Dundee's Swiderski Becomes 4th to Earn 4 Individual, 4 Team Finals Titles
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
March 5, 2022
DETROIT – Casey Swiderski took a moment Saturday for himself.
The Dundee senior and four-time Individual Wrestling Finals champion had already had his hand raised. He had already addressed the crowd and had a post-match celebration.
But as fans continued to rain applause down on him, Swiderski crouched off to the side of the mat and took it all in.
“It’s tough walking away from this,” Swiderski said following his pinfall victory against Kingsley’s Aiden Shier in the Division 3, 152-pound final. “That was it. That was my last high school match in the MHSAA season. It’s tough. It’s a lot of hard work and years. I’ve got college to go to, but that’s tough right there.”
Swiderski deserved the moment, as he finished off one of the most dominant and successful careers in MHSAA history.
With his victory, and Dundee’s team title win a week earlier, Swiderski became the fourth wrestler in state history to win four team titles and four individual titles. He joined Davison’s Brent Metcalf (who will be one of his coaches at Iowa State), Lowell’s Austin Boone and his former teammate, Stoney Buell.
“It’s amazing,” Swiderski said. “When you put in all the hard work and the belief, this is the bonus day right here. This comes with it. It’s an awesome thing.”
Swiderski (45-0) was leading comfortably in the second period of the final when Shier was able to get his first burst of offense on a deep shot. Rather than give up the takedown, however, Swiderski turned it into his own pinning combination.
He finished the tournament with three pins and one technical fall. None of his matches went beyond the second period.
Champion: Talan Parsons, Ovid-Elsie, Soph. (37-1)
Major Decision, 9-0, over Landon Sopha, Yale, Fr. (53-2)
A year after coming one match short of his ultimate goal, Parsons wasn’t going to be denied Saturday.
“This was my biggest goal,” Parsons said. “Last year I was so close, and it hurt a lot to make it all that way and not take first. So I put in all the work to make my way back and win it this year.”
Parsons jumped on Sopha early and controlled the match throughout, adding a takedown, nearfall and reversal as the match went on to win with a major decision.
Champion: Kade Kluce, Dundee, Soph. (41-6)
Decision, 5-4, over Easton Moran, Yale, Sr. (51-3)
Kluce was a returning Finals champion, having won at 103 a year ago. But he wasn’t happy with how things started this season, and the emotions were evident as he celebrated his second title.
“I just felt grateful I got the opportunity to come here and wrestle,” said Kluce, who suffered a knee injury in the summer that lingered into the beginning of the season. “I lost six matches this year, three times as much as I did last year. I don’t know, I just didn’t feel proud of myself until now.”
Kluce fell behind 2-0 as Moran picked up an early takedown, but he battled back and a takedown with 37 seconds remaining won him the match.
Champion: Braeden Davis, Dundee, Jr. (41-2)
Technical Fall, 3:32, over Connor Busz, Clinton, Jr. (48-3)
Davis has not wrestled into the third period at the Individual Finals.
He’s a three-time champion.
“I’ve just been able to bonus my way through states the past three years, and I’m really grateful,” Davis said. “I’m really happy that I’m able to do things like that.”
Davis, who has already committed to Penn State, won at 103 pounds in 2020 and 112 in 2021. Saturday’s match was his first final to make it out of the first period, but it came against an opponent in Busz who was a runner-up a year ago.
As a three-time individual and team champion, Davis has a chance to match Swiderski’s achievement next season.
Champion: Cameron Chinavare, Dundee, Soph. (39-2)
Fall, 3:14, over Fabian Facundo, Alma, Fr. (38-4)
After an early-season match between these two was airtight, Chinavare – who won that first match 4-3 – was expecting another battle.
“I know I had to go out there and keep my feet moving,” Chinavare said. “I knew he was going to come at me. I dragged him right there at the end and took him to his back. I wasn’t expecting a pin at all, but it fell right into place, I guess.”
Chinavare led the match 2-0 after the first period, and before he was able to get the takedown and pin.
Champion: Zachary Gibson, Lake Odessa Lakewood, Sr. (39-0)
Major decision, 11-0, over Caiden Pelc, Portland, Sr. (34-7)
Gibson and Pelc had met three times throughout the season, with Gibson winning each matchup.
He wasn’t worried about Pelc figuring him out, though.
“I had something new against him every time,” Gibson said.
The title was the second straight for Gibson, who won at 125 pounds a year ago. This was his first at Ford Field.
“It’s way different,” he said. “Way bigger, way more exciting.”
Champion: Aidan Bernard, Montrose, Sr. (46-1)
Decision, 8-1, over Logan Sander, Dundee, Sr. (35-7)
After winning his first Finals title, Bernard couldn’t contain his emotions.
“I’m so happy,” he said. “I’ve been wrestling since I was 9, and this is all I’ve wanted for the past nine years. I’ve been close – my sophomore year I took third. Last year I thought I was going to have it, but I was in really bad shape because of COVID. This year, I really (worked hard) and I had great coaching staff, great family, great friends who pushed me and supported me. I’m just really grateful for the moment.”
