D1 Preview: Champions March Again

March 1, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend’s Division 1 Individual Finals field is arguably the deepest in championship experience in a number of years.

A total of 12 reigning title winners will be back on the mat starting Thursday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Five more 2016 runners-up also return, including one who won it all in 2015. Walled Lake Central senior Ben Freeman is seeking to become the 22nd in MHSAA history to win Finals titles all four years of high school.

Below is a brief look at all of those returning champions, plus a number of others to watch over the three-day event. Follow all the matches beginning with Thursday's first round on a subscription basis live on MHSAA.tv, and click here for results at MHSAA.com. And come back to Second Half this weekend as we’ll interview all 14 title winners.

The MHSAA Wrestling Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard. College choices below are based on reporting by Michigan Grappler.

112: Benyamin Kamali, Detroit Catholic Central junior (37-3) – Last season’s champion at 103 needed overtime to claim his first title, but he enters this time coming off his team’s championship last weekend and as the top seed with the fewest losses in Division 1 at this weight.

119: Mikey Mars, Westland John Glenn junior (53-3) – Mars is the second seed at this weight coming off championships at 103 as a freshman and 112 last winter; he’s 156-7 during his high school career but coming off a sudden-victory loss at the Team Quarterfinals.

130: Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central sophomore (33-3) – One of the most highly-regarded freshman last season is now a top sophomore, looking to add a second title after winning last season at 119.

135: Noah Schoenherr, Bay City Western senior (45-3) – He’s made two straight championship matches, winning at 130 pounds last season, and enters as the top seed at a weight he’ll share with his sophomore brother Victor.

140: Ben Freeman, Walled Lake Central senior (30-0) – As noted above, Freeman is seeking his fourth straight championship with previous wins at 103, 125 and 130, and to finish a third straight perfect season after suffering his only loss as a freshman. He’s signed with Michigan.

145: Cameron Amine, Detroit Catholic Central sophomore (41-3) – Last season’s champion at 125 joins Davenport as another strong sophomore, and enters as the second seed at this weight.

145: Reese Hughes, Hartland senior (37-2) – The reigning champion at 140 is seeded fourth at this weight after leaving his Regional Final against this weekend’s top seed Danny Pfeffer with an injury; Hughes didn’t wrestle in last weekend’s Team Quarterfinal and Semifinal. He will continue next season at Michigan.  

152: Nathan Atienza, Livonia Franklin senior (54-1) – The champion at 145 in 2016 is seeking to reach his third straight Final and has lost only one match over the last two seasons; he’s seeded second to Grandville’s Kameron Bush (below) and has signed with Michigan State.

152: Kameron Bush, Grandville senior (36-1) – After claiming last season’s title at 152 with a 7-6 decision, Bush enters as the top seed at this weight and with an 80-3 record over the last two seasons.

171: Tyler Morland, Detroit Catholic Central senior (33-0) – Morland has only one loss over the last two seasons and avenged it in last season’s Final at this weight; he can cap his career with a second straight individual title to go with last weekend’s team win on the way to continuing at Northwestern.

189: Brendan McRill, Davison senior (37-2) – Last season’s champion at this weight enters as only the second seed this time, but seeking a second title and fourth top-five finish before heading to West Virginia.

285: Nicholas Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central senior (42-1) – If Jenkins was a bit of a surprise last season, he hasn’t been able to hide this winter coming off the 2016 title at this weight and heading to Central Michigan to continue his career.

2016 runners-up: Ann Arbor Pioneer senior Rayvon Foley (119, 50-3, 103 in 2016), Davison junior A.J. Facundo (125, 32-5, 119 in 2016, 112 champ in 2015), Southgate Anderson senior Donte Rivera-Garcia (125, 46-1), Macomb Dakota junior Tyler Sanders (130, 38-3), Westland John Glenn senior John Siemasz (145, 48-6, 135 in 2016).

Also undefeated: Fraser senior Danny Pfeffer (145, 54-0), Portage Northern senior Matthew Heaps (171, 47-0), Flushing junior Ben Cushman (215, 52-0).

No. 1 seeds: Detroit Catholic Central freshman Devon Johnsen (103, 32-10), DCC’s Kamali (112), New Baltimore Anchor Bay’s Jack Medley (119, 51-2), Southgate Anderson’s Rivera-Garcia (125), Brownstown Woodhaven senior Xavier Graham (130, 52-1), Bay City Western’s Noah Schoenherr (135), Walled Lake Central’s Freeman (140), Fraser’s Pfeffer (145), Grandville’s Bush (152), Holt senior Kolin Leyrer (160, 37-2), DCC’s Morland (171), Grandville senior Ryan Vasbinder (189, 18-2), Flushing’s Cushman (215), DCC’s Jenkins (285).  

PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central's Benyamin Kamali (right) prepares to face Hartland's Corey Cavanaugh during a Team Semifinal on Saturday. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.

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.)