Bark River-Harris Honing In on Historic Opportunity

By John Vrancic
Special for

March 16, 2021

HARRIS — The Bark River-Harris wrestlers are gearing up for what they hope will be a historic postseason run.

BR-H will try to take the first step toward its goal when it travels to Manistique for the Division 4 Team District on Thursday.

Reigning District champ BR-H (21-2) faces the host Emeralds, and Iron Mountain meets Newberry at 6 p.m. The winners advance to the championship match at 7:30.

"This is definitely the best season we've had as a varsity program," said fourth-year coach Joe Racicot. "At the beginning of the season with the number of kids we had coming back, we thought we could be up near the top. Although, I wasn't sure we'd be 21-2. Many of the teams are shorthanded, although we're winning more matches than we're losing. We're heading in the right direction."

If the Broncos win the District, they would host the Team Regional for the first time March 24.

"It's going to be a challenge," said Racicot. "I have the utmost respect for the other coaches in our District. I've learned a lot from them. All of them are good friends and mentors to me. I'm one of the few coaches who didn't wrestle in high school because we didn't have a program here at that time. Although, it didn't take me long to fall in love with the sport."

Last year, the Broncos were crowned District champs for the first time in their 10-year history before falling to Onaway in a Regional opener.

Powers North Central sophomore Drew Allgeyer, who wrestles at BR-H through a co-op venture, is 23-0.

"We've been working hard," said Allgeyer, who will be wrestling at 160 pounds in the District and finished seventh at last season’s Finals at 145. "We have good practice partners and push each other every day. We're all helping each other to be the best we can be, which definitely pays off in competition.

"I have the strength for 171. I've been wrestling at 171 most of the year which helps me a lot,” he added. “All I want to do is have good matches. I always say I don't lose, I learn. There's always somebody better than you. That's big motivation right there."

Both of BR-H's losses this winter were to Division 2 Escanaba.

"We lost to them by six and 12 points," said Allgeyer. "They're the best team in the U.P., and they're well-coached. It's good for us to put up as much of a fight as we did, although none of this will mean anything once we get into the postseason when it really counts. Iron Mountain has a solid team. They and all the other teams will put their best lineup out there."

North Central junior Wyatt Raab (215) is 18-0 going into the postseason.

"This is the first time Bark River-Harris has had a chance to go to the state tournament as a team," he said. "We could also have the most individual qualifiers in school history. We're looking to make a lot of special trips this year.”

BR-H freshman Noah Gagne is pleasantly surprised by the Broncos' record.

"We have a lot of young guys this year," he added. "I thought we'd be pretty good, but not this good. Esky was definitely our toughest competition, and I think Iron Mountain is closer to us. “This has definitely been a learning experience for me. The older guys have been teaching me a lot of things. I've learned to be more confident. They told me to 'know what you're doing and try to listen to your coaches and teammates during a match.'"

Junior Avry Corrigan joined Allgeyer at last season’s Individual Finals. The Broncos this winter also have four girls, including junior captain Katie Viau and Melody Racicot who will be wrestling in Sunday's Michigan Wrestling Association girls state tournament at Highland.

"It's nice to see that growing," said coach Racicot. "We hope to eventually get a girls tournament in the U.P."

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTO: Drew Allgeyer’s arm is raised in victory after one of his wins last season during the Individual Finals at Ford Field. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)