Notre Dame Reloads, Runs Streak to 5
March 3, 2018
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – Pontiac Notre Dame Prep competitive cheer coach Beth Campbell was being honest when she stated that she believed the program could possibly be in rebuilding mode this season.
As Saturday night came to a close, that prediction couldn’t have ended up farther from the truth.
Despite heavy graduation losses and a bevy of underclassmen, the Fighting Irish kept their MHSAA Finals streak intact. Top-ranked Notre Dame Prep won its fifth consecutive Division 3 championship at the DeltaPlex with a three-round total of 776.48.
The Irish slipped past runner-up Richmond, which tallied a 771.50 score.
“I had 10 freshmen and five sophomores, two who had never been on the mat, and graduated seven kids that were outstanding in our program,” Campbell said. “I thought at the beginning of the season it was going to be a rebuilding year.”
Instead of rebuilding, the Fighting Irish simply reloaded. They went unscathed throughout the season, failing to lose a competition.
“I never would have dreamed it, to be honest,” Campbell said. “I thought we were going to have a lot of work ahead of us, but these kids, who were my seniors, know how to lead and they taught the kids our culture from day one. It was a pretty smooth season.”
The success was sparked by the leadership of the team’s four seniors: McKenna Dooley, Tessa Woryk, Rachel Michel and Taylor Beaver.
“These seniors never doubted it, and they told me on day one that this was how it was going to end,” Campbell said. “And they kept their word.”
The quartet refused to be denied in their pursuit of another Finals crown in their final high school season. They were committed to helping mentor the younger girls.
“To be responsible for this group of girls and teaching them our team mentality, it feels amazing,” Woryk said.
Added Michel: “We lost a very talented group of seniors from last year and only had four seniors with 10 freshmen coming on the team, but they were amazing and they caught onto the team culture right away. They worked super hard, and this ended up as one of the best teams we’ve ever had, in my opinion.”
Dooley said there was a sense of pride in keeping the tradition of the program going.
“Thinking about the girls that started it, it’s amazing that we get to continue the legacy they set for us,” she said. “I’m so grateful to be a part of it, and Rounds 1 and 2 were the best we’ve done all season. We peaked at state, which is what we planned on.”
The Fighting Irish boasted high scores in both of the first two rounds to build a comfortable advantage over Richmond.
And although their third round wasn’t their best, it proved to be enough to solidify the victory.
“Round 3 has been our power round, and we have not lost that round by any less than five points this year,” Campbell said. “You could see a little inexperience in that round today with more bobbles than we normally do, but they are fighters and they were able to keep it in the air and do enough to give us that fifth state championship.”
Richmond, ranked No. 2, placed runner-up to Notre Dame Prep for the fourth straight year. The Blue Devils previously won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.
“We are disappointed because you always want to win, but after what happened last year we had a lot to deal with,” Richmond coach Kelli Matthes said. “We had kids quit and we had kids who didn’t come back. The fact that they came out and won the third round and hit better than they have all year long, they were able to put that ghost away.”
Richmond, which had only one senior, finished with a flurry and produced the top score (318.0) in Round 3.
“I’m extremely proud of them, and they left it all on the mat and it showed,” Matthes said. “And the bottom line is, we might have the silver trophy, but they won the third round and that’s what they will take with them.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep performs during Saturday's Division 3 Final. (Middle) Richmond cheerleaders elevate in unison during a routine.
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.
That 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)