UMSL twins to miss graduation for ‘murderball’ tryouts

Matt and Mike Schamburg

Matt and Mike Schamburg

Matt Schamburg’s best friend is his brother and fraternal twin, Mike. The two have been inseparable since birth. So when Matt was faced with the decision to participate in commencement or cheer on his brother as he tried out for the national wheelchair rugby team, the decision was a no-brainer.

“Of course I’m going to be there for him,” Matt said. “He’s my best friend and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

The 22-year-old brothers from Perryville, Mo. will both receive their bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice at the 2 p.m. commencement ceremony Saturday; however neither brother will be in attendance.

Mike, who suffered a spinal cord injury from a car accident in 2004, uses a wheelchair and has no feeling below his chest. But he hasn’t let his disability keep him from being active. For the last few years he’s been playing with a local wheelchair rugby team. The sport also known as ‘murderball’ can be brutal at times. Mike said he’s received a few cuts and bruises, and even been knocked out of his chair a few times, but nothing serious enough to keep him from playing. And he’s now decided to take his skills to the national level, competing this week in a four-day tryout for the Team USA national team that will compete in the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Although he knows there will be more experienced players, he’s just excited to get a chance to participate. And his brother, who is not only his biggest fan, but his team’s equipment manager, thinks Mike has a shot.

“The game, which is played with something similar to a volleyball, is based on ability levels,” said Matt, who is a strong man competitor and Missouri record holder for his weight class. “Some players have full use of their arms, chest and upper body. Others are limited. Each team is allowed to have various levels on the court, so a player with more mobility isn’t necessarily more valuable, since all skill levels need to be present.”
Mike on the other hand isn’t as optimistic as his brother, but said he’s looking forward to trying out.

“I know there will be better players than me,”said Mike, who will know by Sunday if he made the team. “Some guys have been playing a lot longer than me, but I’m just looking forward to trying out and seeing what happens.”

The Schamburg twins are more than just great athletes, they are also great students. Bob Bursik, Curators’ Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at UMSL, has had the brothers in several classes together. Bursik said not only are they amazing students, but also both are amazing people.

“The obvious bonds of support, devotion, and loyalty between Matt and Mike would bring a smile to the faces of even the most cynical,” he said. “Plus, they’re both the kind of students that make it a real pleasure to be in the classroom.”

Both Matt and Mike will be back at UMSL in the spring to begin working on their master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice. Matt would like to someday work for the Missouri Highway Patrol and Mike would like to become a professor.


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