Anthony Robles looks just like you, me, and everyone else except he’s cut like the Statue of David and has one leg.
At 125 pounds, he possesses the sculpted upper body of someone just as dedicated and 40 pounds heavier, a feature you don’t immediately notice because your transfixed by the column of air beneath his right hip.
Robles, now a national champion wrestler at Arizona State, was born this way – not jacked, but without a right leg. That he refused prosthetics at age three is the stuff of legend, and in fact might be just that - his parents likely made the decision, but it was Anthony’s to live with.
Robles impresses with his ability to walk, and his ability to wrestle, and his ability to climb the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, which he did the day after finishing his senior season at ASU 36-0.
He’s like a real-life Rocky, only his Apollo Creed is his disability – or his super-ability, or whatever it is one calls a condition perhaps disadvantageous, perhaps not.
Robles didn’t pick up wrestling full-time until his freshman year in high school. A then 90-pound mass of motor and inspiration, he’d give up his defensive tackle position on the football team to pursue a sport in which taking a knee did not take him out of play.
Robles’ compensates for his lower body’s immobility by transferring all that would-be strength to his chest, arms and torso, as a blind man might acquire an acute sense of hearing. Power runs in the family – his father, Ron, lifted weights professionally, though would not let his son risk stunted growth as a curious child.
So Robles took to push-ups next to the bench press in his father’s garage. In sixth grade, he broke his school’s push-ups record. He now benches 305 pounds with his 125-pound frame.
Adopting a unique style – obviously – Robles dominated his high school competition. He finished a combined 96-0 over his junior and senior campaigns, capturing two state titles and a scholarship to ASU along the way.
It was when his story attracted national attention, as stories about one-legged wrestling phenoms are wont to do, that debate began over whether or not Robles’ figure gave him, ironically, a leg up on the competition.
It does, in some ways. There’s no denying this. The human leg accounts for roughly 15-25% of one’s total body weight. Wrestlers compete by weight class. At 125 pounds, Robles can, in layman’s terms, redistribute the 30 pounds a second leg might’ve weighed through the rest of his body.
He is bigger and stronger from the waist up than anyone he has ever faced. His competitors cannot practice on three-limbed opponents.
Still, in a sport in which the single-leg takedown exists the primary way to grapple one’s opponent to the mat, the fact that Robles drops to a knee to begin makes his technique uncanny at best and like stepping to a ledge to entice his adversary to jump at worst.
Driving one’s opponent to the floor typically constitutes the first step to a successful match. Shooting a single-leg takedown from the floor and with the forward thrust of only one appendage implies, if only to common sense, some sort of added difficulty.
Given his style, it seems as though this champion always starts from behind. As he did, presumably, in life. Perhaps Anthony Robles’ unfair advantage, then, is not a product of his one leg. Perhaps it is a product of his one heart.