With Final Takedown, Goodrich's Phipps Arrives at Championship Destination

By Drew Ellis
Special for Second Half

March 4, 2023

DETROIT – A journey that had been 13 years in the making finally ended with a dream come true for Goodrich junior Easton Phipps.

Since he began wrestling at age 4, Phipps had been focused only on winning a state title.

At Saturday’s Division 2 Individual Finals, Phipps (41-4) had to tap into everything he had worked for to win the 190-pound championship.

After a 1-1 tie through three periods with Clio’s Jacob Marrs (37-5), the two remained tied after the sudden victory stage.

Things came down to the ultimate tiebreaker, which saw Phipps score a takedown to win.

“That state title is what was pushing me,” Phipps said. “I wanted to avenge all my teammates that didn’t get the shot to get a state title. I worked for them and the whole town. I get my picture on the wrestling room wall now.”

The junior said his championship match just came down to will power, as the two cancelled each other out in skill.

“I don’t really know what to say; the skill wasn’t there, it was just about toughness when it got into overtime,” Phipps said.


Champion: Brady Baker, Stevensville Lakeshore, Soph. (48-2)
Major Decision, 9-1, over Cristian Haslem, St. Clair, Fr. (46-2)

Baker had control throughout the whole match as the sophomore took home his first Finals championship.

He hit multiple takedowns and a reversal to keep Haslem from getting into the match.

“Things played out well,” Baker said. “I was getting into my attacks, scoring early and often. That’s what you have to do if you want to win.”

Baker failed to place at last year’s Finals and was motivated all season because of that. That motivation pushed him to a championship.

“It means a lot to not place last year and come in this year and win a state title,” Baker said. “It had been on my mind a lot, but there’s still bigger things to come.”


Champion: Malachi Kapenga, Hamilton, Soph. (48-4)
Decision 6-4 (OT) over Carter Cichocki, Lowell, Soph. (31-9)

The longest seconds of Kapenga’s life occurred as he awaited a referee’s decision at the end of the third period.

Trailing Cichocki 4-3, Kapenga managed to score an escape as the round ended, but also looked as if he may have had a takedown. Referees conferenced on whether he escaped in time, or even potentially won.

After ruling Kapenga got the escape point, he then went on to score a takedown in sudden victory to win his first Finals championship.

“I just was waiting and praying that they would at least give me one point,” Kapenga said. “I knew if I got the one point, I was at least still in the match. I was expecting a win or a loss, so getting the point, I was happy to at least be going into overtime.”

The match with Cichocki was back-and-forth, with both wrestlers holding leads during the first three rounds.

“It was a hard-fought match, and I had to be smart with my shots,” Kapenga said. “To win feels amazing. I have been working very hard toward it.”


Champion: Jackson Blum, Lowell, Soph. (39-3)
23-8 Technical Fall (4:52) over Tayden Miller, Mason, Sr. (37-2)

Blum was very workmanlike in winning a second championship.

The Lowell sophomore scored takedown after takedown to pick up the tech fall victory in the third period.

“There can be some built-up anxiety as you approach the match, but it’s just about getting into what you know you can do and the pressure goes away,” Blum said.

The pressure of a second consecutive title never seemed to get to Blum during the season, as he kept his focus on getting better each day.

“You feel that pressure, but you just have to block it out and do what you do in practice each day,” Blum said. “If you put in the work, the rest takes care of itself.”


Champion: Marcello Milani, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Sr. (50-0)
Decision, 3-0, over Bryce Shingelton, Linden, Sr. (45-3)

Milani had to wrestle a flawless match to get past Shingelton.

A first-round takedown got him off to a good start, and an escape in the third was the insurance point he needed to grind out the victory.

“I was just trusting in my wrestling, trusting in what I could do,” Milani said of what carried him through the match. “I have trained for this and had to trust that I did the work.”

The Orchard Lake St. Mary’s senior was able to cap off his career with a perfect 50-0 record on top of the title.

“This is something I really wanted since I was a freshman,” Milani said. “I am really glad I got to close it out this year.”


Champion: Grant Stahl, Mount Pleasant, Sr. (41-0)
Decision, 12-9, over Aaron Lucio, Stevensville Lakeshore, Sr. (49-2)

The long road to a Finals championship brought a lot of tough moments for Stahl, but it paid off Saturday.

The Oilers senior finished his career with a perfect season record capped by a 12-9 thriller against Lucio.

“This means everything. I had finished second and third and missed a year because of COVID,” Stahl said. “I have given everything to get this, and it feels incredible to finally get it. I wanted it so bad.”

Stahl was able to go up 8-1 thanks to a set of near-fall points early in the third period. He then had to fend off an aggressive Lucio to hang on for the championship.

“(Lucio) just shot in deep and he was sitting there, so I just reached back and hooked his arm, tilted him up and that was the difference,” Stahl said.


Champion: Jayden Schwartz, Charlotte, Sr. (52-2)
Decision, 11-5, over Owen Segorski, Lowell, Soph. (29-7)

Trailing 4-2 going into the third period, Jayden Schwartz knew it was time to go into overdrive.

Trusting in his stamina, Schwartz came out aggressive in the third and scored nine points to get past Segorski, a 2022 champion.

“All the work I have put in over the last few weeks, it was all for that third period,” Schwartz said. “I knew I had the stamina for the third to really push the pace.”

The top-seeded Schwartz finished with 52 wins while ending his prep career as a champion.

“This feels amazing,” Schwartz said of the title. “It hasn’t really hit me yet, but all the hard work really paid off.”


