Inspiration From Anthony Robles

A link was posted last night under the recent Carl Joseph entry that deserves its own place on the blog. It was a story about Arizona State wrestler Anthony Robles. Robles has just one leg, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a dominant force in the sport of wrestling.

Arizona State’s Robles Climbs Into National Rankings

You can watch a video of Anthony below:

There are several things I like about this story. It’s awesome to see Robles compete at such a high level, but what I really enjoy is hearing how difficult it was for him to get where he is today. Many read these inspirational stories but fail to realize the steps taken before these individuals were making headlines.

For example, in the story above, Robles discusses his entry into the sport as a high school freshman.

“I got beat up a lot. I finished 5-8 in my first year. But after that, I liked the competition; I liked how it’s just one-on-one. It has a team [dimension], but at the same time, how well you do is determined by how hard you work, not what anybody else does.”

Here was a kid who certainly had doubters when he first began. He then goes out and has a losing record. I don’t think anyone would have held it against him if he packed up his bags after his first year. He had already defied the odds by making the team and competing. Just getting up to compete is a victory in itself. But that wasn’t enough for Robles…

He worked hard, wrestling against bigger and better athletes. I’m sure he got his ass handed to him, as does everyone who is first getting started. He continued to learn and improve however. That’s all that mattered to him.

Robles went 48-0 as a junior on his way to a state title at 103 pounds. He posted the same record as a senior, pinned his way through the 112-pound bracket at the state meet and capped his career later in the spring by winning his weight class at the 2006 High School Senior National Championships.

He now wrestles at Arizona State and is working his way up the rankings. This is obviously an amazing story, but let’s look past his single leg. He does not consider himself disabled, so neither should we. I’m more interested in his willingness to win. How many youngsters have started a sport and given up after a poor performance or losing record? How much potential has been untapped simply because people have given up? I’m sure there were dream snatchers around Robles who thought he couldn’t succeed. What if he had listened to them? What would he be doing now?

So many of us have potential that we never even realize. If Robles walked away after his freshman year, we would have never realized his potential to go unbeaten two years in a row. Who could have guessed he would be so successful?

We can all learn from this story. Life isn’t supposed to be easy. The great do not become great by taking the easy road. They struggle just like everyone else. What separates the champion is his willingness to get up after being knocked down. He blocks out the dream snatchers and charts his own future. I’m sure Robles had nights when he went home banged up and bruised. He kept coming back however. He never gave up. It’s been a way of life for him since he was a young boy.

In the words of his own mother,

“I’ve seen him ride a bike when he was 5 years old and nobody thought he could do that, and I wasn’t even sure he could do that. I saw him play football and that was amazing. I’ve seen him play basketball. He drives a car. He’s missing his right leg and drives with his left leg. People weren’t sure how he was going to do that, but he adjusted. It’s just Anthony’s personality — if it’s in front of him, he’ll figure out how to do it.”

Notice how she said, “people weren’t sure how he was going to do that.” I’m sure “people” have been thinking this way his entire life. People often think that they are smarter than they are. Fortunately, it isn’t up to people to decide what you and I do with our lives. People need to worry about their own lives, and stop interfering with the lives of others. If you don’t think someone can succeed, keep it to yourself. Let the individual decide on his own. Offer your support, rather than living life as a critic.

If you want to be special in this world, you need to be ready to pay the price. Chances are that you’ll fail at first, perhaps many times. We all run into obstacles that at times appear too difficult to overcome. That’s life. Deal with it.

And please don’t misconstrue my words. I’m not telling you what to do. You don’t need to overcome anything if you don’t want to. I’m simply telling you what you will need to do if you want to be special. It’s an individual choice that we must all make each day.

If and when you are ready to make that choice, you can learn a lot from Anthony Robles.


