D2 Preview: Contenders Line Up as Lowell Hopes to Run Streak to 9
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
February 24, 2022
Two other contenders are undefeated this season. Two more are past MHSAA Finals champions.
But until defeated, Lowell will be the team leading the Division 2 title chase – in this weekend’s case, with the hope of adding to its record eight-season Finals championship streak.
That quest begins with Friday’s 6:45 p.m. Quarterfinals at Kalamazoo’s Wings Event Center – see matchups below. Semifinals will start at noon Saturday, with the championship match later that day at 3:45 p.m.
#1 Lowell (20-3) vs. #8 Birmingham Brother Rice (19-5)
#4 Gaylord (27-0) vs. #5 Monroe Jefferson (18-3)
#3 Goodrich (29-2) vs. #6 Mason (32-3)
#2 Whitehall (26-0) vs. #7 St. Joseph (23-8)
Tickets for Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals will be sold by the Wings Event Center box office. All matches for all three rounds also will be viewable on MHSAA.tv with subscription.
Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed. (Girls Finals qualifiers are noted with “G” with weight class, as those classes differ from the other Individual Finals brackets.)
Record/rank: 20-3, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: R.J. Boudro, eighth season (159-24)
Championship history: Eleven MHSAA championships (most recent 2021), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Carter Cichocki (28-3) fr., 103 Landon Musgrave (20-5) fr., 112 Jackson Blum (31-3) fr., 119 Easton Lyons (18-15) jr., 125 Owen Segorski (22-11) fr., 130 Ramsy Mutschler (26-5) sr., 135 James Link (32-5) sr., 140 Landon Miller (24-7) jr., 140 Jared Boone (25-9) soph., 145 Nate Cleaver (28-11) sr., 152 Tacho Gonzales (18-13) soph., Carson Crace (21-9) jr., 215 Carter Blough (31-2) sr., 285 Bryson Vandermeulen (23-13) sr.
Outlook: The Lowell championship machine keeps churning even after graduating four individual champs from last year’s team title winner. Crace is the reigning runner-up at 160 (after losing to graduated teammate Doak Dean in his 2021 title match), with Blough, Mutschler, Miller, Gonzales and Link also returning Individual Finals placers. The Red Arrows own wins over the other three 2021 team champions – Davison, Dundee and Clinton – plus victories over Grandville and Rockford, among others, and with their losses only to Detroit Catholic Central and two out-of-state powers.
Record/rank: 26-0, No. 2
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference
Co-coaches: Justin Zeerip and Collin Zeerip, fourth seasons (100-7)
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2021, Class C runner-up 1984.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Riley Buys (34-10) sr., 145 Max Brown (37-5) sr., 152 Alec Pruett (36-10) sr., 160 Wyatt Jenkins (37-8) fr., 171 Nicholas Blanchard (43-2) sr., 215 Shane Cook (43-2) jr., 285 Ira Jenkins (45-0) sr.
Outlook: For the second season in a row, Whitehall is entering Finals weekend as a second seed, and last year’s run to the Division 3 Final was its fourth making at least the Semifinals over the last six seasons. Jenkins hasn’t lost a match since his sophomore season and won the Division 3 title at 215 last winter, and Brown was last season’s D3 title winner at 140. Blanchard and Pruett also are returning individual placers; those four are among eight seniors in the starting lineup.
Record/rank: 29-2, No. 3
League finish: First in Flint Metro League
Coach: Kenneth Sirignano, 12th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2009), four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jaden Davis (27-2) fr., 119 Brody Orcutt (33-9) soph., 125 Ryan Angelo (35-6) sr., 125 Heremias Cheff (17-6) jr., 140 Carsen Richards (39-2) sr., 152 Max Macklem (27-9) fr., 160 Easton Phipps (25-6) soph., 171 Cameron Macklem (39-3) sr., 215 James Mahon (33-10) fr.; 115-G Kendra Vickory (7-6) soph., 125-G Ryen Allen (3-0) soph.
