Meeting of Rivals Goes Richmond's Way

March 2, 2019

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – For four straight years, Richmond came up just short.

For four straight years, Richmond had to watch arch rival Pontiac Notre Dame Prep hoist the championship trophy and swallow the bittersweet pill of finishing No. 2.

That background is essential to understand the utter euphoria the Blue Devils and their followers experienced Saturday evening when Richmond finally broke through again as Division 3 champion at the Delta Plex.

“We just went through the roof,” said Richmond senior Kendal Valentine, when asked about her emotions when Notre Dame was announced as the runner-up this year, leaving the Blue Devils as champs.

“My first three years we were second place every year, which starts to become repetitive. I’ll never forget that feeling sitting there knowing you fell just a little bit short of the ultimate goal. I’m so glad I don’t have to feel that again.”

Richmond, which has battled back-and-forth with Notre Dame all winter (Notre Dame won the District, Richmond took the Regional), grabbed control of the Final in Round 1 and never relinquished that lead.

The Blue Devils posted the highest score of the meet in each of the three rounds, winning convincingly with a three-round total of 787.42, with Notre Dame second at 777.72. Monroe Jefferson placed third and Charlotte took fourth.

The exclamation point came in Round 3 as the Blue Devils score of 319.50 was four points better than any other team.

“We have a very difficult third round, and our focus was right where it needed to be,” said 11th-year Richmond coach Kelli Matthes. “Our goal today was not to win. Our goal was to do our best in our last shot.”

The title was especially sweet for Richmond’s seven seniors – Jordan Anthony, Kylie Hinolosa, Hannah Lopiccolo, Megan McCallister, Olivia McCarroll, Jade Wolfe and Kendal Valentine.

While Saturday marked the end of Notre Dame’s five-year championship streak, it did extend a different run of success.

The Fighting Irish have now finished either first or second for seven straight years – the same number of years that Beth Campbell has been the head coach.

“I am very proud of this team, because it’s a lot of pressure at the top and a lot of people would like to see you lose,” said Campbell, whose first team as head coach was runner-up in 2013 and she has never had a team finish lower than second. “I think our girls handled all of that well. We will be back.”

Richmond, champion of the Blue Water Area Conference, has now finished either first or second in Division 3 eight of the last nine years. The Blue Devils previously won titles in 2012 and 2013 and took second in 2011 and 2015 through 2018.

Richmond showed remarkable consistency throughout this season, with a Division 3-best average of 779.8 per competition.

Matthes believes her team was able to take the final step this year because of preparation and practice changes her and assistant coaches Melana Fenwick and Lauren Riggs made going into this season.

“We changed how we did things around here,” said Matthes. “We did a lot more mental preparation, and I really think that paid off.

“Without change there is no change, or the old saying is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I guess you could say we were just sick of finishing second.”

Paw Paw placed fifth, followed by Comstock Park, Howard City Tri-County and Alma.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Richmond raises its championship trophy Saturday night at the Delta Plex. (Middle) A Richmond cheerleader is lifted by her teammates during a routine.

Bragging Rights for Both as Multi-Sport Sage Twins Shine at Ford Field

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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.)