Born with one leg, Anthony Robles became an elite athlete and accomplished an amazing feat: He became the 2011 NCAA National Wrestling Champion! The former Arizona State University athlete has won many other honors and awards, including the 2011 NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award. He was a 2012 inductee into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Now a speaker, Robles has written a recently published book that talks about how he chose to become Unstoppable.
WL: Why did you choose to share your story in your recently released book, Unstoppable?
Robles: I wanted to share my story with others because I believe we all face challenges. My life was never perfect and I had plenty of obstacles but through it all I was able to make it out on top. I am hoping that by reading my story, people can walk away with a sense of hope and a recharged belief that anything is possible.
WL: What is your message?
Robles: My message is that even though we all wrestle with our own challenges, these challenges don’t have to keep you from achieving your goal. We can all be Unstoppable. Nobody has the perfect life or at least nobody that I’ve met in my lifetime. We have all been dealt our own hand and we can either feel sorry for ourselves and sit and complain about what we don’t have or how hard life is at the time or we can say, “Oh well, it is what it is so I might as well make the most with what I’ve got and fight.”
WL: How do speaking and book writing complement each other in helping you share your message?
Robles: It allows me to reach a huge amount of people that I might otherwise not have the chance to reach. I love being able to travel the country speaking and not only sharing my story but listening to other people’s inspiring stories. When I speak I am only talking for about thirty or forty minutes so afterward the audience usually asks a lot of questions about growing up and certain challenges I had so the book is a great addition to really allow people I meet to dig in deep and really learn about my life.
WL: You became a wrestling champion in the competitive college setting. That’s an amazing feat for anyone, and all the more so because you have one leg. Were you ever intimidated by the idea of competing at that level?
Robles: Honestly I was a bit intimidated my first two years as a college athlete but I think to some extent all rookies go through it. I think in my case, I put a little bit more pressure than a normal athlete would on myself because I realized that a lot of eyes would be on me whether I liked it or not because people wanted to see if the kid with one leg could survive as a college athlete.
WL: How difficult was it to become a wrestling champion, starting as the smallest kid on your first wrestling team and ending the season with a 5-8 record? What made you stick with it to go for more and more?
Robles: It was extremely difficult and frustrating at times. I even considered quitting on a few occasions but one of the things I did after my very first losing season of wrestling was I wrote down “State Champion” on a little sticky note. I carried this note on me every single day and still do to this day for sentimental reasons. Looking at this helped me to keep fighting and stay focused on the goal. I would see it and think, “How good is it gonna feel when I get there and prove to myself and everyone else that I’m the best?” It helped to keep me focused and accountable.
WL: How do you think growing up with one leg contributed to your character development?
Robles: I think in many ways its made me a stronger person. I’ve had to prove people wrong all my life and throw out the low expectations that they have had about me so I guess It has made me tougher.
WL: What is the toughest challenge you have faced in life? How did you deal with it?
Robles: Dan Gable, one of the best wrestlers in history, said that “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else is easy,” and I believe it. Wrestling was by far the greatest challenge both mentally and physically that I’ve ever experienced. It took nine years of blood, sweat, and tears but in the end I dealt with it and came out on top because I stayed focused on the goal, not my challenges.
WL: When did you realize it was important to tell your story?
Robles: Well at the beginning of my senior year of college I made the decision that I wanted to become a motivational speaker. I had key people in my life who helped me through certain challenges and without them, there’s no way that I would have been able to become a national champion. I chose the speaking profession because it is my way of giving back and if I can help change someone’s life like the special people who helped to change mine, then it’s all worth it. The book was just an amazing opportunity which I never dreamed of having that came later on after I won nationals.
WL: What’s next for you? What project are you working on or planning?
Robles: I’ve been so blessed this past year. It’s really been a fun ride and I am actually working on a number of different things. I will be returning to NCAA’s for wrestling as an ESPN color commentator in March, as well as continuing my career as a motivational speaker. We are also currently working on setting up the Run with Robles with the Arizona State wrestling team, which will help raise money for the wrestling program.*
WL: Where can people learn more about your work or purchase your book?
Robles: They can purchase my book, [invite me to speak and join my mailing list] now on my website, Anthony Robles. They can also follow me via twitter at @ARobles125.
* Run with Robles is a fundraiser set for Feb. 9, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona. Funds will go to the support of the Arizona State University wrestling program, which was cut while Robles was in college, but was reinstated due to community support. The running event will feature a 2K and 6k course.