MMA Helps 3-Sporter Shine at BCC

May 3, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

BROOKLYN – When Khol Partridge gets some time away from the football field, basketball court and baseball diamond, he knows exactly where he’s going – to relax with some Mixed Martial Arts.

Partridge is winding down his days as a three-sport athlete at Brooklyn Columbia Central, a Class B school in southeast Michigan’s Irish Hills area. His father Rodney owns Pure Combat, a gym in Cement City that challenges Khol as an athlete, both mentally and physically, in a different way than high school sports do. But, combined, Khol said, it’s made him a stronger athlete and more of a leader.

“In the summertime, I’m in the gym every day,” Partridge said. “It makes you such a better athlete. It improves your attitude, your mindset, your balance, everything about being an athlete.”

Partridge mainly does the Jiu Jitsu form of MMA, not the type that puts him into a ring with another striker, or fighter. But, it’s still intense.

“My dad puts me through all kinds of crazy workouts,” he said. “You get yourself into tough spots in MMA and it makes you have to find a way out of it. That’s one way it helps you in other sports.”

Partridge has been in more than a few tight spots for the Golden Eagles over the last few seasons but has usually found a way to success. The CC football team has gone 23-9 over the last three seasons, making three consecutive playoff appearances. He led the Lenawee County Athletic Association this past season by completing 154-of-257 passes for 2,317 yards and 26 touchdowns. He threw just four interceptions all season. He also ran for 511 yards and nine touchdowns.

CC football coach Josh Kubiak called Partridge an “amazing athlete” and “amazing individual.”

“I could go on about Khol for a long time and tell you about all his stats and achievements,” Kubiak wrote in an e-mail. “In my opinion the best quality Khol has is his leadership skills. I remember back to when he was a freshman on our playoff team. He was the last player on the field after our loss hugging seniors and then came up to me and said, ‘We will be back.’”

The Golden Eagles won their first league football title since 1982 with Partridge at quarterback this past season. He finished with 4,800 career passing yards and a number of CC football records.

“He has the special talent to get other student athletes to follow him, and he gets the best out of them,” Kubiak said. “He always finds the positive out of the worst situations.”

It’s no surprise that Partridge chose the quarterback position – or, rather, it chose him.

“I was a quarterback since I was really little. I don’t know, maybe it was just because I wanted to be a leader. I’ve always had that mindset. I wanted to be the smartest player on the field, to know what everyone else was doing. My dad always taught me to be a leader, to be the best leader I could be.

“My biggest goal has always been just to be a leader. Leadership is a full-time job. You just have to step up at important times, to be an inspiration to others in the huddle or know when to get after someone and when to just give them a high-five and say, ‘It’s all right. Keep your head up.’”

Partridge got a few looks from colleges and was close to trying to walk on at a Division I school out west. Ultimately, he decided to stay a little closer to home and committed to Ohio’s University of Findlay, a perennial football powerhouse in Division II.

“I got a lot of looks, but nothing seemed to pan out. Then, the Findlay coach hit me up on Twitter,” Partridge said. “They contacted me, so saw tape and I went to visit. They have a great campus. I even did some research, and I know there is a Mixed Martial Arts gym not far from campus.”

In basketball, Partridge was the team’s top scorer in 2018-19, made 48 3-pointers and finished his career with more than 750 points over parts of four seasons. In baseball, he’s one of the team leaders in hitting and is enjoying another season of success.

“I fell in love with football early on in life,” he said. “I always played baseball, too. Me and my buddy, Chase Tompkins, we’ve always played baseball together. I didn’t start playing basketball until later, probably seventh grade.

“If it’s football season, then football is my favorite sport. If it’s baseball season, then baseball is my favorite sport.”

In baseball, Partridge is a middle infielder. When Tompkins pitches, Partridge plays shortstop; otherwise he plays second base.

“We are a really good double-play combination,” he said. “I think last year we turned like 20 double plays together. It’s crazy. We’ve played together a long time. We’ve kind of always been that duo.”

This season, Partridge’s goal is to hit .500.

“The season is going great,” he said. “I’m hitting fairly well, not as well as I want to be hitting, but I’m working hard. Baseball is so mental. You have to be mentally right to play the game.”

Partridge is quick to credit his parents, Rodney and Terri, for his success.

“My dad has been the biggest influence in my life,” he said. “He’s always been someone to look up to. And my mom is the best ever. She keeps my head in line. I’m so blessed to have two parents I can look up to.”

Khol Partridge is excited for the next chapter in life, although he still has some work to do this spring with the CC baseball team. He’s entertaining the idea of trying to walk-on with the Findlay baseball team.

“I definitely think I can,” he said. “Sports are a big part of my life. They always have been. Sports teaches you so much about different aspects in life.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Columbia Central’s Khol Partridge unleashes a pass this past fall. (Middle) Partridge, far right, with father Rodney (far left) and renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor Marcelo Garcia. (Photos courtesy of the Partridge family.) 