  1. Awesome story, Ross. This honestly came at a perfect time for me, as I am at some cross-roads myself. This story helps to serve as an inspiration to me to press on. Not only did I have some discouraging experiences in jiu-jitsu class, but I also have been facing a lot of adversity in my financial life, and my love life. The lessons you can learn from this story transfer over to every aspect of life. Not just the competitive scene. I hope everyone gains the same from this motivational article.


  2. absolutely awesome, the CarlJoseph entry and this entry have been 2 of the most influential Blog entries to me personally.

  3. “I’m sure he got his ass handed to him, as does everyone who is first getting started. He continued to learn and improve however. That’s all that mattered to him.”
    I like this statement. I’ll be sure to share it with some kids I know.
    Glad you liked the link Ross,

  4. Nice story.

    Lessons can be taken from it an applied to other areas of our lives, not just athletics.

    Thanks for the link.

  5. Thanks Ross,

    very inspirational & motivational story that makes me learn a lot. I´m glad that such people live on this planet.

    If you want to achieve something easy or average, it´s usually very simple to get and then it´s gone.
    But if you want to achieve something special or very hard goal, either it seems impossible or it´s very hard to get there.

    Great Post!!!

  6. Will. Determination. Suffering. It’s amazing who has it, and who doesn’t have it. It’s interesting to point out, would he still have this attitude if he had two legs? I think we all are a little ungrateful with what we have.

  7. My then 5 year old son taught me about telling people “what they can do”. When he was learning to ride a bike he would sit still on it and try to balance while lifting his feet to the pedals without rolling. I told him “You have to get rolling first, you can’t just pick your feet up and start pedaling from a dead stop!” Well, after about ten minutes of trying he lifted his feet to the pedals, balanced there for just a second, and started pedaling around the yard.

  8. Of course he’s cleaning up at his weight class… He can pack all the extra muscle that would have been on his second leg into the rest of his body, giving him a distinct advantage in strength. Plus, not many of his opponents are used to wrestling a one legged opponent, so their technique is off as they reach for a leg that isn’t there, etc., and an opponent who’s center of gravity is distributed differently.

  9. Andrew – Your response minimizes the adversity that Robles has had to overcome. Most people born with a single leg are not competing in anything. Let’s not try to pretend that he has it easier than the rest of us. I don’t think anyone actually believes that he does. And let’s also not overlook the power that an able-bodied person can generate with the lower body. Robles certainly does not have an advantage in this department.

    I have the utmost respect for Robles and what he has been able to accomplish despite the naysayers that he’s likely encountered throughout his life. We can all learn from his example.


  10. I’m glad Andrew posted. His post points out another adversity Anthony Robles has had to overcome. Learning to ignore naysayers. He acknowledges that he believes he has advantages that ballance out his deficits.
    At this level the other wrestlers in the nation know of him and have time to develop a strategy. They don’t walk on the mat and find out he has one leg.

  11. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he hasn’t overcome more adversity than any ten average people combined, nor that I lack respect for him. I’m just saying that he’s being mis-classed in weight. So much is made of performance enhancing drugs that allow athletes to recover 10% faster, or store 10% more oxygen in their blood, etc, it’s not unreasonable to state that being able to carry 10% more muscle weight in your upper body also confers an advantage.

    Wrestling against him is like fighting a southpaw, but more so. As you well know, when 7 out of 8 opponents you fight are right-handed, you develop certain habits, like dodging a particular way to avoid certain combinations. When you fight a southpaw, you have to reverse all of your movements, or that dodge away from a punch becomes dodging into a punch. Now picture a scenario where you have to hook an ankle to prevent a stable base from being built, but there’s no ankle to hook. You extend for it, but there’s nothing there to get. Perhaps you overextend yourself reaching for something that isn’t there, and that leaves an opening that can be exploited. All of his opponents are facing a body build they’ve never had to deal with before, whereas he’s not.

  12. Ross that is some story. There is some inspirational s**t on this blog but it doesn’t get much better than this for me.

    Self belief can take you all the way man!

    Thanks for posting.


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