Johnson Bounces Back for Inspired Finish
March 5, 2016
By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half
AUBURN HILLS – Last wrestling season ended in heart-breaking fashion for Hudson senior Kyle Johnson.
Not only was he unable to repeat as an individual MHSAA champion, but he also was mourning the passing of his grandfather, Jim Kimble.
This year, spurred on by the memory of his grandfather, Johnson wrapped up his high school wrestling career in a big way by winning the 160-pound title in Division 4.
Johnson outlasted Spencer Knizacky of Scottville Mason County Central 4-2 in the Final to finish the season with a 49-8 record.
“Last year my grandpa passed away, and I was not mentally into it,” Johnson said. “This year, I dedicated my season to him. My grandpa meant a lot to me. He showed me how to be a man.”
Immediately after clinching the title, and in the process winning his 200th career match, Johnson put on the black T-shirt with orange lettering that said “RIP Gramps, this one is for you.”
“This title was for him,” Johnson said. “I stayed focused all season because of him.”
Champion: Tucker Sholl, Hudson, Fr. (48-3)
Major Decision, 11-0, over Reese Fry, Manchester, Soph. (44-7)
Practice partners throughout the season, Hudson’s Sholl and Jordan Hamden came into the Finals looking to hit a freshman daily-double by winning the 103 and 112-pound titles. Sholl completed his part in impressive fashion, as he didn’t allow a point en route to winning a major decision.
“It feels real good,” Sholl said. “We practice together every day. I can’t begin to tell you how many hours we put in working out together.”
Champion: Jordan Hamdan, Hudson, Fr. (51-6)
Decision, 5-1, over Noah Comar, Clinton, Fr. (55-4)
Hamdan completed the freshman double-dip by defeating a familiar foe in fellow freshman Noah Comar of Clinton. Hamdan scored a two-point near fall in the second period and then put the match away with an escape and takedown in the third period.
“It’s very special to win it as freshmen with Tucker,” Hamdan said. “We’ve been practicing together since grade school. We go at each other in practice and show each other a lot of different styles. I think we strengthen each other.”
The MHSAA title was also the second for the Hamdan family as Jordan’s older brother Roddy won a title during his sophomore year.
“My brother helped me out a lot,” Jordan said. “He has really given me a lot of support and helped me reach my goal.”
Champion: Robert LeFevre, Erie-Mason, Jr. (39-0)
Decision, 6-1, over Coy Helmuth, Decatur, Jr. (49-6)
After falling short in overtime in the 112-pound title match last year, LeFevre was determined to take the final step this season.
LeFevre turned in a workmanlike performance as he took a 2-0 lead in the first period, then built the lead to 4-0 in the second before closing out the match with two more points in the third period.
“I was just more mentally focused this year,” LeFevre said. “I put in a lot more work during the offseason, and it paid off. Words can’t explain how good this feels.”
LeFevre also finished the season with a perfect record despite bumping up in weight class several times for the good of the team.
“The undefeated record is nice,” LeFevre said. “It’s really exciting to get it here in the Finals. I finished third as a freshman, second last year and now first this year.”
Champion: Robert Rogers, Burton Bentley, Soph. (48-0)
Decision, 8-6, over Davian Gowens, Hesperia, Sr. (43-4)
Burton Bentley may not be a household name on the list of outstanding Genesee County wrestling schools, but Bentley sophomore Robert Rogers is single-handedly changing that. Rogers became the first Bentley wrestler to win an individual MHSAA title in 39 years.
“This shows everybody that someone from a little school can win a state title just like the big school down the road,” Rogers said. “This is really thrilling. It shows that hard work pays off. I’m here not just for myself, but for my teammates and my coaches. This is for them.”
Rogers placed third at the MHSAA Finals last year and came back this year focused on improving.
“My coaches kept me level-headed all season,” Rogers said. “Losing in the Semifinals last year gave me a lot of extra motivation.”
Champion: Dallas O’Green, Carson City-Crystal, Sr. (59-0)
Decision, 8-2, over Ethan Woods, Manchester, Jr. (48-3)
O’Green ended his career in a big way. Not only did he win a second straight championship, but he finished his senior season with a perfect record.
“This one is very special,” O’Green said. “It’s a big accomplishment. We don’t get many wrestlers winning two state titles in a row at our school.”
O’Green ended his career as a four-time Finals placer as he took sixth as a freshman and third as a sophomore. That accomplishment is something he shares with his coach Trent Ward.
“That has only happened once in our school’s history, and that was our coach,” O’Green said. “That makes it very special. I feel like we have the best coaches in Division 4, and to be a four-time state placer like Coach is amazing.”
