Carlson Reclaims D2 Cheer Supremacy

March 3, 2018

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – Last season, the Gibraltar Carlson competitive cheer team felt the pain of watching an unprecedented streak come to an end, by the smallest of margins, at the MHSAA Division 2 Final.

The Marauders redeemed themselves a year later, and reclaimed the title that eluded them.

Carlson led wire-to-wire Saturday morning en route to winning the Division 2 championship at the DeltaPlex with a three-round total of 791.98.

“Obviously, losing by .06 is like a knife to the stomach, but I think they definitely took it in stride and took it in,” Marauders coach Ayrn Ziesmer said, referring to the margin that placed her team second instead of first in 2017. “Even this season was a struggle, but we really tried to make sure it was all about the climb, and the final day, because nothing before that really matters.”

Allen Park, which stopped Carlson’s six-year reign at the top last year, placed runner-up this time tallying a 786.58.

It was the Marauders’ 10th MHSAA title. They’ve won it nine times in the last 11 years and finished runner-up the two years they didn’t win.

“Winning is a feeling you can’t get anywhere else in life, and coming from a program like Carlson it is really difficult to lose,” Ziesmer said. “So bringing the title back after that loss was super important and the best feeling ever.”

Emily Scheffler, one of six Carlson seniors, said last year’s runner-up finish provided the perfect motivation.

“It really just broke our hearts, but it fueled our fire,” she said. “Coming back into this season we knew we could do it, and we did it.”

Carlson produced high scores in each round. It opened with a 237.80 in Round 1 and followed with a 232.08 in Round 2 to build a three-point advantage entering the final round.

Ziesmer said she didn’t know where her team stood throughout the competition.

“I didn’t look at scores today so I had no idea where we had fallen in any of the rounds, and it made it that much more fun,” she said. “I think the girls liked not knowing where they were, and I had nothing to say to them other than go out and do your best.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything more today. I thought they went out there and delivered in every single round.”

The Marauders won the Downriver League earlier this season ahead of Allen Park, but finished runner-up to the Jaguars at their Regional.

“I feel like this season was a rollercoaster, but we did it and I’m so proud of everyone on my team,” senior Hannah Pryba said. “I feel like we deserved it this year.”

Carlson capped the day with a strong Round 3 routine, securing the win with a 322.10 score.

“I think what this year’s Round 3 had that maybe last year’s didn’t was that emotional component,” Ziesmer said. “I felt like they wanted it so bad because they didn’t get it last year, that it was so emotional. Their heart was really on their sleeve.”

Added senior Samantha Zdankiewicz: “After Round 3 you just get that feeling and just know in your heart you put everything into it. It’s so special for the seniors to leave with a state championship and come back from all we’ve been through with the ups and downs.”

Allen Park coach Julie Goodwin figured it would be another close encounter with the area rival.

“It was a battle, and it’s been a battle all year,” Goodwin said. “We’ve gone back and forth and they are a highly-respected team. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best, so today was a battle and it was their day.”

The Jaguars put pressure on Carlson with a Round 3 score of 320.40.

“I’m proud of my girls, and they left everything on the mat,” Goodwin said. “We had an awesome round 3 today and it was a privilege to be here at the state finals and be runner-up. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Gibraltar Carlson performs part of a top-scoring routine during Saturday’s title run. (Middle) Allen Park celebrates its runner-up finish. 

Bragging Rights for Both as Multi-Sport Sage Twins Shine at Ford Field

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 10, 2023

SOUTHGATE – The question of “Which child is your favorite?” is impossible for any parent to answer, but Shawn Sage has an additional question that’s impossible to answer regarding his son Jackson and daughter Brooklyn.

Greater DetroitThat question is, “Who would win a wrestling match between the two?”

“They are both raising their hands right now smiling about it,” Shawn Sage said with a laugh during a phone conversation.

It’s a good-natured question anybody can pose to Shawn Sage, given his son and daughter are not only twins by birth, but in wrestling achievements as sophomores at Southgate Anderson.

Last weekend at Ford Field, Jackson Sage competed in his second Individual Finals, where he finished fourth in Division 2 in the 157-pound weight class.

It was an improvement from last year’s event, when he qualified as a freshman but didn’t place.

“I was more used to it,” Jackson Sage said. “Last year was a different experience being at Ford Field the first time.”

Brooklyn Sage qualified for the Individual Finals this season as well, where she finished sixth in the Girls Division 155-pound weight class.

The winter was busy for both, but especially for Brooklyn. In addition to competing in wrestling, she was also a member of the school’s competitive cheer team.

“I knew that it would be a commitment,” she said. “But I was up for it. I was at the school for about 14 hours a day, but it was worth it at the end.”

Jackson and Brooklyn are each three-sport athletes. Jackson is the quarterback on the football team in the fall and a member of the track team (he competes in 300 hurdles and two relays) in the spring, while Brooklyn plays softball.

But it’s wrestling where the two share their greatest bond athletically.

Jackson started getting involved in the sport when was around elementary school age, and Brooklyn would tag along to practices.

Along the way, she became intrigued enough to try wrestling herself.

“I liked being able to know that I could defend myself and take care of myself in different ways,” she said. “To be able to stand up for myself.”

Brooklyn said she stopped wrestling competitively around sixth grade because there weren’t opportunities for girls to compete only against each other, but that changed when a girls-only division was added to the MHSAA Tournament with the 2021-22 season.

With both able to compete in high school, at-home workouts intensified. The two regularly train against each other on a mat in their basement, where technique is honed and toughness is sharpened.

“She pushes me a lot,” Jackson said.

Both also learn from each other’s experiences.

“I feel like watching him made me more motivated to do it,” Brooklyn said. “He’s taught me a lot of technique that I wouldn’t have known from his past experiences and coach.”

Added Jackson: “I’ve learned from her matches.”

This week has actually presented a rarity for both in that they’ve had time off.

With wrestling ending and spring sports not officially opening practice until Monday, the two haven’t had practices and competitions.

That’ll change next week when they go their separate ways with Jackson to track practice and Brooklyn joining the softball squad, and they’ll focus on those sports for the rest of the school year.

But with two more years of eligibility left and all-state finishes in wrestling already, the sky is the limit for the next two years in that sport for both.

With that in mind, the questions to Dad about who would win a match are likely only getting started.

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTO Southgate Anderson twins Brooklyn, left, and Jackson Sage both placed at this season’s Wrestling Individual Finals. (Photo courtesy of the Sage family.)