Wrestling: A Sport For All Abilities
No excuses: A phrase used in every sport. Typically, it means that even in inclement weather, or after a long, brutal practice, an athlete has to keep going to no matter what; train your hardest and give 110 percent to the sport. However, in wrestling, “no excuses” goes even further, as athletes with disabilities continue to redefine the standards of competition.
Competition, particularly in sports, is incredibly important for men and women with disabilities, which is why organizations like the Special Olympics were created. Even though more and more sports are being established specifically for handicapped athletes, some disabled individuals would like to compete against the physically “able.”
Wrestling is known for being an all-inclusive sport with athletes of all backgrounds, and it is one of the few sports that does allow for the physically disabled to compete against non-handicapped athletes. Here are a few wrestlers with disabilities who have made a name for themselves in wrestling.
Kyle Maynard was born in 1986 in Suwannee, GA with congenital amputation, a rare condition where his arms end at his elbows, and legs end at his knees. In middle school, he played his first year of football as a nose tackle. He used his height to his advantage, as his opponents could not get low enough to block him. In fact, he only started wrestling to stay in shape for football in the off season.
Maynard did not win a single match during his first year as a wrestler. He was getting ready to give up, but after his father told him he also did not win a match during his first year (a lie Maynard did not discover until he was writing his autobiography), Maynard decided to stick with wrestling for another season. After 35 consecutive losses, Maynard finally won a match during seventh grade. The long-awaited victory inspired the young wrestler to train even harder. During his senior year in high school, Maynard won 36 varsity matches and was awarded the 2004 ESPY Award for Best Athlete with a Disability.
Maynard is now a world record-breaking weightlifter and is training in mixed martial arts. He is also a humanitarian and public speaker who travels the world inspiring people of all abilities.
Anthony Robles who was born with only one leg, and his favorite quote, “Impossible is only in the dictionary of fools,” reminds him to never let his disability get in his way. When he started wrestling at age 14, he called himself the worst wrestler on the team. However, his coach never gave up on him. On numerous occasions, his coach would tie his own legs together during wrestling practice to better understand Robles. With this technique, he was able to develop new moves and tactics for Robles to use on the mat.
With the support of his coach and family, Robles went on to have a 90-0 record over his last two years of high school, including winning two state championships. He continued his wrestling career at Arizona State University, where he went on to be a three-time NCAA All American, and in 2011, he won the title of NCAA Champion. That year, he also won two Espy Awards, including the Award for Perseverance and the Best Male Athlete with a Disability award.
Anthony Robles is now a public speaker, Nike athlete, and author of his autobiography, “Unstoppable: From Underdog to Unbeatable. How I Became a Champion.”
Max Lamm, who suffered from a rare form of cancer as a child that left him blind, is now an accomplished drummer, an avid skier, and is making a name for himself in the world of wrestling. Lamm had a 7-11 record in his first season, and last year, he qualified for the WPIAL Class 3A tournament as a freshman. His parents, who have three other children, said they chose to raise him just like their other kids; to encourage him to try new things and push his limits, and his coach is no different. While Lamm needs a little guidance when it comes to running sprints with his teammates and finding the locker room after practice, his coach knows his potential and expects great things from him.
These athletes, and many others like them, prove that nothing is impossible. On and off the mat, it is important to believe in yourself, give 110 percent, and not let anything stand in the way of what you want to accomplish.