ASU wrestling champion brings positive message to Greasewood school
By Candace Begody
GREASEWOOD, Ariz., April 12, 2012
(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)
A nthony Robles has proven that nothing is impossible.
The Arizona State University wrestler defeated reigning champ Matt McDonough from Iowa State last year to become National Collegiate Athletics Association champion in the 125-pound weight class - even though he was born with one leg.
He shares his story now as a motivational speaker with one message.
"I just wanted to share that we all have our challenges, we sometimes have handicaps or rough upbringings from our families," he said. "Nobody's life is perfect and life is going to be hard but it's about telling yourself: 'I can be unstoppable.'"
That was the message Robles gave to a crowd of nearly 200 at Greasewood Community School on April 5.
As Robles entered the gym at the Greasewood school, he received a standing ovation from students from the host school and Holbrook, Ganado, and Chinle.
"That is the word I love to use - unstoppable," Robles told the crowd. "It starts by having that mindset."
Robles learned how to be "unstoppable" from his mother, Judy Robles, who had her son at age 16.
"She had no idea I was going to be born missing my leg - not even the doctors knew that," he said. "So when I was born, it was a shock to everybody. They didn't even know if I would survive. They were running all these tests but they said I was perfectly healthy. I just don't have a leg."
Robles began his wrestling career at age 14 and finished his first year self-described as the "worst wrestler in the city of Mesa, Ariz."
But keeping in mind that "The prize is in direct proportion to the price. The great the reward you see the great the effort needs to be to achieve that," he said.
Robles, indeed, became unstoppable.
He wrapped up his junior and senior year at Mesa High with an impressive 96-0 combined record, winning two Arizona state high school titles and even a high school national title.
Still, Robles said, colleges didn't want him.
"No colleges called me because they thought I couldn't compete with the best," he said. "I walked on to ASU wrestling and my first year, I was one match away from being an All-American - that's top eight in nation."
Robles worked harder his sophomore year and finished sixth at the national tournament.
Then during his junior year, Robles faced a mean Iowa wrestler.
"I thought he was ready to rip my head off," Robles recalled. "But I thought about something my coached said to me when I was going through a rough time.
"He said, 'There's always going to be bad things that happen to you - those things you can't control. The thing is to remember that you have to respond to it the right way. Are you going to let it break you down and give up? Or are you going to go on anyway?'"
Robles ended up beating the Iowa wrestler by 9 points and took fourth.
In his senior year, Robles would wrestle his way to a dream come true.
"The state champion at Arizona (State University) helped me become a champion because he shared with me that champions just work harder than ordinary people," Robles said. "He said champions don't have to be just in sports, you can be a champion in life too. You just have to outwork everyone else. Nothing is going to come easy, you have to take it."
Robles went out before a crowd of over 20,000 people prepared to take on yet another Iowa wrestler, this time for the NCAA 125-pound title.
"I am going to be unstoppable," Robles recalled of his thoughts going into the 2011 title match. "There is no way this guy can beat me because I want the ring."
Robles was dubbed the "one-legged national champion" in newspaper headlines after winning the national title with a score of 7-1.
"Nothing was ever the same after that," Robles said. "My dream came true. It's never going to be easy, but when you get there, it's amazing."
NCAA.com quoted ASU head coach Shawn Charles as saying, "Anthony leads by example."
Charles told the NCAA that even in the most grueling practices and conditioning sessions, Robles never wanted to be treated differently from his teammates despite his disability.
"When we do stadium stairs, he does stadium stairs," Charles said. "When we run up Squaw Peak mountain, he does too - with his crutches. It's amazing."
Bringing his 4-year-old nephew Ra'ed Deschinny to the presentation was Mark Deschinny from Window Rock.
"I know sometimes kids out here on the reservation need to see someone positive that they can look up to," he said. "And he has a background that a lot of Navajo children can relate to.
"He had a message of being unstoppable," Mark Deschinny said. "He was able to overcome all odds, he had all these obstacles but he was able to get his championship and degree. And that says a lot for any human being.
"He managed to get a national title and, of all sports, wrestling is one of the toughest sports and I am amazed he was able to accomplish that with one leg," he said.