Wrestler Sandeep Tomar staved off stiff competition from the talented Utkarsh Kale to qualify for the Asian Games and World Championship in the 57kg category, even as Rahul Aware opted out of the trials, citing a knee injury.
With Sandeep’s selection, India’s men’s wrestling squad for the Asian Games is now complete as re-trials were required in the 57kg category after Sandeep, Utkarsh and Ravi Kumar had earlier ended on equal points and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Aware sought more time for preparation.
In the most exciting bout of the day, Sandeep, the 2016 Asian Championship winner, trailed Utkarsh 2-4 after the first round and drifted further with Utkarsh creating another two-point move in the beginning of second round.
However, Sandeep, like many times in the past, made a strong comeback and rolled his opponent twice to level the score at 6-6 towards the end. Since Sandeep had scored the last points, he was declared the winner.
“Although I was trailing, I knew I could beat him. I had confidence in my ability,” Sandeep told PTI, adding, “I could not play my best since I had fever few days back and also back pain.”
“You may have seen my bouts. I grapple better than this,” the 27-year-old from Rohtak, said.
His personal coach Kuldeep Singh, who is also the national Greco-Roman coach, also said that his ward could not play to his potential.
Utkarsh had outsmarted Ravi 10-0 in his first bout and looked set for an upset but Sandeep had more tricks up his sleeve to down his opponent.
Meanwhile, Aware’s absence from the 57kg trails was being talked about in the arena.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) officials said he had submitted a medical certificate to opt out about a week ago, citing an injury. However, it was also being rumoured that he could not maintain his weight and also encountered a shoulder problem during practice.
“Since he was a CWG gold medal winner, we had to give him time for preparation. Now that he has given a medical certificate, saying he is injured, we have to accept this also. It is his right,” WFI president B B Sharan Singh said, ruling out any action against the Maharashtra wrestler.
Sushil Kumar (74kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg), Mausam Khatri (97kg), Pawan Kumar (86kg) and Sumit (125kg) are the other members of the Indian men’s squad. Both Sushil and Bajrang were exempted from trials by the WFI while the other three had booked their slots on June 9.
In the trials for the non-Olympic categories for the World Championship, to be held in Budapest from October 20 to 28, Pankaj Rana (70kg), Sachin Rathi (79kg) and Gold Coast CWG bronze medallist Sombir (92kg) booked their spots.
According to WFI secretary general V N Prasood, Praveen will fight it out with Bajrang for a place in the Worlds in the 65 kg category and trials in 74kg and 61kg will also be held after the Asian Games in Indonesia.
In the 79kg bouts, Rahul Rathi scored an upset win over 2013 Asian Champion Amit Dhankar, but it was Indian Navy’s Sachin Rathi, who had the last laugh, beating Rahul 4-2 in the final.
Sombir had an easy run as he blanked Naresh Kumar 6-0 before getting the better of Deepak 3-1 in the final.
In the 70kg, a dominant Pankaj won both his bouts on technical superiority. He first overpowered Jasbeer 10-0 and then outclassed Manoj Kumar with the same margin in the decisive bout.
In the Greco-Roman trails, Gaurav (63kg), Vijay (55kg), Kuldeep Malik (72) and Manjeet (82kg) qualified for the World Championship.