By Mark Reinhiller
College of DuPage has announced its inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame class, comprised of four student-athletes, one head coach and a former college president.
Allison (Klaas) Ittersagen, Tom Pukstys, Paul Spicer and Nikkilette Wright will be honored for their individual athletic successes, alongside Hall of Fame former men’s head basketball coach Don Klaas and former College President Dr. Harold D. McAninch on June 1 at the Doubletree Hotel in Lisle.
“For more than 50 years, athletics have played a critical role in the development of both the College and the students it serves,’’ said Hall of Fame chair Jane Vatchev. “Thirty-two national championships have been earned by COD teams with countless All-Americans since COD’s inception. The six members of our first Hall of Fame represent COD with prestige and honor; locally, regionally, nationally and on an international scale.”
“Allison, Tom, Paul and Nikkilette were premier student-athletes while at COD and in their post-COD careers,’’ said College of DuPage Director of Athletics and Recreation Greg McVey. “Don Klaas set a standard that may never be challenged in terms of what his teams achieved. And under the leadership of Dr. McAninch, COD Athletics received guidance and support during his time as president. Ten years after his retirement, our current student-athletes continue to flourish from his vision.’’
Allison (Klaas) Ittersagen (basketball, tennis 1998-2000)
Ittersagen (Wheaton) was a two-time All-American guard and led the Chaparrals to the 2000 national championship in which she was named the tourney MVP. A two-time N4C MVP, she received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she helped the Panthers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history (2001). She played two seasons of tennis at COD and helped her doubles team to a second-place finish in the National Championship (1998) and a second-place team finish in the 1999 Nationals. She is the daughter of former men’s basketball head coach Don Klaas.
Tom Pukstys (track and field 1987-88)
Pukstys (Palos Hills) competed in the javelin for the Chaparrals and later became the United States’ top thrower for nearly a decade. A member of the 1992 and 1996 U.S. Olympic teams, Pukstys was a six-time U.S. champion and was ranked No. 1 in his sport seven times by U.S. Track and Field News. While at COD, he was the 1987 NJCAA national champion and national junior college record holder, and later became a two-time All-American at the University of Florida. He established the U.S. collegiate record in 1990 and remains the national junior college season record holder (248-5, 1988). He was inducted into the National Junior College Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1997.
Paul Spicer (football 1993-95)
Spicer (Indianapolis) played defensive end 11 seasons in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions (1999), Jacksonville Jaguars (2000-08) and the Super Bowl XLIV champion New Orleans Saints (2009). He also spent time with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League (1998-99) and the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe (2001-02). While at COD, he was an All-American his sophomore season and helped lead the Chaparrals to 24 consecutive victories. He then played at Saginaw Valley State (Mich.) where he was named Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference MVP in 1998 and led the conference in sacks (16.5). He spent four seasons as an assistant defensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2015-18) and recently became the defensive line coach at the University of South Florida.
Nikkilette Wright (track and field, basketball 2000-02)
Wright (Oak Park) led the Chaparrals to consecutive team national championships in track and field, playing a remarkable role in her two seasons. She won individual national championships in the 400-meter hurdles and triple jump, and ran legs on national championship 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 relays in 2001. In 2002, she repeated in the 400 hurdles and in the 4 x 800 relay. Wright also helped her 2002 4 x 100 relay win a national title. All told, she won three individual national championships and was a member of four relay title teams. She was a nine-time All-American and went on to compete at Robert Morris University. She also played an instrumental role on the Chaparrals’ 2002 NJCAA National Championship basketball squad.
Don Klaas (men’s basketball head coach, 1978-2013)
Klaas coached the Chaparrals for 35 seasons, owning a near 70-percent winning percentage with a record of 743-382. He led the Chaps to 12 N4C Conference titles, eight sectional titles and seven Region IV titles. Seven of his teams reached the national tournament and he capped his career with his 2002 National Championship squad. He was the 2001-02 National Coach of the Year and is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame, the Illinois Coaches Hall of Fame and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Hall of Fame. He finished his career ranked No. 1 in NJCAA history in D3 and Illinois junior college victories. The COD basketball floor is named Klaas Court in his honor.
Dr. Harold D. McAninch (President, 1979-94, 2006-09)
Dr. McAninch was responsible for the construction of the Physical Education and Recreation Center and was vital in the hiring and support of COD’s many Hall of Fame coaches. He was an extremely strong supporter of the intercollegiate athletic programs and advocated the mission of COD athletics. He has been a constant promoter of the athletics’ brand and their successes throughout DuPage County, the state and the nation. COD’s athletic program and storied history of success is due in large part to his passion, commitment, vision and support.