as legal guardian of his high school boxers in the USOEC program in Marquette. He was USA boxing coach of the year in 1994, head coach of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic U.S. boxing team, was technical advisor to the U.S. boxing team at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics among other major positions. He was 43-1 as a boxer, before moving to Marquette in 1989 to direct the USOEC boxing program.

Gerald Racine, Ishpeming — Recipient of eight varsity letters in three sports at Ishpeming High School, Racine forged a 340-224 record in 26 years as high school basketball coach at Republic-Michigamme and Ishpeming. He led Ishpeming to the Class C state championship in 1995. Ishpeming was state runner-up in 1992. He became Ishpeming’s athletic director from 2004-10. Racine was state coach of the year in 1995 by Associated Press, Detroit Free Press and Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. He was a two-time U.P. All-Star Classic coach and coach of the 1995 state all-star game, and twice was U.P. Class C coach of the year. Racine initiated the state-wide move to change the age limit to 19 for disabled students.

Victor Turosky, Iron River — A four-year football player at Iron River High School, he returned the opening kickoff of his first game more than 100 yards for a touchdown. He turned down a chance to play football at Notre Dame to work on his grandfather’s farm, then at age 19 joined the Kansas City Cowboys and played several seasons in the early days of the National Football League, becoming perhaps the first “Yooper” to play professional football. He then played semi-pro football for the Stambaugh All-Stars, then became recreational director in Iron River and officiated football games.

Eugene “Mickey” Valesano, Wakefield — An All-U.P. selection in high school football and basketball, Valesano helped the Cardinals to the state basketball semifinals in 1954, then led the U.P. in scoring as a senior (23.6 ppg). Also a premier sprinter, Valesano joined the U.S. Army in 1955 despite having a football scholarship offer to the University of Wyoming and a basketball scholarship offer to Furman University. He then played football at Northern Michigan University, earning NAIA third-team All-America in 1960. He was a free agent signee of the Detroit Lions in 1961. He was selected to NMU’s athletic hall of fame in 1980.

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