Now, Anthony Robles must sit and wait. And prepare for the final stage in an amazing collegiate wrestling career.
The senior at Arizona State, who since birth has navigated life on just one leg, just completed the final regular-season match of his career and reached the first goal of his final year on the mat.
He completed an undefeated season, going 28-0 against all comers in his 125-pound weight class. But his ultimate goal is still to be realized.
Next week, he will compete in the Pac-10 championships and then go on to embark on his quest for a national title at the March 17-19 NCAA Championships in Philadelphia, Pa.
The last two matches of the season for the Sun Devils were on the road, but that meant little to Robles, who first defeated Christian Strahl, 16-0, in the first period when ASU matched up with No. 21 Oregon State in Corvallis. It was his 20th match of the season won by technical fall.
Then he wrapped the regular season last Sunday at Stanford when he took an 18-1 technical fall over Matt Sencenbaugh, one of just three matches the Devils won that day in a 28-11 loss.
If Robles pulls off his quest for the national crown, it will earn him a place in the ASU history books as just the seventh Sun Devil to win a national championship, and the first in eight years.
If he pulls it off without losing a match, he takes his place among a very select group of college wrestlers, as only the fifth unbeaten national champion.
Last year, he finished in seventh place at the NCAA Tournament and was fourth in 2009.
The 22-year-old’s road to wrestling stardom has taken nine years to travel (sat out a redshirt year as a freshman), beginning in high school at Mesa High, when he wrestled in the 103 and 112 weight classes.
Phxfan was with Robles when he wrapped up his inspiring high school career in 2006 and embarked on a college career, thanks to a partial scholarship ASU offered him as the first ‘disabled’ wrestler to win a national title.
We featured the youngster in an article in our earlier print version, SportZine Magazine, when he was honored by the Arizona Diamondbacks and asked to throw out the first pitch during an April 20 game with the San Francisco Giants. Propping himself on one crutch, he made the throw in front of an appreciative, cheering crowd at Chase Field.
Throwing that baseball off of one leg was no different than the challenges he had faced throughout a high school wrestling career that ended with a 131-15 record and two state titles. He posted a 96-0 mark for his last two years at Mesa High.
Both challenges required dogged determination and unwavering optimism.
He once said, “I think God gave me a gift by only giving me one leg. Other people may not see it that way, but I do.”
But people did recognize what the young man was accomplishing, and celebrity followed. He’s received numerous honors and athletic awards, but has also appeared on various other stages, such as Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show and the Montel Williams television show.
He’s spent his entire life on crutches, except when he sets them aside to do battle on the mat. But he plans to step out into life after college on a new prosthetic leg.
But first there is some unfinished business that awaits in Philadelphia.
(Photo: ASU Athletics/Jason Wise)