A sticky note fuels Anthony Robles’ belief

Winner of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s Most Courageous Athlete Award in 2011, Anthony Robles won the NCAA individual wrestling championship in the 125-pound weight class that year despite being born with only one leg, in what is one of the most jaw-dropping accounts of the human spirit, courage and will to succeed that has emanated from the sporting realm in recent years.

Hailing from California, Robles was born on July 20, 1988 with just one leg and refused to wear a prosthetic limb growing up. In fact, he had no stump to attach a prosthetic leg since it was missing right up to the hip. He began wrestling in eighth grade and was ranked last in the city of Mesa, Arizona as a freshman with a record of 5-8, where he was disadvantaged since he was 10 pounds underweight.

Undeterred, Robles worked around his missing leg and strengthened his body with several exercises. Using crutches also went a long way towards improving his grip. That in tandem with an intensive training regime helped him realise that he could use his unusual center of gravity to defend against attack.

His sophomore year saw him ranked sixth in Arizona as he won two state wrestling championships going 96-0 in his junior and senior years combined at Mesa High School. He won a national as a senior and finished his high school wrestling career with a record of 129-15. However, despite all his success in high school, none of his first choices for college – Iowa, Oklahoma State and Columbia – recruited him.

KEVIN WINTER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Robles subsequently redshirted as a freshman at Arizona State University, finishing sixth in the 2006 FILA Junior World Championships in the 55 kg Freestyle Wrestling category. He then began his collegiate wrestling career in 2007-08, where he was nationally ranked and finished the year with a commendable record of 25-11, just shy of being named All-American.

His second and third year as a collegiate wrestler saw him earn All-American honours after ending with records of 29-8 and 32-4 respectively. He was also the Pac-10 125 pound wrestling champion in both his second and third year of college. Robles though wasn’t done yet and was en route to creating history the following year where he went the entire season undefeated with a record of 36-0 as he beat defending champion Iowa's Matt McDonough 7-1 in the final to become national champion and accomplish his dream.

The 5’8” Robles was voted the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament and concluded his career in the Arizona wrestling circuit with a record of 122-23. He is a three-time Pac-10 wrestling champion as well as a three-time All-American. Currently ranked eighth for most wins by an Arizona state wrestler, Robles hopes to become a motivational speaker and looks to help those who face similar challenges.

After all, we learn more from our failures and struggles than we can ever hope to from successes. If Robles’ tale is anything to go by then it resonates with the aforementioned line, given the impact one particular defeat had on him casting a seed of doubt in his mind. But the heart of a champion doesn’t give in that easy and Robles was no different.

He licked his wounds and continued to strive towards his goal by jotting down “Win Nationals. You can do it.” on a yellow post-it note. Who’d have known then that this simple act would be the catalyst that illuminated the entire American collegiate wrestling circuit back in 2011? Who’d have known something so mundane like a post-it note – which he has since got laminated and keeps with him in his pocket – would go on to become so powerful? Individuals like Robles keep showing us that having belief in oneself can indeed go a long way.

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