Wrestling has been India’s go-to discipline for medals at the Olympic Games with the sport delivering a medal in each of the last three editions.

After hockey, no other discipline has won India more medals than wrestling and in Rio five years ago, India opened its account with a bronze medal in wrestling won by Sakshi Malik.

Indian wrestling's record at the Olympics

Athlete Year Medal
KD Jadhav 1952 Olympics Bronze Medal
Sushil Kumar 2008 Olympics Bronze Medal
Sushil Kumar 2012 Olympics Silver Medal
Yogeshwar Dutt 2012 Olympics Bronze Medal
Sakshi Malik 2016 Olympics Bronze Medal

Come Tokyo 2020 (2021), India once again have high hopes from its wrestlers who go into the Games on the back of consistent achievements at the international level over the last five years.

India will field seven wrestlers, headlined by Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia.

Then there are youngsters like Anshu Malik and Sonam Malik in the women’s category, who sprang a surprise by their rather quick success after moving from the junior to the senior circuit.

Among the men, Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia haven’t been talked up as much as some of their recent performances merit and have the potential to end up on the podium.

Indian men's freestyle contingent

Wrestler Category Probable dates
Ravi Kumar Dahiya −57 kg 4 Aug
Bajrang Punia −65 kg 6 Aug
Deepak Punia −86 kg 4 Aug

Indian women's freestyle contingent

Wrestler Athlete Probable dates
Seema Bisla −50 kg 6 Aug
Vinesh Phogat −53 kg 5 Aug
Anshu Malik −57 kg 4 Aug
Sonam Malik −62 kg 3 Aug

Despite the excitement surrounding the Indian contingent and their medal prospects, the team is not rich in terms of Olympic experience. Only Vinesh Phogat has been part of the Olympics before. Bajrang although quite experienced has never participated in the quadrennial Games either.

The other wrestlers will all make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo and will have to cope with the nerves of such a big stage.

Here’s a detailed look at every Indian wrestler at the Games and their prospects in Tokyo


Seeding: 2nd

Bajrang Punia career achievements

Event 1st 2nd 3rd
Olympic Games - - -
World Championships - 1 2
Asian Games 1 1 -
Commonwealth Games 1 1 -
World U23 Wrestling Championships - 1 -
Asian Championships 2 3 2
Commonwealth Championships 2 - -
Total 6 7 4

Bajrang Punia SWOT Analysis

Strength Stamina, power, attack
Weakness Leg defence, conceding points early
Opportunity Good form. Bajrang has won three medals since sealing qualification in 2019
Threat Takuto Otoguro (JPN), Gadzhimurad Rashidov (RUS), Tulga Tumur Ochir (MGL), Iszmail Muszukajev (HUN)

What to expect in Tokyo?

Bajrang has been a major force on the world stage and has stood on the podium in each of his last 10 international tournaments, winning six gold medals, three silver and one bronze.

Always thriving on superior stamina, leg defence has been an issue for Bajrang for long. He has worked on this aspect of his game. He is competing in one of the most competitive weight categories that has at least 6-8 wrestlers, who are all medal contenders.

“I feel 65kg is the toughest category in the world. There is no wrestler who has successively defended world championship titles or Olympic gold medals. There is always a new champion in every edition. There are strong wrestlers in this category who can beat anyone on their day,” Punia had told reporters in March.

The 27-year-old will have to ensure that he does not give away too many early points in a field that features tactically strong rivals.

“My coaches say I end up wasting a lot of power in that point recovery process, so I now try not to concede those early points. My training has been such since my early days that my game has become power-oriented. But still, I have worked on my leg defence and it has got better,” he said.


Seeding: 4th

Ravi Dahiya's career achievements

Event 1st 2nd 3rd
Olympic Games - - -
World Championships - - 1
World U23 Wrestling Championships - 1 -
Asian Championships 2 - -
Total 2 1 1
Strength Ability to launch relentless attacks
Weakness Can be unsettled with early point-scoring moves
Opportunity Isn't considered a big favourite so he will have less external pressure.
Threat Zavur Uguev (RUS), Suleyman Atli (TUR), Yuki Takahashi (JPN)

What to expect in Tokyo?

