SAULT STE. MARIE - Three stand-out athletes and a men's basketball team that set the program's single-season wins record have been chosen as inductees to the Lake Superior State University Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2016.
The class includes the 1975-76 men's basketball team that won 27 games en route to an appearance at the NAIA Quarterfinals, two-time NCAA Division II All-American wrestler Randy Sieler, NCAA Division I All-American and 1989 Hobey Baker Award finalist Bruce Hoffort, and the women's basketball program's all-time winningest coach and current LSSU Director of Athletics, Kris Dunbar.
1975-76 LSSU Men's Basketball Team
Five teams formed the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1972-73, and three years later Lake Superior State claimed a share of its first title in what evolved to a seven-team league. The Soo Lakers, Northern Michigan and Grand Valley State all finished 12-2.
The 1975-76 LSSC team went on to have what continues to be regarded as the program's best post-season run in school history. The Lakers (27-4) defeated Saginaw Valley State College 75-74 in the NAIA District 23 semifinals and Grand Valley 93-92 in overtime in the district finals to advance to the NAIA National Tournament. Gary Fors, a 6-5 senior forward, scored 33 second-half points to help the Lakers overcome a 51-32 halftime deficit against GVSU.
The Lakers opened the national tournament in Kansas City, Mo., with an 88-79 upset victory over No. 3 Alcorn State, then took out No. 14 Edinboro in the second round, 76-73. They eventually lost to No. 6 Henderson State, 78-61, in the quarterfinals.
Jim Kjolhede, a 6-5 junior forward, led the Lakers past Alcorn State with 31 points and 14 rebounds. They were out-rebounded 53-40 in that contest, but forced Alcorn State into 18 turnovers and overcame a seven-point second-half deficit.
Fors and Kjolhede combined for 57 points as the Soo Lakers controlled most of the game against Edinboro. Henderson State overcame a three-point halftime deficit to win the quarterfinal showdown. The Reddies, who held Fors and Kjolhede to 16 points each in the quarterfinals, went on to lose to Coppin State, 96-91, in the national championship game.
Fors averaged 23.3 points per game and scored a school-record 716 points that season, and Kjolhede scored 676 points – a total that still ranks third on the single-season list. Kjolhede's 256 rebounds rank 10th and his 150 assists rank seventh all-time.
Other seniors on that team included center Ted Johnson and guards Kevin Borseth and Brad Tonkin. Guard Mark Blazjewski and center Doug Rykman were sophomores. Jim Bates, Dave Grantham, Tom Konopka, and Scott Upton were rookies. The team was coached by Ed Douma (1974-78), and assisted by Pat Groleau and Bob Kjolhede. The team managers were Paul Erickson and Dale Dombrowski.
That team's 27 wins is still a school record that was recently tied by the 2013-14 Lakers. It was the last team to play in the old gym, which is now the Fletcher Center. It was said many times that "the old barn" was originally built during Fort Brady days for horses, not basketball.
Randy Sieler, Wrestling, 1984-88
Randy Sieler was a standout heavyweight during Lake Superior State's storied wrestling era, earning NCAA Division II All-America honors in 1987 and '88 and compiling a 105-49-1 collegiate record with 50 pins.
Sieler, a 275-pounder from Monroe, Mich., placed second in the 1988 NCAA DII Championships and earned a berth in the Division I nationals where he won two matches to reach the final 16.
During the DII nationals, the No. 2-ranked Sieler posted impressive 8-3 and 8-2 decisions in the quarterfinals and semifinals before losing by fall in 6:44 to eventual Division I champion Carlton Haselrig of Pittsburgh-Johnstown in the finals. His semifinal victory over Jair Toedter of North Dakota avenged a 6-3 loss in the consolation round of the 1987 Division II nationals.
Sieler's Division I run in Iowa City, Iowa, began with a victory by pin in :54 followed by a rematch with Haselrig, during which he lost by pin in 4:45. In the consolation round, the unseeded Sieler avenged two early-season losses to Central Michigan's Steve Adams to win by pin in 1:15. His senior campaign ended with a 3-3 overtime criteria decision loss to Wisconsin's Todd Sieler (no relation).
Haselrig was the only NCAA DII wrestler to beat Sieler in 1988.
Sieler was 38-9 with 19 pins and held a 12-0 dual-meet record as a senior. He was named Outstanding Wrestler at the 1988 GLIAC and Mideast Regional championships.
Prior to his senior season, Sieler won the 1986 GLIAC title and 1987 regional heavyweight championship.
Bruce Hoffort, Hockey, 1987-89
Among the many story lines of Lake Superior State's magical 1987-88 NCAA Championship hockey season was the Lakers' amazing 15-member rookie that included college hockey greats Tim Breslin, Jim Dowd, Tim Harris, Brett Barnett, Karl Johnston and Jeff Napierala.
Freshman goaltender Bruce Hoffort anchored that class and the Laker defense.
Hoffort, of North Battleford, Sask., led the nation in goals-against that season with a 2.65 average and ranked second in save percentage at .909. He was 23-4-3 with 49 saves during a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over St. Lawrence in the NCAA title game in Lake Placid, N.Y. His 49 saves in a NCAA championship game is second only to Minnesota-Duluth's Rick Kosti, who totaled 55 during the 1984 four-overtime loss to Bowling Green.
