New Heroes Emerge as Hornets Reign
February 28, 2015
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
BATTLE CREEK – Gabe Bennett made himself take a few deep breaths at the end of Saturday morning, then had a long talk with his dad, which helped.
The New Lothrop senior has won a lot during his high school career, and placed at the MHSAA Individual Finals the last two seasons. But Saturday morning, although the Hornets moved on from their Division 4 Semifinal, Bennett lost his match – falling to 0-4 for his career for the final two rounds of team competition.
The afternoon’s championship match against Hudson would provide one last opportunity to help the Hornets with a title on the line.
“If you win all the time, you don’t learn a whole lot. If you lose, that’s where you’re able to go back and learn from what you did and why you lost,” Bennett said. “I’ve taken all those times that I’ve lost, and I’ve learned something new – a new move to counter that, or to make my shots better, or whatever I needed to do to make myself better.
“Coming into this (Final) match, being a senior, this was my last one. (I thought) let’s go out with a bang. I did it.”
Bennett’s one-point decision win at 130 pounds got the Hornets even after an early deficit and contributed to what turned into a 38-24 victory and title repeat for reigning champion New Lothrop (29-1), the top-seeded team in Division 4 entering the weekend.
That favorite status was part of how this weekend’s narrative differed from in 2014, when the Hornets came back over the final three weights to upset the then top-seeded Tigers, who had won a record five straight MHSAA team titles.
Saturday’s win was less dramatic – New Lothrop clinched with two weights to wrestle. But this season as a whole was impressive in other respects – notably in how the Hornets dominated after graduating two individual champions who carried the load a year ago.
Bennett was one of four Hornets who won in Saturday’s championship match after falling in the Final a year ago. Junior Cole Hersch won by pin at 125 pounds to put the Hornets on the scoreboard, and Bennett’s 7-6 decision in the next bout evened the match score at 9-9. Sophomore Erik Birchmeier won by decision at 160 to give the Hornets a nine-point lead with six bouts left, and senior heavyweight David Robertson clinched the championship with a pin.
“Last year it felt like we had to get it. We had that good group of seniors that had a chance the three years before that. … That was like their time,” New Lothrop coach Jeff Campbell said. “Last year felt like more pressure. This year, I don’t want to say I surprised, but I was just really excited and proud of our leadership and the way the guys stepped in and filled in after the amazing leaders we had last year graduated.”
“(Bennett had) lost heart-breakers. … So to have him be the one who really got momentum going for us is pretty special.”
Junior Steven Garza II earned a key major decision at 140 pounds to follow Bennett and give New Lothrop a lead it would’ve give back. Senior Trevor Copes followed Garza with a pin to extend the lead to 19-9 halfway through the match.
Junior Caleb Symons was awarded a void at 215 pounds, and freshman Tommy Malloy followed Robertson’s clincher with a major decision at 103.
Although Hudson (23-6) did fall in the Final for the second straight season, it made its seventh straight championship match despite entering the weekend seeded third. The Tigers edged second-seeded Decatur 39-33 in the morning’s Semifinal and climbed within a point of New Lothrop with four bouts remaining.
Senior Tyler Roberts and junior Kyle Johnson won by pins in the championship match for Hudson. Seniors Roddy Hamdan and Mitch Ely and sophomores Tylor Grames and Zak Lopinski won by decisions.
“We were in a position a couple of spots where maybe we could make a legitimate run at it. But they’re pretty deep up top,” Hudson coach Scott Marry said. “I’m never going to fault my kids for their efforts. They gave everybody on the team, everybody in the community, their coaches, everything they’ve got, and that’s all I can ask.
“They goal is to win it, but sometimes certain things are out of your control. That was a very good team that beat us.”
PHOTO: (Top) New Lothrop’s Cole Hersch (right) works toward a pin in his 130-pound match Saturday afternoon. (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 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.)