After the high of a successful Commonwealth Games campaign where they won 12 medals in 12 events, the Indian wrestling contingent is up for a stern challenge at the World Wrestling Championships in Belgrade.

The 20-member strong Indian wrestling contingent for men’s freestyle and women’s wrestling boasts of a few Olympics and World medallists to go with youngsters who have impressed at junior levels and continental stages.

The tournament starts with Greco Roman categories on Saturday. (Full schedule here.)

The tournament will see four Greco-Roman weight classes on Saturday before four more on Sunday. Then, September 12 will see two women’s and two Greco-Roman weight classes. After that, Tuesday and Wednesday will see more women’s wrestling with four weights on the mat on each of those days. Finally, men’s freestyle competition will begin with four weights on Friday, three on Saturday and three on Sunday which will be the final day of the tournament.

— via UWW

Tokyo Olympics medallists Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Bajrang Punia lead the men’s contingent while a young women’s squad led by 2019 World Championships bronze medallist Vinesh Phogat have the potential to challenge for medals.

Men’s freestyle

The biggest medal contenders in the men’s event are undoubtedly Dahiya and Bajrang. 2019 World Championships silver medallist Deepak Punia had been named in the squad but was forced to withdraw after suffering a hand injury. Deepak has been replaced by 2021 Asian Championships bronze medallist Sanjeet.

While coach Jagminder Singh is confident his wrestlers will perform well in Belgrade, he is keen to point out to that the draw and the unpredictable nature of the sport can throw up surprise results.

“Truth be told, could anyone have predicted that our cricket team would not reach the final of the Asian Cup? A lot depends on the draw in wrestling,” Singh told “Earlier when it used to be group stages where wrestlers wrestle each other, the best wrestler would win more matches but we don’t follow that system anymore. We can’t predict what can happen in a six-minute bout anymore.”

The draw for men’s freestyle categories will take place on 14 September, Wednesday.

“It depends a lot on the draw and the situation. What happens many times is that even if your wrestler is stronger than the opponent in a bout, the result can still be flipped in the last 15 seconds. If you remember Ravi’s semifinal bout at the Tokyo Olympics, he was losing to his Kazakhi opponent, but in that situation he somehow still managed to win. In my opinion, you can’t predict what can happen in those six minutes,” Singh said.

“Every man always tries to win. But it all comes down to the situation. Sometimes your technique proves to be successful or sometimes you find yourself trapped after either not successfully nailing a move or being just a bit slow in your attack, everything can change.”

Ravi is the in-form wrestler in the Indian contingent this year having won a first Commonwealth Games gold medal after completing a hattrick of gold medals at the Asian Championship in Ulaanbaatar. Competing in the 61kg category, Ravi also placed first at the Yasar Dogu tournament to go with a second-place at the Don Kolov tournament.

With two-time World Champion and Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Zaur Uguev absent from the competition in Belgrade, reigning world champion Thomas Gilman of the USA will be Ravi’s main challenger with the pair yet to face each other.

Ravi has been training in Russia for the past month with coach Arun Kumar at an academy in Vladikavkaz and is confident of clinching gold despite being under pressure to deliver each time he steps on the mat.

“My only aim in life as a sports person is to bring laurels to my country and my immediate goals are to win gold medals at the World Championship and the Asian Games. For me, the high expectations of my fans is actually their love and support towards me and only motivates me to do better. There is no pressure on me to perform,” he said.

In contrast, Bajrang Punia, who has been suffering from dodgy knees for the past year, has had a shaky 2022 losing in the final of the Asian Championship and finishing third in the ranking event at Almaty before clinching gold in Birmingham. Now, he is hoping to rewind the clock by a few years.

“The World Championships are right after the Commonwealth Games, it is a big tournament and I want to perform well out there too. But the first target remains CWG. I hope to train well, manage the injury, and hopefully you will get to see the Bajrang Punia of 2018 once again,” Bajrang had said before Birmingham, and lived up to his words by dominating his way to an expected gold medal.

Should the seeds hold, Bajrang will face rival and top seed Haji Aliyev in the final. However, should the draw go against him, Bajrang could also end up facing Iran’s unseeded Rahman Amouzad who beat him at the Asian Championships this year.

Bajrang Punia eyes World C’ships after winning gold in Birmingham

Men’s squad for the World Championship: Ravi Dahiya (57kg), Pankaj Malik (61kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg), Naveen Malik (70kg), Sagar Jaglan (74kg), Deepak Mirka (79kg), Sanjeet (86kg), Vicky Hooda (92kg), Vicky Chahar (97kg), Dinesh Dhankar (125kg)

Women’s wrestling

2019 World Championship bronze medallist Vinesh Phogat leads an otherwise young women’s squad, which coach Jitender Yadav, has high hopes from.

