Unstoppable by Anthony Robles came out last week. After hearing his motivational speech at Mingus Union HS in April, I anticipated his book to be good, and Unstoppable is like one long autobiographical motivational speech. If that sounds bad to you, you haven't heard Robles speak.
Any wrestler that wins an NCAA National Championship likely has a story that could inspire someone; achieving the pinnacle of American Folkstyle wrestling doesn't come without adversity. Add being born with one leg, add a stepfather battling demons, add committing to a college wrestling program with an uncertain future - you see why Robles' Unstoppable story goes beyond the normal triumphant sports narrative.
Robles writes, "I was raised to believe God made me for a purpose. That purpose, it seemed, was to give people hope, to remind them that, with hard work and persistence, anything is possible."
At times Unstoppable takes a serious tone, but it's also funny - Robles' persona comes through very well. He had help writing the book from Austin Murphy, and they did a great job together capturing Robles' voice. It's rare for me to laugh out loud when reading, but Unstoppable made me laugh just like I did when I heard Robles speak.
The first paragraph made me chuckle: "There is nothing wrong with you. That was the message I got throughout my childhood from my mom, Jody Robles, who bore me at the age of sixteen, and who told me over and over, no matter what I'd heard in school that day, that I was complete, that I was perfect. Because I was young and trusting, I believed her. And so, in perfect seriousness, at the age of seven, I set a goal for myself to someday play for the Oakland Raiders."
That type of charisma makes people want to root for Anthony Robles. Yes, he was an underdog born with one leg, and that automatically makes his story intriguing, but his determination paired with a kind heart and a heavy dose of honesty makes him endearing.
As someone who writes about high school sports, I especially liked the chapters about Robles' early years in wrestling, creating a new style with Mesa HS coach Bob Williams, whom Robles calls the greatest coach he will ever have.
There will always be a debate: did having one leg give Robles an advantage because he was able to have more weight in his upper body? My feeling is this: certainly having one leg gave Robles an advantage in the media spotlight, but not on the mat. He worked harder. That's why he won matches.
His performance arch is similar to a lot of top-tier wrestlers: he dominated his junior and senior years of high school, then moved on to college where he took his lumps and frequently lost before figuring out how to win at the highest level his senior year.
Robles writes on his senior season: "I wasn't that much stronger than I'd been as a junior, and hadn't picked up any new techniques. The truth is I hadn't trained with near the intensity of previous off seasons. The difference was mental." In his mind he couldn't be beat and felt unstoppable.
If you like uplifting stories, go buy Unstoppable. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Who knows, by the time you finish it, Robles' confidence might inspire YOU to feel unstoppable.