U.P. Sports Hall of Fame: Duval delivers pointed, yet thoughtful message

HARRIS – Terry Duval of Escanaba and Kingsford found a connection between he and his fellow Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame inductees during his speech at the 43rd Annual Induction Banquet, Saturday night at the Island Resort and Casino.

Duval, one of 10 inductees that evening, said he and his colleagues knew the value of two words – thank you, and the sign of respect it brings.

“The words thank you are much appreciated in the world we live in today,” Duval said. “You think of the people that got you here, we didn’t get here by ourselves.”

Those comments were later echoed by inductee Jill (Gobert) VanDamme of Perkins.

Other local inductees included Jon LeBrasseur, originally of Nahma and now living in Muenster, Texas, and Sharon (Schultz) Ruibal of Escanaba.

Duval had a noteworthy prep career at Kingsford High School before coming to Escanaba High School, where he spent three decades coaching football, wrestling and track teams, going 205-60 in 17 years as a head wrestling coach.

Duval cited numerous inspirations including Ray Mariucci, his prep wrestling coach while at Kingsford, who Duval said “taught me the human side of coaching.” He said Jerry Cvengros who hired Duval at Escanaba, “had a spirit of goodness about him,” and Dan Flynn who preceded Duval as wrestling coach told Duval “with proper motivation, you could make an ordinary kid, extraordinary.”

Duval mentioned Dick Berlinski as the finest U.P. athlete he’d ever seen, saying of him, “the taller the willow, the lower it bends and the great ones have that type of character.”

Duval also had the distinction of coaching one of this year’s inductees – Sharon Schultz was one of his track standouts, whom he recalled running against in practice.

“I didn’t let her beat me one time,” Duval cracked.

LeBrasseur has compiled an extraordinary 850-11 record as girls varsity basketball coach at Sacred Heart High School in Muenster, Texas. His teams have won 14 state titles, including seven straight at one point (from 1998-2004). He has a daughter on the team who graduates in May, and has over 1,800 career points.

From tiny Nahma, LeBrasseur took the job at not much larger Muenster with the support of his 95 year old mother, who was present at the banquet.

“She taught me how important faith was, to be the best you can be, and to accept defeat with honor,” LeBrasseur said.

A humble man who credited God more than anyone, said coaching at the 85 percent catholic high school has brought him closer to God.

“It’s not just a school, but a family,” LeBrasseur said during his speech.

LeBrasseur was a three-sport athlete at Big Bay de Noc high school and came from a very athletic family. Members of his immediate family went on to play at Michigan, Michigan State and Western Michigan University.

Ruibal was an excellent track and basketball athlete at Escanaba from 1973-76 and later went on to earn three basketball letters at Northern Michigan University.

A pioneer in many things, Ruibal, known then as Sharon Schultz played in the early days of girls high school sports before later becoming one of the first female sportswriters at the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Among her many comments, she tearfully thanked her deceased father, and her mother who was present, saying “mom encouraged me to reach for the stars, and they’ve never been closer than they are tonight.”

She said the Upper Peninsula “was no place for wimps,” and talked of doing things the U.P. way. She said she was “fortunate to be in high school during a time when sports were just beginning for women,” and that she “wanted to be a writer like Denny Grall, who taught me that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

VanDamme, known as Jlll Gobert during her high school days, scored 1,614 points during her basketball career at Mid Peninsula, still the girls career record there. She was named Class D All-State in 1996. She went on to play three years at Northern Michigan University where she scored 1,243 points and was a three-time GLIAC All-Academic choice.

She later became boys track coach at Mid Peninsula, where she was the first female to coach a boys U.P. championship team in 2007.

She said playing at the college level “was an amazing experience,” and taught her commitment, hard work and dedication. VanDamme played on teams that went to the NCAA tournament each year and made the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.

VanDamme is married to Casey VanDamme, the current assistant golf coach at the University of Tennessee.

Singling out her prep golf coach at Mid Peninsula, Bob Vandamme, Jill said, “I’ll bet you didn’t know I’d be your daughter-in-law when you coached me,”

Also inducted Saturday night was Whitney Bell of Sault Ste. Marie, Mike Caruso of Iron Mountain, Jim Corgiat of Bessemer, Bill Lucier of Hancock, Holly Jean (Anderson) McCullah of Laurium and Mike Photenhauer of Menominee.