For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times

By Tom Spencer
Special for

March 17, 2023

Shawn Bramer and Dylan Barnowski, as middle schoolers, attended the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals every year.

Northern Lower PeninsulaLast year, they nearly played in the Division 3 title game – falling in a Semifinal but almost making a dream come true for the then-juniors and their Lake Leelanau St. Mary coach, Matt Barnowski, also Dylan’s father.

That dream began for some when the boys were coached by Matt as third graders, and they made serious strides last season. Before last winter, the last time the Eagles had won a Regional championship was 1950 – and no St. Mary boys basketball team had reached the Semifinals. Bramer and Dylan Barnowski – along with current seniors Jack Glynn, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar – had high hopes of making more history this winter.

The dream ended Wednesday night with a Regional Final loss to Frankfort, which St. Mary had defeated 54-41 during the regular season. This time, the Eagles were faced with a large number of K-12 students succumbing to illness – with all five of its starters at least somewhat sick – as nearly a third of the school’s tiny enrollment was out of school the day after the loss to the Panthers.

But you won’t hear any of the players or coaches making excuses. They give all the credit to Frankfort, and they’re ready to move on. And many in the LSM family know reaching the Regional Finals this season and Breslin Center in 2022 had absolutely no probability had Bramer and Barnowski not made an iron-clad agreement last summer. 

Eagles coach Matt Barnowski coaches up his team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick.The two friends vowed to help each other despite their personal, opposing challenges.

Barnowski and Bramer, through LSM’s cooperative agreement with Suttons Bay, went 3-for-3 playing in 8-Player Division 1 Football Finals during their first three years of high school. But through last summer Barnowski, who quarterbacked the Norseman, had no interest in football.  

Bramer, meanwhile, had been nursing a quad tendon injury since his sophomore football season and battling two bad knees but was thinking he could suffer though football and sit out the basketball season to recover. The all-state running back experienced training difficulties and even had his strength training severely hampered.

Football was king for Bramer, and he also loved basketball too. Basketball is number one to Barnowski. The longtime friends decided cut a deal to help each other — and their teammates — out.

“I was kind of on the edge,” said Bramer, who plays with braces on both knees. “After talking to each other, we both ended up just playing. 

“I really shouldn’t be playing sports, but I couldn’t miss out playing with my friends,” he continued. “We just figured it was our last season so we might as well just do it.”

Dylan Barnowski and Brammer also teamed up during successful football careers. Barnowski had been considering ending his football days immediately after the Norse fell short in their third-straight trip to the Finals, at Superior Dome in Marquette in Fall 2021. That loss was at the hands of Adrian Lenawee Christian 31-20.

The Norseman graduated most of their offensive and defense lines last spring and expected to be small in numbers. Until this fall, they had lost only one regular-season game on their way to three straight title game appearances. This year they finished 3-5.

The big linemen losses — Barnowski’s protection — was forcing him to weigh his injury risk against having a senior basketball season.

“We did it for each other,” Barnowski said. “I talked with Shawn, and we knew we had a big community behind us and it would be hard for them if we just quit. 

“I knew we weren’t going to have the same powerhouse team we had,” he continued. “We weren’t very good this year, but we still had a blast.”

This week’s loss put an end to the possible Breslin championship finish, but it left the friends happy with the decision to play both sports. The Eagles finished 20-4.

Barnowski led St. Mary in scoring. He averaged better than 20 points a game with more than seven rebounds and five assists. Bramer averaged just under 15 points per game, and almost 10 rebounds.

The two big men each scored 11 in the season-ending loss. Thompson scored 14. This year’s senior-dominated team likely will be remembered for its basketball success for some time. Barnowski, Bramer and Glynn experienced only one loss in District play over their four seasons.

“It’s a really special groups of kids,” Coach Barnowski said. “These kids kind of transformed St. Mary’s basketball.  

St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Brammer, Jack Gwynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. “They’ve really built the program,” he continued. “It’s been a roller coaster ride.”

Bramer and Dylan Barnowski also played baseball in the past for the Eagles, but that likely won’t happen this spring. Barnowski plans to golf, and Bramer expects to sit the spring season out and heal.

“We’ll never forget these last four years of varsity we played,” Barnowski said. “I‘ve decided to go a more relaxing route, and I’m going for some golf.”

With their Breslin dream over, the friends are ready to enjoy the St. Mary’s community support and move on. They’re bummed so many were sick in the end but won’t use it as an excuse.

“Hats off to Frankfort,” Barnowski said. “They did an incredible job of shutting us down.”

Bramer agreed.

“They just played their game better than we did,” he said. “They took the lead at the end of the third quarter, and it was a battle from there.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) St. Mary’s seniors Dylan Barnowski, left, and Shawn Bramer hold up the team’s District championship trophy last week. (2) Eagles coach Matt Barnowski, center, and assistant Sander Scott coach up their team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick. (3) Dylan Barnowski and Bramer also teamed up during successful football careers. (4) St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Bramer, Jack Glynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. (Sideline photo by Tom Spencer; player photos by Emmerson Lamb Photography.)