UP Sports Hall of Fame welcomes 2023 Inductees
HARRIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - The Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame (HOF) welcomed its newest members Saturday, May 13.
The 51st annual induction banquet honored 10 athletes into the Hall of Fame. Coaches, runners, golfers, horse harness racers and other multi-sport athletes were inducted into the hall this year.
In addition, the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame awarded college scholarships to current student-athletes. This year those student-athletes were Leah French from Engadine, Philip Nelson from Negaunee, Carney Salo from Escanaba and Kane Nebel from Munising.
The President of the HOF says it’s important to recognize the accomplishments of these local athletes.
“The U.P. is a very unique place for all of us, it’s special, it is someplace special, and we have some very people here and this is our opportunity to recognize them,” said Dee Jay Paquette.
The memorabilia and plaques honoring the inductees to the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame are on public display at Famer’s Restaurant located in the lodge at the Pine Mountain Resort in Iron Mountain.
The full list of 2023 inductees is below.
Jeff Blashill (Sault Ste. Marie)
Jeff Blashill served as head coach of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings from 2015 to 2022 and then joined the two-time Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning as an assistant coach. He was 204-261-72 with the rebuilding Red Wings. Prior to joining the Red Wings, he was head coach at Western Michigan University, leading them to the NCAA playoffs, he directed the Grand Rapids Griffins to the AHL Alder Cup in 2014, and directed the USHL Indiana Ice to the Clark Cup in 2009. Blashill served as assistant coach with the Red Wings, Miami University and Ferris State University. He was a goalie as a youngster, helping Sault Auto Parts win the 1987 US Hockey Tier II national championship. He was a goalie at Ferris State from 1994-1998.
Joe Casagranda (Crystal Falls)
Joe Casagranda used true horsepower to create his legacy, earning $3.2 million in harness racing. He won an astounding 1,123 harness races and finished in the top three in more than 40 percent of his races in a sport where 30 percent is considered outstanding, accomplishing that in nearly 9,000 races despite taking older, unsung horses, correcting their ailments and issues, and turning them into top horses. In 2017, his PV Miracle Mary broke a 12-year-old track record in Rice Lake, Wisconsin and became the fastest horse in Wisconsin history. He received the peer-chosen Dan Rathka Award as top horseman of the year and in 2015, he was Michigan’s headliner of the year and Michigan Pacer of the year. In addition to his racing accomplishments, Casagranda has built a great reputation as a trainer.
David Cvengros (Wakefield)
David Cvengros, Wakefield, was a five sport athlete at Wakefield High School, earning 17 letters. He teamed with UPSHF inductee Rom Gilbert to win two U.P. doubles tennis titles. He played for three UPSHF coaches at Wakefield, then played four seasons of basketball and tennis at Michigan Tech. Cvengros was the first MTU cager to reach 1,000 points (1,032). He played for UPSHF inductee Verdie Cox in both basketball and tennis at MTU.
Katie (Hoy) Batten (Newberry)
Katie (Hoy) Batten was a four-sport letter winner at Newberry High School and scored more than 1,000 points in basketball. She was a two-time All-U.P. cager and was U.P. Dream Team as a senior. She was also MVP of her Newberry golf and volleyball teams. Batten was selected as a scholar-athlete by the Detroit Free Press and earned a basketball scholarship to Lake Superior State University. She was LSSU’s defensive player of the year in 1995-96 and was LSSU’s female athlete of the year in the GLIAC Conference.
John Koskinen (Baraga)
John Koskinen won the 2002 U.P. men’s golf title with a record 209 total, topping a record field of more than 400 players. He was a four-time all-conference golfer at Baraga High School and won every tournament as a senior when he averaged 35.0 strokes per round. While golfing at Michigan State University, Koskinen earned All-Big Ten and All-Midwest honors. He became a golf aide at MSU, played in the 2006 and 2007 U.S. Open and was a touring professional. He spent 12 years as the University of Miami’s associate women’s head golf coach with the Hurricanes winning the 2016 NCAA title. He became head women’s golf coach at Division II Miami Barry University in 2022.
Chris Lett (Houghton)
Chris Lett was a two-time U.P. cross country champion at Houghton High School and twice was named U.P. runner of the year. In track, he won every mile and two-mile race over his final three years and claimed seven U.P. crowns. Lett received a scholarship to run at Michigan State University and earned All-Big Ten and All-NCAA regional honors in track and cross country. He qualified for the 1996 Olympic Trials. After graduating, he won two 10-mile Canal Run titles in Hancock, the 1997 Copperman Triathlon and has run in the Boston and Chicago Marathons.
Jim Mattson (L’Anse)
Jim Mattson spent 41 years in education and athletics as a coach and official. His L’Anse track teams won three U.P. titles. Mattson played football and basketball at Baraga High School and Northern Michigan University and was MVP of his Suomi College basketball team in 1955-56.
Don McDonald (Iron River)
Don McDonald was 29-10-3 while coaching football at Stambaugh High School in 1962-67. He spent three years as West Iron County football coach (17-6-1) and was U.P. football coach of the year in 1963. He helped steer the consolidation of archrivals Stambaugh and Iron River schools and came up with the school nickname (Wykons). McDonald directed Bates High School to a Class E district basketball title in 1953. He was a two-year starting guard in prep basketball, played baseball at Western Michigan University and then joined the Navy. He played baseball for the Iron River Red Legs and coached American Legion baseball.
Ginger Polich (Ironwood)
Ginger Polich earned eight track letters at Luther L. Wright High School in Ironwood, then won 12 letters running at Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she twice earned All-America relay team honors. She helped Ironwood win seven relay titles and in 2002 won the U.P. 800 meter title. At Amherst, Polich set 600m and 800m indoor track school records and helped her 4 x 800 relay team set the school record. She qualified to race in the 800 m and distance medley relay at NCAA nationals.
Lisa Twardzik (DeTour/Calumet)
Lisa Twardzik earned 11 varsity letters at DeTour High School, then spent 20 years (1997-2016) coaching volleyball at Calumet High School. Her volleyball teams won 10 conference titles, 11 district crowns and 10 regional championships. Twardzik’s team reached the state finals three times and was Class C state runner-up in 2008. She had a 656-142-50 career record.
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