You reach out to shake his hand, and Alex Campos-Chambers doesnt hesitate. But the Sacramento City College sophomore offers his left hand because he has no right.
Born with a right arm that ends at the wrist, Campos-Chambers never let five fewer fingers prevent him from fitting in, from being one of the boys who climbed trees or scaled a fence to fetch a wayward ball. Or from competing on larger stages. Campos-Chambers started at defensive tackle for Chico High School. But his real passion was wrestling, which is taxing enough with two hands. But one? In a sport heavy on holding, grabbing and pushing off?
Campos-Chambers found a way because he refuses to be burdened by limits. He capped his two-year community college tour Saturday night in the winners circle at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, his right arm raised by the referee. Campos-Chambers won the state 174-pound title and earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors as Sac City won state team honors for the first time since 1996.
And that one-hand handicap? Hardly. Campos-Chambers earned a pin in the final match to set a state career mark of 52. His 32 pins this season eclipsed the school record set by John Ming in 1970.
Inspirational? Remarkable? A bit of both? His teammates and coaches say so, but Campos-Chambers insists he is no more special than his teammates. He said his fellow state champions Taylor Hodel (157 pounds), Desi Rios (165) and Kenny Steers (184) are every bit his equal.
I dont look at myself as an inspiration, but when I won the state championship, I had so many people congratulating me, people I didnt know, and then it was getting to me that maybe I was an inspiration, and that makes me proud, Campos-Chambers said. Then to get the Outstanding Wrestler award, that was a little emotional. It all started to hit me what Ive done and what it all means.
Campos-Chambers said he never wanted any pity for his handicap. In the weight room, he used a strap-harness to help lift weights in his quest to be in top shape and blend in with his teammates working out next to him.
Not having that hand, its like a minor setback, but you work out the kinks, figure it out and never settle, Campos-Chambers said. Ive always had a no-excuses type of mentality. But I could find excuses if I wanted to.
And sometimes, amid laughter because he cant keep a poker face, hell pull the excuse card.
If Im running late, a coach will say, Hurry up and tie your shoes! Campos-Chambers said. Ill go, Dude, you know how hard it is to tie shoes with one hand? But I dont scapegoat. Ill just joke about it.
Campos-Chambers paused and continued: When I first met the guys here, it was different. They dont know what Im about, and its awkward.
But I dont mind if they want to talk about my hand, if theyre curious. I want them to know about it instead of staring. Theyre my teammates, and they have a right to know.
Panthers coach David Pacheco said his star serves as a powerful motivator.
Hes amazing, said Pacheco, in his 31st season at Sac City. I take it for granted. A few weeks ago, Alex had his shoes in his hands, and I just asked him, How do you tie your shoes? and he says, Just like you, coach. ... He showed me. Hes always adjusted. Just great to see.
Campos-Chambers has received considerable recruiting interest from four-year programs. He wants to further his wrestling career, major in business or sociology and inspire his pre-teen siblings, brother Ramon and sister Arie.
They dont really love going to school except to be with their friends, but they need to go to be good students, Campos-Chambers said. I have to set the bar. I have to lead by example. I dont want to be someone who fell short as a student, or in anything I do, and let them think that being average is OK.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter: @SacBee_JoeD.