Gold Medal Classic bracing for exciting weekend of action, honors

Gage Kreski looks out toward the crowd during Central Michigan University’s 42-30 win over Western Michigan University on Nov. 3, 2021 at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo. Kreski will compete with “R” Place during this weekend’s Class A action. (Courtesy photo/“The Big Dog” Mitch Vosburg)

HERMANSVILLE — The final weekend of play at the Gold Medal Classic basketball tournament will not only consist of the Women’s Division.

The highly anticipated Class A Men’s division will bring in some top talent to the Frank Rodman Community Club in Hermansville this weekend.

The six-team, double-elimination Class A field has rosters loaded with former Division I and Division II college athletes.

Dexter’s Bar of Menominee looks to capture their sixth consecutive Class A title.

The Menominee tavern keepers roster is all former Michigan Tech University players, including former North Central standout and 1000-point club member, Dawson Bilski, A.J Grazulis of Marquette, Dillon Gordon of Ewen-Trout Creek and Jordan Chartier of Superior Central.

Dexter’s opens play at noon Saturday against Contemporary Builders of Perronville, who’s roster includes former Northern Michigan University players in North Central alum Marcus Krachinski and Mid Peninsula alum Brett Branstrom.

Also on the Contemporary Builders roster is Nigerian-born Chicago native Dolapo Olayinka, a former NMU and Ferris State University standout.

A late addition to the talent pool for Class A is 2024 Associated Press Division 4 Player of the Year, and U.P. Mr. Basketball recipient Jonny Ingalls of St. Ignace.

Ingalls will play for “R” Place of Spaulding, who will take on Wagner-Casper Insurance of Marinette, Wis. at 1 p.m.

Team captain of “R” Place is former North Central 2000-point scorer, Western Michigan University and Michigan State University player Jason Whitens.

Whitens recruited friend and fellow former Division I college athlete Gage Kreski, formally of St. Ignace. Kreski, who was a standout on the hardwood for the Saints, is second on the all-time U.P. Scoring list with 2,178 career points. Kreski went on to be a starter in the defensive backfield on the Central Michigan University football team.

“When the opportunity of playing in the Gold Medals this year came up, I was thinking about some people that would be nice to team up with, and I thought it would be great to connect with Gage (Kreski) since both of us are done playing (college athletics)”, Whitens said. “We both followed each other’s careers and stayed in touch throughout, so I thought that it would be a fun experience to be able to compete on the same team for once.

“The Gold Medal (Classic) is not only special for the talent it puts on the floor, but the way it brings people together to have fun and reminisce on old and new memories.”

Both Whitens and Kreski thought the addition of Ingalls would help the team, as well as add to the atmosphere of the excitement of the weekend.

“It’ll be fun to play with and against some fellow Yoopers, who have also experienced the world of college athletics, both Division I and II,” Kreski said. “I’ve known Jonny (Ingalls) since he was very young, so the both of us are looking forward to the opportunity to play together.”

Rounding out the “R” Place roster are the Johnson brothers, Marcus and Kyle, of Iron Mountain and current NC boys basketball coach Tyler Mercier. Menominee native and sharp shooter Adam Nolde rounds off the roster.

Nolde was named the Outstanding Player in Class B last weekend.

The winner of the 1 p.m. Class A game will take on Moonlight Graphics of Hermansville at 4 p.m. Longtime tournament supporter Kenny Guliani and Moonlight Graphics owner, sponsors the highly experienced tournament team of Jason Boucher, Jake and Mike Polfus, Jared Benson, Joey Pontbriand and Jake Hogberg.

At 5 p.m. the legendary McNeil Oilers of Crystal Falls play the winner of the noon game.

The Oilers, who are managed by 2023 Gold Medals Hall of Fame inductee Bryan LaChapelle Sr., will feature a roster of former Gogebic Community College players, including Powers native Bryce Bilski, Ewen-Trout Creek graduates Jaden Boreseth and Jordan LaPlant, as well as Hurley, Wis. native Eli Talsma.

Former Michigan Tech football players Kurt and Erik Lehmann, who have been on the Oilers roster for many years, are also on this year’s squad. Former Iron Mountain High School hooper Pat Flood is also on McNeil’s roster.

There will be losers bracket games in Class A at both 6 and 7 p.m on Saturday. On Sunday, Class A continues at 11 a.m. with the winners bracket semifinal game.

Also on Sunday in Class A there will be a pair of losers bracket games at noon and 2 p.m.. The division will wrap up with a 4 p.m. championship game.

Additionally, the 2024 Gold Medals Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be on Saturday at the conclusion of the noon game. This year’s inductees will be the second class inducted into the tournament’s hall of fame, which was inaugurated in 2023.

The 2024 inductees are former Class A scoring machine Bob Ronallo of Wausaukee, Wis. as well as long time tournament promotor and McNeil Oilers team sponsor, the late Malcom McNeil of Crystal Falls.

Joining Ronallo and McNeil are a father and his two sons — Paul, Jake and Mike Polfus of Carney — will be inducted to the hall together. Long time Stephenson Strollers colorful player and current team manager Roger Grinsteiner will also be inducted.

The elder Polfus and Grinsteiner both played in the tournament over 50 years apiece.

A pair of former collegiate basketball players who stood out each time they played in the tournament are also being inducted. Former UW-Green Bay point guard Devante Blanks of Green Bay, Wis. thrilled many Gold Medals crowds with his ball handling and defensive quickness, will be inducted. Rounding off the class is former Woman’s Division stand out and Northern Michigan University player Karla Strand of Marquette.

Strand was a fierce competitor who could score from both inside the paint and from the outside, who would bring some very good women’s players and competitive teams, recalls tournament manager Bryan Maule.

The tournament wraps up Sunday with the Class EE final at 5 p.m., the Class C title game at 6 p.m. and the final game of the tournament will be the Class D championship game.


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