D2 Preview: Hopefuls Chase Carlson

March 6, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

No MHSAA Final in any sport has produced as consistent a series of finishes as the Division 2 Competitive Cheer Final over the last four seasons.

Gibraltar Carlson on Saturday is chasing a fifth straight title. Dearborn Divine Child has finished runner-up the last four seasons and will pursue a first championship – as will five others – when competition begins at 10 a.m.

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

ALLEN PARK

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: Third in Downriver League.
Coach: Julie Goodwin, 10th season.
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2010, runner-up 2008.
Top score: 771.5.
Team composition: 25 total (11 seniors, five juniors, four sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: Allen Park moved up to third last season after two straight fourth places and could be poised to take another step. The Jaguars finished third at both their District and Regional but first or second at all but one event during the regular season – and that event was the championship meet for one of the strongest cheer leagues in the state. Senior Courtney Felt made the all-state first team last season and seniors Alicia Buhnerkemper and Katelyn Szwed earned honorable mentions.

DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD
Rank: No. 4.
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League.
Coach: Amber Genevich, 10th season.
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Top score: 771.9 at the District.
Team composition: 20 total (six seniors, three juniors, nine sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Divine Child continued to push Gibraltar Carlson for the championship last season, falling fewer than eight points from a first title. The Falcons came within six of Carlson in finishing second at both the District and Regional, and their best scores for each round all rank among the top five posted in Division 2 this winter. Seniors Kaelah O’Brien, Laura Kastler and Hanna Korpics made the all-state second team last season, and senior Maggie Marion earned an honorable mention.

DEWITT
Rank: No. 2.
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red.
Coach: Candace Heskitt, seventh season.
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2007.
Top score: 781.30 at the District.
Team composition: 23 total (four seniors, 12 juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: The Panthers have won four straight Regional championships and finished fifth at the last two Division 2 Finals – but look like a strong possibility to move up. DeWitt also won 10 of 13 events this season, with two seconds and a third place as well, and its top overall score is the best in Division 2. Senior Katlyn Sweeney and junior Abigail Wassom both made the all-state second team last season.

GIBRALTAR CARLSON
Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Downriver League.
Coach: Ayrn Ziesmer, first season.
Championship history: Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), four runner-up finishes.
Top score: 779.04.
Team composition: 19 total (two seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, 11 freshmen).
Outlook: New coach and more than half the team new to high school – same results so far. Carlson is seeking its fifth straight title and sixth in seven seasons now under Ziesmer, a former assistant for reigning Division 1 champion Southgate Anderson. Carlson has posted the top Round 2 (229.22) and Round 3 (318.6) scores in Division 2 this season and the top average overall score (768.164) by more than six points. Junior Tahlia Hamilton made the all-state second team last season and junior Angelique Voden earned honorable mention.

GRAND RAPIDS KENOWA HILLS
Rank: No. 6.
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Black.
Coach: Chris Hudson, fifth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 760.68.
Team composition: 19 total (two seniors, seven juniors, four sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Kenowa Hills is back at the Finals after missing the last two seasons and despite seeing league and District title streaks end – the Knights still finished a strong second at both. Kenowa Hills has posted scores that rank among the top 10 in the division this season for every round and has been especially strong in Round 2, where its best of 316.6 ranks fourth. Junior Bri Hardy made the all-region second team last season.

MIDDLEVILLE THORNAPPLE KELLOGG
Rank: No. 7.
League finish: First in O-K Gold.
Coach: Abby Kanitz, eighth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 775.42.
Team composition: 22 total (three seniors, four juniors, nine sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Thornapple Kellogg is back for its second straight Final and after winning its fifth straight league title. The Trojans finished sixth in Division 2 last year and are coming off their second-highest score of the season, 762.32, to finish second at their Regional. Thornapple Kellogg’s best Round 2 (228.62) and Round 3 (318.1) and overall scores all rank third in Division 2 this winter. Senior Katie Bowling made the all-state second team and senior Taylor Tyndall earned an honorable mention in 2014.

ORTONVILLE BRANDON
Rank: No. 8.
League finish: First in Flint Metro League.
Coach: Brooke Sharrard, second season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 767.42.
Team composition: 19 total (four seniors, six juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: The Blackhawks also are back at the Finals for the first time since 2012, when they finished third in Division 2, and after finishing fourth at a Regional behind the top-three ranked teams overall. They’ve won league and District titles both seasons under Sharrard. Brandon’s best Round 1 score of 233.4 ranks sixth in Division 2 this season, and it has posted its top two overall scores over its last five competitions. Junior Sierra Coughlin made the all-region first team last season.

ST. JOSEPH
Rank: Unranked.
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference.
Coach: Jenna Ruddell, fourth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 763.68 at the District.
Team composition: 24 total (six seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, eight freshmen).
Outlook: The Bears continue to rise under Ruddell, making their third Finals in a row after moving up three spots to finish fourth in 2014. The team finished first at seven events this season and posted its top two scores over the last two events – its best Round 3 score, 314.2, ranks seventh in Division 2 this season. Senior Bailey Hedman made the all-state first team last season, and senior Toria Beckum earned an honorable mention.

PHOTO: Dearborn Divine Child finished second in Division 2 last winter for the fourth straight, but will pursue its first title 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.)