Robles ponders encore to inspirational story
TEMPE, Ariz. — Former Arizona State wrestler and NCAA champion Anthony Robles spent 26 days away from home in June, speaking in every corner of the United States from New York and Florida to California and Oregon and everywhere in between. He even went north to speak in Canada.
Robles' book "Unstoppable" is set for a Sept. 27 release, followed by a six-week national book tour, which includes a stop at the ASU campus bookstore. The book and tour have put on hold a movie deal, which Robles playfully insists must include Denzel Washington.
"If they can get him, that would be awesome," Robles said, laughing. "At least have him play my wrestling coach."
But even as his post-athletic motivational speaking career takes him places he never imagined, Robles can't quite escape the tug of the wrestling mat and the competitive arena.
Robles, who rose to national prominence despite being born with only one leg, insists he is enjoying retirement and focusing on his speaking career, but admitted Monday that watching the Olympics had him thinking about wrestling again.
"That definitely brought the hunger back out," Robles said. "But the way I am, I don't want to jump back in unless I'm 100 percent. So right now I would say my mind is kind of 50-50. I want to wrestle, but I want to focus on my career. I'm going to wait a little bit longer. I've still got plenty of time.
"I'm not going back unless I'm 100 percent."
Robles acknowledged there would be challenges to competing on the international level, particularly adjusting his style. Challenges, however, have never been a deterrent.
"That didn't stop me in the past," Robles said. "They said I couldn't compete in Division I, didn't even give me a shot to win a title, and I did it. I believe I could be successful. I've just got to put the work into it."
In the meantime, Robles is keeping plenty busy. His recent audiences have included the Phoenix Suns, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. Robles was back on the ASU campus Monday to speak to incoming student athletes, including freshman and transfer students.
Robles is also working on a documentary alongside paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann. The purpose of the documentary, in which he will scuba dive, is to send a message about overcoming physical differences.
"They're going to take people who society may call handicapped or disabled and show them they can do anything (others) can do," Robles said.
Speaking Monday to about 90 new Sun Devil athletes — sitting where he had six years ago — Robles imparted multiple messages. He advised them to be smart about who they hang out with. He told them to be careful using Twitter and Facebook, as they're now "a part of something bigger" as student-athletes. He also told them to just have fun being a Sun Devil.
More than anything, though, Robles compelled the students to take away more than athletics from their college experience, just as he did to build the foundation for his career after wrestling.
"Make the most of it," Robles told the group. "Don't just focus on your sport. There is so much more available to you."
Robles also shared a message that his coaches instilled in him when he came to ASU, one he fulfilled with a national championship in 2011.
"Nothing tops winning a championship," Robles said. "You're all here for nothing less than a championship."
A question and answer session brought Robles again to discussion of the Olympics. He was asked for his thoughts on South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who earlier this month became the first amputee to compete in the Olympics.
Robles said he could tell just by watching from a distance that Pistorius was not satisfied simply competing in the Games. Robles would know; he was never satisfied with just competing as a wrestler. He wanted — expected — to win.
Whether Robles will go after the next challenge with an Olympic bid remains to be seen, but even if he doesn't, Robles says he's perfectly happy just sharing his story, giving back for all those who pushed him and continuing to inspire others.
"It's an honor," Robles said. "There were a few key people in my life that really helped me, and it was because of them that I won that championship. They were there for me at all they key moments, and if I can be that for (other people) then it's all worth it.
"Even one person, if I can help them in a positive way, that's what it's all about."