D2 Preview: Contenders Chasing Carlson

March 3, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Saturday’s Division 2 Competitive Cheer Final will have a nice mix of familiar and new – even as the favorite is one of the most dominant powerhouses in the history of the sport.

Gibraltar Carlson has won six straight championships, and Allen Park is expected to make the greatest push after also finishing second last winter. But three more of eight teams at Saturday morning’s 10 a.m. competition will be taking the mat at the Finals for the first time.

Following are glances at all eight Division 2 teams competing. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Second in Downriver League.
Coach: Julie Goodwin, 12th season. 
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2010, runner-up 2016 and 2008. 
Top score: 789.12.
Team composition: 25 total (six seniors, eight juniors, eight sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Allen Park improved from fourth in 2015 to second last winter, and its top score heading into this weekend is seven points higher than at this time a year ago. The Jaguars have finished first or second in every competition this season except when they took third at their District; their top round scores are all among the top three in Division 2, and their average overall score of 777.7 is the highest in the state regardless of division. Seniors Olivia Grab and Delaney Millner and junior Carolyn Morris made the all-state first team last season, while junior Faith Ridolfi made the second and junior Hailey Woodworth earned honorable mention.

Rank: Honorable mention.
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White. 
Coach: Yvonne Ridge, 14th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 756.82 at the District. 
Team composition: 20 total (seven seniors, seven sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: The Orioles are making their first trip to the MHSAA Finals in this sport after maintaining a spot among mid-Michigan’s top teams throughout this decade. They won their sixth straight league title and first District championship under Ridge this winter and have posted their three highest scores over their most recent six competitions. Sophomore Madyson Conklin earned an all-region honorable mention last season, and the future looks bright as well with 13 underclassmen making up more than half of the roster.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League. 
Coach: Amber Genevich, 12th season.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2014).
Top score: 789.2 at the District.
Team composition: 27 total (11 seniors, six juniors, six sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Divine Child has finished among the top four, including fourth last season, at six straight Division 2 Finals and could be poised to climb again led by a large senior class. The score posted at the District is the second-highest in the division this season, and its top round scores all are among the top three in the division as well. Seniors Hannah Cifaldi and Paige Frye made the all-state first team last season, while junior Kristina Waldenmeyer made the second and senior Rylee Cronin and junior Megan O’Leary earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 6.
League finish: First in Flint Metro League.
Coach: Carrie Seymour, 13th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 763.74.
Team composition: 19 total (six seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Kearsley is having a banner season with its first league and District titles and first trip to the MHSAA Finals. The Hornets won eight of their first nine competitions – finishing second in the other – and then came in fourth at their Regional to qualify for Saturday. Senior Hailey Baltosser made the all-region second team in 2016, and senior Madison Teed earned honorable mention.

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Downriver League. 
Coach: Ayrn Ziesmer, third season.
Championship history: Nine MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), four runner-up finishes.
Top score: 793.48 at the District.
Team composition: 19 total (one senior, six juniors, three sophomores, nine freshmen).
Outlook: Carlson won its eighth title over the last nine seasons in 2016 with almost all underclassmen – and will look to extend the streak with a roster that has a little more experience but still is among the youngest in this division. That hasn’t mattered; the 793.48 score is the highest in the state, any division, this season, and the Marauders also have the top round score in the division in all three – and the tops in all divisions in Round 2 (233.1) and Round 3 (321.4). Senior Jordyn Hodge and juniors Hannah Pryba, Emily Scheffler and Samantha Zdankiewicz all made the all-state first team last season, while junior Katy Bradley and sophomore Madison VanBrimer made the second team and junior Morgan Thomas earned honorable mention.

Rank: No. 5.
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Black.
Coach: Chris Hudson, seventh season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 776.72.
Team composition: 25 total (three seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores, eight freshmen). 
Outlook: Kenowa Hills improved from sixth in 2015 to third last season and ranks among the top four in Division 2 in highest score for Rounds 1 and 2 and overall. The Knights have finished first or second at all of their events, including the District and Regional behind league rival Muskegon Mona Shores. Junior Brianne Elliott made the all-state second team last season.

Rank: No. 4.
League finish: First in O-K Black.
Coach: Amanda Heethuis, 10th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 771.22.
Team composition: 24 total (eight seniors, seven juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Mona Shores is hoping to take another step at the Finals after moving up to win its league, District and Regional and all events but two where it finished second. The Sailors were seventh at last season’s Final but have the fourth-highest average score in Division 2 of 752.4. Junior Grace VanArendonk made the all-state first team in 2016, and senior Autumn Lambert made the second.

League finish: Fourth in O-K Black. 
Coach: Brittany Hoffman, third season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 753.48.
Team composition: 22 total (four seniors, nine juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Hoffman, a member of the first cheer teams at the school before graduating in 2003, returned to coach in 2014 after then-coach Danielle Nash was diagnosed with brain cancer. Nash died in December of that year, and the team went on to reach Regionals for the first time – and now earn its first MHSAA Finals berth. The Rockets’ top three scores have come during their last three meets, including in a second-place finish to Mona Shores at the Greater Muskegon city competition.  

PHOTO: Muskegon Mona Shores, here competing in Round 3 last season, is among teams hoping to challenge Gibraltar Carlson’s dynasty Saturday.

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.)