New Delhi: Riding on Pankaj Rana and Nirmla Devi's brilliant show, Punjab Royals made the finals of the Pro Wrestling League Season 2 after beating defending champions Mumbai Maharathi 5-4 in the second semifinal here on Wednesday.
Punjab Royals will take on Haryana Hammers in grand finale on Thursday.
In the league stage also Punjab had edged out Mumbai 4-3, but with no blocking in the semifinal, the contest gave both teams an equal chance to make the final with their best wrestlers in action.
Punjab once again reined supreme with their foreign imports Odunayo Folasade Adekuoroye, Vladimir Khinchegashvili and Ilias Bekbukatov, besides Indias Nirmla and Pankaj, not only in front of a capacity crowd but also in the presence of Yoga guru Baba Ramdev here at the KD Jadhav stadium.
Baba Ramdev also fought a friendly bout with Olympian wrestler Andrey Stadnik and defeated him 12-0.
Jitendra had his task cut out against the experienced Jabrayil, Rio Games bronze medallist. Jabrayil opened his account straightaway with a takedown before pushing the Indian out of the mat for another point. He added two more points before ending round one with a 5-0 lead.
Jitendra faced an uphill task as his more accomplished opponent effected more takedowns and rolled him over and over again in the second half to seal the first victory of the evening for Mumbai.
Punjab won the second bout as the energetic Odunayo overpowered Mumbais Lalita Sehrawat 16-0 by virtue of Technical Superiority in womens 53kg.
Lalita put up a brave fight against Odunayo, who is in fine form this season, but failed to counter her. The Nigerian grappler, who had proved her mettle by beating Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sofia Mattsson of Haryana Hammers in the last group stage game, delighted the spectators with her characteristic victory dance following her win in 4 minutes and 26 seconds.
Punjab's another key player, Vladimir of Georgia, who had won four out of his five bouts before this, prevailed over Mumbais Rahul Aware 12-5 in a keenly contested match in mens 57kg.
Rio Olympics champion Vladimir used all his experience to overcome a stiff challenge from Aware.
Although Aware could pocket some more points in the second round also but in the end he had to concede the tie to a much stronger and experienced opponent.
Captain Erica Wiebe scored the equaliser for Mumbai as the Olympic gold medallist eked out a narrow 2-1 win over Vasilisa Marzaliuk of Punjab in women's 75kg in another neck-and-neck battle of the evening.
The next bout was over in just one minute and 17 seconds as Russian grappler Ilias Bekbukatov finished the proceedings in a clinical fashion with a 17-0 win via technical superiority over Vikas of Mumbai in mens 65kg, to give Punjab a 3-2 lead.
Pavlo Oliynik brought Mumbai back into the match with a comfortable 12-0 win over Krishan Kumar of Punjab in mens 97kg.
With scores tied at 3-3, Nirmla Devi gave Punjab an upper hand with a 2-1 win over Carolina Castillo Hidalgo of Colombia in women's 48kg.
Columbian grappler, who finished in 8th in Rio Olympics, failed to avenge her defeat against Nirmla, who had beaten her in the group stage also.
While Pritam always maintained a healthy lead throughout the bout, Pankaj turned things around in the last few seconds of the game to bag the bout as well as the match 8-8 in Punjabs favour. He won by the virtue of winning the last points.
In the final inconsequential bout, Sarita restored some pride for Mumbai by beating Manju Kumari 9-0 in womens 58kg.