Famed Wildcats: 5 to be inducted into Northern Michigan University Sports Hall of Fame

Northern Michigan University nordic ski head coach Sten Fjeldheim, right, gestures instructions to the Wildcats’ Erik Soderman, center, during a practice at the Forestville trails in Marquette Township in January 2015. (Photo courtesy NMU)

MARQUETTE — It’s interesting that likely the most well-known inductee from the 2024 class into the Northern Michigan University Sports Hall of Fame comes from a sport that might be one of the Wildcats’ lowest profile — cross country skiing.

Longtime head coach Sten Fjeldheim hung up his skis just three years ago in 2021 after coaching the team for 35 years with plenty of national success.

He is joined in this year’s class by former Wildcats hockey player Phil Berger, women’s basketball player Alyssa (Colla) DiCicco, wrestler Dave Iverson and women’s swimmer Deborah (Lawrence) Pattis.

The announcement was made earlier this month by the NMU Department of Athletics. The five individuals’ induction will be held on Friday, Sept. 20, at the Northern Center following the annual Homecoming parade in Marquette. Inductees will also be recognized during halftime of the Homecoming football game against Alma College to be held the following day in the Superior Dome at 1 p.m.

Tickets for the induction ceremony are scheduled to go on sale in early July, according to NMU Sports Information.

Northern Michigan University head nordic ski coach Sten Fjeldheim, left, and assistant coach Haakon Baanerud take a break at a warming room during a Wildcats practice during the winter of 2014-15. (NMU photo)

Here are details on each inductee:


Sten Fjeldheim — Best known for his tenure as NMU nordic men’s and women’s ski coach from 1986 to 2021, Fjeldheim was also the Wildcats’ cross country running women’s coach from 1986-2007, and he was also an assistant national team coach and junior development coordinator for the U.S. Ski Team from 1994-97.

The 21st coach to be inducted into the NMU Sports Hall of Fame, he resides in Marquette with his wife Pamela, and they have three children, Ingrid, Kirsten and Stig.

Sten Fjeldheim has one of the most decorated coaching careers ever at NMU as the skiing programs quickly became nationally renowned under his tenure.

Sten Fjeldheim

He has coached two women’s national championships, a combined men’s and women’s national title and 23 women’s and 22 men’s regional titles.

His teams have produced an amazing 102 All-Americans, 13 Olympians, seven NCAA champions and six U.S. national champions.

From the Central Collegiate Ski Association, Fjeldheim has earned eight Women’s Coach of the Year awards, five Men’s Coach of the Year. He’s also earned a National Collegiate Ski Association Coach of the Year.

While with the U.S. Ski Team in the mid-1990s, he coached at the 1994 Olympics, 1995 and 1997 World Championships and several junior world championships.

In cross country, he led the Wildcats to six appearances at the national NCAA Division II Championships. His teams produced 10 NCAA All-Americans

, won two GLIAC titles and captured a Great Lakes regional championship.

Northern Michigan University's Alyssa Colla, right, shoots as Grand Valley State University's Grace Sanchez attempts to block during the second half on Jan. 16, 2014, at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal file photo)

He was named 1992 and 2000 GLIAC Coach of the Year and 2005 Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year.

And he skied for three seasons as a student-athlete at NMU and was a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1980-86.


Phil Berger — A member of the class of 1989 in NMU hockey, Berger played 127 career games at Northern from 1986-89 and was known as one of the purest goal-scorers in program history.

He had 86 goals, tying him for sixth all-time at NMU, and in the 1987-88 season, he netted 40 goals, No. 5 for a single season for the Wildcats.

Northern Michigan University's Alyssa Colla, left, drives toward the basket past Michigan Tech University's Danielle Blake on Feb. 27, 2014, at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal file photo)

In the 1987-88 campaign, Berger was a national Hobey Baker Award finalist, Second Team All-American, WCHA First Team, NMU MVP and five-time WCHA Player of the Week.

His team and WCHA record seven hat tricks that season became known as Berger Bundles.

A native of downstate Dearborn, he also made the WCHA All-Tournament Team and WCHA Second Team in 1989.

Berger, the 20th hockey Wildcat to be inducted into the NMU hall, went on top play nine seasons as a pro in the East Coast Hockey League and was a First Team All-Star in 1993-94 when he recorded 59 goals and 88 assists — 147 points — in 76 games with the Greensboro Monarchs.


Phil Berger

Alyssa (Colla) DeCicco — A member of the class of 2015 in NMU women’s basketball, DeCicco is the No. 4 scorer in Wildcat women’s history with 1,567 points while playing from 2011-15.

The 11th women’s basketball player to be inducted into the NMU hall, she was a team captain and led Northern in scoring as a sophomore, junior and senior.

DeCicco earned GLIAC Second Team and Academic Excellence honors in 2013 as a sophomore, then as a junior in 2014, was named Daktronics All-Midwest Region Second Team, GLIAC All-Defensive Team and First Team All-GLIAC.

Also in 2014, she was named NMU’s Female Athlete of the Year after averaging 16.4 points per game.

As a senior in the 2014-15 campaign, DeCicco upped her average to 18.2 ppg while earning the GLIAC Commissioner’s Award along with Second Team Academic All-American, Daktronics All-Midwest Region First Team, All-GLIAC First Team and GLIAC All-Defensive Team.


Dave Iverson — Coming from the men’s wrestling class of 1985, he was a four-year standout in the sport and is the 11th men’s wrestler to be inducted into the NMU Sports Hall of Fame.

As a freshman in 1981, he was a national qualifier with 19 wins, then gained All-American status in 1982 after posting 21 wins that led to a sixth-place national finish and NCAA Division II Mideast championship title at 177 pounds.

As a senior, he again earned All-American recognition with 27 wins and finished seventh at the national championships.


Deborah (Lawrence) Pattis — A member of the class of 2015 in women’s swimming and diving, she began swimming for the Wildcats in 2011 and was a standout throughout her four years. She is the 12th member of the women’s swimming and diving team inducted into the NMU hall.

A six-time All-American, she still holds three school records — in the 50-yard freestyle with 22.79 seconds, 100 free with 49.80 seconds and 50 butterfly in 25.06 seconds.

Pattis also holds PEIF pool records in the 50 free (23.46) and 100 free (51.49). And she also anchored the Wildcats’ 400 medley relay in 2014 that still holds the pool record of 3:54.62.

One of her performances was also one of her best at the 2015 NCAA Division II Championships when she finished in third place while breaking her own school record in the 50 free in 22.79.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

Alyssa (Colla) DiCicco

Dave Iverson

Deborah (Lawrence) Pattis


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