St. Johns' Massa: Master of the Mat

February 29, 2012

Taylor Massa enters his final high school wrestling competition today at The Palace of Auburn Hills the same way he started it -- without a loss.

Massa is one of 896 wrestlers who will compete this weekend. But he can become just the 16th in MHSAA history to graduate with four individual championships. And his 217 consecutive wins rank fifth on the all-time MHSAA list. With three wins this weekend, he’d move up to fourth. 

“Taylor has absolute dedication to the sport. During the season he is on the mat seven days a week training,” St. Johns head coach Zane Ballard said. “Off the mat, he’s a normal teenager who likes wake-boarding and hanging out with his friends. He also is a very good student.”

The MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals begin at 2 p.m. today. They continue through the Semifinals early Friday evening and into the championship matches Saturday afternoon. Click for a full schedule, plus brackets and results as they are filed.

After claiming titles at 145 pounds as a freshman, 152 as a sophomore and 160 a year ago, Massa has his sights set on the 171-pound crown. He also led the Redwings to three straight team titles, the most recent last weekend at Battle Creek.

Massa was on the mat all of 3 minutes and 8 seconds in pinning three opponents at the Team Finals. He spent most of the rest perched just behind his coaches, helping instruct his teammates with the knowledge that has made him nationally recognized and earned him a scholarship to Michigan.

His leadership has continued to grow in step with his elite mat skills over the last four seasons. Ballard said Massa mediates conflicts between teammates on top of passing on advice.

“We all help each other, show each other what’s happening,” Massa said. “You can’t get good without your partners. I look to my partners for advice. We’re all really good at different things.

“I think a lot of kids come to me if they have questions. (But) you know, if I’m not doing something right, I’ll ask someone that’s doing it better than I am what I’m doing wrong.”

If he's done something wrong on the high school mat, it's been tough to tell.

Ironically, Massa’s first individual championship at the Palace in 2009 came at the expense of Greenville’s Jordan Thomas, 5-2, in a battle of freshmen. Since that season, Thomas has stayed a weight heavier than Massa, winning the title at 160 in 2010 and at 171 a year ago. Thomas goes for his third consecutive championship, at 189, this weekend. He and Massa will lead the Finals Grand March together as flag bearers on Saturday.

After this spring, Massa will join the Wolverines and study pre-med. He’d also like to make a push for the Olympics, and already has competed internationally.

But for all the accolades, Massa prefers to let his actions do the talking.

“He is a quiet and unassuming person,” Ballard said. “You would never know he wrestles unless the topic is brought up.”

MHSAA four-time champions

Mike Mills, Mt. Pleasant—98-112-132-138 (1976-79)
Gregory Elie, Escanaba—98-105-112-119 (1980-83)
Robert Mariucci, Iron Mountain—112-126-145-155 (1981-84)
Michael Murdoch, Montrose—119-132-145-145 (1983-86)
Larry Raether, Iron Mountain — 112-119-132-132 (1984-87)
Brandon Chesher, Adrian 112-125-134-145 (1993-96)
Jeremiah Tobias, Manchester — 125-130-135-145 (1997-00)
Nick Simmons, Williamston — 103-103-119-119 (1998-01)
Andy Simmons, Williamston — 112-130-135-140 (1999-02)
Roger Kish, Lapeer West — 160-171-189-189 (2000-03)
Joe Mendez, Lowell —103-112-130-135 (2002-05)
Brent Metcalf, Davison —130-140-145-145 (2002-05)
Justin Zeerip, Hesperia —125-145-152-160 (2004-05-06-07)
Mark Weber, Goodrich  - 103-112-125-135 (2005-08)
Kyle Waldo, Rockford – 103-103-112-119 (2006-07-08-09)

(NOTE: Detroit Catholic Central’s Alex Mooradian also is competing for a fourth MHSAA title this weekend. Click to read more about his accomplishments.)

PHOTOS: (Top) St. Johns Taylor Massa and (middle) Greenville's Jordan Thomas. See more photos at High School Sports Scene. Report was compiled by the MHSAA's Rob Kaminski.

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 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.)