Newberry Finalists Relish Title Opportunity

By John Vrancic
Special for

February 22, 2018

MUNISING — In 1988, the MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals were reunified with both peninsulas competing for the same championships. 

But before 2008, Upper and Lower Peninsula wrestlers still competed for separate individual titles – making for far less matchups between the U.P.’s best and their counterparts from downstate, unless a U.P. team made a championship run.

For the last decade, the Upper Peninsula’s best have embraced the opportunity to represent their schools and extend their seasons by taking part in the unified MHSAA Individual Finals tournament after their teams had been eliminated in earlier rounds. 

Four Newberry wrestlers were fortunate enough to advance to the Division 4 Individual Regional tournament at Charlevoix on Feb. 17 after the Indians were eliminated by St. Ignace 54-21 in the Team District on Feb. 7.

“It was hard, especially being a senior,” Newberry’s Alex Henry said after taking a 4-3 decision from Munising senior Christian Cole in the 160-pound Individual District Final on Feb. 10 at Munising. “It would have been nice to get through as a team, although I thought our team did pretty well this year.”

This was the first District title for Henry, who plans to wrestle at Alma College next season. 

“I will definitely look forward to that, but now I’ve got to focus on the next step,” he added.

He did just that, placing third in the Regional. He will now move on to the MHSAA Individual Finals, March 2-3 at Ford Field in Detroit.

Senior teammate Cameron Symonds also is heading to Detroit after placing second in the Regional. 

“There was a feeling of disappointment when our team got eliminated, but having a chance to wrestle in the individual tournament takes a little bit of the sting off it,” Symonds said after pinning Onaway junior Coty Inonetz with 1.1 seconds left in the 152-pound District Final for his third straight District title. “We just didn’t show up to wrestle that day.

“You’ve got to come prepared. Last year I went to the Regional (at Rogers City) as a top seed and didn’t make it to the state tournament. You have to take it one match at a time.”

Nathan Magnusson, the team’s third senior, reached the 135-pound final and earned a trip to Detroit despite dropping a 4-0 Regional championship decision to Onaway sophomore Matt Grant.

“Wrestling is bit of an individual sport, yet you’re also trying to help your team,” said Magnusson, who will enroll at Central Michigan University this fall. “It’s nice to have a second chance. Although, I wish we also could have gone to a Regional as a team.”

Junior Devin Racicot was among four Bark River-Harris grapplers to advance to the Individual Regional. None, however, qualified for next weekend’s Finals.
BR-H edged Munising 36-33 in its District opener Feb. 8 at Manistique. The Broncos were then eliminated on the 11th tie-breaker (43-42) by the host Emeralds. 

“It was depressing at first, coming so close and not be going on as a team,” said Racicot, who was pinned 3:39 into the 215-pound District Final by Charlevoix junior Maximus Hinkle. “There was about a 15 to 20-minute wait to find out if we were going. It would have been nice, but we’re proud we accomplished that much. (Manistique) basically had four kids at the beginning of the season, then their numbers moved up to about 10. They came a long way this year.”

With none of their wrestlers graduating this spring, it appears the Broncos have much to look forward to next season. 

“With this being my first year of high school wrestling, I was pleased to be moving on to the (individual) Regional,” said Racicot. “We just hope to come back with the same kids. If we do, I think we can do well next year.”

PHOTOS: Newberry's Cameron Symonds (left) wrestles under the spotlight at the Upper Peninsula championship tournament at Marquette High School. (Middle) Finals qualifier Alex Henry locks up an opponent during a home meet. (Below) Newberry's Nate Magnusson (top) works to keep position during a match earlier this season. (Photos by Tammy Henry.)

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.)