Scherr and Scherr Alike Twin brothers Jim and Bill Scherr, from Mobridge, S.Dak., anchor a U.S. team that may be the best since the Gable gang of '72

September 13, 1988

AS THE ANNUAL RODEO PArade in Mobridge, S.Dak., turns right onto
Main Street this baking hot Fourth of July morning, hometown heroes
Bill and Jim Scherr are sitting with some former high school
teammates and coaches on a float bearing the banner 32 YEARS OF
MOBRIDGE WRESTLING. The float, a sparsely decorated flatbed trailer,
is being pulled by a 15-ton semi that belongs to Frank Scherr, the
twins' father. ''They wanted to stick me and Jim in a car by
ourselves, but we said 'Nope,' '' says Bill.
Most of Mobridge (pop. 4,174) has come out to greet the town's
humble, hard- working, first-ever Olympians. The 27-year-old Scherrs
will go to Seoul as one-fifth of the U.S. freestyle wrestling team,
Bill in the 220-pound class and Jim at 198. Both are brainy, cautious
wrestlers with excellent chances of winning medals, though Bill, who
has lost two close matches to top-rated Leri Khabelov of the Soviet
Union, has a slightly better shot at a gold. Jim finished second at
last year's world championships in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and
Bill, a former 198-pound world champ who moved up in weight two years
ago to open a spot on the national team for his brother, placed
Along Main Street, the Scherrs are already champions. They won
state titles at Mobridge High, handled virtually all the field events
for the track team, got good grades, starred in football and proved
their mettle as team ropers and bull riders in rodeo. ''I quit bull
riding after I started having nightmares of bulls chasing after me,''
recalls Bill.
Watching the parade, their father, Frank, says, ''You know how
they got their wrestling strength? Stacking and hauling bales of hay
every summer from the time they were 10 years old.'' During summers,
Bill and Jim would work from dawn to dusk, six days a week, loading
as many as 1,500 bales a day onto their dad's three Scherr Trucking
Co. rigs. How much were they paid? ''They got a car ((a 1970 Pontiac
Catalina)) to share when they were 16,'' says Frank quietly but
firmly. ''And they got to go to wrestling camp every year.''
The Scherr boys never stopped working. While in high school, Jim
toiled nights loading beer trucks, while Bill punched in as a low-key
country-music deejay on the local radio station. ''My girlfriends
used to listen to Bill before they went to bed,'' says Teresa, his
high school sweetheart-turned- wife. ''They said he helped put them
to sleep.'' Even after they left Mobridge for the University of
Nebraska, where both won NCAA titles as seniors in 1984, Bill and Jim
came home often to visit their parents and six siblings and to work
with the town's young wrestlers, four of whom eventually followed
them to Nebraska on wrestling scholarships.
The parade moves past the Municipal Auditorium, which may be
renamed the Scherr Arena after the Olympics. The whole region has
mobilized behind the + twins, even though they no longer live in
Mobridge. Jim is an MBA candidate and graduate assistant coach at
Northwestern in Chicago, while Bill, Teresa and their 2 1/2-year-old
daughter, Alexandra, live in Bloomington, Ind., where Bill is working
toward an MBA at Indiana and is assistant to Hoosier coach Jim
Humphrey, who's also the Olympic freestyle coach.
After the parade there will be a fund-raiser at which caps,
shirts, buttons and raffle tickets will be sold to help defray the
twins' living expenses. South Dakota governor George Mickelson will
stop by, pose for photos with the twins and proclaim this July 4 Jim
and Bill Scherr Day in the state. To further help the twins, friends
in Mobridge have placed donation boxes at stores and restaurants as
far away as Bismarck, N.Dak., 100 miles to the north.
All the support is especially meaningful to the Scherrs now,
because in recent months the family has been under a great deal of
stress. In March the twins' 25-year-old sister, Liz, suffered a
recurrence of melanoma, a form of skin cancer. She had battled the
disease a year earlier and seemed to have beaten it. This time she
could not. She died on June 7, one week before the U.S. Olympic
Wrestling Trials in Pensacola, Fla., leaving behind a husband and a
15-month-old daughter.
''It was physically and emotionally exhausting for us,'' says
Bill. ''Liz was always very encouraging about our wrestling. She
wanted us to make the Olympics.'' Adds Jim, ''It was hard to
concentrate on training those last few months.''
Liz had given her brothers a virtual order not to let her illness
affect their preparations for Seoul. When they headed to Pensacola,
they could not help but think of her. ''Deep down,'' says Bill, ''I
wanted to succeed at the trials because I didn't want to leave a
black mark on her memory -- the idea that somehow her illness had
kept us off the team.''
As Jim wrestled the deciding bout in a best-of-three final series
against Melvin Douglas of Oklahoma, Bill, who had earned a spot on
the team less than an hour earlier with an easy victory over Kirk
Trost of Michigan, was kneeling near his brother's corner screaming
instructions and demonstrating moves. ''I couldn't imagine going to
the Olympics without Jim,'' he would say afterward. Jim hung tough on
defense to earn a 2-1 victory.
Bill, though 15 minutes younger, has always tended to push his
more laid- back brother in the sport. However, the Scherrs do share a
common style: good single-leg and high-crotch takedowns,
intelligent body position, solid defense. Both study opponents and
take notes on them. Bill has had to eat four meals a day and lift
weights constantly to maintain enough heft to compete in the
220-pound class. Jim may also need a little more muscle in Seoul; his
main rival, Soviet world champion Makharbek Khadartsev, has never
lost at a major international competition. Jim would have faced him
in the finals of last year's worlds but suffered a badly sprained
right knee in the semis. He dropped a narrow 2-0 decision to
Khadartsev at a U.S.-U.S.S.R. dual meet in New York City in March.
Just for the record, Bill can be identified by the scar near his
knee -- the right one -- the result of a football injury. He is also
more likely to have a fishing pole in his hand, although Jim, too,
likes to put a line in the water when back in Mobridge. In fact, if
Bill looks a bit weary as they ride the float past the Sears catalog
store on the Fourth, it may be from having been out on the lake
fishing until 3:30 a.m. the night before.
''You've made us a proud little town, boys,'' says the parade
announcer over the P.A. ''Good luck in Seoul, Korea.'' The twins wave
as the spectators smile and applaud. Jim and Bill will be back for
next year's Mobridge parade, probably bearing medals.