Fewer in Number, Huskies Just as Mighty

March 4, 2017

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – Breckenridge possessed the smallest competitive cheer team in terms of numbers among the eight in Saturday’s MHSAA Division 4 Final.

Being fewer in number, however, didn't prevent the Huskies from adding another championship to their already remarkable resume.

Despite a roster of only nine, Breckenridge won its third straight Division 4 Final on Saturday at Grand Rapids DeltaPlex.

It was the second time the Huskies had won at least three titles in a row. They captured six Class C/D titles over a span of seven years from 2000-2006.

Breckenridge tallied a three-round score of 768.66 to edge runner-up Hudson (765.10.)

“We were a smaller team this year, and we worked on that and knew how the score sheet worked,” Breckenridge co-coach Deb Gaines said. “Just doing everything we could to get all the points we could as a small team. We worked harder and turned over every rock to be stronger while also working on our vocals.”

There were benefits and difficulties involved with having a decreased number of girls, according to co-coach Jenna Graham.

“It’s easier for us to work with less girls, but on the mat you can’t hide anybody,” she said. “From player one to nine they all had to be stellar.”

The members of the team didn’t mind the low total. It helped create a tight unit that was determined to continue the program’s successful tradition.

“Having less girls does help because it’s less people you have to focus on and there are less personalities,” senior Madison Smith said. “Our team is so close, and I can say that these eight girls are my best friends.”

“I think we worked together better being smaller,” added senior Harley Conklin. “There were less arguments and we flowed really well together. Overall, we just clicked well.”

The Huskies clicked well early en route to the victory. They snared the early advantage with a score of 231.90 in Round 1.

“That was our goal,” Gaines said. “We knew we couldn’t be behind after Round 1. We were pleased with that, and we’re super happy. They did exactly what we’ve been practicing to do. To come out and deliver three great rounds, and that’s what they did.”

Smith said the Round 1 effort was a motivating factor.

“We knew we gave everything we had in that round so we knew we could do it for two more rounds,” she said. “This is the best feeling, and I hope every high school athlete gets to feel this.”

The program's 10th MHSAA Finals championship was particularly special for Gaines and Graham, who are mother and daughter.

Graham cheered for her mom in the early 2000s and was a part of three titles.

“It works awesome with us coaching together,” Graham said. “It’s special to share this together.”

Added Gaines: “We’re on the same page. We have the same goals and the same outlook. This keeps us going.”

Hudson returned to the top two for the first time in seven years.

The Tigers placed runners-up in 2010, the last in a string of three straight second-places finishes from 2008-2010.

“It feels great to be second,” said 20th-year Hudson coach Kelly Bailey. “You watch a lot of teams be disappointed with runner-up, but if you’re getting a medal you are getting a medal and I have all the respect in the world for Breckenridge. They are a great program and to be that close to them … you can’t ask for anything more." 

The Tigers secured their lofty finish by posting the highest Round 3 score (315.80) of the day.

“They did exactly what we asked them to do,” Bailey said. “Just have fun and don’t give up until the end. We never looked at scores. We just went out there and did our best.” 

Adrian Madison (753.54) took third, while last year’s runner-up, Michigan Center (749.44), placed fourth.

Click for full results. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Breckenridge performs en route to repeating as Division 4 champion Saturday. (Middle) Hudson earned its highest Finals finish since 2010, taking second.

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.)