UPSHF 2022 inductees announced

By Dennis Grall

ESCANABA - A trio of legendary veterans are among 10 new inductees into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame.

John Jewell of Laurium was the goalie when the University of Michigan won the Big Ten hockey championship in 1933-34. Sam Kokko of Sault Ste. Marie was a hockey pioneer and Vernon "Moose" Johnson of Crystal Falls played integrated baseball with Hall of Famers like Leroy "Satchel" Paige.


Also joining the Hall of Fame are state basketball champion coach Tom Russo of Negaunee, long-time radio broadcaster and coach Jerry Root of Escanaba, former Wakefield baseball standout and basketball coach Dale Hongisto of Gladstone, former basketball ace Chris Nance of Newberry, former all-state football players John Pistulka of Manistique and Mike Dellangelo of Ishpeming and long-time hockey standout Bruce "Cukie" Coppo of Calumet.

Jewell, a co-captain of UM's hockey team with past UPSHF inductee John Sherf, had a 28-12-4 record as the Wolverines' goalie, with seven shutouts. His goals against average was 1.84. He played every minute of every game until late in his senior season when an operation sidelined him for one game. He is in UM's Dekers Hall of Fame with Sherf and former president Gerald Ford.

Johnson played minor league and independent baseball for many years and was renowned as a slugger. He played for a black team that visited Crystal Falls, was the winning pitcher and hit a home run in a 1-0 victory. He batted .469 for a black team in one lengthy stretch playing with Paige and Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe. That team won the National Semi-Pro championship in what is now called the National Baseball Congress Championship. He died in 1965.

Kokko tried out for the 1932 U.S. Olympic hockey team and coached hockey teams with legendary Taffy Abel of Sault Ste. Marie. He played and coached for various teams, from 1909-1951. He died in 1992 at age 93. He helped Ironwood win the senior hockey McNaughton Cup in 1929, then helped Hancock win three straight McNaughton Cups in 1930-32.

Hongisto was a four-sport star at Wakefield, where he earned 17 varsity letters. He earned five gold medals at the U.P. track finals and was Gogebic Range's offensive football player of the year in 1984. He is fourth in basketball career scoring (1982-85) at Wakefield with 1,064 points. He also was a Mid-American Conference all-star catcher-designated hitter at Western Michigan University. Hongisto spent 15 years coaching basketball at Gladstone, including seven years as boys varsity coach and two years as a girls' assistant coach.

Nance was a three-sport star at Newberry, where she established 20 school records, including 1,277 career points. She was part of Newberry's three-time U.P. Class C track champions while earning all-state laurels in three events. Nance, who later coached basketball at her prep alma mater, received a scholarship to play basketball at Lake Superior State University, but knee injuries limited her effectiveness.

Pistulka was a first-team all-state football and basketball star at Manistique High School. He was the U.P. football lineman of the year in 1977 and a 1,000-point scorer in basketball. He was recruited as a tight end by over 50 colleges but played basketball at Lake Superior State University, where he set the single-season rebounding record of 341 and finished fifth in national Division 2 in 1982-83. He was named all-GLIAC and team MVP. Upon graduating, he signed as a free agent with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and played in the first NFL game in Europe in 1983 (the Global Cup).

Russo spent 24 years coaching varsity basketball teams at four schools and directed Negaunee to the 2000 Class C state championship, compiling a 319-210 career record. He directed Ishpeming (1989) and Negaunee (1999) to U.P. Class C team of the year honors and brought both schools to state championship games. His basketball teams won six regional championships and seven Mid-Peninsula Conference titles. He was special mention state basketball coach of the year in 2000. Russo was Negaunee's freshman football coach in 2002, when the varsity Miners won the Class C state football title.

Root will begin his 48th year this fall as a U.P. play-by-play broadcaster in football, basketball, baseball and softball. He has also coached girls basketball, boys and girls cross country and boys track. His North Central cross country teams won four U.P. titles and his track teams claimed two U.P. titles. His track teams never had a practice facility and he built one of the finest cross country courses in the Upper Peninsula. He also coached at Cedarville and was a sportswriter for the Cedarville Weekly Wave and hosted coaches radio shows in Sault Ste. Marie and Escanaba.

Dellangelo led Ishpeming to the Class C state football title in 1975 when the Hematites snapped Hudson's state-record 72-game win streak in the finals. He ran for 4,267 yards as a three-year starting tailback and won seven U.P.individual track gold medals as a four-year member of the track team. He was also a four-year basketball player, then played on Northern Michigan University's football team and ran for 1,093 yards and caught 82 passes for 762 yards. He has also served as a varsity assistant football coach for 30 years, assisted in track and coached freshman basketball and Little League baseball.

Coppo has spent eight decades on U.P. hockey rinks as a player, coach and official. He is the only person to officiate Michigan High School Athletic Association hockey for at least 40 years. He won 13 Gibson Cup titles as a player and coach and coached the Wolverines to the national championship in 2003 and three runner-up finishes. He was also an assistant coach at Finlandia University for two years.

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