D2 Preview: Chasing Lowell's Record Reign

February 27, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Significant change will spark this season’s Division 2 Wrestling Quarterfinals at Wings Event Center, as five teams will be competing in Friday’s round that did not a year ago – including two programs wrestling for the first time at this level of the tournament.

Yet amid the buzz, a constant in Michigan high school wrestling will be standing tall.

Lowell is back and the top seed in Division 2 after winning its record sixth-straight MHSAA Finals championship in Kalamazoo a year ago. In fact, the Red Arrows are the only team among the top five seeds in this division that has won a Finals title.

But extending the streak won’t come easily – especially considering the second and third-seeded teams are led by two of the most successful and longest-serving coaches in MHSAA wrestling history.

The Division 2 Quarterfinals will be wrestled at 6:45 p.m. Friday. Top seed Lowell will wrestle Croswell-Lexington, No. 2 Gaylord will take on New Boston Huron, No. 3 Stevensville Lakeshore will face Mason and No. 4 Warren Woods-Tower will match up with Muskegon Reeths-Puffer. Semifinals are noon Saturday, with the championship match that afternoon at 3:45 p.m. All matches this weekend will be viewable live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.tv. For Friday’s schedule and results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed.

#1 Lowell

Record/rank: 12-4, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
R.J. Boudro, sixth season (117-18)
Championship history: Nine MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Nick Kohorn (24-11) sr., 112 Ramsy Mutchler (26-17) soph., 125 James Link (27-14) jr., 130 Zeth Strejc (22-12) jr., 135 Dawson Jankowski (26-10) sr., 140 William Link (25-10) jr., 145 Austin Boone (34-0) sr., 152 James Fotis (23-5) sr., 160 Doak Dean (27-8) jr., 171 Jacob Lee (30-9) jr., 215 Jacob Hough (27-9) sr., 215 Keegan Nugent (32-6) jr., 285 Tyler Deloof (18-5) sr., 285 Grant Pratt (26-11) sr.
 Add to the Red Arrows’ record run that they qualified a full 14 for next week’s Individual Finals, and that alone tells a pretty good story of the team’s continued dominance this winter. Some lineup maneuvering allows Lowell to get 13 of its 14 individual qualifiers into a team match, with freshman Landon Miller (103/19-8) joining the star-loaded group. Boone will wrestle for his fourth individual championship next weekend, and Korhorn was a Finals runner-up in 2018. Deloof, Mutschler, Fotis, Dean and Lee were individual placers last season.  

#2 Gaylord

Record/rank: 30-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Big North Conference
Jerry LaJoie, 26th season (729-135-2)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2018.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Brendan Smith (34-9) fr., 112 Gabe Thompson (30-8) soph., 125 John Sosa (35-2) sr., 125 Will Sides (38-5) sr., 130 Rico Brown (30-1) sr., 145 Chayse LaJoie (33-0) sr., 160 Jacob McKnight (38-2) sr.  
Outlook: Gaylord fell by only 10 to Lowell in last season’s Semifinal match and hasn’t lost since, reaching this weekend with a 33-30 Regional Final win over No. 3 DeWitt. Chayse LaJoie just missed on a third individual title in 2019, falling in a 3-2 decision in the 125 championship match, and he too hasn’t lost again. Sosa and McKnight also were Finals placers last season, and junior Quinn Schultz (189/40-8) was a qualifier a year ago although he did not make the final weekend this season. Two freshmen also have broken 40 wins – Gus James (119/40-7) and Brayden Gautreau (152/43-6).

#3 Stevensville Lakeshore

Record/rank: 19-1, No. 6
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Bruce Bittenbender, 50th season (939-264-2)
Championship history: Class B runner-up in 1986 and 1994. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Cameron Litaker (26-6) soph., 119 Aaron Lucio (34-5) fr., 130 Micah Hanau (36-3) soph., 135 Shane Williams (38-2) sr., 160 Case Rohl (18-6) sr., 215 Zeke Rohl (34-5) sr.
Outlook: Bittenbender – the state’s winningest coach by more than 100 matches – will lead Lakeshore to the Quarterfinals for the 11th time in the 32-year history of the team format and after the Lancers missed a year ago. They advanced this time with Regional wins over No. 9 Niles and Battle Creek Harper Creek. Litaker, Hanau, Williams and Zeke Rohl all were Finals placers last season, and junior James Harris (145/35-7) has been another big winner this winter.  

