No Stopping Gibraltar Carlson in D2

March 2, 2013

By Dean Holzwarth
Special to Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – Gibraltar Carlson senior Annie Hajec was in an unfamiliar place Saturday afternoon during the MHSAA Division 2 Final at the DeltaPlex.

Instead of helping her team compete for another championship, the four-year varsity performer was on crutches with her left ankle bandaged after tearing her Achilles tendon during Round 3 at last weekend’s Regional.

“It was definitely tough not being out there, but I knew they could do it,” Hajec said. “Every single one of those girls is so talented and so driven. It is the best team I’ve ever been on.”

The loss of a seasoned leader, however, didn’t derail the Marauders’ recent success.

Gibraltar Carlson used a dominating Round 2 effort to gain a sizable advantage and claim another MHSAA title – its third straight and fifth over the last six seasons.

The Marauders finished with a three-round total of 782.48 to end ahead of second-place Dearborn Divine Child (772.92) and third-place Mount Pleasant (762.08).

“Today was a wonderful, wonderful day,” Gibraltar Carlson coach Danielle Jokela said. “We’ve suffered a lot of setbacks this week with losing our four-year senior, who was in every round, to an injury. But they fought as hard as they could after losing at Regionals.

“We practiced Sunday through yesterday (Friday) with their whole heart, and so winning today was the sweetest victory that I’ve ever had.”

Hajec’s absence forced the Marauders to shuffle each round and throw different girls into the mix.

The changes were hardly noticeable, especially in Round 2, as the team took control with a high score of 230.48 and opened a five-point lead entering Round 3.

 “We made some last-minute changes Friday,” Jokela said. “We took somebody out, and put someone else in, and it was on the line. It was heart that pulled them through because at this point, the skill was already there.”

Hajec was overwhelmed by her team’s Round 2 effort.

“That was the best that round has been all year, and I was so excited to watch it,” Hajec said. “I was jumping and screaming. I was so happy, and the team handled the pressure today very well.”

Gibraltar Carlson capped the afternoon with a spirited Round 3 and left little doubt in defending their title.

 “It was a beautiful round, and I’ve never seen a group of girls fight so hard for something,” Jokela said. “We put somebody else new in that round and they decided that it wasn’t going to stop them from being state champions, because that’s what they deserved.”

While the Marauders have transformed into a perennial Division 2 powerhouse, Jokela said remaining a top contender hasn’t been easy.

 “It’s real easy when you are second or third or not in the state finals at all to fight to be here, but to be in first place and consistently win is the hardest thing in the world,” she said. “It’s hard to stay on top when everyone is coming after you and you know it.”

It was an all too familiar finish for Divine Child, which won the Catholic High School League this winter.

The Falcons fell short of another MHSAA title and finished second to Gibraltar Carslon for the third straight year.

 “My girls had a goal of just having three great rounds, and they just left it in the hands of the judges,” Divine Child coach Amber Genevich said. “Unfortunately, the cards didn’t fall the way we wanted them to today, and it was disappointing. But at the end of the day, I’m proud of my team and the hard work they put in all season and the obstacles they had to overcome.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Gibraltar Carlson competes during Saturday's Division 2 Final at Grand Rapids' DeltaPlex. (Middle) Dearborn Divine Child, also competing Saturday, finished runner-up this season. (Bottom) Carlson poses with its trophy on the DeltaPlex floor. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photo.)

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 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.)