Wrestler Wins Ncaa Championship With One Leg

Arizona State University athlete Anthony Robles emerged the winner in the NCAA Wrestling Championship last weekend. Robles' victory in the 125-pound weight class was remarkable because he beat his competition wrestling on just one leg. The amateur wrestler was born without a right leg. Guest host Jacki Lyden speaks to Robles about his win and wrestling career.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

Now, from tragedy to succeeding against the odds. If you tuned into ESPN looking for March Madness last weekend, you might have caught another NCAA tournament, wrestling. And you would have seen wrestler, Anthony Robles, dominate the mat to make the National Collegiate Championship in his weight class, 125 pounds.

Here's the thing. The Arizona State University athlete beat his national and world-class competition wrestling on just one leg.

(Soundbite of Wrestling Match)

Unidentified Man #1: Anthony Robles has shown us that impossible is nothing. Anthony Robles is a national champion.

LYDEN: Anthony Robles was born with just one leg. He ended the season with a perfect 36 wins and no losses. And Anthony Robles joins us now from the Riches Wrestling Complex at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Anthony, welcome to TELL ME MORE, and we want to say congratulations.

Mr. ANTHONY ROBLES (Athlete): Thank you very much, and thank you for having me on.

LYDEN: So how does it feel to win the crown?

Mr. ROBLES: It feels amazing, you know. It's a dream come true. And honestly, I'm just still soaking it in right now, you know. It's still kind of hitting me. It's been an exciting week and, you know, I'm just happy to come home with the title and it's just a huge honor.

LYDEN: Now, I won't profess to be an expert in wrestling, but it does seem that it's a sport of leverage, and that one would suspect that a one-legged wrestler would be at a massive disadvantage, and yet you become a champion working without the leverage. So how do you support your body?

Mr. ROBLES: Really, it was just kind of a trial and error thing that my coaches and I experienced, you know. It was just all about finding a specific wrestling style that worked for me. And, you know, we just tried to focus on my advantages and my strengths and, you know, instead of my disadvantages.

And some of my advantages were my upper body strength and, you know, my quickness from when I was low on the mat. So that's really what we focused on. You know, we weren't too preoccupied with that fact that I did have one leg. We were just working around it.

LYDEN: And you do have, as you say, this really great upper body strength.

Mr. ROBLES: I do, yes. I started off pretty small. I was only 90 pounds when I was a freshman in high school. But, you know, walking around on crutches 24/7, it's pretty much like I'm lifting weights all the time, you know. So that really helped my body to develop, especially my upper body. And fortunately, that was an advantage for me in my wrestling and it really - it helped me out in the long run.

LYDEN: Now, a couple of sports commentators have argued that your having only one leg is actually an unfair advantage, because you're in a lower weight class than perhaps you should be. Here's some of the ESPN commentary of your match against Iowa defending champ, Matt McDonough.

Unidentified Man #2: Matt McDonough had to throw away everything he knows and everything he usually goes into a match with as a game plan, because it's different wrestling Anthony Robles.

Unidentified Man #3: And I think what most people - when I talk to folks about Anthony Robles, is he is a top-flight athlete. His strength is off the charts. And so, you got to think how good would he be if he had both legs, or maybe he wouldn't be as good as he is now.

LYDEN: Well, I am sorry for playing that, but I suppose that you are accustomed to that sort of assessment, and what's your response?

Mr. ROBLES: I'm sort of used to that, you know. And it's actually kind of funny because when I first started wrestling and I wasn't very good, people would say that me missing my leg was a disadvantage. You know, I couldn't compete with the other kids with two legs, and you know, I wouldn't be able to succeed at the level with them. But, really, it was just about me just throwing that aside.

I'm not going to let having one leg hold me back. And the whole thing about whether it's a disadvantage or an advantage, really, I think it just equals out, you know.

LYDEN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROBLES: In the sport of wrestling, you're not going to be a great wrestler just because you're strong or because you're fast, you know. You really have to have the complete package.

And I think with the help of my coaches and with my teammates, and we've really been able to, you know, help me get into that mode, you know, you that complete package as a wrestler. And I think it paid off, you know. I came back with the national title.

So I really don't look at it as a disadvantage or an advantage. I just see that, you know, this is how I am, and I'm just going to work with what I have, you know, just like every other wrestler out there. We're all different. So...

LYDEN: Mm-hmm. How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a wrestler?

Mr. ROBLES: I was actually a freshman in high school. You know, it was kind of late for me as a - to start in wrestling. It's real common for wrestlers to start when they're five or six years old. But my freshman year was really when I got exposed to the sport, and I just fell in love with it. You know, I wasn't very good starting off, but just the wrestling style and just the environment, it just really appealed to me. And I thought that this was a sport that, you know, that I could really excel in.

LYDEN: Now, do you use a prosthetic leg outside athletics?

Mr. ROBLES: Actually, I don't right now. I'm only on my crutches, but we're looking into getting me a prosthetic leg. I chose the crutches because I could move around a lot faster, and especially since I was wrestling, you know, I needed to run and things like that. So I was able to move a lot faster with the crutches.

But now that I'm done wrestling, I don't need to run miles or anything like that anymore, so I'm going to be looking into getting a prosthetic.

LYDEN: And now are you going to hang up your belt?

Mr. ROBLES: I am. I've had a great run in wrestling, you know, I've been doing it for nine years now. It's taught me a lot and I've enjoyed it. But I won my national title and I feel like I can walk away satisfied. And I think it's time for another chapter in my life, and I believe that's motivational speaking.

And that's really what I'm going to be focusing on from here on out, you know. The wrestling part of my life is pretty much over. You know, I'll still be doing it here in there in the wrestling room helping my old team as much as I can, but competition wise I'm definitely done.

LYDEN: Well, it's been a great pleasure to talk to you.

Mr. ROBLES: Well, thank you very much for taking the time.

LYDEN: Anthony Robles is the reigning NCAA wrestling champion in the 125-pound weight class, and he joined us from his home turf, the wrestling practice room at Arizona State University in Tempe. It really has been a pleasure, and we wish you a lot of good luck out there. Congratulations again. Goodbye now, Anthony.

Mr. ROBLES: Thank you so much.

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