#4 Warren Woods-Tower

Record/rank: 17-6, No. 5
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Greg Mayer and Russell Correll, 20th seasons (389-249)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2017.
Individual Finals qualifiers:  103 Tyler Daniel (33-11) soph., 119 Joe Haynes (44-3) jr., 119 Gavin Shoobridge (24-12) jr., 125 Josh Howey (34-7) soph., 130 Dru Wilson (39-7) jr., 135 Mathew Booth (31-14) jr., 152 Tim Lewis (30-14) sr., 160 Ryan Radvansky (35-12) fr., 171 Omari Embree (24-2) soph.
Outlook: Tower has become a regular at the Quarterfinals with this its fifth-straight trip and sixth in seven seasons. The Titans again made the Semifinals last season and are seeded to do the same with a lineup including five seniors but eight Finals qualifiers who are juniors or younger. Embree was last season’s champion at 160 as a freshman, while Haynes was runner-up at 119 and Howey also placed at the Individual Finals. Wilson joined Haynes as a placer in 2018.

#5 Muskegon Reeths-Puffer

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 7
League finish: First in O-K Black
Coach: Matt Brink, 14th season (269-117)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Jacob Blawat (40-7) jr., 152 James Rozycki (42-4) jr., 189 Colby Stephenson (45-2) sr., 215 Hunter McCall (41-1) sr.
Outlook: Brink, a three-time individual champion at Fruitport, has led Reeths-Puffer to its first Regional championship to go with six straight District and league titles. The Rockets opened the postseason with a four-point District win over No. 8 Whitehall and also got past Allendale by nine in the Regional Final to earn this first-time opportunity. McCall brings experience on the big stage; he finished third at 215 last season. Nine starters total have at least 30 wins – junior Thade Radosa (145/42-3) just missed qualifying for the Individual Finals but is another top contributor.

#6 Mason

Record/rank: 23-2, unranked
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Brian Martel, 17th season (486-110)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2006), one runner-up finish.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Tayden Miller (39-5) fr., 130 Tanner Miller (41-1) sr., 285 Jack Gilchrist (40-2) sr.
Outlook: A three-time Division 2 champion during the first decade of the 2000s, Mason is back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2013. The Bulldogs have won 11 straight District titles but frequently have run into state-ranked competition at the Regional level – and this time they advanced with a 33-27 upset of No. 4 Eaton Rapids in the Regional Final. Tanner Miller finished fifth at 130 last season and is one of seven senior starters finishing their careers memorably.

#7 New Boston Huron

Record/rank: 21-4, No.10
League finish: First in Huron League
Jack Shulaw, 17th season (371-117)
Championship history: Class B champion 1978 and 1981.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 135 Dylan Carr (36-11) sr., 160 Nelson Poet (37-4) sr., 171 Cody Brenner (44-2) jr., 171 Kael Wisler (32-5) soph., 189 Braden Damiani (37-5) sr., 215 Brendan Damiani (37-6) sr., 285 Tyler Short (35-9) jr.
Outlook: New Boston Huron won its first Regional title since 2003, with a 38-37 win over Gibraltar Carlson sending the Chiefs to Kalamazoo. Like Mason, Huron has had plenty of success in earlier rounds, following up nine league titles over the last decade with their eighth District championship during that time two weeks ago. Poet was the individual runner-up last season at 160, and Brenner, Braden Damiani, Carr and senior Kaleb Rosen (145/36-4) also were Finals placers.

#8 Croswell-Lexington

Record/rank: 31-9, unranked
League finish: Third in Blue Water Area Conference
Coach: Joe Lilly, 22nd season (449-183)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Christopher Lilly (49-1) sr., 135 Xzavier Suess (43-3) jr., 171 Vincent Scaramuzzino (46-4) jr.
Outlook: Croswell-Lexington also celebrated its first Regional title last week after winning its sixth District title over the last seven seasons and emerging from a BWAC that includes Division 3 second seed Richmond. Christopher Lilly is the reigning individual champion at 135 and Scaramuzzino was fourth at 152 last season.

PHOTO: A Mason wrestler works toward a pin during Individual District competition Feb. 15. (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.)