Gonzalez Locks Down Emeralds' 1st Title

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

March 10, 2017

MANISTIQUE — It was a celebration nearly fit for a king Sunday as the city of Manistique welcomed home its first MHSAA Finals champion.

Senior Tanner Gonzalez became the first Manistique wrestler to capture an individual title by taking a 5-4 double-overtime decision from Dansville’s Johnathon Stid last Saturday night in a Division 4 160-pound Final at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

“It was awesome,” he said. “When I came out (at the high school), the whole community and people from all over the U.P. were there. We also had the cop cars, fire trucks, ambulance and the chief of police were there.”

Gonzalez secured the title on a reversal shortly after Stid took a 4-3 lead with an escape.

He became only the third Upper Peninsula grappler to take an MHSAA wrestling title, four years after Joe Ostman and Galloway Thurston of St. Ignace were crowned champions. Ostman also captured Division 4 titles in 2012 and 2011, and Thurston additonally was a champion in 2012 and runner-up in 2011.

Gonzalez began wrestling when he was in kindergarten, but said it took him a while to really get into it.

“I always liked football, but didn’t like wrestling when I was a little kid,” he added. “I did it because my brothers were doing it, and it kind of rubbed off on me. Things started coming together during my sophomore year, and I started taking practices more seriously. I started working at it harder.”

Gonzalez came up through the ranks in the Manistique youth wrestling program, but transferred to Norway before his freshman year.

After spending two years in Norway, he returned to Manistique for his junior and senior years.

“My dad had a job in Norway which was the reason for the transfer,” he said. “Then, he got a job in Manistique as a truck driver and now owns his own company. While we were in Norway, it was nice to go to Wisconsin and see different competition. It was different once we came back to Manistique because we didn’t have (brothers) Cole or Zavier on our team. I felt a lot of kids looked up to me.”

Tanner qualified for the Individual Regional as a freshman. As a sophomore, he placed seventh in the MHSAA Finals and moved up to sixth in his junior year.

“Losing in the state tournament is a bad feeling because it’s so final,” he said. “I wasn’t putting in the extra time. I worked all of last summer and my brother Matt helped me a lot with my strength program. There was more sense of urgency this year.”

His first tournament last summer took place in early June at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

“The first kid I had to wrestle was ranked 11th in the nation and he pinned me in about 1:30,” said Tanner. “It was kind of an eye-opener because there’s always somebody better out there. I was more calm down there because there was no pressure. I tried moves I normally wouldn’t try in a high school match and got better at finishing my shots and cradling. I finished 4-4, then I got a concussion and was out for about a month. I didn’t wrestle too much the rest of the summer. My wrestling became a little more rusty.”

Gonzalez, who finished 49-0 this season, says he had a close call with Gladstone senior Austin Demeuse at St. Ignace. Demeuse held a five-point lead before Tanner rallied for a 9-5 victory.

“That motivated me to get into better shape,” he added. “I wasn’t moving my feet as well as I did all summer and had to get my weight down. I realized I wasn’t disciplined enough and picked up my intensity level. I raised the bar after losing to him in the U.P. Finals as a junior.”

Tanner says he worked a lot with youth wrestling coach Tim Nixon prior to his transfer to Norway.

“I worked with him a lot when I was in eighth grade and learned the importance of staying disciplined and working hard,” he added.

Tanner is undecided about his college choice, but is looking at Ellsworth Community College, a wrestling power in Iowa Falls, Iowa. He plans to major in criminal justice.

“I visited the college and really liked it,” he said. “It’s a little town and I feel comfortable with the small town setting. Their team took fourth in the (National Junior College Athletic Association) national tournament. They have five All-Americans and one was a national champion.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Manistique's Tanner Gonzalez celebrates his MHSAA Division 4 title Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. (Middle) Gonzalez (left) locks up with championship match opponent Johnathon Stid of Dansville. (Click to see 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 [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.)