Arizona State University (ASU) senior wrestler Anthony Robles recently capped off his college career accomplishing the most difficult task in the sport: winning the NCAA Championship. He earned the 2011 125-pound title with an impressive 7-1 decision over Iowa sophomore and defending national champion Matt McDonough on March 19. The championship victory didn’t come easy, but the 21-year-old Mesa, Arizona native is no stranger to overcoming odds.
Robles was born with just one leg, but that never stopped him from doing anything any two-legged person can do. Since he was a toddler, Robles refused any special assistance typically allotted for someone missing a limb. According to reports, he tossed aside his prosthetic leg when he was only 3, choosing instead to hop on one leg or use his arms to walk. When he reached the sixth grade, he broke a record at his school for the most pushups performed.
But the record-setting performances didn’t stop there. Robles first started wrestling in the eighth grade, joining in after watching one of his cousins during a practice. He stuck with it and by the time he reached age 17, he had won two Arizona state wrestling championships, earning a 46-0 record during his junior and senior years at Mesa High School. He remained successful at ASU, earning All-American honors, along with a couple Pac-10 Conference titles. But Robles said the National Title was by far his greatest athletic accomplishment so far.
“I had a lot of butterflies going out there. I’ve dreamt about stepping on that stage a dozen times, and this whole year I’ve just been preparing for that moment,” Robles told the Daily Iowan. “I was scared. I was scared out there, but as soon as I hit that first takedown, I sort of relaxed.”
Most may immediately think of the disadvantages a one-legged fighter may have, but there are a few advantages to wrestling with just one leg, too. Because he doesn’t carry the weight of an additional leg, Robles can weigh in at 125 pounds with a lot more muscle weight in his upper body than his opponents. He has also developed a unique style of wrestling with just one leg, which opponents have difficulties preparing for.
“First time wrestling a tough opponent like that, it’s quite obvious there’s a difference in style of someone that has one leg and a large upper body as opposed to anyone else in the country,” said McDonough, who will return as the nation’s top wrestler next year. “It’s definitely not an experience to take lightly…”
Robles, who will graduate from ASU in May, told ESPN reporters that his wrestling days are now over, but he plans on pursuing a career in public speaking. He always told the media that he wrestles for the love of the sport, and he’ll apply that same passion towards uplifting and motivating those in need.
“It inspires me when I get kids, even adults, who write me on Facebook and send me letters in the mail saying that I’ve inspired them,” Robles told USA Today. “I want to keep it up.”