India’s Pooja Dhanda stunned World and Olympic Champion Helen Maroulis to set up Punjab Royals’ second straight title triumph at the Pro Wrestling League here today. Pooja, who had beaten Helen in the league stage too, repeated her feat in the sixth bout of the day that sealed Haryana Hammers’ fate. World Championship gold medallist Zurabi Iakobishvili showed his class, to win 4-0 and clinch the championship for Punjab Royals 5-2 in front of a packed house.
Earlier, Anastasija Grigorjeva and Koumba Laroque had won two fights for the Royals while Vladimir Khinchegashvili and Khetik Tsabolov won two for the Hammers to lock the nine-bout tie at 2-2 after four clashes.
“This is the best gift I could give to my country on Republic Day,” said Pooja. “Saare jahan se acha Hindustan hamaara,” she added.
Reigning Olympic champion Vladimir got the Hammers off to a winning start, scoring a comprehensive 4-0 victory over India’s Naveen Kumar in the 57-kg competition.
The Royals drew level in the second bout, through 2017 World Championship bronze medalist Anastasija Grigorjeva. In an intense fight, she steamrolled India’s Sarita Mor 7-2 in the 62-kg women’s contest.
The Hammers’ slipped into a 2-1 lead, with Khetik Tsabolov, the 2017 World Championship runner-up, taking down India’s Jitender Kinha 15-0 by technical superiority in the 74-kg competition. France’s Koumba then beat Pooja Sihag 7-0 to level the tie.
In the battle of super heavyweights, Punjab’s icon player Geno Petriashvili wrestled with lan to send his side 3-2 up.
In the most-awaited clash, Pooja began on the back foot, losing the initial point to favourite Helen. She didn’t give up the fight though and emerged victorious in the end.
-Inputs from PTI