Belleville Twins March to Finals Together

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

March 2, 2016

BELLEVILLE – Caleb Brown continues to be haunted by what he considers a grim disappointment in his Belleville wrestling career.

Last season, Brown lost during what those in the wrestling fraternity call the “blood round.” This is the consolation round, a match for fourth place, at the Individual Wrestling Regionals. Brown lost by one point in the 152-pound weight class to an opponent he had defeated earlier in the season and, thus, missed qualifying for the MHSAA Finals.

He was devastated but not consumed by it. For one, that was his junior season. Brown rededicated himself during the offseason. He continued to run cross country to keep his weight down and also increase his endurance.

This season Brown broke through barriers, claiming the Wayne County and Division 1 Regional championships at 152.

As proud as he is of reaching this point, it’s made even more special by the fact that he’ll enter The Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday with his twin brother Chris. Chris Brown competes at 130. Last season he qualified for the MHSAA Finals at 119 and won a first-round match before losing his next.

“It’s really cool,” Caleb said. “I missed out last year. Being a senior, it’s cool.

“(Winning the regional) didn’t hit me right away. I was just talking about it with my teammates, and that’s when it hit me. I was really focused on winning the match.”

Caleb is 44-4 this season and will face Kyle Minor of Roseville in Thursday’s first round.

Chris is 47-2 and will go against Lee Grabowski of Brighton.

The Browns say having a twin who competes in the same sports is an advantage, if for no other reason than it enhances one’s competitive nature.

They both started wrestling in middle school by chance.

“We played football in the beginning,” Chris said. “The coach told us to wrestle to keep in shape. I was terrible in the beginning. But we’ve never been known as quitters. I like the individualism. You can’t use the excuse your team lost it for you.”

Once they entered high school, the Browns gravitated even more toward the sport. But it wasn’t until their sophomore season that they became proficient at it.

For Chris, there was one match that showed he could compete against the best.

“My sophomore year was my first on varsity,” he said. “I went against a ranked opponent, and I won by a point. That was huge for my confidence.”

Coinciding with the Browns’ rise was the return of Derek Phillips as coach. Phillips started coaching in 1994 and stayed 11 seasons before taking time off to help raise two children. He remained within the school district as a teacher, but the time commitment of teaching and coaching together was not conducive to spending quality time with his sons.

In 2013, Phillips returned. He has been a mentor for the Browns and a third senior MHSAA Finals qualifier, David Tooley (215).

Phillips was the one who encouraged the Browns to compete in cross country.

“It goes hand in hand,” Phillips said of the two sports. “I love it. They come into the wrestling season in shape. All three have over 100 wins and all three are good students. They’re a coach’s dream.”

Tooley is a little different. It’s not because he plays football instead of competing in cross country. And it’s not because he’s a three-sport athlete (also plays baseball). It’s his warm-up routine that causes many to take a second look, scratch their heads or both.

It’s more than a routine. It’s a dance. Sort of. He got the idea from watching a wrestler from Southgate Anderson who competed against his brother, Mark Tooley, when the elder Tooley wrestled for Belleville in 2011.

“It’s like no other,” David Tooley said. “It’s an active movement. It’s like a dance, and it’s a little embarrassing.”

Whatever works.

The Browns’ warmup routines are a little less flamboyant, but they do get a kick out of watching their teammate go through his routine. Chris likes to listen to music just before his matches. Caleb prefers listening to his coach, receiving last-minute instructions.

Away from the mat, the Browns are constantly challenging each other. Take running, for example.

“We try to one-up each other,” Chris said. “We’ve always been competitive. I’m faster than he is, when we run cross country. We’re not too far apart though.”

Caleb judges a person’s speed all together differently.

“He might beat me in cross country,” he said. “But if it’s a true test of speed, I’m faster.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Chris Brown works to gain control during one of his Division 1 Regional matches Feb. 20. (Middle) Caleb Brown, Chris Brown, David Tooley.(Below) Caleb Brown works an opponent toward a potential pin during one of his Regional matches. (Top and below photos by Douglas Chapman.)

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.)