In my younger more athletic days, when I was fifty or so pounds lighter and about six to eight inches slimmer, I played the typical American sports. I played eight years of football, played basketball my entire life (I can still make it rain) and I even played baseball...okay not baseball, tee-ball. I had to retire after a season or two of tee-ball; I struck out too many times. Baseball was the one sport I wasn't very good at; I was the kid in left field going for deep nasal exploration. One sport I never tried, except while my cousins and I were beating eachother up, was wrestling. I watched the WWF; I even attended one of their wrestling nights at the Philadelphia Spectrum as a kid. I got to see Hulk Hogan before he became a reality TV star and Rent-a-Center spokesman. Little did I know that actual wrestling is much more difficult and a lot less popular.
The men's Division I wrestling championships took place this weekend at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. I didn't fill out a bracket or fake an illness on Friday to stay and watch it. It was not televised on four different channels, including the newly discovered True TV. That being said, these championships did get some national attention and even a blurb on ESPN's Sports Center because of one wrestler, with one leg.
Anthony Robles is a senior at Arizona State University. He was 35-0 going into last night's men's championship final against 27-1 sophomore Matt McDonough from Iowa. Robles is now 36-0 and Division I men's wrestling champ. This story and victory would fly under the radar of the sports media and unless you are a former wrestler or die-hard college wrestling fan you would have never heard of Anthony Robles, except this victory has one great storyline, Robles' missing right leg. Yup, the man that won the NCAA men's Division I wrestling championship has one leg. This wasn't a handicap league or special event, this was Robles going up against his peers. Every single one of Robles 36 victories came against an opponent with one more leg then him.
Anthony Robles is a three time All American and was the top seed at this years championships. Robles, a native of Mesa, AZ, was born without his right leg and a hip bone. He never let his handicap slow him down. He took up wrestling in ninth grade and never looked back. In his Junior year of high school Robles finished 48-0 and won the state title. What is even more impressive is he finished his senior year with the exact same record and end result, State Champion.
Robles took his talents to Arizona State where he didn't disappoint. As a sophomore he finished fourth at the men's championships and as a Junior he finished seventh. Like I said, I've never wrestled or attempted to, maybe some of my hesitation with the sport was knowing all of the physical conditioning that goes into it. Robles can not only bench 300 pounds, but he can also run an 8 minute mile. I have both legs and I don't think I could run an 8 minute mile (just a bit out of shape right now). Knowing the physical demands of the sport makes Robles victory all that more impressive and inspirational.
With his final match and victory behind him, Robles story has hit it's biggest height. The two time Arizona State Champion in high school has now become National Champion in college. It is fitting that he is a senior and this was his final match. It completes the story and I don't think Disney could write a better one. Robles has more than earned everything he has accomplished and his achievements should be seen as an inspiration to those of us that think we can't accomplish something.