SMC’s Recognition Day celebrates wrestlers, graduating student athletes

Published 3:30 pm Monday, February 27, 2023

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DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College Recognition Day Feb. 25 during basketball games with the Glen Oaks Community College Vikings celebrated 12 graduating student athletes.

Wrestler Gage Ensign, of Constantine, competed at 157 pounds for the Roadrunners. He finished third in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA) championships, second at the Great Lakes District championships and will vie at the NJCAA National Championships in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Ensign, a member of the SMC Honors Program, boasts a 4.0 grade-point average and is graduating April 29 with a general-studies degree. An active reservist with Marines H and S Company, he will attend officer candidate school this summer. This fall, Ensign will continue his studies at Central Michigan University, walking on to the Chippewas’ wrestling program.

Basketball player Nadia Collins, of Lakeside, captained SMC’s first team in more than 25 years, coached by Jeanine Wasielewski. She appeared in 20 games, posting a career-high eight rebounds versus North Central Michigan College and scoring a career-high eight points at Triton College. She has a 3.75 GPA and will graduate with a business degree. This fall, Collins will attend Western Michigan University’s (WMU) Haworth College of Business to complete her bachelor’s degree.

Anna Leach, of Cassopolis, is a member of the Ladybirds, SMC’s competitive dance team Laura Odenwald coaches. She has expanded beyond classical ballet to pom, jazz and hip hop. Leach has a 3.69 GPA and will be graduating with a general-studies degree. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community colleges. Leach will attend WMU this fall.

The other ninehonorees ran for Head Coach Zac Sartori’s second-year cross-country teams.

Ethan Saylor, of Dowagiac, was a lead runner, competing in two NJCAA National Championship meets. He has a 3.74 GPA and will graduate with a sports management degree. Saylor signed a national letter of intent to run cross country at Goshen College of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and plans to continue studying sports management or kinesiology.

Bailee Shambaugh, of Mishawaka, was a top-seven runner both seasons, competing in two NJCAA National Championship meets. She earned Academic All-American honors. Shambaugh compiled a 3.74 GPA and is graduating with a general-studies degree. She plans to continue her education at SMC in the nursing program.

Addison Modderman, of Lawton, ran in the number-three spot last fall, competing in the NJCAA National Championship meet. Modderman has a 3.86 GPA, graduating with a general studies degree. Addie signed a national letter of intent to run cross country at Tusculum University in Tennessee, an NCAA Division 2 institution. She plans to continue studies in secondary education with a focus on English and writing.

Gavin Smith, of Decatur, competed in cross country for the last two seasons and was named an Academic All-American in 2022. He has a 3.66 GPA and will graduate with a degree in general studies. Smith plans to attend WMU to continue studying sports management.

Alex Blanton, of Plainwell, competed at two NJCAA National Championship meets. Blanton expects to continue studying early childhood education with a career goal of teaching first or second grade.

Kelsey Brown, of Buchanan, competed at two NJCAA National Championship meets and was a top-five Roadrunner both seasons. He will graduate with a construction trades green technology degree and pursue a construction industry career.

Known as the “three amigos,” the Cassopolis trio consists of Robert “Buster” Ward, William Westphal and Ben Gillesby.

Ward competed at last fall’s NJCAA National Championship meet. He has a 3.35 GPA and will graduate with a business degree. He plans to someday open his own construction business.

Westphal was a top-seven runner for two seasons and competed in two NJCAA National Championship meets. Westphal will graduate with a criminal justice degree and plans to pursue a law enforcement career. Will has yet to decide if he will attend a four-year college or go straight into the police academy.

Gillesby competed on the men’s cross country team the past two years. He plans to continue to run competitively while studying secondary education with an emphasis in history and social science.

Also recognized was SMC’s wrestling team, which returned after a 30-year hiatus to achieve remarkable success. Jan. 28 the team won the first MCCAA Conference Championship in school history. Head Coach Todd Hesson, an alumnus who wrestled for Hall of Fame Coach Jim Judd, was named Conference Coach of the Year.

In their dominating performance against five established programs, four SMC wrestlers became weight-class champions: Gabe Livingston, 133 pounds; Zam Thompson, 149; Hunter Heath, 165; and Shane Edwards, 285.

The grapplers finished third at the Great Lakes District Championships, with nine — Jared Checkley (174 pounds), Shane Edwards (285), Gage Ensign (157), Hunter Heath (165), Gabe Livingston (133), Matthew Martinez (141), Vinny Patierno (197), Jordan Simpson (125) and Zam Thompson (149) — qualifying for the March 3-4 NJCAA National Championships in Council Bluffs.