Redwings Seniors Finish with 4

February 23, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – St. Johns’ seniors heard most of it and read the rest over the last year.

Those last three MHSAA team wrestling championships simply were the product of an incredible senior class that had combined for six individual championships. Throw in a new coach this winter, and the Redwings would fall off their roost as the dominant program in Division 2.

But these seniors – including five who will wrestle in the Big Ten next season – knew better.

“Of course we did. This is the same group of guys who just keep working hard, keep going after it,” St. Johns senior Josh Pennell said. “Just because one grade moves out, that doesn't mean we (don’t) have kids from underneath moving in and replacing those kids."

With 2012 graduates Taylor Massa and Jordan Wohlfert looking on – as fans, this time – the teammates they left behind finished a run achieved by only three schools before.

Top-seeded St. Johns defeated Lowell in the Division 2 Final at Kellogg Arena on Saturday, 42-20, to become the fourth school to win four straight MHSAA team wrestling titles since the beginning of the Team Finals format in 1988.

“We proved that it just wasn't a fluke, one grade that just could do everything,” Pennell said. “The truth is we've got what it takes to win state championships, if we work as a team to win.”

The two teams also met in last season’s Final, with St. Johns winning 41-18.

Pennell and senior Jacob Schmitt started in all four championship match wins during this run, and senior Brant Schafer no doubt would've done the same had an injury not ended his season earlier this winter.

Total, this senior class finished with a 115-8 dual meet record.

By numbers alone, this season’s 22-4 finish was the least impressive of their run. But those losses this winter came to eventual Division 1 championship Detroit Catholic Central – which St. Johns also then beat – plus ranked Division 1 Brighton and Division 2 Fowlerville, and Ohio powerhouse Lakewood St. Edward.

The only other teams to win at least four straight titles during the Team Finals era were Davison from 2002-06, Hudson – which joined Davison as the only two with five straight by winning Division 4 on Saturday – and Dundee from 1995-98.

“These guys, they have moxie. They've got attitude. They want to be here and all that stuff,” said St. Johns coach Derek Phillips, who took over the program this winter after seven seasons as an assistant.

“I had a bond with these kids. I’d been with them for all four (titles), and winning breeds winning. They wanted it, and they were going to do everything they could to get those Ws.”

Schmitt and sophomore Logan Massa needed a combined 51 seconds to build St. Johns a 12-0 lead to start the championship match. Senior Ben Whitford, sophomore Drew Wixson, senior Payne Hayden and junior Zac Hall also won by fall for the Redwings. Junior Derek Krajewski and freshman Zeth Dean won major decisions late for the Red Arrows to tighten the final margin, although Lowell did win six matches total.

The Red Arrows, which entered the weekend as the second seed, finished 19-7. But there’s no reason to think they won’t be back at Kellogg Arena again in 2014 – although they started three seniors in the championship match, they also started five freshmen.

“They fought today. I’m proud of my team” Lowell coach Dave Dean said. “This is a very young team, so we’re building on a really good foundation."

Lowell will have nine qualifiers at next weekend’s Individual Finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills, and St. Johns will send 11. The Redwings' senior class certainly will be remembered among the most impressive in Michigan in some time, regardless of what happens next weekend. Whitford and Hayden have signed with the University of Michigan, Pennell with Michigan State, Schmitt with Northwestern and Schafer with Indiana.

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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.)