D4 Preview: Breckenridge Ready to Repeat

March 4, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Breckenridge returned to the elite of MHSAA competitive cheer last season and remains the team to beat at this weekend’s Division 4 Final.

But although the Huskies ended Michigan Center’s four-season hold on the championship in 2015, they must again hold off the Cardinals and six more contenders seeking their first Finals title.

Following are glances at all eight Division 4 teams competing at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West.
Co-coaches: Deb Gaines, 31st season; Jenna Graham, eighth season.
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 767.34.
Team composition: 18 total (seven seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Breckenridge completed its program comeback by winning Division 4 last year, and a repeat this weekend might signal a start of another run like the four straight titles won during the mid-2000s. The Huskies won all of their events this season except the Ovid-Elsie Invitational, where they finished second, and have scored 760 or more points four times – they’ve posted the high score in Division 4 in every round, and their average overall score of 739.90 is 21.2 points ahead of the next highest. Two-thirds of the current roster received all-state honors last season: senior Lindsey Reichard, juniors Madison Smith, Alexandria Gillis and Harley Conklin and sophomores Kasey Conn and Anyssa Betancourt made the first team; seniors Katie Mortensen and Dakota Colthorp and junior Lena Crowell made the second team; and seniors Kaitlyn Corson, Paige Guthrie and Alicia Gutierrez earned honorable mention.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Second in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Taylor Bryant, fourth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 704.36.
Team composition: 13 total (four seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Farwell has posted its top three overall scores over its last three events and emerged from the strong Jack Pine Conference to reach the Finals for the first time under Bryant. The Eagles emerged from a Regional that included No. 11 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian and haven’t finished lower than fourth at an event this season. Seniors Michelle Boyd, Reagan Douglas and Halaina Laverty earned all-district recognition last season.

Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Celeste Kubiak, 11th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 741.48.
Team composition: 13 total (four seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Houghton Lake is looking to take the next step after improving from sixth to fifth over the last two Finals and has won 10 of 13 events this winter, never finishing lower than fourth. The Bobcats’ top round scores this season all rank among the top five in Division 4, and the Round 1 best of 231 points is second only to Breckenridge’s top score, and by less than a point. Seniors Ali Juillerat, Ashley Leahy, Miki Maze and Sarah McNeill and sophomore Jessica Whelpley earned all-district recognition last season.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 19th season.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2010). 
Top score: 733.18.
Team composition: 21 total (nine seniors, six juniors, five sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Hudson has finished third, third, third and fourth in Division 4 the last four seasons and has scored more than 700 points 11 times this winter to build the third-highest average total score in the division of 712.8. All three top round scores rank among the top eight in the division, and the Tigers could make their biggest push in Round 2. Senior Takota Voelzke made the all-state first team last season, and senior Alex Smith made the second team with junior Bobbi Selix receiving honorable mention.

Rank: No. 4.
League finish: Second in Tri-Valley Conference West.
Coach: Courtney Schiller, 11th season.
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2014.
Top score: 737.98.
Team composition: 10 total (four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: After a year away, the 2014 runner-up will return to the Finals, and has shined on the way while sharing a league with favorite Breckenridge. All three of the Vandals’ top round scores rank among the top five in Division 4, and their average overall score of 718.7 is second in the division. While Merrill finished first at only one event, it placed lower than second just three times and never lower than fourth.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Jessica Trefry, 15th season.
Championship history: Five Division 4 titles (most recent 2014). 
Top score: 750.10. 
Team composition: 16 total (six seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Michigan Center followed up its string of four straight Division 4 championships with a third-place finish a year ago, and has finished lower than second in an event only once this season. The Cardinals’ nine events won included the District, and they finished second at their Regional only to top-ranked Breckenridge. Their best round scores for all three rank among the top four in the division. Seniors Victoria Corwin and Olivia Manke made the all-state first team last season, and senior Allison Hatt made the second team.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Third in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Val MacKenzie, 22nd season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 721.92 at the Regional.
Team composition: 10 total (three seniors, seven freshmen). 
Outlook: Meridian gives the Jack Pine Conference its third team at the Finals and in this division. The Mustangs won four events this winter including the Regional ahead of league opponents No. 5 Houghton Lake and Farwell. The team owns the ninth-best Round 2 score in the division this season, and that Regional score was more than 18 points better than what the team posted in finishing second at the District. Senior Courtney Wasalaski earned all-district honorable mention in 2015.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Tied for first in West Michigan Conference. 
Coach: Penny Grinage-Guy, 18th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 711.98.
Team composition: 20 total (eight seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Shelby is back at the Finals for the second straight season and looking to improve on its eighth-place finish in 2015 after winning a District title and finishing third at its Regional. The Tigers ran off a string of eight first or second-place finishes over their first 10 events and have posted their top three scores of the season over their last three meets. Sophomore Sophie Clark is a returning all-state first-teamer, while senior Elizabeth Kelly made the second team last season and senior Brittany Shellhouse earned honorable mention.

PHOTO: Breckenridge begins its Round 3 routine on the way to winning last season’s Division 4 championship.

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.)