D3 Preview: Great Stories to be Told

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 27, 2020

This weekend’s Division 3 story is familiar. But last year’s finish no doubt has added to the buildup. 

Dundee or Richmond has won the last 10 Division 3 team wrestling championships, and they’ve faced each other in the deciding match eight of those 10 seasons. And for the third time in five seasons, last year’s title came down to the day’s final match – this time with Dundee earning the victory by the score of 26-25.  

Those headliners are the top-two seeded teams again at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, but hardly the only story in Division 3. Among others, Fremont and Kingsley are in Quarterfinals for the first time, and Alma has made a big jump over the last two years to fall in alongside the favorites at the top.

The Division 3 Quarterfinals will be wrestled at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Top seed Dundee will wrestle Dowagiac, No. 2 Richmond will take on Kingsley, No. 3 Alma will face Fremont and No. 4 Montrose will match up with Remus Chippewa Hills. 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 3, listed by seed.

#1 Dundee

Record/rank: 20-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association 
Tim Roberts, 21st season (535-75-1)
Championship history: Eleven MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Braeden Davis (31-4) fr., 112 Kaden Chinavare (27-8) fr., 119 Jacob Fenbert (21-12) fr., 125 Aiden Davis (36-4) fr., 130 Austin Fietz (34-6) jr., 135 Casey Swiderski (32-1) soph., 135 Christian Killion (39-6) sr., 140 Kyle Yuhas (21-9) sr., 145 Tyler Swiderski (40-3) jr., 152 Dominick Lomazzo (17-4) jr., 160 Stoney Buell (38-3) jr., 181 Jaxon Guinn (31-8) sr., 215 Dennis Root (33-6) sr.
Outlook: Dundee has won two straight Division 3 titles and five of the last season, and this team remains built for now and the future with only four seniors among 13 Individual Finals qualifiers. After again winning an LCAA that included Division 4 top seed Hudson, Dundee gave up a combined 15 points over four District and Regional matches on the way back to Kalamazoo. Buell will be seeking his third individual championship next weekend, while Casey Swiderski will be seeking his second straight and Tyler Swiderski and Killion are both two-time Finals runners-up. Fietz and Guinn also are both repeat Finals placers.

#2 Richmond

Record/rank: 24-5, No. 2
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference 
Brandon Day, 16th season (476-98); Preston Treend, fourth season (94-14)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2017), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Emmet Kettle (26-8) jr., 103 Noah Harris (23-8) fr., 112 Hunter Keller (32-3) jr., 119 JD Gross (27-12) sr., 119 Josh Barton (24-8) sr., 130 Austin Kilburn (16-3) sr., 145 Kevin McKiernan (20-15) soph., 171 Wesley Peters (30-9) soph., 189 Noah Montanari (29-3) sr., 215 Luke Davis (35-2) sr., 285 Dan McKiernan (28-5) jr.
Outlook: Richmond is the two-time reigning runner-up and like Dundee always finds its way into the championship mix. After emerging with another BWAC title, the Blue Devils defeated three of league foes and also Madison Heights Bishop Foley soundly over the last two weeks, giving up a combined 48 points over four postseason matches. Keller and Davis were Finals runners-up last season, while Kilburn and Peters were placers too and Gross and Dan McKiernan also will be returning to Ford Field after competing there a year ago.

#3 Alma

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 3
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East
Coach: Randy Miniard, ninth season (212-95)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Gianni Tripp (33-13) fr., 130 Solomon Rosales (37-9) jr., 135 Dametrius Castillo (33-7) jr., 140 Jarrett Ferman (25-5) sr., 152 Jacob Munger (28-12) soph., 160 Justin VanBlaricum (30-5) sr.
Outlook: The Panthers have made another jump, from the sixth seed last season to third this weekend as they return to the Quarterfinals for the third straight year. Alma’s road again took it through Lake Odessa Lakewood, and the Panthers doubled up the No. 5 Vikings 47-21 to win the Regional title. Rosales, Castillo, Ferman and VanBlaricum all were Finals qualifiers last season, as was sophomore Josiah Baltierra (125/31-14). Castillo was an individual champion in 2018, and he, Ferman and VanBlaricum all placed a year ago. Senior Carlos Espinoza (171/30-11) gives Alma another 30-match winner.

