In the end, the trials for selecting the men’s freestyle for 2019 World Championships were anti-climatic. With the 74 kg competition shifted to August and only one wrestler entering the 65 kg trial against Bajrang Punia, there was little to look forward to for 600-odd spectators who had come to the KD Jadhav Indoor stadium early morning on Friday.
Still, Sandeep Tomar, Utkarsh Kale in 57 kg and two heavyweight stalwarts, Mausam Khatri and Satyawart Kadian in 97 kg brought some excitement to the arena. But more than the excitement about these wrestlers, it was the disappointment of top wrestlers not present that was on display.
Commonwealth Games 2018 gold medallist in 57 kg Rahul Aware did not turn up for the trials. Sumit ran through the field at 125 kg to win the trials and a spot on the team. Punia did not even complete his bout as his opponent Harphool Gulia suffered a knee injury midway into the second period. There is no competition for Deepak Punia in 86 kg as Pawan Saroha conceded three pushouts and a lost challenge to lose the only bout of the category.
The only category which saw some action was 57 kg where Rahul, from Delhi, went on a giant-killing spree, defeating 2016 Rio Olympian Sandeep Tomar in semi-final after ending the hopes for senior wrestler Utkarsh Kale.
Rahul was impressive in getting past both Tomar and Kale with some quick moves. Tomar was caught napping on more than one occasion by Rahul who made the move of the day when he ducked under Tomar’s left arm grabbed him by his waist to complete the takedown. For Tomar, it was unusual as he failed to perform his typical arm locks and drive outs.
But Rahul’s hopes also ended in disappointment as he lost the final 2-12 to Ravi Dahiya who will make his debut at senior World Championships in September. Ravi dominated the field first beating junior world championships silver medallist and national champion Naveen Sihag and later getting the better of Rahul.
The 20-year-old won a silver medal at the U23 World Championships last year and was part of the Indian team at the Asian Championships where he finished fifth.
Undoubtedly, Ravi showed superior technique and defence in both his bouts. He denied his opponents any chance to catch him in a dangerous position. More importantly, he was quick to adjust whenever there was an attack.
In the 97 kg final, Kadian was up against long-time rival Khatri who made his second-straight world team. Last year, he had lost in the first round of the World Championships in Budapest but can make amends this time around.
After beginning on a slow note, Khatri managed to take points whenever he was called for passivity during the bout. In the end, he managed to win 8-1.
The trials for the 74 kg and non-Olympic weight categories – 61 kg, 70 kg, 79 kg, 92 kg, – will be held later in August. The Wrestling Federation of India will allow wrestlers who lost on Friday to participate in those trials as well.
The 65 kg category saw only two wrestlers competing but turns out there should have been one more. Another youngster from Chhatarsaal stadium Sharvan Tomar could have presented a tough challenge in the category but he was not allowed to compete by the WFI.
The former junior Asian champion has alleged that he was assured that he can compete in the 65 kg category but was not allowed to weigh-in.
“The WFI had accepted my application in which I had written that I want to compete in 65 kg. The day before the weigh-ins they told me I can only compete in 57 kg or 61 kg. I have to decide which category I want to compete in,” Tomar told Scroll.in.
WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said that their criteria to approve wrestlers to compete in trials was only for national campers.
“Sharvan doesn’t have an achievement for two years now and is not in the national camp. How should we allow him to compete?,” he said.
The 22-year-old has been out of action for a year now because of a knee injury but has been one of the most talented youngsters in India. He said that why is WFI asking him to compete in other categories.
“Utkarsh Kale has not been in national camp for more than a year now. He was allowed. It’s should be same for everyone. They are okay if I compete in other categories so that means there is something not adding up,” Tomar said.
He has represented India at the senior level in three competitions which include Commonwealth Championships, Asian Championships and the World Cup. Tomar wrestled in the 61 kg category in all three competitions.
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