“The preparation has been very good and we have a good chance of doing well. We have high hopes from our wrestlers in the 50kg, 53kg, 55kg, 57kg, 59kg and 62kg events,” Yadav told

While U20 World Champion Antim Panghal won’t be in Belgrade after missing out against Vinesh in the trials, U20 World Championships silver medallist Sonam Malik features in squad. Sonam, a two-time Cadet World Wrestling champion, was part of the Indian contingent in Tokyo and had beaten Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik in the trials for the Olympic qualifiers.

Also missing from the squad is 2021 World Championship silver medallist Anshu Malik who underwent a surgery on her elbow. Anshu, who was seeded third in the 57kg event, had earlier been replaced by Mansi Ahlawat, who was seeded sixth.

However, the Indian team decided to move Ahlawat up to 59kg with 2021 World Championship bronze medallist Sarita Mor, the top seed in the 59kg event, dropping down to 57kg.

Explaining the swap, Yadav said, “The reason is that Mansi’s weight is more. She has more bone weight and Sarita has more muscle weight. It’s easier to reduce muscle weight than bone weight. Reducing bone weight is difficult and it hampers the recovery process. Both are good wrestlers and were seeded. Both have a good chance of returning with medals. We want more medals for India and not lose a medal by putting both wrestlers in the same weight category [and compete for one spot in the squad].”

However, the swapping of weight categories means that Sarita and Mansi will lose their seeding and will possibly face the top seeds early on in the campaign. The loss of seeding, though, is not something to be concerned about according to Yadav.

“They have lost their seeding but the draw won’t be difficult for them as they are good wrestlers. There’s only the matter of having one bout extra by not being seeded and it doesn’t affect the wrestlers that much,” he said.

U23 Asian Championship silver medallist Neelam was added to the squad after beating Ankush in a retrial. Neelam made her senior debut at the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov Tournament where she placed second.

Sushma Shokeen, who made her senior debut this year, won bronze at the Asian Championships and placed third at the ranking event in Almaty.

“The wrestlers are good and the preparation has been good,” Yadav explained. “We have been preparing for this for the past three-four months. Vinesh has put in a lot of effort. Neelam, who will compete in the 50kg event, is a newcomer but will perform very well for us. We have high expectations from her. The future is bright for Indian wrestling and we have some very good wrestlers coming up. Our second line and third line of wrestlers are very strong.”

Women’s squad for the World Championship: Neelam (50kg), Vinesh Phogat (53kg), Sushma Shokeen (55kg), Sarita Mor (57kg), Mansi Ahlawat (59kg), Sonam Malik (62kg), Shefali (65kg), Nisha Dahiya (68kg), Reetika (72kg), Priyanka (76kg)

Greco Roman Wrestling

India have won only one medal in the history of senior World Championships in Greco-Roman categories. It has not been an are of India’s strength in international wrestling and the squad of 10 wrestlers will have a massive task to change that trend.

Greco-Roman: Arjun Halakurki (55kg), Gyanender Dahiya (60kg), Neeraj (63kg), Ashu (67kg), Vikas (72kg), Sachin (77kg), Harpreet Singh (82kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg), Deepanshu Ahlawat (97kg), Satish (130kg).

India's top-three finishes at Wrestling Worlds

Date Place Name Style Weight Rank
2010-09-10 Moscow Kumar, Sushil Freestyle 66.0 1.
2021-10-04 Oslo Anshu, Anshu Female wrestling 57.0 2.
2019-09-19 Nur-Sultan Punia, Deepak Freestyle 86.0 2.
2018-10-20 Budapest Punia, Bajrang Freestyle 65.0 2.
2013-09-16 Budapest Kumar, Amit* Freestyle 55.0 2.
1967-11-12 New Dehli Singh, Bishamber Ali Freestyle 57.0 2.
2021-10-04 Oslo Sarita Female wrestling 59.0 3.
2019-09-19 Nur-Sultan Kumar, Ravi Freestyle 57.0 3.
2019-09-19 Nur-Sultan Aware, Rahul Balasaheb Freestyle 61.0 3.
2019-09-19 Nur-Sultan Punia, Bajrang Freestyle 65.0 3.
2019-09-16 Nur-Sultan Vinesh Female wrestling 53.0 3.
2018-10-22 Budapest Dhanda, Pooja Female wrestling 57.0 3.
2015-09-10 Las Vegas Yadav, Narsingh Panchav Freestyle 74.0 3.
2013-09-20 Budapest Yadav, Sandeep Greco-Roman 66.0 3.
2013-09-16 Budapest Barjang Freestyle 60.0 3.
2012-09-27 Strathcona County Babita, Kumari Female wrestling 51.0 3.
2012-09-27 Strathcona County Geeta Female wrestling 55.0 3.
2009-09-21 Herning Kumar, Rames 3 Freestyle 74.0 3.
2006-09-29 Guangzhou Tomar, Alka Female wrestling 59.0 3.
*Amit Kumar 2 as referenced on the UWW database (Note: Beach Wrestling not included)

The bouts from World Championships will be live on Medal stats courtesy UWW database.