Freeman Caps Career with 4th Title

March 4, 2017

By Nick Hankins
Special for Second Half

AUBURN HILLS – Ben Freeman stamped his name in Michigan high school wrestling history Saturday with an impressive and technical display of skills that fans across the state have become accustomed to from the talented Walled Lake Central senior.

Freeman became just the 22nd wrestler in state history to win four MHSAA individual championships when he beat Colin Takata of Birmingham Groves by technical fall, 24-7, in the second period of the 140-pound championship match at the Individual Finals on Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Freeman ended his senior season with a 34-0 record and a career mark of 163-1.

“I feel great, and I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” Freeman said. “This is crazy. There is really nothing like it. I wrestle all across the country and this (The Palace) is my favorite arena to wrestle in.”

This was a special year for the Freeman family.

Not only did he win his fourth title, but he got to watch his younger brother Nick win an MHSAA title at 135 pounds. And all in front of their father, Al Freeman, who is their coach.

But this night belonged to Ben Freeman.

“This is so much relief winning my fourth state title,” Freeman said. “I never thought I could do it. I pictured it a lot, but never thought I could do it.”


Champion: T.J. Daugherty, Walled Lake Central, Fr. (42-5)
Decision, 4-3, over Nick Alayan, Macomb Dakota, Soph. (51-6) 

It was sweet revenge for Daugherty, who beat old nemesis Nick Alayan of Macomb Dakota to win the 103-pound championship.

Daugherty beat Alayan 4-3 this time after falling to him two weeks ago.

“My game plan coming in was to wrestle on my feet,” Daugherty said. “He beat me at Regionals 6-0 with a cradle so I had to wrestle on my feet. It feels really good to be a state champion.” 


Champion: Benyamin Kamali, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (41-3)
Fall 3:31, over Bryce Brust, Battle Creek Lakeview, Soph. (44-7)  

Kamali left little doubt he would be walking off The Palace floor with another championship.

He earned his second straight by pinning Brust in 3 minutes, 31 seconds.

“I came into the tournament with the mindset of dominating, and I dominated this match; it feels good,” Kamali said.

And like he did in his match, so did the Shamrocks, as for the second year Kamali was one of five individual champions for Detroit Catholic Central. 

“Catholic Central’s program is based around domination: go out there and break your opponent,” Kamali said. “We are a family, I would do anything for anyone on our team.  It feels great to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself.”


Champion: Rayvon Foley, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Sr. (54-3)
Decision, 8-3, over Mikey Mars, Westland John Glenn, Jr. (56-4)    

Sometimes underdogs get their due at The Palace, and that is exactly what Ann Arbor Pioneer senior Foley accomplished at 119 pounds.

He beat two-time reigning champion Mikey Mars of Westland John Glenn, 8-3, in their 119-pound final.

“I feel good; I just beat a two-time state champion,” Foley said. “I have lost to that kid so many times in my life, it felt good to beat him. He is a tough kid. My game plan coming into this match was to wrestle on my feet and score points. I had to win this match on my feet, and I did that.”


Champion: A.J. Facundo, Davison, Jr. (39-5)
Decision, SV-1 2-1, over Donte Rivera-Garcia, Southgate Anderson, Sr. (49-2)

Facundo learned how it felt to win a Finals match two years ago when he won the Division 1 112-pound title.

Last year he took second at 119.

On Saturday, he capped off another impressive season with another championship, beating Southgate Anderson’s Rivera-Garcia 2-1 in sudden victory.

“I have worked my tail off all year,” Facundo said. “I have been doing two practices a day to prepare for this moment. I came in with the mindset of I am a fierce competitor. My focus coming in was to attack, attack, attack. I pushed the pace to win this match.  (Davison coach Roy Hall) does a great job preparing us to be champions.”


Champion: Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central, Soph. (43-3)
Decision, 4-3,
over Xavier Graham, Brownstown Woodhaven, Sr. (55-2)    

Davenport has a reputation of being solid on his feet, and that came in handy when winning his second straight championship with a 4-3 win over Brownstown Woodhaven’s Graham.

The win avenged Davenport’s loss to Graham two weeks ago at Regionals.

“I would like to thank God, my father and my coaches for preparing me for this tournament,” Davenport said. “I felt if I attacked on my feet and got to my low level single legs that I could win this match.”


Champion: Nick Freeman, Walled Lake Central, Jr. (35-1)
Decision, 5-2, over Anthony Gibson, Westland John Glenn, Jr. (53-5)

“All the hard work and hours I have put it, they are starting to pay off,” Freeman said.

Wrestling in older brother Ben Freeman’s footsteps may be daunting, but Nick Freeman wants to make a name for himself and got a great start Saturday night.

