D4 Preview: Defending a Dynasty

March 6, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Michigan Center has built a Division 4 dynasty with its five MHSAA competitive cheer titles over the last six seasons.

But the Cardinals will have to fend another former dynasty this weekend if they are to extend that impressive streak.

Seven-time champ Breckenridge arguably is the favorite entering Saturday’s meet, which begins at 2 p.m., and eight-time champ Pewamo-Westphalia is in the mix again as well. 

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

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: Second in Tri-Valley Conference West.
Co-coaches: Deb Gaines, 29th season; Jenna Graham, seventh season.
Championship history: Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2007), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 768.46.
Team composition: 16 total (seven juniors, five sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: In its second season back as a program, Breckenridge ascended to the top rank heading into the postseason and won its District and Regional the last two weekends. Total, the Huskies have won 10 events and own the highest scores per round and overall in Division 4. They finished fifth in Division 4 in 2014 after six seasons without a program, but this time return all-state first-team sophomore Alexandria Gillis, second-team junior Lindsey Reichard and sophomore Madison Smith and honorable mention junior Alicia Gutierrez and sophomore Harley Conklin.

Rank: No. 7.
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference.
Coach: Jennifer Hlady, eighth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 705.72.
Team composition: 13 total (three seniors, five juniors, four sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Hlady started the Hart competitive program in 2007-08 and has led the team to five straight league titles and back to the Finals after it missed last season. The Pirates have finished third or better in all of their events this winter and won their District for the second time in three years. Sophomore Erika Wadel made the all-region second team last season.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: First in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Celeste Kubiak, ninth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 754.1.
Team composition: 11 total (six seniors, four juniors, one freshman).
Outlook: Houghton Lake finished sixth at last season’s Final but should be in contention Saturday after posting the second-highest Round 1 (234.1), Round 2 (222.2) and overall scores in Division 4 this season. The Bobcats won 12 of their first 13 events this winter, finishing second only at the early-season Merrill Invitational. Senior Lauren Hooper made the all-state first team in 2014, while senior Vanessa Wallace made the second and senior Brooklyn Cryderman earned an honorable mention.

Rank: No. 4.
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 18th season.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2010).
Top score: 742.12 at the Regional.
Team composition: 18 total (three seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Hudson has finished third in Division 4 the last three seasons and enters with the fifth-best scores in all three rounds and overall this winter. The Tigers have scored 727 or better four times including in their last three events. Junior Takota Voelzke made the all-state first team last season, while seniors Rianna Middleton and Cassee Milligan made the second and senior Shian Beekel earned honorable mention.

Rank: No. 8.
League finish: Does not participate in a league.
Coach: Lisa Selling, first season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 694.86.
Team composition: 10 total (five seniors, two juniors, two sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: The Emeralds are returning to the Finals for the sixth time in seven seasons after improving one spot to seventh last winter. Manistique also came downstate earlier this season and took fourth among a strong field at the Merrill Invitational. Senior Becca Bowers made the all-state first team in 2014, and senior Katie Davis made the second team.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Jessica Trefry, 14th season.
Championship history: Five Division 4 titles (most recent 2014).
Top score: 750.78.
Team composition: 16 total (seven seniors, six juniors, three sophomores).
Outlook: The Cardinals are second only to Breckenridge in average overall score this year and have posted three of their top five scores over the last four events. A number of last season’s standouts will lead again Saturday; senior Michele Martin and junior Victoria Corwin are returning all-state first-teamers, while seniors Emily Kellogg and Ashley Sierminski and junior Olivia Manke made the second team and senior Vivian Horsch and junior Kali Stiles earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 6
League finish: Does not participate in a league.
Coach: Staci Myers, eighth season.
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), nine runner-up finishes.
Top score: 746.08 at the Regional.
Team composition: 13 total (six seniors, four sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Pewamo-Westphalia missed last season’s Finals by one spot at Regionals but are back this weekend looking to build on three straight Finals runner-up finishes from 2011-13. The Pirates have pushed their scores upward throughout the season and rank among the top four in the division for high scores in each round and overall. Senior Jilian Jegla made the all-region first team last season.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Second in West Michigan Conference.
Coach: Penny Grinage-Guy, 17th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 690.8.
Team composition: 16 total (two seniors, nine juniors, four sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Shelby is headed back to the Finals for the first time since 2012. The team has only two seniors but a veteran coach in Grinage-Guy, who formerly coached at Otsego and Zion-Benton Township in Illinois during the 1980s and 90s and also at Western Michigan University. The Tigers have finished among the top three in their last six events, finishing second to Hart in both the league and District. Juniors Rebecca Kukla and Brittany Shellhouse made the all-district first team last season.

PHOTO: Breckenridge finished fifth in Division 4 last season with a roster of all underclassmen, but is the likely favorite 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 [email protected] 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.)