This is something we’ve seen before…an athlete taking his inspirational story on tour.
But this is Anthony Robles…and for an NCAA champion wrestler, a stop in Iowa is something special.
“Truth be told I was a huge Hawkeye fan growing up," Robles says, "when I started wrestling I wanted nothing more than to be a Hawkeye, so just to come out here where wrestling is so loved, it’s an honor for me.”
Iowa and every other Division One program in America took a pass on the undefeated state champion from Mesa High School, so on one leg and two crutches, he walked on at Arizona State. He battled his way to a scholarship and last spring, finished his career in the 125-pound National Finals against a Hawkeye.
“That was actually pretty hard, I grew up idolizing Dan Gable and the Brands brothers, the Hawkeyes--so to have to wrestle them in the finals, it scared me a lot.”
Defeating Matt McDonough added the ultimate chapter to Robles’s life story, so it was only fitting that story become an actual book--co-written with Sports Illustrated’s Austin Murphy. The book tour began with a stop on the Tonight Show last month, and hits 18 cities before it ends.
“I share my story a little bit, but afterwards I get to talk and interact and hear other people’s challenges that they’re going through.”
When the tour ends, Robles has a state-of-the-art prosthetic leg waiting for him in Phoenix.
“I’m still getting used to it, so because I’m traveling so much, right now, it’s a lot faster and a lot more comfortable for me to just walk around with the crutches.”
If Robles inspires some Iowans, it will feel like he’s returned a favor. Over the years, Colfax-Mingo’s Nick Ackerman, a national champ at Simpson College, has motivated him.
“Well in high school I read an article about him," Robles remembers, "one of my coaches actually he showed it to me and I’ve gotten to talk to Nick a few times and he’s an awesome guy and he’s a great role model as well.”
So on a long tour full of new places and faces, this is a special night for Anthony Robles, and he just might make it special for others as well.