Outlook: Goodrich is another regular at Finals weekend, making the trip for the fifth time in seven seasons, and the Martians have finished Division 2 runners-up two of the last three years. This team has only three senior starters and nine underclassmen in the lineup, but the group is plenty accomplished already. Nine starters are back from last season’s championship match, with six repeat Individual Finals qualifiers.
Record/rank: 27-0, No. 4
League finish: First in Big North Conference
Coach: Jerry LaJoie, 28th season (775-136-2)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2020 and 2018.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Louden Stradling (19-0) jr., 135 Gabe Thompson (31-2) sr., 140 Gus James (36-8) jr., 160 Ty Bensinger (38-3) soph., 171 Brayden Gautreau (37-1) jr., 189 Riley Hush (32-5) soph.; 105-G Sunni LaFond (29-8) fr., 120-G Hanna Blyveis (14-1) fr.
Outlook: Few programs can match Gaylord’s record over the last many seasons – the Blue Devils are 106-3 over the last four and a combined 282-10 over the last nine. They also are seeking to make the Semifinals for the sixth time over the last eight seasons. Gaylord edged No. 10 Bay City John Glenn 34-29 in the Regional Final to secure this trip.
#5 MONROE JEFFERSON
Record/rank: 18-3, No. 6
League finish: First in Huron League
Coach: Mike Humphrey, 19th season (368-158)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Issac Masserant (25-6) soph., 130 Dylan Garcia (32-6) sr., 135 Caleb Smiley (26-10) sr., 140 Noah White (29-11) sr., 145 Carter Simota (18-10) soph., 189 Anthony Cousino (20-17) soph., 215 Nathan Masserant (36-5) jr.
Outlook: After returning to the Quarterfinals last season for the first time since 1995, Jefferson is making a repeat trip and has been considered among the top 10 teams in Division 2 all season. Senior Cody Richards (28-6 at 103) was last season’s runner-up at that weight, and Garcia and junior Seth Minney (31-7 at 160) were both individual placers as well.
Record/rank: 32-3, No. 7
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Brian Martel, 19th season (544-113)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2006), one runner-up finish.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Matt Ausel (43-2) fr., 125 Tayden Miller (32-0) jr., 171 Derek Badgley (45-2) soph., 189 Landon Peiffer (29-6) sr., 285 David Fancher (40-8) sr.
Outlook: Mason is headed back to Finals weekend for the second time in three seasons and with its most team wins since 2013-14. The Bulldogs also have been considered among the division’s top 10 all season, with Badgley, Miller and sophomore AJ Martel (27-1 at 160) all returning Finals placers.
#7 ST. JOSEPH
Record/rank: 23-8, No. 9
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Taylor Misel, seventh season (83-97)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Marcus Lowry (30-17) fr., 112 Noah Dahlke (33-14) fr., 119 Nolan Wertanen (46-0) sr.; 125 Landon Thomas (48-6) fr., 130 Jack Sherman (43-10) sr., 171 Jacob Halsey (46-1) sr., 189 Matthew Morris (36-12) sr., 130-G Maya Milletics (10-7) fr.
Outlook: The Bears are making their first trip to Finals weekend, with the key victory 35-34 over No. 5 Stevensville Lakeshore in the District Final. Eight senior starters are leading the charge, with Wertanen the reigning champion at 112 and Halsey last season’s runner-up at 152.
#8 BLOOMFIELD HILLS BROTHER RICE
Record/rank: 19-5, unranked
League finish: Seventh in Detroit Catholic League
Coach: Scott Kolesky, third season (41-25)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Jace Morgan (46-6) fr., 119 Ricardo Saenz (46-0) fr., 125 Luke Nelson (36-13) jr., 152 Brennan Parent (37-11) jr.
Outlook: Brother Rice has earned its second trip to Finals weekend and first since 1988, winning all four of its postseason matches so far by at least 45 points. Kolesky formerly was the head coach at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Troy Athens and has a 293-210 record over 17 seasons total. This team has taken major strides after going 6-11 a year ago, and nearly half the roster is freshmen – with five of the team’s eight starting.
PHOTO Lowell celebrates a match win during last season’s Division 2 Final. (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.
That 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)