If there is one wrestler, who did not hog much of the limelight but is a genuine medal contender, that is quiet and shy Ravi Dahiya.

A product of Chhatarsal stadium, Ravi is a slow starter but begins to dominate the contest as the clock ticks away. He possesses immense strength, stamina and is technically sound.

“I don’t think anyone can match me in stamina. It’s not just about qualification for Olympics alone, I think I can win a medal,” Dahiya had told Scroll.in in an interview last year.

However, he can’t afford to leave too much work for the second period as it happened at the Poland Open, where he conceded a 0-8 lead in the final and ran out of time to make up.

“I have to prepare. I didn’t win gold but the result there (at Olympics) will be far more important. That is what I am focused on. But I have time. I will use it in the best possible way,” Dahiya had said back then. In Tokyo, it’s time to prove it.


Seeding: 2nd

Deepak Punia career achievements

Event 1st 2nd 3rd
Olympic Games - - -
World Championships - 1 -
World Junior Wrestling Championships 1 1 -
World Cadet Championships 1 - -
Asian Championships - - 2
Total 2 2 2

Deepak Punia SWOT analysis

Strength Flexibility, power, stamina, attack
Weakness Defence
Threat Hasan Yazdani (IRI), David Morris Taylor (USA), Artur Naifonov (RUS).

What to expect in Tokyo?

While Deepak was making steady progress from the junior to senior circuit, he is heading to Tokyo under-prepared in terms of competition time. He has not competed since the 2020 World Cup and was nursing a left-hand injury before the Poland Open from which he withdrew.

Lack of exposure at the senior level means there is unpredictability around him but at the same time, it could work against him.

“Sushil and Sakshi were not tipped to win Olympic medals, but they did,” Deepak’s coach Virender Kumar said.

Seeded second, Deepak will be avoiding his rival, Iranian great Hassan Yazdani, in the early rounds. Yazdani is an opponent who has got the better of him at the Asian and World Championship finals.

“Yazdani grew in stature and progressed by beating his seniors, so it’s not that he is invincible. This time if Deepak has to wrestle with him, he will be prepared,” Virender said.

“Yazdani is tall and uses his hands well to confuse his opponent. Deepak stood in front of him and that was a mistake. Now he has to move sideways and launch the attack from there, not from the front,” added Virender.


Seeding: 1st

Vinesh Phogat career achievements

Event 1st 2nd 3rd
Olympic Games - - -
World Championships - - 1
Asian Games 1 - 1
Commonwealth Games 2 - -
Asian Championships 1 3 4
Total 4 3 6

Vinesh Phogat's SWOT analysis

Strength Power, tactical acumen
Weakness Losing points on counter-attack
Opportunity Great form that made her top seed. The seeding has helped her avoid big guns early.
Threat Mayu Mukaida (JPN)

What to expect in Tokyo?

The way Vinesh has dominated the circuit, she is easily a strong gold contender in her category. In the 17 competitions she has wrestled in since the Rio Olympics, she has won a medal in each one of them barring the 2017 World Championships. Out of the 16 medals, one is a bronze medal at the World Championships in 2019 which qualified her for the Olympics. Nine others are gold.

The change in weight category has worked well for her as she now has more strength in her muscles.

“I got one extra year to adjust to a new weight category,” said Phogat.

“Even if my attacks were half attempts at 50kg, I would finish them with my strength but not at 53kg. The attack has to be 100% or else the opponents can also stop me from attacking. So if you see my bouts, I take a minute or so to understand them and then decide my attacks. If they are making their moves or waiting for my moves,” Phogat added.

She is a tactically superior wrestler, has immense power that makes her one of the favourites but she will have to overcome Japan’s Mayu Mukaida, a wrestler who has defeated her thrice since 2019.

Phogat will be pleased there are no fans to cheer the local on at Tokyo, but if she harbours hopes of winning the gold, she has to get the better of the Japanese.


Seeding: NA

Seema Bisla career achievements

Event 1st 2nd 3rd
Olympic Games - - -
World Championships - - -
Asian Games - - -
Commonwealth Games - - -
Asian Championships - - 1
Total 0 0 1

Seema Bisla SWOT analysis

Strength Endurance, ability to make comeback
Weakness Lack of big-stage experience, defence
Opportunity A relatively unknown quantity, Seems has surprise element
Threat Mariya Stadnik (AZE), Yui Susaki (JPN)

What to expect in Tokyo?

