Linden Seniors Gladly Avoid Collision Course

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 31, 2017

For the better part of the last four years, Dawson Blank and Patrick Kerr have been working to make each other better in the Linden wrestling room.

So when the seniors faced the prospect early this season of standing in each other’s way for an MHSAA individual title, they had to figure something out.

“Me and him are the best workout partners ever,” Blank said. “No matter what we were doing, we were going to make sure we didn’t have to wrestle each other at the state meet.”

Kerr – who battled injuries early in the season – has now dropped down to 140 pounds, and had a successful first weekend at the weight. He’s ranked No. 4 at 140 in Division 2 by Blank is ranked No. 3 at 145. Before the rankings were updated Jan. 27, Blank was ranked No. 2 and Kerr No. 3, both at 145.

“I was going to stay right at 145 and just double enter, but me and Dawson have become pretty close, so I was like, I don’t want to mess up the chance for one of us to win a state title,” Kerr said. “At the beginning of the year I was thinking about going down to 140, then I wrestled at 145 and did fine. Then I went to 152 for (the Genesee County meet) and lost by one point in the finals, so I thought I could stay there. But I decided with all the injuries I’ve had, it was probably better to go down, and I was only weighing 148.”

Teammates with legitimate MHSAA title ambitions entering in the same weight is nothing new. Sometimes, while a rarity, they’ll square off in the title match. The most recent example came in 2015, when Corunna’s Jarrett Trombley (who is now at Lake Fenton) defeated teammate Tristan Serbus in the Division 3 final at 112 pounds.

Linden won’t have to worry about that, but it certainly has two wrestlers with legitimate title ambitions, even if they’re coming off two very different junior seasons.

Blank placed third at the MHSAA Finals a year ago at 145, despite it being his first trip to the season-ending tournament. He advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Austin Melton of DeWitt.

As a sophomore, Blank was a regional qualifier, and he credits Kerr and former teammate Bryce Davis for helping him make the leap as a junior.

“My buddy Bryce Davis, who graduated last year, and Patrick, they really pushed me in the room,” Blank said. “It was cool, because I could go from Bryce, who was bigger than me, to Patrick, and in our wrestling room I had two different partners with different styles.”

Blank is 30-2 this season with a pair of one-point losses – one coming at 160 pounds. He’s confident he can wrestle with anyone in the state at his weight class, and feels his experience at the 2016 Finals will help him as he prepares for another.

“I think my nerves going into the state meet last year were probably a lot higher than they will be this year,” Blank said. “I think I have more confidence, and I’ll be more ready for it.”

Blank was Linden’s lone Finals placer a year ago, but during the regular season it looked as though Kerr was on his way to accomplishing the same before a shoulder injury ended a promising season early.

“Patrick was on the same path, but he got injured in the conference finals,” Linden coach Todd Skinner said. “He was having a great season last year – he teched the (Division 4) state runner-up, then he (won by major decision against) the kid from Mason who ended up taking fifth. We knew that he had a shot, and he was going to be battling for it, but he got injured. It was just a bad situation.”

Kerr said sitting out a postseason he was set to thrive in was difficult, but his coach credited his attitude while sitting out.

“The run Dawson made last year, even though Patrick couldn’t be there, he was his training partner along with Bryce Davis,” Skinner said. “And it was cool to see how he supported him. They definitely support each other.”

Kerr is 25-2 on the season, and is now motivated to make up for lost time. Although it wasn’t always that way.

“I love wrestling, I love the sport, but (the injury) really hurt my drive,” he said. “In the summer, at least, I kind of got off track and wasn’t paying enough attention at summer practices as I should have. The coaches said, ‘You have to focus, get your stuff together and get after it.’ Then I was finally able to get back into the swing of things.”

With Kerr healthy and motivated, and Blank rolling toward the postseason, Linden has a powerful one-two punch in the middle of the lineup that Skinner can move around to suit his team’s needs.

“You’re able to adjust, and it’s all about matchups and styles,” Skinner said. “You want to try and see which matchup or style is best, and Patrick’s style is completely different than Dawson’s.”

Both wrestlers are hoping to be standing at the top of their own podiums next month at The Palace of Auburn Hills, and they agree that would be better than the possibility of meeting in the last match of the season.

The fact it was a possibility, however, gave a sense of pride to both.

“I thought it was awesome,” Blank said of the early-season rankings. “Two kids coming out of the same school that are ranked second and third, that’s awesome. Not many schools have that.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Linden's Dawson Blank, top, was his team's lone MHSAA Individual Finals placer last season. (Middle) Teammate Patrick Kerr, also top, hopes to join Blank among placers this winter after an injury ended his 2015-16. (Photos by Mary Kerr.)

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.)