Deepak Punia will wrestle for the gold medal for the second consecutive year at the Junior World Championships. Having bagged a silver medal in 2018, Punia reached the final of the 86 kg category on Tuesday and will like to upgrade his medal in Tallinn, Estonia on Wednesday.
Punia, a cadet world champion in 2016, has had a series of good results in the senior category and will also represent India at the World Championships in Kazakhstan, which will also serve as the Olympic qualification tournament.
In Tallinn, Punia racked up three impressive wins to enter the final against Alik Shebzukhov of Russia. He began the day with a 10-1 victory over Milan Korcsog of Hungary in the pre-quarterfinal and then defeated Hunter Lee of Canada 5-1. Both were slow-paced bouts with Punia playing by the clock well to tire his opponents.
In the semi-final, a sluggish Punia was trailing 1-2 with just over a minute left but he forced two step-outs and completed a 3-2 win over Miriani Maisuradze of Georgia.
His opponent in the final Shebzukhov was also dominant throughout the day as he completed victories over Bilguun Bayarsaikhan of Mongolia in qualification, Ivars Samusonoks of Lativia in pre-quarterfinals, Mohammad Sardar Timori of Sweden in quarter-final and Trent Hidlay of USA in the semi-final.
Two other Indian wrestlers – Vijay Patil and Akash Antil – fell short of winning a medal after losing their bronze medal play-off bouts. Patil lost by technical superiority against Akhmed Idrisov in 57 kg category. Antil fell 3-9 to Makhsud Veysalov of Uzbekistan in 97 kg category.
Three wrestlers will be in repechage round on Wednesday. Ravinder in 61 kg, Parveen Malik in 74 kg and Viky in 92 kg have a chance to reach the bronze medal bouts.
Five women wrestlers will begin their campaign on Wednesday with former cadet world champion and last year’s junior world bronze medallist Anshu Malik a strong contender in women’s 59 kg.