GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN) — Elijah Mott recently joined the 8th-grade wrestling team at H.B. Lee Middle School in the Reynolds School District. So far he’s won most of his matches.
But he didn’t join the team until after teacher/basketball coach Eddie Schauffler told him about Anthony Robles.
“I said this guy won, like, ESPN Man of the Year. He’s Anthony Robles, he went to Arizona State and he’s a wrestler,” Schauffler said.
Mott said he couldn’t wrestle with just one leg, “and I said, ‘Oh, you can!’ So I just showed him some YouTube video (of Robles.)”
About a year-and-a-half ago, Mott had his left leg amputated after doctors told him he had a cancerous tumor in his knee that was growing.
It was a tough decision — his leg or his life.
“It was either that or not to be here, and I chose to be here today,” he told KOIN 6 News.
Schauffler found out Robles, who is now an inspirational speaker, was in Portland and arranged a surprise visit for the teen.
During 4th-period social studies, the 14-year-old met his hero. Robles, who in 2011 was the national champion 125-pound wrestler at Arizona State, was born with only one leg.
Like Mott, Robles began wrestling when he was 14. Unlike Mott, Robles wasn’t very good at first.
“I was not so good,” Robles said. “Last place in my city.”
Wrestling isn’t an easy sport, he said, and it’s definitely not for everybody. Pointing to his head and his heart, he said, “It’s up here and in here.”
But he pushed on and still carries a note that he wrote to himself: “State champ. You can do it.”
“I wrote that when I was 14, and I got that when I was 22, a national championship ring,” Robles said.
Robles was born without one leg. It’s all he ever knew. But he told Mott losing a leg takes so much more heart to bounce back.
“You’re an inspiration to me,” Robles told him.
His visit to H.B. Lee was to help inspire Mott and others to go for their dreams.
“I just want him to see that I can relate and there’s no limit to what he can achieve,” Robles said.
And he told Mott, “Whatever you want to chase, whether it’s wrestling or whatever, you got the heart.”
Elijah Mott said meeting Anthony Robles was “shocking, like, that he’s here and I got to meet him.”
“It’s amazing, amazing,” he said.