Rivals Benefit by Combining Mat Forces

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

February 12, 2020

HARRIS – Most Bark River-Harris and Powers North Central athletic teams have been fierce rivals for decades.

The situation is much different in wrestling, however, as the two schools combined forces for the first time this winter through a co-op venture.

"A year ago, our numbers were really down," said BR-H coach Joe Racicot. "We were approached by the North Central AD (athletic director Randall McLeod) and he asked if we'd be interested in starting a co-op program. Both school boards and the MHSAA approved it. We're now 16 kids strong, but our numbers are still low enough to remain a Division 4 program. We have 10 kids who never stepped on a wrestling mat before this year."

Currently, four North Central athletes are part of the program: junior Daniel Dani at 125 pounds, freshman Drew Allgeyer (145) and Fabian and Owen Chartier.

"I think it's a great opportunity for other kids to see the sport at North Central," said Allgeyer. "This has been a great learning experience, although I've wrestled lot of the same kids I had seen in middle school. It's really fun to wrestle them again and see how much they've improved. I think going right from middle school into high school wrestling has eased the transition. Although, it's still a tough transition. Wrestling against juniors and seniors is the most challenging part."

Allgeyer captured the 145-pound title at Saturday's Mid-Peninsula Conference meet at Gladstone by pinning Iron Mountain sophomore Preston Roberts in five minutes, 33 seconds.

"Today was awesome, and wrestling in the U.P. Championships (Jan. 25 in Marquette) was a unique experience," Allgeyer said moments after receiving his award Saturday. "I'm thankful to have this opportunity."

Dani, runner-up by pin to Gladstone sophomore Hunter Solis in his M-PC debut, is also grateful for his opportunity to participate in high school wrestling.

"This is a great experience," he said. "Four of us came over here, and we've developed close friendships with the Bark River-Harris kids. This is something I've always wanted to try, and it's a huge learning experience. In other sports you can kind of walk on and figure it out right away. Wrestling is not like that. I came in pretty well-conditioned, but this is different in terms of conditioning other parts of the body. Staying on your diet and making weight is one of the most challenging parts."

BR-H sophomore Katie Viau (119) took third at Gladstone, six days after finishing 2-2 at the Michigan Wrestling Association girls state tournament at Adrian.

"It was amazing to see all the girls down there," she said. "That got me more excited about wrestling. I was real happy with it. I did better than I expected. I was pretty pumped. That was the highlight of my season.

"Competing with the boys helps me get better. They're generally stronger and more experienced, which helped prepare me for the state tournament."

Viau, who also plays basketball on the BR-H jayvee team, says she's happy with the new arrangement with North Central.

"This makes us better as a team," she added. "We're all real close, and this gives us more numbers. We have a lot more people than last year, and we've come together as a team.”

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTO: Bark River-Harris’ Katie Viau attempts to escape a hold by Westwood’s Alana Nuorala (front) in a 119-pound match Saturday at Gladstone. (Photo by Justin St. Ours/Escanaba Daily Press.)

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.

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.)