Dhankar, Khatri Emerge National Champions; Punia Takes Bronze
Seasoned Amit Dhankar showed that he still has enough left in his tank by emerging champion in the 74kg but the next Bajrang Punia or a Sushil Kumar was not in sight as Tata Motors Senior National Wrestling Championship concluded in Gonda on Sunday.
Gonda: Seasoned Amit Dhankar showed that he still has enough left in his tank by emerging champion in the 74kg but the next Bajrang Punia or a Sushil Kumar was not in sight as Tata Motors Senior National Wrestling Championship concluded in Gonda on Sunday.
Dhankar, former Asian and Commonwealth Champion, mixed his aggressive tactics with solid defence enroute to his seventh National title in the men's freesstyle competition.
While he stood out with his leg attack till the final, the gold medal bout against SSCB's Vinod was all about defence as he won 5-1.
Someone whose international career never took off due to presence of Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt in his category. Dhankar still is competing in a category which is owned by two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, who skipped the Nationals.
Dhankar said he feels ready to replace Sushil.
"I have lot of faith in my defence. I could not do that well in the final. I have beaten him a lot of times but I could not attack. Nevertheless, I am happy with the way I fought in the tournament," Dhankar, 31-year-old from Haryana, said.
"Sushil bhai guided me before coming here. He is my idol and I am hopeful he will give me a chance for the World Championship next year. I think I am good enough, he said.
A lot was expected from the young Deepak Punia, who is making transition from the junior to seniors level, but he faded in the semifinals in the 86kg category.
Punia, the junior World silver medallist and junior Asian Champion and tipped to be India's future star in heavy categories, had a tough first round as he was up against 87kg silver Greco Roman silver medallist Prabhpal Singh.
After going past Singh and Bihar's Ripunjay Yadav, Punia was in a spot after conceding two passivity points against Sanjeet but seconds before the time, he got a push-out point to move to the semifinals.
Punia was sensationally knocked out by Railways' Parveen, who pinned the talented youngster in just 38 seconds. Deepak was trying a shoulder throw but the move back-fired as he could never wriggle out of Parveen's stronghold.
In the thrilling final, Parveen prevailed 5-2 against Pawan Kumar to take gold in 86kg category. Parveen took advantage of his height and power before Pawan fought back in the second period.
Punia later claimed a bronze with commanding 11-0 win over Hitesh in the Play-off.
Looking ahead, the 19-year-old said he was eyeing a berth in World Championship to make an attempt at Tokyo Olympic qualification.
The 74kg had three exciting wrestlers with Praveen Rana, Dhankar and junior Asian Champion Sachin Rathi in the fray.
Rathi, also the junior world silver medallist, hardly broke a sweat till the quarterfinals as he got a walk over in the first round and pinned Pukhraj Yadav in the second.
The quarterfinal was a slow affair with Rathi mostly playing a waiting game against Mohit. Eventually he won 5-1.
Next up was in-form Dhankar, who faced stiff resistance from Railways' Pritam before moving to the quarterfinals. However, he was dominating against Rana, winning 6-1.
In the 65kg category, Indian Air Force's Harphul Gulia claimed gold with a 10-4 win over Haryana's Parveen. After a tough start against Vikas, the SSCB grappler, who trains under Satpal at Chhatrasal Stadium, was dominant from the quarterfinals.
It was Harphul's second gold at the senior level having triumphed in 2016.
"I was desperate to win this gold. I want to focus on international level and qualifying for the Asian Championship is my first target for new season," he said.
However, breaking into the international level will not be easy for Harphul since he has to contend with formidable Bajrang Punia, who without doubt is country's best wrestler as of now.
In the 61kg final, Railways' Rahul Aware emerged champion with a dominating win over Goa's Abhimanyu Yadav.
Attacking Abhimanyu's his left leg, Aware took two points with a take down and then applied four straight gut wrench moves in a row to finish the bout in a jiffy.
In one of the most exciting bouts of the day, Haryana's Mousam Khatri held off a spirited challenge from Satyawart Kadiyan to claim gold in the 97kg.
It was one of the better bouts that Mousam has played in recent times. Kadiyan made two brave leg attacks but Mousam with his solid defense escaped unscathed.
Overall, the Nationals did not unearth any special talent who is even close to Bajrang or Sushil.
Railways yet again claimed the team title with 183 points and were followed by SSCB (133) and Haryana (123).
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