Monday, March 21, 2011

All Is Right With The World - One-Legged Man Wins National Championship

As anybody who watched much SportsCenter this weekend, Anthony Robles wrestled for the national title at 125 pounds.  This story would have gotten approximately zero coverage in most years, but as you can see from the picture above, Robles was born without a right leg.  In the finals, the world was treated to the ultimate good vs. evil story.  Robles, the inspirational story who has overcome the odds taking on Matt McDonough, from the defending national champion from the most hated wrestling program in the nation, the Iowa Hawkeyes.

In the end, good won over evil, and Robles defeated McDonough 7-1.  Congratulations to Robles as it is an amazing accomplishment to win a national championship for someone with two legs, so to win it with one is truly an unbelievable story.

Not only did Iowa lost the title match at 125, their string of three consecutive national championships was broken as Penn State became the first team east of the Mississippi River to win the national title in something like 400 years.  Good for them.

In wrestling, it's all about the little things, and there are literally 1000 situations that I could bring up to demonstrate this point.  Instead, I want to focus on just the two wrestlers that were Iowa's best hopes for national titles, Montell Marion and Matt McDonough.

In the semifinals, Marion took on number one seeded Kellen Russell.  In their first meeting, Russell got the win against Marion in overtime.  It was another awesome match.  It wasn't high scoring, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a ton of excitement in it with some amazing wrestling.  Again, they went to overtime.  The first minute period is sudden-death.  Marion was able to get in on his best shot of the match and got an advantageous position.  There was an incredible scramble, and there was a moment where the ref threw up two fingers to signify the takedown for Iowa.  That moment was followed by another moment, this one of the ref waving off the takedown.  Personally, I think that when that two goes up, that should be the end of the match, but that was not the case.  The Iowa announcer thought that Russell put weight on his hands with Marion behind him which does constitute a takedown, but the match moved fast, and I honestly can't say for sure that this was the case.  After eleven minutes of wrestling (which is an unbelievably exhausting thing to do), Russell was declared the winner 3-3, with a slight edge on riding time.  Russell would go on to win the national championship.

Now onto McDonough vs. The Inspirational Story, Anthony Robles.  I would like to stress the fact that I believe it is awesome that Robles was even able to compete at college level with one leg.  For him to be an All-American is an amazing accomplishment.  And when it comes down to it, Robles won the match.  When you look at the score, he won it decisively.  7-1 is a very big victory in wrestling.  But things definitely could have worked out differently.  I do not fault Robles for anything that happened, but I would say that the reffing of the match was questionable.

Robles got the early takedown and had wrist control on McDonough.  McDonough knew this, so he knew that he had to maintain his position and not take any stupid chances.  The ref called him for stalling.  I disagree with the call.  Was McDonough doing anything?  No, he wasn't.  But Robles was parallel with McDonough, and if you want to get points, you have to get perpendicular to score.  With the way that McDonough was positioned, it would have been a risk for Robles to go perpendicular, because of the likelihood of giving up an escape or a reversal.  Luckily, the ref has the option to call a stalemate and restart the match in the center.  If he calls a stalemate, there's a good chance McDonough works for an escape.  With that confidence, he could take down in the second period and get another escape.  Then we're looking at a 2-2 match going into the third.  It's anybody's match at that point.  Instead, Robles was up 7-0 after the first, and he stalled out the final four minutes of the match, and it only took three minutes of stalling for the ref to finally call it.  He did call it twice, but at that point, Robles knew he had the match and was content to hold position for the win.

I don't fault Robles for his style.  It won him a national championship.  I do fault the ref.  Not only was the stall call on McDonough questionable at best, but he did not call it the same way throughout the match when Robles was clearly stalling out the final two periods.

I could come up with a "What if..." situation for every single Iowa wrestler, but that's not necessary (especially since I could do it for just about every wrestler in the tournament).  When it comes down to it, Iowa lost and Penn State won.  No hypothetical is going to change that, so it's best to look forward to next year.

Tomorrow, I'll explain why Iowa is so hated, why I love them so much (Hint, it's for the exact reasons that people hate them), and how Iowa will be even better next year.


P.S.  Here's a different style of wrestling.  I seriously have no idea how a show that starred "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Jesse "The Body" Ventura as crime fighting detectives in a show called "Tag Team" did not get picked up during the height of professional wrestling's popularity, but this clip is still awesome.

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