D4 Preview: Field Filled with 1st-Title Hopefuls

March 6, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Six of eight competitive cheer teams taking the mat in Division 4 on Saturday at Grand Rapids’ Delta Plex will be competing this weekend for their first MHSAA Finals championship in the sport.

In fact, two will be appearing at the Finals for the first time, and two more have only debuted over the last three seasons.

That could make for some interesting possibilities, as reigning champion Pewamo-Westphalia and last year’s runner-up Hudson again lead the chase – but with a number of contenders gaining on historic opportunities.

Below are glances at all eight teams competing for this year’s title. Round 1 begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, and the event in its entirety will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis. Click here for the Finals rotation schedule and other important information.

League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Jessica Sword, 13th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 763.76.
Team composition: 20 total (seven seniors, four juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen)
Outlook: Addison is headed back to the Finals for the second time in three seasons and second time ever, this time with a Regional runner-up finish to Hudson. Sword grew up in the Hudson program – her mother Kelly Bailey is the longtime Tigers coach – and Sword has built Addison in a program capable of challenging the elite. The Panthers’ best Round 3 score this season of 316.3 ranks second-highest in Division 3, and their top Round 2 (221.9), total, and average total (763.8) scores all rank fourth. Seniors Abigail Zacharias, Christina Bailey and Jenica Sword all earned all-Regional honors last season. 

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Sarah Kope, first season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 732.74 at the Regional.
Team composition: 9 total (two seniors, one junior, four sophomores, two freshmen)
Outlook: Madison ran its streak of third-place Finals finishes to three straight last season. Kope served as an assistant for all three of those teams before taking over her alma mater this winter. The Trojans steadily have built to this stage this winter, with their top three total scores coming in their three most recent meets. Seniors Abbey Dusseau-Garno and Hannah Lobkovich both made the all-state first team last season for the second time.

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Lisa Clavier, 11th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 757.12.
Team composition: 9 total (five seniors, three juniors, one sophomore)
Outlook: East Jordan will make its first appearance at the Finals, and with some interesting possibilities. The Red Devils’ top Round 1 score (237.1) also is tops in Division 4 this season, while their best Round 2 (219.9), overall and average overall (711.6) scores all rank fifth. They took first or second in nine of 12 meets this season. Seniors Jaelyn Snyder, Lilly Ziebarth, Maggie Stevenson and junior Lexi Rake all earned all-Regional recognition in 2019.

League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver
Coach: Sue Smith, eighth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 742.34.
Team composition: 14 total (one senior, seven juniors, five sophomores, one freshman)
Outlook: After making the Finals last season for the first time, NorthPointe is headed back again after winning a third-straight league title and posting its second-highest total score of this winter to finish second at its Regional. Round 3 is a strength, as the Mustangs’ top score of 306.0 ranks sixth in Division 4. Junior Kristi Smith made the all-state first team last season, and junior Malia Baugh made the second team.

League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 23rd season
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2018, six runner-up finishes. 
Top score: 777.38.
Team composition: 22 total (five seniors, eight juniors, five sophomores, four freshmen)
Outlook: Last season’s runner-up finish was Hudson’s third-straight placing in the top two, and the Tigers look strong to make another run at the title. All of their total scores this season are above 700, and their best total score is 10 points higher than last year’s heading into the Finals. They’ve won every competition but one, and all of their high round scores rank fourth or higher in Division 4, with their best Round 2 (227.6) second on that list. Although Hudson’s all-staters from last season are not posted, seniors Summer Walker, Anna Valdez, Lyndsey Tanner, Savanna Proudfoot and Anna Loar; juniors Kaley Bloomer, Ahna Marry, Kallahan Marry and Emma Shirey; and sophomore Maize Sholl all earned all-Regional recognition in 2019.

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Nicole Lasak, seventh season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 764.64 at the District.
Team composition: 7 total (three seniors, two juniors, two sophomores)
Outlook: Munising has a great opportunity to improve on last season’s eighth-place finish. The Mustangs won eight of their first nine competitions this winter with a second in the ninth before finishing third at their Regional. All but their first total score of this season has been 714 or higher. All of their best round scores rank fourth or higher in Division 4 – the 229.8 Round 2 is tops on that list – and their average total score of 742.5 ranks second and is 42.5 points higher than a year ago. Senior Kali Donnelly made the all-state first team last season, and junior Marae Ake made the second.

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Staci Myers, 13th season
Championship history: Nine MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), 10 runner-up finishes.
Top score: 779.24.
Team composition: 15 total (four seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen)
Outlook: The Pirates went from eighth in 2018 to champion a year ago, and they haven’t slowed down with first or second places at every competition and wins at their District and Regional. Their 745.4 average total score in tops in Division 4 and would rank sixth in Division 3 and 10th in Division 2. All three round high scores are among the top three in Division 4, with the best Round 3 (316.7) ranking first. Senior Isabelle Droste and sophomore Lindsey Pohl made the all-state first team last season, while junior Ellie Pohl made the second team and senior Olivia Richards, junior Ella Smith and sophomore Halie Myers earned honorable mentions.

League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West
Coach: Jetta Stimac, fourth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 752.04 at the District.
Team composition: 18 total (seven seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: St. Charles also will be making its Finals debut after winning its league and District and placing fourth at its Regional. The Bulldogs have two high round scores among the top seven in Division 4 for those respective rounds, with their best Round 3 (311.6) ranking fifth. Senior Addison Stimac earned all-Regional recognition last season, while senior Lauren Rankin and junior Breya Lennox made the all-District first team.

PHOTO: Munising athletes celebrate winning their District at East Jordan two weeks ago. (Photo by Sports in Motion.)

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.)