Modert Driving Toward 3rd Title, Wins Record

By Wes Morgan
Special for

January 10, 2020

By Wes Morgan
Special for Second Half

Ben Modert’s road to three all-state wrestling seasons and two individual Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 4 Finals championships played out to a soundtrack of his own stomach rumblings and the clanging of silverware by those around him consuming everyday meals.

The Bronson standout blocked all that out to remain trim as a 103-pound freshman and sophomore, followed by a junior campaign at 112 pounds. It was just one of the many sacrifices Modert made to climb to the summit.

A sixth-place finish in the championships held at The Palace of Auburn Hills in 2017 propelled Modert into a sophomore season that netted 55 victories and a Finals crown at Ford Field. Last spring as a junior, he rattled off 52 victories en route to a championship at 112 pounds.

The hunger for a third title is certainly there, even though Modert made a decision to quell the physical cravings for more sustenance by bumping up to higher weight classes this year.

That’s not to say Modert believes the path will be any easier.

Wednesday’s Big 8 Conference dual match against Union City is a prime example. Though Bronson ended the night with a 36-30 victory, Modert experienced his first loss of the season. Fellow reigning Finals champion Brayton Mears, who won last year’s Division 4 title at 103 pounds as a freshman, edged Modert 2-1 in the 119-pound bout in one of the season’s early marquee matchups. Both grapplers entered the day undefeated.

“I decided since it’s my senior year to not cut much weight,” Modert, whose original plan for this season was to compete at 125 pounds, said before the year began and prior to settling on 119 pounds. “I just like to wrestle whoever and get the best competition. It’s more fun to me. I get more from losing than winning. It’s just better experience. It’s obviously upsetting to lose, but I’ll watch videos and want to see what I did wrong and still improve.

“I honestly like the target (on me) and people gunning for me. I like the competition like that. I know I have to keep my head in it still. Cutting weight makes it 10 times longer than what (the season) already is. Hopefully not cutting weight will help keep my motivation up.”

Bronson head coach Chad Butters has witnessed first-hand how Modert’s mindset has paid dividends.

“He has definitely matured on and off the mat,” Bronson head coach Chad Butters said of Modert. “One of the things I admire about Ben is he really does a good job of seeking out the best competition. There were times he could have ducked some competition.”

Based on the few losses he’s experienced over the past two seasons, Modert’s recent defeat might be the cool breeze across the embers that will ignite another historic run. A loss last season to Clinton’s A.J. Baxter, who Modert beat at the 2018 Finals, led to Modert finishing out the year undefeated.

“Ben approached me and said he wanted that match (against Baxter),” Butters said. “He’s driven, and he wants to challenge himself. He’s constantly pushing himself. That was a good thing for him. I think he learned just because he won a state championship in the past, nothing is guaranteed. You have to work for it, and it has to be earned.”

Modert is ahead of pace to break former Bronson great Hunter Machus’s career school wins record of 207 (2013). Entering the year with 160 victories and having accrued more than 20 so far this winter, that feat might be accomplished by February.

With no plans to compete in college, Modert’s soaking in all he can as his decorated career winds down.

“This will be my 12th year wrestling, and it can’t go on forever,” he said. “I think it’s a cool thing to be in the record books to begin with. We have banners up for state championships. I don’t like to be glorified, but I like the recognition.

“(Butters) is a great coach and Tony (Turner) is great, too. They’re working with you constantly and doing everything they can. They are very supportive. It’s a huge wrestling family we have behind us. It’s so supportive, and they’re awesome and always there. We always have a huge crowd there cheering, and that’s a big part of (our success).”

Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Bronson's Ben Modert locks up the Division 4 championship at 112 pounds at Ford Field last season. (Middle) Modert shows his chart after claiming the title. (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 k[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.)