Monday, March 21, 2011

One Legged Wrestler Wins National Championships

PHILADELPHIA - Judy Robles was just 16 years old when her first child was born, by Cesarean section. The baby did not cry right away, and she wanted to know what the gender was, and was the baby OK?

It was not until later, when Judy was in a recovery room, that her teary parents delivered the news: The baby was missing a leg. He had no hip bone. Judy cried instantly.

She was not crying Saturday. Her baby boy, her first-born, the always-optimistic Anthony, became an NCAA wrestling champion for Arizona State at 125 pounds, beating the Division I reigning champion in that weight class, Matt McDonough of Iowa, at Wells Fargo Center.

It was a night filled with emotion and excitement as 10 national champions were crowned - including Arizona State's Bubba Jenkins, who spent four years at Penn State before he transferred. Jenkins dispatched Nittany Lions freshman David Taylor in 4:14 at 157 pounds, the only pin of the day.

Penn State also captured the national team title. But still, Robles' moment was as big as any.

It was Robles' last college wrestling match, and he says the last of his life, and the sold-out crowd gave him a standing ovation as soon as his dominating 7-1 win was complete.

"I had a lot of butterflies going out there," Robles said.

"I've dreamed about stepping on that stage a dozen times, and this whole year I've just been preparing for that moment. And I was scared. I was scared out there, but as soon as I hit that first takedown, I sort of relaxed. I said, 'OK, back to business. Same drill as usual, like every other match.' "

As a sophomore two years ago, Robles finished fourth in the NCAA championship, and then took what he considered to be a step back as a junior, when he went 25-11 and finished seventh.

Robles wanted to be a national champion, not just an All-American, but to accomplish his goal he had to become mentally tougher.

The physical part he had down, even with only one leg.

Robles has a bigger upper body than most of his opponents in the 125-pound weight class, and in a sport that is all about imposing your style on your opponent, Robles has a distinct advantage.

He cannot stand up and wrestle, so he forces his opponents to stay low on the mat.

Once Robles gets on an opponent's back, like he did Saturday night against McDonough, he is virtually impossible to beat.

Ten minutes before Saturday's match, Arizona State coach Shawn Charles, sensing his wrestler was uncharacteristically jittery, calmly talked to Robles, telling him it was a match just like the other 35 he had won this season.

Robles had not faced anyone as tough as McDonough this season, but McDonough, who traded the No. 1 ranking with Robles throughout the season, never had wrestled against Robles.

Early in the match, Robles got on top of McDonough and executed a roll-through tilt and then converted to a ball and chain.

By the time the first period was over, Robles held a 7-0 lead.

A few minutes later, with the national championship in his hand, Robles' journey was complete.

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