Thrush Thrives in Farwell's Mat Return

February 6, 2019

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

Jay Thrush admitted once he bought the new shoes, he knew he was back.

Thrush was a promising wrestler at Farwell High School three years ago, finishing in eighth place as a 171-pound freshman at the 2016 Division 4 Individual Finals. He followed that up with another Finals trip as a sophomore, falling just short of the podium in 2017. 

That momentum was stopped last year when the Farwell athletic administration had to cancel the season because of a lack of participation. 

"My freshman year six of us went to state and three of us placed, and I thought that was going to help build the program – but it didn't," Thrush said. "I thought people were going to join, but no one did. Wrestling is a hard sport, and it is hard to convince people to go out."

Then a new coach showed up.

Marcus Wilkes, a former Farwell wrestler, was asked to come back to his former school by Farwell baseball coach Josh Higgins to try and get the wrestling program back up and running. 

"The last few years I was a manager at Walmart in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and I was sick of working 100 hours a week and I just got married," Wilkes said. "So I ended up quitting and going back to school. Now I go to Ferris and coach."

Higgins did a good sell job to convince the energetic Wilkes to come home.

"I wrestled for Farwell for my first two years in high school, and then I moved to Wisconsin and wrestled the final two years," said Wilkes, who also played baseball in high school. "I lost every match I wrestled my freshman year, but as a senior I finished 32-13 in Wisconsin. 

"I did talk to Josh and asked if he needed any help with the baseball team, and he said none this year, but wanted me to come back and coach wrestling. I was hired in the fall and began to recruit kids."

Obviously one of the first Wilkes reached out to was Thrush, but Wilkes admitted he wasn't sure Thrush was all in to come back for his senior season.

"I knew Jay wasn't sure he wanted to wrestle when we started, but he got new shoes a month into the season, and then I knew he was in it for the long haul," Wilkes said. 

Thrush agreed. 

"Yeah, once I got the new shoes, I was trapped after that," Thrush said. 

Luckily for Wilkes, Thrush picked up right where he left off after his sophomore season.

Heading into this past weekend, Thrush had a 25-4 record wrestling at 189 pounds. And he has been a help to Wilkes in the practice room, showing some of the new wrestlers – along with Wilkes – moves the younger athletes can build upon. 

"He has been a huge asset," Wilkes said. "He has become a leader. He is teaching techniques that I am rusty at, helping the younger kids improve."

Thrush has been a leader in the classroom too, carrying a 3.5 GPA. 

How many kids have Wilkes and Thrush had to work with this year?

"We had 12 to start, but we have lost some during the year," Thrush said. "Wrestling is mentally tough on first-year wrestlers; it takes a while to understand the sport. Experience goes a long way in this sport.

"We have a youth program, and I hope the young guys stay in the sport," he added. "And having a new coach helps."

One of those young wrestlers to build the future around is freshman Chase Burchette, who has won more than 20 matches this season at 160 pounds. 

Wilkes is looking forward to the future.

"I'm excited," Wilkes said. "When I set up our schedule I only had four wrestlers. And I set up a somewhat difficult schedule, and with what I've seen, I'm excited for the future. It was good to see where our team stood against same-level teams with limited weight classes, and we have done well. But this year I wanted to concentrate on individual, and next year we will concentrate on team."

Farwell is in Division 3 and starts its MHSAA Tournament with Team Districts on Thursday at Clare High School and Individual Districts on Saturday at Freeland.

PHOTOS: (Top) Jay Thrush is again a mat standout as Farwell brought back its wrestling program this winter. (Middle) As a freshmen in 2016, Thrush wrestled Clinton’s Verneri Korkee at the Finals and took eighth in Division 4 at 171 pounds. (Top photo courtesy of the Farwell athletic department; Finals photo by

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.)