Twice during his Finals match, Bernard’s injured knee flared up. But he wasn’t going to let that stop him.
“I knew I was going to keep going,” he said. “I told my parents and my friends, even if I break something early in the match, I’m going to keep going.”
Champion: Ryker Johnecheck, Williamston, Sr. (38-2)
Decision, 5-1, over Peter Pena, Milan, Jr. (21-2)
Johnecheck never planned to be flashy in claiming his third-straight individual title. He just wanted to be efficient.
He was certainly that as he controlled his match with Pena throughout.
“I think it’s one of those matches where it’s the state finals, I’m not going to go take any unnecessary risks,” he said. “I just went out there, wrestled smart. He can catch people, so my big thing was be smart, get a comfortable score, and take what’s there, and I think that’s what I did.”
Johnecheck won at 125 in 2020 and 130 in 2021.
“It’s not what I expected coming in as a freshman,” Johnecheck said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet, that I’m going to be one of those guys in 10 years that they’re looking up (in the gymnasium) and say, ‘Oh, I knew him.’”
Champion: Aiden Davis, Dundee, Jr. (43-0)
Decision, 11-5, over Mason Cantu, Hart, Sr. (48-2)
Despite being a returning champion, Davis said he felt the pressure was on Cantu coming into their Finals match. So the Dundee junior picked his spots to finish off his unbeaten season and come away with another title.
“I’ve been here before. I sort of know the environment,” Davis said. “And I had to stay cool, calm and collected throughout the whole match.”
Davis won at 135 pounds a year ago, and was runner-up at 125 in 2020. Cantu was a Division 4 runner-up at 135 pounds in 2020.
Champion: Connor Owens, Flint Powers Catholic, Jr. (18-0)
Decision, 5-2, over Nick Marienfeld, Napoleon, Sr. (54-1)
Owens didn’t like the feeling of not winning a Finals title a year ago, when he finished runner-up at this weight. So he decided this season to simply not lose.
“This is dreams coming to reality right here, man; this is nuts,” he said. “This is my biggest wrestling dream ever, and I’m just in shock right now. That feeling of losing, whether in the state finals or not, when you’re a true competitor, you have to hate losing more than you love winning, and you just have to refuse to lose.”
The match was tied heading into the third period, but an escape and a takedown gave Owens the victory.
Champion: Kevin McKiernan, Richmond, Sr. (40-9)
Decision, 4-3, over Jake Nelson, Howard City, Sr. (38-8)
McKiernan is the youngest of five brothers, and all made a Final for Richmond. He’s now the third McKiernan to win a title.
“It means a ton,” he said. “You can’t be the only brother to not make it to the Finals. Then you’re the end of every joke. But it means a ton.”
McKiernan took third in his region, but battled through this bracket to get his first title. He scored a late first-period takedown to take his first lead, and never relinquished it.
“It’s the coaches standing in the corner, the practice partners in the room, all of that adds up to state titles,” McKiernan said. “I think this is just proof of that again.”
Champion: Jacob Munger, Alma, Sr. (43-2)
Decision, 11-5, over Logan Badge, Clinton, Sr. (36-6)
For the second time in as many weeks, Munger defeated Badge, this time claiming his first title, and denying Badge his fourth.
“All my coaches, they say to stay with the positive, remember what worked the last match and bring it to this match,” Munger said. “I stayed with the positive … I knew I had a great gas tank and brought that over. It’s just all positive.”
Munger led 6-3 heading into the third period, and added two more takedowns in the third to pad his lead.
Badge was a three-time champion in Division 4, winning at 189 in 2020 and 2021, and 215 in 2019.
Champion: Hunter Huguelet, Gladwin, Sr. (46-1)
Fall, 1:54, over Adam Garcia, Alma, Sr. (32-7)
Huguelet thought for a long time about what he could do to win his first individual title.
It didn’t take him that long to do it.
The Gladwin senior capped off his career with a first-period pin.
“That was great,” Huguelet said. “I just was focusing for the last two hours, all day today and last night, and I just came in ready to go. It feels amazing. It’s more than what I thought.”
Champion: Levi Harber, Montrose, Sr. (44-4)
Fall, 3:51, over Eli Marshall, Watervliet, Sr. (42-3)
Harber was dominant throughout the tournament, pinning each of his first three opponents in the opening minute.
His Finals match took a little longer, but ultimately had the same result.
Harber had Marshall on his back in the first period as well, but it didn’t result in a pin, and that wasn’t necessarily even the plan.
“I’m going to be honest, I threw that cradle to get some comfort points between me and him,” he said. “So, I wasn’t expecting a pin. He was getting pretty close, but I was not in the position that I felt I could pin him properly.”
PHOTOS (Top) Dundee’s Casey Swiderski is applauded after concluding his high school career with a fourth Division 3 individual championship. (Middle) Alma’s Jacob Munger, left, works toward a win at 189 pounds. (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 [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.)