Talk about winning close bouts. Jordan Burroughs of USA perhaps is the king of heart-stopping. He had too many of them at the ongoing world championships in Budapest. He has wrestled closed bouts earlier as well. Though Bajrang Punia’s bouts on Sunday were not edge-of-the-seat thrillers like Burroughs’s, they did give an adrenaline rush to viewers. He wrestled four bouts to reach the final of the Senior World Championships in Budapest, but not in all four was there a show of strength and composure.
Bout 1: Qualification vs Roman Ahsarin (9-4)
Bajrang failed to execute the leg turks against the local boy Ahsarin. He gave up two early points but returned with three takedowns and took the lead. His focus was to hold the centre of the mat and wait for the opponent to attack. The second half was a teaser for his following bouts.
Bout 2: Pre-quarters vs Seungchul Lee (4-0)
Lee has wrestled Bajrang before and knew how powerful he is. In 2017 at the Asian Championships final in New Delhi, Bajrang had beaten Lee to claim the gold. He showed his superior skills in Budapest as well. He would slowly wear Lee down. Constant snapping and forcing Lee to attack, Bajrang made sure he did not commit the mistake of going deep into Lee’s zone. And when Bajrang got the first chance to attack, he did.
Bout 3: Quarters vs Tulga Tumur Ochir (5-3)
Ochir had beaten two top wrestlers in the bracket in Magomedmurad Gadzhiev and David Habat and was looking for another upset. But Bajrang, like his previous bouts, showed how difficult it is to get past him. Once again the focus was on defence. Bajrang did not sit on the lead as he did delay his attacks. His full control of the bout meant he had that luxury, although coach Shako wasn’t happy.
Bout 4: Semi-finals vs Valdes Tobier (4-3)
How do you stop a high-scoring and big attacker like Tobier? Bajrang did not let him attack. Vulnerable on his legs, Bajrang decided to wrestle with the upper body and whenever Tobier decided to attack, he could stop him with chest or arm locks. Tobier, coming into this match with wins over three-time world champion Haji Aliyev and Asian champion Daulet Niyazbekov, failed to pull-off his big moves and could only get a takedown late in the second half. Bajrang, however, was exposed on too many occasions. Surprisingly, Tobier waited for Bajrang to commit the mistakes rather than taking the initiative.