Champion: CJ Poole, Lowell, Sr. (31-8)
Injury Stoppage (5:00) over Louden Stradling, Gaylord, Sr. (50-1)

The final match of the night ended with unfortunate circumstances.

Tied 1-1 in the third, Poole shot in for a takedown on Stradling. The two collided heads and the impact from the shot, which finished out of the circle, left Stradling unable to continue.

Stradling suffered a head injury, and the match was ruled over and awarded to Poole.

“He’s a back-up-and-shoot kind of wrestler and I saw he was backing up and getting ready to shoot, so I shot for a double. He lowered his level and we hit heads and I was just trying to drive through on my shot,” Poole said.

The way the match ended wasn’t likely how Poole envisioned it, but he’s still grateful to be a champion.

“It still feels amazing,” Poole said of the title. “It’s been a lot of work.”


Champion: Trevor Swiss, Petoskey, Sr. (47-0)
Decision, 10-4, over Jack Conley, Lake Fenton, Sr. (31-3)

Swiss completed an unbeaten season, and the Petoskey senior never trailed in this match.

Going into the third period tied 4-4, Swiss picked up the pace and outscored Conley 6-0 to secure the championship.

“I knew I had to work, so I just came out knowing I needed to make something happen,” Swiss said. “I was able to capitalize when he got off-balanced, so I managed to put him on his back.”

Despite the unbeaten season, it was the Finals title that Swiss had been craving all year, fulfilling a childhood dream.

“This is what I have been dreaming of since I was in first grade,” Swiss said. “It feels amazing, and I really can’t put it into words.”

Jackson Northwest’s Zach Jacobs, front, works to break the hold of Pontiac’s Cory Thomas Jr. on Saturday.


Champion: Cory Thomas Jr., Pontiac, Jr. (26-0)
Decision, 5-1, over Zach Jacobs, Jackson Northwest, Sr. (39-3)

After a scoreless first period, Thomas Jr. managed to ride out Jacobs in the second period to keep the match at 0-0.

In the third, Thomas Jr. knew he had put himself in position to win, which he did with an early escape and two takedowns during the closing two minutes.

“I work really hard at home, and I think that showed in being able to get those late takedowns,” Thomas Jr. said. “I was able to just keep pushing through.”

Thomas Jr. placed third at the 2021 D1 Finals at 125 pounds wrestling for Detroit Catholic Central, but being able to come back this year to win a title for Pontiac was even more rewarding.

“It’s been a crazy journey. I’m just so happy to be able to experience this,” Thomas Jr. said.


Champion: Philip Lamka, Fenton, Jr. (44-2)
Decision, 6-5, over Max Macklem, Goodrich, Soph. (33-5)

After placing third at last year’s Finals, Lamka wouldn’t let himself experience disappointment again.

He trailed Macklem 5-4 in the third period, but scored a late takedown to edge his opponent by one point.

“I’ve worked so hard for this all year,” Lamka said. “After last year, this is all I wanted. Coming up short in the semifinals in overtime to the eventual champ (in 2022) was hard. Coming in, I had one job to do and that was to win. I got it done.”

Following the victory, Lamka dropped to his knees and took in the moment.

“This is everything I have worked for my whole life,” Lamka said. “After coming up short before, (the emotions) just flood you.”


Champion: Brayden Gautreau, Gaylord, Sr. (52-1)
Decision, 3-1 (OT), over Carson Crace, Lowell, Sr. (33-6)

For Gautreau to come up with a second-consecutive championship, he needed a little more time. The senior was tied 1-1 with Crace through three periods after each scored an escape.

In OT, the past champ showed his mettle and came through with a takedown to earn the victory.

“I was on my stuff,” Gautreau said of the OT period. “(Crace) did a good job of keeping me off during most of the match. I just kept attacking, and it eventually paid off.”

Gautreau won the D2 171-pound title last year but said he never felt a lot of pressure to repeat.

“I didn’t feel a lot of the pressure. I just love wrestling, so I just love being able to compete,” Gautreau said. “You put in a lot of work for these moments, and this is where champions shine.”


Champion: Adam Haselius, Jackson Northwest, Sr. (50-0)
Decision, 5-1, over Joey Scaramuzzino, Croswell-Lexington, Jr. (51-4)

Haselius likes to be consistent, and he was very consistent Saturday night.

The Jackson Northwest senior claimed a second-consecutive Division 2 title after winning at 189 pounds in 2022.

“It feels great to repeat,” Haselius said. “Obviously that has been the goal since last year. It just comes down to consistency for me. Nobody that wins a state championship believes that they can’t win it again.”

Haselius never trailed, as he set the tone early with a takedown and added another in the second period before grinding out the victory in the third.

“I just wanted to keep myself in good positions,” Haselius said of the match. “Once I got the lead, I knew it was on him to bring the pressure, so I just had to wrestle smart.”


Champion: James Mahon, Goodrich, Soph. (14-0)
Decision, 5-4, over Aaron Holstege, Allendale, Sr. (49-1)

Battling through a labrum injury, Mahon managed to ride out Holstege for the final minute to secure a one-point victory.

“In a lot of my matches this year and last year, I’ve had to find ways to win 1-0 or win by one point,” Mahon said. “I’ve always found ways to get it done.”

Mahon trailed 4-3 in the third period, but scored a takedown with a minute left to go ahead and then worked on his top game to earn his first Finals title as a sophomore.

“I really expected this the whole year,” Mahon said. “It was never in doubt for me. Now I have to go and get two more.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Goodrich’s Easton Phipps takes a champion’s photo at Ford Field. (Middle) Jackson Northwest’s Zach Jacobs, front, works to break the hold of Pontiac’s Cory Thomas Jr. on Saturday. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)