Champion: Sean O’Hearon, Springport, Jr. (49-1)
Decision 6-1, over Clay Ragon, Dansville, Sr. (51-5)
After placing fourth last year, O’Hearon was not about to let an opportunity pass him by this winter. O’Hearon took an early 2-1 lead and then built the lead to 5-1 in the second period.
“I just kept the pressure on him,” O’Hearon said. “We have a lot of pride in Springport wrestling, and I was glad to represent our school and our tradition.”
O’Hearon also represented his family well along with his cousin, Austin O’Hearon, who wrestles for Eaton Rapids and placed seventh at 125 pounds in Division 2.
“We’re hoping that next year me and him will both be state champs,” O’Hearon said. “We get together to practice a lot. Working out with him has really helped me.”
Champion Dresden Simon, Dansville, Sr. (52-1)
Fall, 1:30, over Konnor Holton, St. Louis, Jr. (41-5)
Simon wasted little time in winning his second straight MHSAA title, as he recorded a fall in the first period.
“Winning a state title was something I expected,” Simon said. “I’ve been working hard for it. I put in a lot of hard work for it, and it paid off. I went out there and tried to push the pace.”
Simon, who is headed to Central Michigan University to wrestle next season, won the 130-pound title last year.
Champion: Cole Hersch, New Lothrop, Sr. (51-1)
Fall, 4:00, over Gerrit Yates, Hesperia, Soph. (53-5)
For Hersch, it was his first time in the title match and only chance he would get to win an individual championship. The senior from New Lothrop, who has been part of three team MHSAA championship teams, didn’t let the opportunity slip by.
“This is just an amazing feeling,” Hersch said. “I lost in the second round all three years I’ve been here. To win it like this as a senior is amazing.”
Hersch’s title was the fourth individual title of the Finals for New Lothrop, as 145 was the final weight contended at this year’s meet.
“For our team to win four individual state titles is pretty special,” Hersch said.
Champion: Steven Garza II, New Lothrop, Sr. (57-1)
Decision, 9-5 over Zeth Caudill, Springport, Sr. (42-5)
After finishing as an undefeated individual champion last season, Garza came back and won a second straight title and finished his senior year with a 57-1 record.
“This is something I’ve wanted all year,” Garza said. “I’m grateful to be here and to be able to take home the state title. There are some great wrestlers here, and to be able to win two state titles is an awesome feeling.”
Garza jumped out to the early lead in the match and controlled the pace throughout.
“Last year I was really nervous,” Garza said. “It was the first one. This one I was still a little nervous, but the jitters were a little different this time.”
Champion: Erik Birchmeier, New Lothrop, Jr. (34-2)
Decision, 7-5 SV-1, over Mark Workman, Hesperia, Sr. (34-1)
Persistence paid off for Birchmeier. Trailing 5-2 going into the third period, he battled back to tie the match at 5-5 and then won in overtime.
“When I was trailing 5-2 I knew I needed to get after it,” Birchmeier said. “I gave it everything I had to bring it to overtime. I knew I just had to keep the pressure on.”
Champion: Nick Cooper, Springport, Jr. (41-1)
Fall, 1:49, over Hunter Sadler, Munising, Sr. (54-3)
Cooper’s older brother Jacob was a three-time MHSAA champion who graduated last year. This year Nick claimed his first title to carry on the family tradition.
“I can tell him that I’ve got one now,” Cooper said. “My brother has been very supportive of me. He has really helped me out a lot.”
Winning his own was actually less nerve-wracking for Jacob.
“I actually get more nervous watching him then when I wrestle myself,” Cooper said. “This really means a lot to me.”
Champion: Caleb Symons, New Lothrop, Sr. (55-1)
Fall, 2:35, over Devon Kozel, Bangor, Jr. (48-1)
After taking second at 189 pounds last year, Symons was not to be denied. A second period pin gave Symons the championship and also the 150th win of his career.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Symons said. “Losing last year tore me apart. Winning it this year made it all worthwhile.”
In his second appearance in the Finals, Symons was more comfortable.
“Being here last year, I was not as nervous this time,” Symons said.
Champion: Kevin Koenig, Laingsburg, Sr. (55-1)
Fall, 1:22, over Logan Kennedy, Decatur, Jr. (49-6)
A Finals champion as a sophomore, Koenig dropped a two-point decision in last year’s 215-pound title match. This time, Koenig left nothing to chance.
“Heck yeah, this feels real good,” Koenig said. “Being a two-time state champion, not many people have done it. It definitely feels great.”
Koenig won all four of his matches at these MHSAA Finals with first-period falls.
“I’ve pretty much been doing it all season,” Koenig said. “I can’t describe the feeling of winning a second one.”
The MHSAA Wrestling Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard.
PHOTO: Hudson's Kyle Johnson works to gain control against Farwell's Garrett McQuiston during Friday's Semifinal match. (Click to see more at 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@example.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.)