Performance: Walled Lake Central's Ben Freeman
March 10, 2017
Walled Lake Central senior – Wrestling
Freeman joined one of the elite groups of individual champions in any MHSAA sport Saturday when he defeated Birmingham Groves’ Colin Takata by technical fall, 24-7, to win the Division 1 championship at 140 pounds – and become the 22nd wrestler in MHSAA history to finish his career with four Individual Finals titles. In doing so, Freeman also capped a 34-0 season and 167-0 career in earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
His previous three championships came at 103 pounds in 2014, followed by a 125-pound title and then the win at 135 last winter. He won every event he entered over four seasons but one; as a freshman he was injured in a semifinal victory at a tournament and was unable to take the mat for the championship match. As a senior he had 28 wins by either tech fall or fall despite getting a slow start to this season after a broken ankle kept him off the mat until January. Although he had only a few close calls at the high school level, he’s taken his losses in national competition – but had plenty of success there as well, earning multiple All-America honors while winning a USA Wrestling folkstyle national title, finishing USA Wrestling freestyle and FloNationals runner-up and third at USA Wrestling Greco-Roman Nationals.
Freeman was coached during high school by his father, Al Freeman (who wrestled collegiately at University of Nebraska), and also watched closely the match right before his at The Palace of Auburn Hills last weekend as his junior brother Nick won his first title, at 135 pounds. Ben carries a 3.6 grade-point average and will continue his academic and wrestling careers at University of Michigan.
Coach (and Dad) Al Freeman said: “He works hard at it of course, like all serious athletes do. He might get an edge because he’s always been a student of the sport. His matches are live practicing for him, where he attempts to execute techniques and strategies to score as many points as possible. He has won many matches where he came off the mat very disappointed in himself because this or that technique didn’t work well enough. I think that he is one of the best. But I think there are many others whose records aren’t as stellar who are also up there with the best. Mis-timed injuries, illness, etc. can derail any of us no matter how good we are. Ben’s experienced this at some national tournaments. In fact, at this year’s state tournament he got sick the day before. Luckily being the last weight class on Thursday gave him just enough time to recover enough to perform. You need both a lot of preparation and a little luck at the top level.”
Performance Point: "During the season, I couldn't really think about all of that (four-title talk)," Ben Freeman said. "If I started thinking about that stuff, I thought I might psych myself out. So I tried to take each tournament one at a time, not look too far ahead. I definitely thought about (missing out on a fourth title). Obviously that crosses your mind. It happens to a lot of people who are dominant for three years, and the fourth year they lose to someone no one thought they would. I tried to keep that in mind and not underestimate anyone so that wouldn't happen."
No. 22: "It doesn't even seem real. I look up to all of those guys; I can't picture myself being part of that group (of four-time winners). Right after ... there were just so many emotions. I didn't even know what to think. Now that it's a week later, it's setting in. I'm sure the more time that goes by, and just realizing it, it's going to set in more."
Brotherly love: "It was super cool. I'm really proud of him. I know he deserves it. I know he could've won as a freshman, could've won last year too, but things don't always work out. I'm happy he finally got over that hump. I'm sure it's a lot of relief off his chest, and it makes it easier for him to (win again) next year."
Coach Dad: "Sometimes it was tough, especially when I was little, and obviously it's really tough for him to change hats and go between being Coach and being Dad. Obviously it's two different roles, but we've worked it out pretty good. I know at practice I have to treat him like Coach, and at home he's my dad. It's tough, but there are a lot of positives to it too. He's just around all the time. If I ever have any questions, I can ask him ... and get a lot quicker responses."
State of wrestling: "My favorite part is everyone (in Michigan) kinda knows each other. I've met a lot of great people all over the state, just practicing and going to tournaments with them. All the wrestlers I've found are really great people. I'm not sure if it's because they're like me, or just great people in general, but I've made a lot of close friendships through it, all over Michigan."
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan 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 2016-17 honorees:
March 2: Joey Mangner, Chelsea swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 23: Isabelle Nguyen, Grosse Pointe North gymnastics – Read
Feb. 16: Dakota Hurbis, Saline swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 2: Foster Loyer, Clarkston basketball – Read
Jan. 26: Nick Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling – Read
Jan. 19: Eileene Naniseni, Mancelona basketball – Read
Jan. 12: Rory Anderson, Calumet hockey – Read
Dec. 15: Demetri Martin, Big Rapids basketball – Read
Dec. 1: Rodney Hall, Detroit Cass Tech football – Read
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball – Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball – Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country – Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country – Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis – Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Walled Lake Central's Ben Freeman on Saturday has his arm raised for the fourth time at an MHSAA Individual Finals. (Middle) Freeman attempts to pin Groves' Colin Takata during their championship match. (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.)