"The big question mark entering the season was in goal," noted LSSU coach Frank Anzalone at the end of the 1987-88 season. "In past years, at times our play in net was not consistent enough to be a contender on the level that we were this season. But, this season, with Mike Greenlay playing steady for the whole season and Hoffort having the kind of season he did, we were solid enough in goal to make a run at winning some things. Without a doubt, that is the single biggest factor in this team having the kind of year that it did."
Hoffort emerged as the Lakers' No. 1 goaltender during their final eight games. Hoffort was named the 1988 NCAA Tournament Most-Valuable Player after compiling 20 saves in the first period against St. Lawrence and 36 through two periods, keeping the Lakers in the game.
Hoffort went on to earn All-Central Collegiate Hockey Association First Team in 1988 and '89, and NCAA All-America First Team and CCHA Player of the Year in 1989. He was also a Hobey Baker Award finalist in 1989. Hoffort ranks second and fifth in LSSU single-season wins and fifth in single-season saves (983 in 1988-89). After playing two collegiate seasons, he ranks fourth in LSSU career wins (50), fifth in career goals-against (2.68) and ninth in career saves percentage (.900). He recorded six career shutouts.
Hoffort went on to play three professional seasons, including two with the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers. He also served as a volunteer assistant coach at LSSU in the 1990s while completing business administration degree requirements.
Kris Dunbar, Women's Basketball player 1988-92, coach 1998-06, Director of Athletics 2006-present
Sault Ste. Marie native Kris (Bullock) Dunbar has a couple decades to go before she catches the legendary Bud Cooper, who served Lake Superior State as an athlete, coach and administrator for more than 50 years.
But she's gaining on him.
After a successful prep and collegiate basketball career at Sault Area High School and LSSU, Dunbar left Sault Ste. Marie briefly to begin her coaching career and earn a master's degree at Elmira College. She returned in 1996-97 as a LSSU women's basketball assistant coach and took over as head coach in 1997-98.
Dunbar spent her first three seasons putting her own stamp on LSSU's renown women's basketball program, then dominated the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference from 2001-06. She amassed a career record of 154-72 (.681) through eight years with five straight 20-win seasons and five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. She is the all-time wins leader in LSSU women's basketball and second only to men's basketball coach Steve Hettinga in overall basketball wins. Hettinga surpassed her wins mark in 2015-16, his ninth season at the helm of the men's program.
Dunbar was named GLIAC Coach of the Year in 2001-02 and 2004-05, Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year in 2002 and Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Women's College Coach of the Year in 2003.
The Lakers won GLIAC North Division titles in 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05 and captured GLIAC Tournament championships in 2003 and '04. Her 2002-03 team led the NCAA in field-goal percentage at .509 and her 2003-04 team reached the NCAA Midwest Regional finals. At the 2004 regional in Quincy, Ill., the Lakers notched impressive victories over Southern Indiana, 100-86, and Ashland, 95-82, before losing 66-49 to the host team in the championship game in front of a fiery partisan crowd.
Dunbar's most-exciting coaching victory was, arguably, the 2003 GLIAC Tournament semifinal victory over Wayne State in Bud Cooper Gymnasium. LSSU rallied back from a 50-41 halftime deficit to win 84-83 by shooting 51.5 percent in the second half and out-rebounding WSU, 45-29. The Lakers followed with a 67-60 championship victory over Grand Valley and cut down the Cooper Gym net.
Dunbar coached five All-GLIAC First Team and four All-GLIAC Second Team honorees, plus 2003 GLIAC Player of the Year and NCAA All-American Alice Duesing.
Duesing, who went on to earn the prestigious NCAA Today's Top VIII Award, and Dunbar are both Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame inductees.
Dunbar retired from coaching in 2006 and was named LSSU's director of athletics that spring. She immediately went to work on a fund-raising plan to replace the wood floor in Bud Cooper Gymnasium. The new floor was installed in 2007, and the Norris Center's outdoor tennis facility received a facelift in 2008. A Laker Hockey Challenge Fund campaign ended in the Fall of 2013, and several improvements to Taffy Abel Arena's student section, press box and video webcast capabilities took place in 2013-14. In addition, LSSU's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has become one of the GLIAC's most-active SAAC committees. She recently completed her three-year tenure on the NCAA Championships Committee.
During her administration, LSSU has brought back men's varsity golf and added women's golf, added junior varsity men's and women's basketball, and helped the track and field program increase scholarships as part of a master plan to boost enrollment. Dunbar now oversees 15 varsity sports.
Dunbar has become a master coach of coaches and a highly-sought mentor on campus. She has worked tirelessly to assemble an outstanding coaching staff that mirrors her passion for LSSU.
After being coached by her father, Tim Bullock, in high school, Dunbar was a three-year co-captain and four-year starting guard at LSSU from 1988-92. She totaled 812 points, 278 rebounds and 221 assists. As a senior in 1991-92, she ranked among the top 10 in the GLIAC in three-point field-goal percentage and three-point field goals.