Titans Grow to Tower Over Competition

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

January 19, 2017

WARREN – The year was 1999. Greg Mayer had recently graduated from Central Michigan University and didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life.

After serving as a co-head wrestling coach at Warren Woods Tower in 1998, Pat Threet directed the program alone the following season.

Although they never had met before, Mayer and Threet knew of the other through mutual acquaintances and athletics. They didn’t know it then, but soon they would team together and build a wrestling power in Macomb County from the ground up. Along the way they also would become best friends.

Woods Tower’s wrestling program was struggling when Threet took over. Warren public schools like Lincoln and Fitzgerald were far more competitive and Threet, as a graduate of Woods Tower, made a commitment to himself and the community to get the program to where it could be competitive as well. 

Threet wrestled in high school, but he knew his limitations. He also knew he needed to hire someone with a strong wrestling background, one who would demand excellence.

“I didn’t know Greg, but I knew he was a phenomenal wrestler,” Threet said. “His brother (Jeff) was, too. From day one I told him we’re in this together.”

Mayer was hired as Threet’s assistant in 1999, and the wheels began turning. It took a few years but, finally, in 2004 Woods Tower won a District title. Three years later it won its first Regional. The Titans won another Regional in Division 2 in 2014 and again last season.

This season Mayer, now in charge of the program, returned 13 wrestlers, just four of whom are seniors, and the Titans are looking to take that next step past the Quarterfinal round.

“We were terrible,” Mayer said of his first season with Threet. “When I got there Pat and I had some 20 kids. At the end of the season we had nine, but we had nine hammers.

“Then we started to win some Districts. Pat moved on in 2007. He had other obligations, family and stuff. I’m really grateful to him for giving me that chance.”

Mayer was an MHSAA individual champion wrestler at Lincoln, one of the county’s top programs. In 1994, his senior season, the Abes won the Class A team title with Sam Amine as the head coach and Mayer was the individual champion at 130 pounds.

Mayer enjoyed a successful four-year wrestling career at CMU, one that was highlighted by a fifth-place finish nationally when he was a junior and a seventh-place finish his senior season. 

Upon graduating Mayer, like many 23-year-olds, didn’t have a plan.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to,” he said. “I was doing a camp in Warren and Pat was in his first year (1998) at Woods Tower, and he said to me if you come over I’ll put a good word in for you to get you a teaching position. So I took it and convinced my brother, who was the head coach at Roseville, to coach the youth program.”

Mayer didn’t stop there. He convinced two other Lincoln graduates, Russell Correll and Mike Milunovich, to join his staff. Like the Mayers, Correll and Milunovich were MHSAA Finals placers at Lincoln. Ian Fredlund, a Woods Tower graduate, also is on staff.

In a division dominated by Lowell and St. Johns (each has won four MHSAA team titles over the last eight seasons), Woods Tower is the new kid on the block attempting to disrupt the status quo, and made the Quarterfinals last season as the sixth seed before falling to third-seeded Gaylord 31-26. 

The Titans finished third at the prestigious Detroit Catholic Central Invitational earlier this month. And with all of the experience back, hopes are high.

Among his top wrestlers is sophomore David Stepanian, ranked No. 1 in the 103-pound division by MichiganGrappler.com. At 112 is another sophomore, Chaise Mayer, the coach’s nephew. At 119 is senior Elijuh Weaver, the reigning Division 2 champion at 112 pounds.

Six years ago Woods Tower joined the Macomb Area Conference Red and is the only Division 2 school to compete in the MAC’s top division. Not only did Mayer want his wrestlers facing the best, it’s become a numbers situation within his program.

“We carry almost two full teams,” he said. “Being in the Red guarantees my guys they will wrestle in every (division) meet. We’ve never won the MAC Red and to be honest, that’s not our goal. Our goal is to win a state title. As long as we’re progressing, I’m happy.”

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) Elijuh Weaver, top, works toward flipping his opponent during last season’s Division 2 Quarterfinal match against Gaylord. (Middle) Greg Mayer, left, and Pat Threet from a team photo early in their tenure at Warren Woods Tower. (Below) Mayer directs one of his wrestlers last year at Rose Arena. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.)