Wrestling’s Next Big Thing

August 13, 2013

“The next big thing” is what marketers often seek.  But it’s what school sports administrators usually dread because the “next big thing” is routinely a problem.

And so it is with the sport of wrestling which, at the high school level, has had an admirable record of solving the big issues that have threatened the sport’s existence.
School-based wrestling addressed unhealthy practices for weight loss, first with rules about what could not be done – e.g., rubber suits were banned from practices – and then with rules about what must be done, including a weight management program.

Twenty years ago, MHSAA member schools became one of the early adopters of policies and procedures that include the training of skinfold assessors who are employed to do measurements of all wrestlers, from which each wrestler learns his/her lowest allowed weight and the rate at which he/she may descend to that weight and still remain eligible to compete. These rules, and a nutrition education program, saved interscholastic wrestling from much public criticism and, possibly, from continuing drops in participation.

In addition, the Wrestling Committee has been unique among MHSAA sport committees in recognizing that a season that is too long is neither healthy for nor desired by student-athletes; and the committee has reduced the length of season and number of matches. All of this, combined with the MHSAA team tournament, have greatly increased the sport’s popularity among both participants and spectators.

But in spite of all this, the sport of wrestling is “one communicable skin disease outbreak from extinction,” according to those discussing the state of high school wrestling at a national meeting in June. We’ve already seen an outbreak lead to the suspension of all interscholastic wrestling for two weeks in Minnesota during the 2006-07 school year.

To avoid this next big thing, the rule makers have banned taped headgear, because tape can’t be properly cleaned. The NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which is the MHSAA’s advisory body as well, is urging schools to mandate that all participants shower or perform an antiseptic wipe-down after every match.

The MHSAA will make this issue a point of special emphasis in its online, print and face-to-face communications this fall. In addition, an excellent free webinar is provided by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. Click here for the webinar.

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.)