"I say John Wayne," says Tom.
"I say Clint Eastwood," says Terry. "Hands down!"
"Does that mean you're right 'cause you said, 'Hands down'?"
"That means I'm right, all right. I win!"
For Tom and Terry, winning is never enough. They have to annihilate the opposition. As a college sophomore Terry had to be restrained by teammates after a Wisconsin wrestler became ill and forfeited a match to him. "I wanted to grab him by the throat and strangle him," says Terry.
"We're pretty brash," says Tom.
"I wouldn't say brash. Brash is cocky, like Muhammad Ah. We're more straightforward. You can't hee-haw around if you want to get people's respect. That's something we learned from our dad."
Tom Brands Sr. owned a body shop in Sheldon, a northern Iowa farming community. He drank heavily when the twins were young and was given to black-cloud silences and sudden lashings of anger. "The old man used to tear the house down when he was drunk," says Tom, whose parents divorced when he and Terry were 11. "Basically, we're clones of him." Now, Tom Sr. is a recovering alcoholic, and his sons say they've never touched liquor. "If we drank," explains Tern,', "we really would become savages."
The twins were introduced to wrestling by a Sheldon hog farmer named Randy Feekes. Coolly appraising the runty 12-year-olds, he said, "You're going to be too small for basketball, so I'll show you a couple of wrestling moves. Work on them, and I'll be back next week." By the time Feekes reappeared, the brothers had the moves down cold.
Their off-mat excesses became the stuff of Sheldon folklore. At eight they hurled a fire extinguisher through the windshield of a garbage truck. When they were in high school, reported Olympian magazine two years ago, one of their fights "...resulted in a shampoo bottle being imbedded in a wall." Terry scoffs at the tale. "That reporter misunderstood us," he says. "Actually I chucked Tom into a wall of our bedroom. When I pulled him out, all that was left was a huge hole in the shape of his head and shoulders. I guess that's where the 'shampoo' came from."