D1 Preview: Opportunities Abound

March 1, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A year ago, Sterling Heights Stevenson won its first MHSAA Finals in competitive cheer. Five more Division 1 teams will look to do the same at Friday’s Division 1 championship meet at the Grand Rapids Delta Plex.

But the past champs will provide plenty of competition. Stevenson is back, Grandville has won six times and Rochester Hills Stoney Creek appears primed to win for the first time since 2010.

Below are glances at all eight teams competing Friday. Round 1 begins at 6 p.m. and the event in its entirety will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis. Click here for the Finals draws and other important information.

League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West and overall
Coach: Christina Wilson, seventh season
Championship history: Class A runner-up 1999.
Top score: 787.48 at the Regional.
Team composition: 22 total (nine seniors, six juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen)
Outlook: After missing the Finals last season by half a point, Brighton is back with a runner-up finish at its Regional and fourth straight District championship. The Bulldogs’ average total score of 779.7 ranks fourth in Division 1, and Brighton won eight of 10 events it cheered at this winter. Senior Kylie Neal made the all-District first team last season.

League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Christina Swansey, eighth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 788.56 at Regional.
Team composition: 25 total (four seniors, 11 juniors, seven sophomores, three freshmen)
Outlook: Grand Blanc finished fourth at last season’s Finals and has surged into this weekend with league, District and Regional championships. Its average total score of 779.8 ranks third in Division 1, and its best Round 3 score of 320.7 ranks fourth. Most of last year’s standouts are leading the way again: senior Alyssa Sornson made the all-state first team last season, while senior Rachel Zelley and junior Lanya Bates made the second and junior Jacquelyn Engel and sophomore Mackenzie Hummel earned honorable mentions.  

League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Julie Smith-Boyd, 38th season
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), nine runner-up finishes.

Top score: 789.02 at the District.
Team composition: 29 total (10 seniors, seven juniors, six sophomores, six freshmen)
Outlook: Last season’s sixth-place finisher has won two of its championships this decade and could contend for another this weekend riding six straight scores above 780. Its Round 3 is especially strong, with its best score ranking fifth in Division 1 at 320.6. Senior Hailey Brower made the all-state second team last season, and senior Mackenzie Corey earned honorable mention.

League finish: Second in KLAA West
Coach: Candace Fahr, second season
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2013.
Top score: 783.96 at the Regional.
Team composition: 20 total (seven seniors, eight juniors, two sophomores, three freshmen)
Outlook: Hartland is returning to the Finals for the first time since 2015 after finishing third or better in nine of 11 events this winter. Round 3 also is the Eagles’ strength, as its best score of 319.8 ranks ninth in Division 1. Seniors Moriah Sweet and Macy Bonar both earned all-Region recognition last season.

League finish: Second in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Tricia Williams, 17th season
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2010.
Top score: 793.78 at the District.
Team composition: 26 total (seven seniors, seven juniors, 10 sophomores, two freshmen)
Outlook: After finishing fourth last season, Stoney Creek has blasted into this weekend as the possible favorite coming off Regional and District wins. The District score shown above is the highest in Division 1 this season, and Stoney Creek also has posted the top Round 1 (239.4), Round 2 (232.6), Round 3 (322) and average total scores (782) this winter. Seniors Renee Kehren and Mandy Lilla earned all-state honorable mentions last season.

League finish: First in OAA Red
Coach: Brooke Miller, fifth season
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2018, Class A runner-up 1996.
Top score: 792.32 at the District.
Team composition: 23 total (seven seniors, six juniors, six sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Adams has finished first or second in every event this season, including ahead of Stoney Creek at the league final. The Highlanders rank just behind Stoney Creek with the second-highest Round 2 (tied – 232.3) and Round 3 (321.2) scores in Division 1 this season, and also with the second highest total score. Seniors Amanda Lee and Taylor Mickens and junior Katie Crowe made the all-state second team last season, and junior Lyndi Harmon earned honorable mention.

League finish: Second in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Brianna Verdoodt, 14th season
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2018, two runner-up finishes.
Top score: 786.84.
Team composition: 26 total (14 juniors, eight sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: A team that graduated 10 seniors and had no juniors when it won the title a year ago is now led by a large group of juniors. Stevenson has scored 780 or higher six times this season including to win its District, and its top Round 1 score (238.8) ranks second in Division 1 while its best Round 3 (321.2) ranks third. Juniors Sophia Costa, Ava Baich and Alexis Juncaj all earned all-state honorable mentions last season.

League finish: First in MAC Red
Coach: Kristy Potance, first season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 790.76 at the District.
Team composition: 23 total (10 seniors, five juniors, eight sophomores)
Outlook: Eisenhower will compete at the Finals for the first time, led by first-year coach Potance – who brought to the program her two decades of success including at the California high school level. The Eagles have scored at least 790 twice, with their high score ranking third this season in Division 1, and their best Round 1 (238.4), Round 2 (232.1) and Round 3 (320.4) scores all among the top six. Senior Amanda Beger earned all-District honorable mention last season.

PHOTO: Rochester Hills Stoney Creek competes at its Regional last weekend; the Cougars won the meet. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)

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

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

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 keithdunlap78@gmail.com 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.)