Performance: Eaton Rapids' Austin O'Hearon

February 16, 2018

Austin O’Hearon
Eaton Rapids senior – Wrestling

O’Hearon, the reigning Division 2 individual champion at 145 pounds, led Eaton Rapids to a Team District championship on Feb. 7 as the Greyhounds won their matches by a combined score of 147-3. He then went on to win his Individual District title at 160 pounds Saturday to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

The Greyhounds standout claimed the Individual District title with a 6-4 championship match victory over DeWitt’s Sam York – O’Hearon is ranked No. 2 and York No. 3 at their weight in Division 2 by Michigan Grappler. O’Hearon also won their rematch this past Wednesday as No. 5 Eaton Rapids upset No. 2 DeWitt 31-26 to win a Team Regional title and advance to next weekend’s Quarterfinals for the first time since 2015. The Greyhounds are coached by Joe Ray Barry, a three-time MHSAA champion at Mason from 1997-99.

O’Hearon will bring a 176-17 career record into this weekend’s Individual Regional at Vicksburg, and he ranks third in Eaton Rapids’ illustrious history in both career victories and career takedowns with 369. He finished seventh in Division 2 at 112 pounds as a freshman and then seventh at 125 as a sophomore before claiming the title last winter at 145. He’s 41-1 this season with his only loss to Portland’s Owen Guilford after bumping up to 171 pounds; O’Hearon then handed Guilford his only loss this season in a rematch earlier this month. O’Hearon has opportunities to continue wrestling at the college level, but has planned on enlisting in the U.S. Navy – following his grandfather (Army) and father (Marines), who both also served – and would like to train to become part of the SEALs special operations force.

Coach Joe Ray Barry said: “His work ethic over the four years is what separates him from his competition – early morning workouts and late night runs. He’s in the corner for his team day in and day out, constantly pushing them to work harder than they do. He’s leading by example and stays focused.”

Performance Point: “(The season) has come along how I wanted it to,” O’Hearon said. “Everything’s falling into place. … It’s just because I work hard. There’s no substitute for hard work. I’ve just always believed that the harder I work, then success has to come with it. If you work hard at something for long enough, you’re bound to reach your goals. For me, one of the spots I lacked was strength. So my (physical education teacher) was talking to me one day, said I could come up (before school) Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and lift with him. So I was like, ‘Yeah sure, I’ll try it.’ I just liked it. It was nice. It woke me up in the morning. I noticed wrestling I was just getting a lot stronger, and so it just all fell into play how I wanted it to.”

Back to the Finals: “We knew going in (to Wednesday’s Regional) that we could win it. We were crunching the numbers, and everywhere that we crunched it looked good. We had some things that happened … but probably the biggest thing of the night was our heavyweight getting a pin against the kid he had lost to at Districts. After he got that pin, I knew that we were going to go to team states. … Everything as a team has fallen together. At the beginning of the season we were kinda distant; now it’s more team-based. We’re all trying to be better for the team. We’ve grown as a team. We’re real close right now. It’s just making everything go smooth and easy.”

We are E.R.: “My freshman year, I knew all the seniors, I knew all the juniors. I pretty much knew everybody. There were kids I’d wrestled with in the youth (programs), so we were already like family. And that’s what I think makes Eaton Rapids better than most teams, because we’re all real close and homegrown and we’re all pretty much family. We all wrestled together in the youth programs, and now we’re wrestling high school together.”

Thanks Coach Barry: “He’s just always pushed me to be the best that I can be. He helps me with technique. He still rolls around with me up at practice every once in a while. He’s getting old now and it’s hard, because he doesn’t like the beatings … (but) yeah, I love wrestling with him. He’s still quick. He’s still strong. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

My time to lead: Just the younger kids, I try to keep them motivated, show them it is possible to win a state title and to have your team be successful. You just have to stay positive. I just try to motivate the younger guys to stick with the program, because this is what a program is built on: our seniors helping out our younger guys. I remember when I was a freshman, the seniors would always help me out … so that’s just how I try to be this year.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2017-18 honorees:
February 9: Sophia Wiard, Muskegon Oakridge basketball - Read
February 2: Brenden Tulpa, Hartland hockey - Read
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read 
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City Central golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Eaton Rapids' Austin O’Hearon (left) works for a takedown this season. (Middle) O’Hearon’s arm is raised after he earns last season’s Division 2 title at 145 pounds. (Top photo and head shot courtesy of Eaton Rapids’ wrestling program; middle photo by

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.)