“That’s what I’m working towards,” Nick Freeman said. “Every time I have come here I have fallen short. But I kept working on the little things, and now they have paid off.”


Champion: Cameron Amine, Detroit Catholic Central Soph. (45-3)
Decision, 9-3, over Danny Pfeffer, Fraser, Sr. (57-1)

There are a lot of motivated wrestlers in the practice room at Detroit Catholic Central. None may be more motivated than Amine, who won his second title with an impressive 9-3 win over previously-undefeated Pfeffer.

With the starting weight set at 145 pounds, Amine was the first of the five individual champions for the Shamrocks on Saturday.

“It feels great to get that second state championship in,” Amine said. “People say you always have a target on your back once you won one, but I use that as motivation to keep going and keep pushing myself everyday in the practice room to be the best. This caps off a great season and offseason. I was a double All-American this summer; this shows all my hard work has paid off.”


Champion: Nathan Atienza, Livonia Franklin, Sr. (58-1)
Decision, 4-3, over Kameron Bush, Grandville, Sr. (39-2)

In a battle of returning champions, Franklin’s Atienza beat Grandville’s Bush in an exciting match that drew a lot of the eyes at The Palace to their mat.

“This is my second state title; it is very exciting,” Atienza said. “I was anxious coming into this match as he was a state champ last year. I pushed myself hard all year; I was motivated.

“Kam is a tough opponent. I knew deep down inside my head I had it. I have worked for this my entire life, and nobody was going to take this away from me.”


Champion: Kolin Leyrer, Holt, Sr. (41-2)
Decision, 6-4, over William Marano, Dearborn Edsel Ford, Jr. (50-4)

Leyrer ran off the mat and jumped into Holt coach Rocky Shaft’s arms.

It was a great time to experience a huge accomplishment with your uncle.

“This is the most amazing thing I have ever felt in my life,” Leyrer said. “With Rocky being my uncle, this championship just means that much more. He knows how much I wanted this for me and him.”


Champion: Tyler Morland, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (37-0)
Technical Fall, 17-2 (4:40), over Matthew Heaps, Portage Northern, Sr. (51-1)

Morland left little doubt he would leave his high school wrestling career in impressive fashion.

He ended his senior season with a perfect 37-0 record and second straight championship at this weight. 

“I came into the tournament wanting to dominate,” Morland said. “I could have wrestled better in my Quarterfinals match, but this was just the way I wanted to end my career by dominating in the Finals.”

“It is a lot of fun competing at this tournament. This is the biggest stage; it doesn’t get any better than this. There is nothing better than to compete in front of your friends and family.”


Champion: Brenden McRill, Davison, Sr. (41-2)
Decision, SV-1 3-1, over Ryan Vasbinder, Grandville, Sr. (21-3)

It may not have been as impressive as his win at the Team Finals a week ago, but McRill’s 3-1 sudden victory win over Vasbinder may have been a little sweeter.

Last week, McRill beat Vasbinder 14-6 with seven takedowns.

“This feels great to come away with a second state championship,” McRill said. “Ryan is a tough kid, and I knew he was going to have a game plan after last week. My mindset was the same as last weekend – to come out and score a lot of points. I wanted to score more than I did today, but I am going to keep working to be the best. I am very happy with the way I performed this weekend.”


Champion: Ben Cushman, Flushing, Jr. (56-0)
Decision, 11-6, over Drake Morley, Grand Haven, Sr. (29-5)

Cushman became his school's first individual champion since 2000, beating Morley to finish his junior season with a 56-0 record.

“I came out with the game plan to wrestle on my feet and I did that; I took him down five times,” Cushman said. “I just feel so great for Flushing and our county."


Champion: Nicholas Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (46-1)
Decision, 3-2, over Austin Emerson, Temperance Bedford, Jr. (49-2)  

Jenkins makes very few mistakes.

The Detroit Catholic Central senior heavyweight makes his matches a strategic battle every time, and he usually comes out on top, just like he did Saturday night when he won his second straight title.

“This feels great to be able to come in here and have the confidence and work on my offense and work on my shots and hit a peak out in the Finals,” Jenkins said. “It feels great to be able to be at that level. “

It’s been a good two weeks for Jenkins. His team also won a title last week at Central Michigan University.

“The team state championship was great, probably the best because you get to enjoy it with all of your friends and family and the rest of the community,” Jenkins said. “But there are not a lot of things that top winning two individual state championships.”

Click for full brackets.

PHOTO: Walled Lake Central’s Ben Freeman wrestles Colin Takata of Birmingham Groves on the way to a fourth MHSAA individual title Saturday. (Click for more from

Bragging Rights for Both as Multi-Sport Sage Twins Shine at Ford Field

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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.)