Not many expected Seema to qualify for the Games but she punched her ticket at the World Qualifiers in Bulgaria in a depleted field. While she is gritty, lack of experience at the big stage is a big drawback. There are at least eight wrestlers in her category against whom she has never competed.

However, it can also be a strength as they wouldn’t be too aware of what to expect from the Indian who could make this surprise element work in her favour.


Seeding: NA

Anshu Malik career achievements

Event 1st 2nd 3rd
Olympic Games - - -
World Championships - - -
World Junior Wrestling Championships - - -
World Cadet Championships - - -
Asian Championships 1 - 1
Total 1 0 1

Anshu Malik SWOT analysis

Strength Tactically sound, attacking style
Weakness Lack of experience
Opportunity Gain valuable experience of big stage
Threat Risako Kawai (JPN), Odunayo Folasade (NGR), Iryna Kurachkina (BLR)

By qualifying for the Tokyo Games, Anshu has exceeded the set targets. Anshu is fierce on the mat. Tokyo will largely help her gain experience at the biggest stage. She has nothing to lose.

However, the recent Asian championship gold would have given Anshu the necessary lift ahead of such a big event.

“I was never scared of the seniors. I was just waiting to take them on. I always wanted to win those medals, have the feel of the podium. Even at school, I wanted to come first,” Anshu told PTI earlier this month.

“I am mentally very strong. I don’t get perturbed even if someone makes a negative comment about me or tells me that I won’t be able to do well against strong rivals. It does not affect me,” she added.


Seeding: NA

Career Achievements: Sonam Malik hasn’t won a medal at major events in senior-level wrestling. However, she’s won gold in the World School Games, a bronze medal in the Cadet Asian Wrestling Championship and finished with a gold in the Cadet World Wrestling Championship.

Strength Technique, scoring on counter-attacks
Weakness Lack of experience
Threat Yukako Kawai (JPN), Aisuluu Tynybekova (KGZ), Taybe Mustafa Yusein (BUL), Kayla Miracle (USA)

Like Anshu, Sonam too is a surprise qualifier as she has not competed even at the junior level, jumping straight into the senior circuit from the Cadet level. She shot to fame with her four consecutive victories over Rio bronze medallist Sakshi Malik in the domestic arena.

It is rare that someone who has not had the exposure even at the junior level, is claimed to be ready for competitions at the highest level.

After much persuasion throughout 2019, the WFI allowed Sonam to compete in trials for the Rome Ranking series event in January 2020.

Sonam is also nursing a knee injury that has severely hampered her preparations for the Games.


Wrestling schedule Tokyo 2020

Event Name Schedule
Women's Freestyle 50kg Seema Bisla AUG 6, FRI AM: Rd of 16, QFs AUG 6, FRI PM: SFs AUG 7, SAT PM: Repechage, medals
Women's Freestyle 53kg Vinesh Phogat AUG 5, THU AM: Rd of 16, QFsAUG 5, THU PM: SFsAUG 6, FRI AM: RepechageAUG 6, FRI PM: Medal matches
Women's Freestyle 57kg Anshu Malik AUG 4, WED AM: Rd of 16, QFs AUG 4, WED PM: SFsAUG 5, THU AM: RepechageAUG 5, THU PM: Medal matches
Women's Freestyle 62kg Sonam Malik AUG 3, TUE AM: Rd of 16, QFsAUG 3, TUE PM: SFs AUG 4, WED AM: Repechage AUG 4, WED PM: Medals
Men's Freestyle 57kg Ravi Kumar AUG 4, WED AM: Rd of 16, QFs AUG 4, WED PM: SFs AUG 5, THU AM: Repechage AUG 5, THU PM: Medal matches
Men's Freestyle 65kg Bajrang Punia AUG 6, FRI AM: Rd of 16, QFs AUG 6, FRI PM: SFs AUG 7, FRI PM: Repechage, medal matches
Men's Freestyle 86kg Deepak Punia AUG 4, WED AM: Rd of 16, QFs AUG 4, WED PM: SFs AUG 5, THU AM: Repechage AUG 5, THU PM: Medal matches