Frazee's Schermerhorn carries family tragedy with him on the wrestling mat
Missy Carlson had just put her sons to bed on a summer day in 2001. Josh was a week away from turning 6 years old and Tanner was 1½ —a few months from putting on his first wrestling singlet. She went out to the garage of their Frazee home to talk with her husband, as she often did at the end of their day.
Scott Schermerhorn, known to most in Frazee as "Shorty" based off his height, had gotten off work early that day. He was an avid demolition derby driver and was working on his car to get ready for Frazee's Turkey Days. Missy and Shorty were high school sweethearts. Missy was the manager for the Frazee wrestling team and Shorty wrestled for the Hornets.
Missy came out to the garage to find Shorty not moving underneath his car. He was a three-time state qualifier and a state runner-up at Frazee. She had seen him get up many times. She tried to revive him before calling for an ambulance.
"I tried CPR, but in my heart I knew he was gone," Missy said.
Shorty had been welding and was electrocuted, killing him instantly at the age of 24. Missy could see where the electricity traveled from his arm through his heart and out the other side.
Tanner, now a senior wrestler at Frazee, will make his fourth and final trip to St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center for the Minnesota Class 1A state wrestling tournament Thursday-Saturday. He's been going to the tournament since he was 3 years old.
He'll have a cross on his headgear for his father he never truly met. On the ride to St. Paul, Schermerhorn and the No. 2-seeded Hornets will watch the 1992 state championship dual when Frazee upset Paynesville for the state title.
Schermerhorn will watch his dad wrestle on video. He'll see how they both are very good on their feet, extremely tough on top and very aggressive controlling armbars. This is how he knows his father. His grandpa, uncles and mom tell him stories. He sees home videos. Frazee coach Clay Nagel tells him how much he's like his father. Tanner and Shorty are the first father-son pair Nagel has coached.
"The Schermerhorns are such kind people that'll give you the shirt off their back," Nagel said. "I'll miss Tanner's leadership, his example, all the extra things he did to make himself as good as he could be. He's a very good role model for our younger kids, a lot like his dad, and his mother raised a fine young man."
Schermerhorn has had many men fill the void of his father. His grandpa, Dennis, has been an assistant coach at Frazee for 30 years. He's been at his side for nearly every wrestling match Schermerhorn has been in. His uncle, Jim, moved in for two years to help remodel the fixer-upper Missy and Shorty had bought right after Shorty died. His stepfather, Phil Carlson, is a converted soccer dad to a wrestling dad.
"There's some points where I wonder how things would've been," Schermerhorn said. "There's also points where if my stepdad would've never came in my life some other things wouldn't have happened. I try to look at the positive. It's obviously not positive, but I've been lucky."
On the other side of Schermerhorn's headgear will be a sticker that says "Myrel." Ranked No. 4 at 126 pounds in Class 1A, Schermerhorn has had that on his headgear since he was a sophomore. Without Myrel, he wouldn't be 153-20 for his career with a second-place and fifth-place finish in Class 1A or headed to Concordia to wrestle.
"When I was in elementary school my grandpa was a coach, so he'd bring me to varsity practices and Myrel would stay after and wrestle with me," Schermerhorn said. "He really was kind of my best friend. He was so laid back, relaxed. Everybody said he took the tension out of the room. He could always bust a joke. He always worked hard. He's probably one of the hardest workers I've ever been around. I know what practices are like now and I wouldn't want to stick around after, but it meant a lot that he would with me. One of the teachers told me that Myrel said I was the only elementary kid he liked. That meant a lot to me. He was kind of like a brother."
Myrel died on Dec. 12, 2011, at the age of 17, three weeks after his car flipped into a pond two miles north of Frazee on County Road 29. He was submerged in frigid water for about 20 minutes. He was driving home from a Frazee wrestling program benefit.
Myrel was known for wearing a bandana. Schermerhorn, a sixth-grader at the time, wore a bandana everyday to school. Those were usually not allowed, but the school let him. Schermerhorn was a year away from wrestling in the same room as the varsity team. He was a year away from being with Myrel in the wrestling room.
"It was extremely hard on me," Schermerhorn said. "I took it really hard until the end of that wrestling season. Even now I take it hard just because the difference between that and my dad is I actually grew up and got to know Myrel. That was probably harder to me than my dad in a way. It took a lot of time to get over it."
Schermerhorn will wrestle Thursday, hoping to be part of his first team title with Frazee. On Friday, he'll begin his quest to try to move a step up on the podium from last year's second-place finish. He's two wins away from tying his dad for career wins at Frazee.
He will do so wearing Myrel's wrestling shoes. He will do so with his father and Myrel with him.
"I know if they could they'd both be there with me," Schermerhorn said. "It's kind of a way of having them there while I'm wrestling."