Richmond 'Works Hard' to Contend Again

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

February 8, 2016

RICHMOND – Every sport seems to have its glamour position.

Baseball and softball have their home run hitters. In football, it’s the quarterback. In volleyball, the player who collects the most spikes makes the highlight reel. And for those in track and field, the fastest runner receives all the glory.

There’s nothing pretty about wrestling. It’s a blue-collar sport where athletes compete like tigers in a cage. They eye their opponent, take a few steps, then make their move. Usually the strongest wins, but quickness often trumps strength – especially in the lower weight divisions.

One fact separates an average program from those that achieve success consistently, and that’s hard work. Sounds trite, but it’s true. Unless there is a wide variance in talent, the wrestler who out-works the opponent wins.

At Richmond, a town of about 6,000 people located in rural northern Macomb County, there’s no substitute for hard work. And for the school’s varsity wrestling coach Brandon Day, there is no tolerance for a lack of hard work.

The Blue Devils have won four of the last six Division 3 titles including last season. And despite losing 11 of their 14 starters, they are one of the top contenders again and No. 3 in the final regular-season Division 3 rankings.

“We have some talented kids,” Day said. “But we get the most out of them. It’s a total community effort here. Now I’m starting to get the kids who had dads and uncles wrestle here. We have one of the smallest schools (by enrollment) at the Finals, but we’ll have some of the biggest crowds.

“I guess we’re a lot like Lowell. It’s a community. They made the football Finals and their wrestling program is among the best. A lot of our kids play football, too. The kids want to be a part of it. There’s no selfishness.”

Day, a graduate of Imlay City, is in his 12th season as Richmond’s head coach. Growing up in a rural area, Day understands the mentality of participating in small-town athletics. The student you are competing with as a senior is the same person with whom you attended first grade.

One of five seniors on the team, Aaron Kilburn, is one of the three returning who started last season. As a freshman, he finished third at the 103-pound weight division. Kilburn was an MHSAA champion at 112 his sophomore year and, as a junior, finished second at 119. He competes at 125 this season.

The other two returners are Graham Barton at 135 and Cody Keller at 119. Both were MHSAA Finals qualifiers last season.

“We’re young,” Kilburn said. “We’ve developed the young guys as the season has gone on. Here everyone busts their butts every day. There are no slackers.

“A lot of the guys play football. I don’t. I just wrestle. We get a month off a year. The rest of the time we train in the offseason getting ready. I love the sport. It’s a passion. It’s just you and the other guy on the mat. Your teammates can’t help you then. It’s just you. I like working hard.”

The Blue Devils are improving.  They lost to Division 1 No. 6 Oxford in a close match early in the season and last week at the Macomb-Oakland Invitational held at Oxford, Richmond went 5-0 highlighted by a 44-24 victory over the host.

Richmond’s Team District is Feb. 10 at Algonac, and for Richmond to be successful the Blue Devils must have solid matches from underclassmen like Colton McKiernan (171), Alex Roberts (140) and Tyler Marino (215), all of whom are sophomores.

Day is hoping the demanding schedule he put together begins to pay off. He’s taken his team to tournaments in Defiance, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Cleveland to help the team prepare for the postseason.

“We like to have the kids go against the best as much as possible,” he said. “We beat (defending Division 4 champion) New Lothrop and we wrestled (Division 2 No. 1) Lowell in Ohio and lost.

“We’ve been fortunate here. The parents and the kids value hard work and accountability. Being a hard worker is still cool here.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) A Richmond wrestler (right) works for control in a match against New Lothrop at Central Michigan University last month. (Middle) Richmond athletes watch a teammate during the competition. (Click for more photos from

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.)