#4 Montrose

Record/rank: 32-3, No. 4
League finish: Second in Mid-Michigan Activities Conference 
Steve Barnette, eighth season (172-79)
Championship history: Nine MHSAA championships (most recent 2005), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Seth Coffin (30-19) soph., 125 Aidan Bernard (45-4) soph., 152 Robert Skinner (28-6) jr., 171 Cody Smith (29-16) soph., 215 Levi Harber (44-4) soph.
Outlook: After last season ending a 13-year hiatus from the final weekend, Montrose is back for the second straight after wins over No. 8 Birch Run and No. 10 Otisville-LakeVille at the Regional. The lineup continues to be young and promising with only two senior starters but eight sophomores and a freshman in the expected lineup. Skinner was a Finals qualifier last season and senior Griffin Barnette (285/34-7) placed although he fell just shy of qualifying for Ford Field this season.  

#5 Remus Chippewa Hills

Record/rank: 24-5, No. 6
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association
Coach: Kevin Edwards, second season (52-7) 
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2016.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Robert VanVleet (30-16) soph., 119 Gavin Miller (27-7) jr., 119 Taylor Gibson (32-14) sr., 125 Ozaawa Manito (24-17) sr., 130 Carson Hayes (32-8) jr., 171 Gabe Petoskey (28-18) sr., 189 Chayton Wiggins (35-8) sr., 215 Colby Roosa (33-4) jr.
Outlook: Make it nine straight Regional titles for Chippewa Hills as they look to also make the Semifinals for the sixth-straight season. The Warriors edged No. 9 Shepherd 37-31 in the Regional Final to advance this time. Hayes and Roosa are returning Individual Finals placers, and bolstering those above is junior Carl Whipple (215/33-10), a Finals qualifier in 2019 and one of five 30-match winners this winter.

#6 Fremont

Record/rank: 24-4, No. 7
League finish: Second in Central State Activities Association 
Craig Zeerip, sixth season (129-60)
Championship history: Has not competed in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 RJ Thome (44-3) soph., 152 Trey Breuker (40-8) jr., 189 Michael Romero (33-15) fr., 215 Kyler Kolk (39-8) sr.
Outlook: The former Fremont and Ohio State wrestler and Hesperia head coach Zeerip will bring his alma mater to the Quarterfinals for the first time. After coming in second in the league to Chippewa Hills, Fremont edged Howard City Tri County 39-37 in its District Semifinal – but has doubled up all of its opponents since. Eight starters have won at least 30 matches, with seniors Matthew Halasinkski (140/38-10) and Chase Knudsen (160/36-9) among those joining Finals qualifiers listed above.

#7 Kingsley

Record/rank: 25-3, unranked
League finish: Second in Mid-Michigan Wrestling Conference 
Corey Crew, first season (25-3) 
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Justin Grahn (40-7) fr., 135 Aidan Shier (36-5) soph., 145 Kyan Fessenden (31-20) fr.
Outlook: In his first season leading the program, Crew has guided Kingsley to its first Regional championship and Quarterfinals trip. Eleven of 13 starters (while giving up 152) have winning records, and eight have at least 30 wins – and the team is nearly all underclassmen, with one senior and one junior on the roster. Sophomore Kaden Patterson (160/40-12), while falling shy of making the Individual Finals, also has topped 40 wins.

#8 Dowagiac

Record/rank: 23-9, unranked
League finish: Second in Wolverine Conference 
Colin Burandt, fifth season (99-45)
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recent 1998).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jordan Simpson (41-7) soph., 160 Lamberto Parades (35-12) sr., 215 Chris Schultz (19-12) sr., 285 Wyatt Bailey (40-8) jr.
Outlook: Dowagiac will bring double the number of Individual Finals qualifiers to Kalamazoo this weekend as it did a year ago as the program continues to build under former Niles standout Burandt. This team has six senior starters, as opposed to just two a year ago, and Bailey was an Individual Finals placer coming in eighth at 285 in 2019.

PHOTO: Alma, here against Lakewood in the Regional Final, will attempt to reach its first MHSAA team championship match this weekend. (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 keithdunlap78@gmail.com 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.)