Louisville basketball star is the grand daught of Rollin Schimmel, a wrestling standout and Rainier High grad

Did you ever have that feeling there’s something very familiar about a name. Something you should be remembering but you can’t quite pull that memory out of the recesses of your mind. Then all of a sudden you figure it out.

I knew that Shoni Schimmel, the Louisville basketball star that led her team to the national finals, had some familial connection out here, but I just couldn’t remember what it SELF-PORTRAIT - Sports Editor John Brewington

I should have called St. Helens’ Jack Cooper. He used to talk about her all the time, and went to see her play at Franklin and in the state tournament.

It finally clicked, Shoni (and her sister Jude) are the granddaughters of Rollin Schimmel. Shoni’s Rick Schimmel is his son. Rollin was a 1963 graduate of Rainier High School, and a state wrestling champ at 157 pounds. He went on to an NAIA national title at Eastern Oregon College in La Grande (now Eastern Oregon University). He won the national title in 1967 at 160 pounds, and later took over the reins of the Pendleton High wrestling program. He left to teach and coach at Glencoe from 1987 to ‘91. He returned to Pendleton as athletic director from 1991 to ‘97. He later retired but came back to coach wrestling for two more years.

Rollin died in a rafting accident in 2006 at the age of 61. There is a wrestling foundation in his name to help young wrestlers, and the wrestling building at Pendleton is named in his honor.

His mother, and I can’t remember her name, used to give me frequent calls at a local newspaper where I worked back in the 1970s-80s. She’d give me updates about her son and grandsons. He was in Pendleton, but occasionally we did run something.

Larry Wallace, a former Rainier wrestling coach, and principal at Rainier said at the time of his death, “Rollin was a fine individual, the kind that only comes around a few times in a lifetime.”

It appears that as of a few years ago anyway, he had a brother Don in Longview, and several nephews and nieces in the area.

According to Don in 2006, Rollin held the Rainier High pole vault record of 12-feet, 3-inches. He was also one of just two Oregon wrestlers to go unbeaten on the first cultural exchange trip to Japan.

Shoni flabbergasted the basketball world with her play in the Sweet 16 as Louisville upset Baylor and 6-8 Brittney Griner in the last seconds, 82-81. Baylor was the defending champion and a heavily-favored No. 1 seed. The Cardinals were seeded just fifth and had already upset No. 2 (Tennessee). It was considered the biggest upset in tournament history.

Louisville then downed California, also a No. 2 seed, coming behind from a 10-point halftime deficit. That earned them the finals against Connecticut, a No. 1 seed.

They didn’t have much luck against UConn Tuesday night. It was even a little painful to watch, but they were in the finals. It made a big impact with her supporters back home.

Shoni moved off the Umatilla Indian Reservation, before her junior year, to attend high school at Franklin. She had led Hermiston to a second place in the 2008 state tournament. Her mother, Ceci Moses, took the head coaching position at Franklin.

Ceci said her goal was to win five games in her first year at Franklin, instead they went 21-5 and won

The Schimmel sisters are not huge players, but have some unique talents—read long-range shots, behind-the-back passes, and blind shots. Shoni made one basket for the ages against Griner. She swerved away from the basket and blindly threw up the shot over her head. It went in, Griner fouled her, and the pair were in each other’s face, if not nose-to-nose. Schimmel didn’t back down.

In the semis, she didn’t have her greatest game, but Jude had a decent game.

Rollin loved sports and it appears to be ingrained in the family. His abilities and tenaciousness seem to have passed to his granddaughters.

Shoni and Jude aren’t from Rainier, but knowing their grandfather graduated there does make it more interesting to watch and a nice local connection.

I think it’s safe to say he would be smiling to see the success his granddaughters had. If he had survived the rafting accident I’m sure he would have been there with the rest of the family.

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