Richmond Holds Off New Challenger to Complete 3-Peat

By Tom Kendra
Special for

March 26, 2021

EAST LANSING – Richmond getting pushed at the Competitive Cheer Finals is nothing new.

The difference Friday was there was a new team applying the pressure at the Division 3 Final at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

Richmond led upset-minded Paw Paw by a miniscule three tenths of a point heading into the pivotal Round 3, but called on its experience and tradition to deliver a clutch performance and capture its third straight championship.

“There was not one ounce of doubt from anyone that we were going to do it,” said Richmond junior Gracie Ellis, one of two returning all-staters for the Blue Devils, along with fellow junior Makenna Parker.

Richmond took first at 771.62, followed by Paw Paw (770.72) and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (767.42), which had finished either first or second for seven consecutive years.

While none of the Blue Devils had any doubt, it’s safe to say many outsiders may have wondered whether they were capable of a “three-peat.”

For one thing, Richmond lost 10 seniors off last year’s championship team and 13th-year coach Kelli Matthes fielded one of her youngest teams – and one of the youngest teams at the Finals in any division. Jenna Jaissle is the only senior on Richmond’s 23-athlete roster.

Then the Blue Devils placed a surprising fourth at Tuesday’s Regional competition.

“That kind of re-lit our fire and made us determined to go out with a bang,” said Jaissle.

Matthes said her team had another source of motivation which might have provided the extra .9 of a point it needed.

“On March 3, we lost our football coach after a five-year battle with cancer,” said Matthes, referring to 10-year Richmond head coach John Kocher. “We dealt with the COVID issue all season like everyone else, but maybe we had a little something extra.”

Richmond, which finished second to Notre Dame Prep for four consecutive years before breaking through with titles the past two seasons, looked dominant in Friday’s opening round – posting a 233.30 score, which was a full 2.4 points better than second-place Notre Dame and 2.9 points better than third-place Paw Paw.

Paw Paw Cheer

But Paw Paw, which had never finished higher than third at a Finals, moved up to within a whisker of Richmond with a near-perfect Round 2 routine.

The Red Wolves then delivered an outstanding final round to put the pressure on Richmond, meaning one mistake or bobble by the two-time reigning champ could give Paw Paw its first-ever Finals title.

Going last in the eight-team field, the young Blue Devils showed the focus and grit of seasoned veterans to pull out the win. Richmond’s final-round score of 314.80 allowed it to hold off the challenge from Paw Paw (314.20 in the final round).

In addition to returning all-staters Ellis and Parker, Richmond’s strong, eight-person junior class also includes returning second-team all-stater Ava Moskwa. The Blue Devils also have eight sophomores and six freshmen.

After the competition, it looked like there were co-champions as Paw Paw coach Stefanie Miller, in her 12th year, proudly clutched the runner-up trophy.

“These ladies have worked tirelessly to get to this point,” said an emotional Miller, who coached both of her daughters this year – Mackenzie, a senior, and Paige, a junior.

“It’s incredible to share an experience like this with my daughters. To do something that the three of us all love so much and to make school history at the same time, that’s pretty special.”

Click for full team standings.

PHOTOS: (Top) Richmond celebrates Friday's Division 3 championship won at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Paw Paw finished runner-up, its highest finish in program history. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)