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One-legged wrestler wins national title

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By Jack Korpela
Monday, March 27, 2006
 

In wrestling, getting an opponent on one leg helps set up a takedown.

Mesa (Ariz.) High School's Anthony Robles is used to wrestling on only one leg -- he was born with just one.

Robles didn't let that stop him from becoming a national champion, though.

Robles won the NHSCA High School Senior National Wrestling Championship 112-pound final Sunday at Petersen Events Center with a 9-1 major decision over Justin Paulsen of California. The win capped off a stunning 53-0 perfect season -- his second consecutive undefeated season.

"You don't have a disability unless you think you do," Robles said. "I don't care what other people think. I love wrestling, I love the sport and I love to do it."

After Robles won the title, Mesa coach Bob Williams had nothing but praise for the senior

"I've never seen a wrestler like this, and I will never see another one like him," Mesa coach Bob Williams said. "He's a huge inspiration to me, his teammates and his entire school."

Robles said he couldn't accept all the credit for his success this season.

"I thank God for giving me a talent and surrounding me by good people," Robles said. "I grew up with three other brothers that never treated me like I was different."

Robles amassed a 131-15 high school career record and won two Arizona state championships in his four years of wrestling. Robles improved significantly from his 5-5 freshman season.

"My coaches molded my style and made me a completely different wrestler than I was when I started," Robles said. "I give them all the credit."

Robles perfected the arm drag into a single or double-leg takedown. He performs several pinning combinations from the top position, and his best move is called a ball and chain.

"There are a lot of moves I can't do that my competition can, but there are some I can do that they can't," Robles said. "I can drop to my knee really low. My leg is strong, and my shots are really quick."

Robles says his biggest advantage is his strength. Because he lacks the weight a second leg would inherently bring, his upper body has considerably more mass than most other 112-pound grapplers.

"His body mass has really helped him," Williams said. "The hardest part for him was learning to balance it. Sometimes, he has to lean his body or stick one of his elbows out to keep from falling."

Robles is determined to train the same way his two-legged teammates do. With the use of crutches, Robles regularly participates in a two-mile run.

"It was a lot of trial and error trying to figure out how to best train him," Williams said. "At first, we didn't want him to strain too much, so we put him on the bike. He just wants to be part of the guys and do the same thing they do."

Robles wants to wrestle in college but is undecided as to where to go. For now, he just wants to enjoy the moment.

"I think God gave me a gift by only giving me one leg," Robles said. "Other people may not see it that way, but I do."

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