The South Asian Times

15 July 2019 22:48 PM

Wrestlers aim to improve record at junior worlds


New Delhi, Sep 14: A 30-member Indian contingent will aim to improve on their past record when they compete at the Junior World Wrestling Championships to be held in Slovakia from September 17-23.

The Junior Championship (U-20) is billed as a major stepping stone for those aspiring to make it big in the sport. The Slovakia event will also be significant for the junior Indian grapplers as they look to emulate Bajrang Punia, who became the first Indian to win a wrestling gold for at the Jakarta Asian Games, a feat that has eluded the Junior team for the past 17 years.

Indian wrestlers had managed to claim a bronze in each category -- men's freestyle, Greco Roman and women's freestyle -- at the Paris world meet last year after the team had gone without medals for three years. 

The last time India won gold at the world juniors was way back in 2001 during the Sofia (Bulgaria) meet where the wrestlers had picked up two gold medals.

Since then the precious yellow metal has eluded the Indians and the present contingent, led by youngsters like Deepak Punia, Sachin Rathi, Suraj and Sandeep Singh Maan, to name a few, would want to set the record straight.

Speaking of the upcoming endeavour, Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bushan Sharan Singh sounded upbeat and confident.

"I have a lot of faith in the young talents that will be on view in Slovakia. The coaches and players have worked hard, I am very optimistic of their performance. Our aim will be to flourish and perform well in all age groups," he said.

The team looks high on confidence, the result of a four-month long training and their confident show during the Asian Championships in New Delhi, where India bagged eight medals including two golds, in July this year. The wrestlers coupled with medals from Junior Asian and Cadet championships will thus be keen to make the experience count in Slovakia.

The Greco Roman events have been India's Achilles' heel but, over a period of time, the wrestlers have shown improvement. This gives hopes for the country, especially from Sajan who bagged a bronze medal in last year's world championship in 77kg. 

The Asian gold medal winner, who has the potential to beat the best, would be eager to return home with a gold this time around. Of course, there are other wrestlers in lesser weight categories like Vijay, Sagar and Saurabh whom we can expect to spring a surprise.

As for women's wrestling, India can be hopeful of some exceptional performances. The women's contingent will be spearheaded by 2018 Asian Cadet Gold Medallist and a 2017 Cadet World Championship Anshu among others.

"We had done well at the Asian Juniors and we will be carrying forward that momentum as we take the mat at the Junior World Championship," reigning Asian junior champion Deepak Punia said.

Update: 14 Sep, 2018