When the Indian wrestling team boarded the flight for the junior World Championships in Tallinn, the coaches expected a rich haul of medals in three styles. After all, India had two returning silver medallists in Sajan Bhanwala and Deepak Punia in Greco-Roman and freestyle respectively. Women’s wrestling had Anshu Malik who was a bronze-medallist at the last year’s championships in Trvana.
But from Trvana to Tallinn, Indian wrestlers learned what it takes to be consistent at the international level. After seven medals including four silver in 2018, India came home with only three medals this time.
The only high point was Punia improving his medal from last year to gold this time. Bhanwala finished with bronze while Malik could not win a medal after losing her bronze medal play-off. Viky was the third medallist as he claimed a bronze medal in the 92 kg.
Punia became India’s first gold-medallist at junior World Championships in 18 years by winning the 86 kg category. However, other freestyle wrestlers could not raise their game against wrestlers from Russia, Iran, and the USA.
Even Praveen Malik, who won the junior Asian title at 74 kg a month ago, failed to move past the quarter-final round before conceding his repechage bout due to injury.
The men’s freestyle team did not show the technical finesse to win bouts at the international level. In the 97 kg category, Akash Antil, a promising heavyweight, won two bouts but majorly because of his stamina. When he was up against an Uzbek wrestler in the bronze medal bout, he failed to take points.
Similarly, in women’s category, most wrestlers ran into Japanese opponents and lost by technical superiority. Anshu and Bharti Bhagel were the only two to reach the bronze-medal bouts but failed to impress.
While it was a medal-less performance, most of the wrestlers in the Indian women’s team were first-time juniors competing against senior world champions from Japan.
Bhanwala’s performance in the 77 kg was a face-saver in the Greco-Roman category for India. Barring three Indian wrestlers, all others lost by technical superiority which shows the gulf of class between the other countries.
Given that most then will be graduating to the senior-level in a couple of years, the result should sound warning bells in Indian wrestling, especially for Greco-Roman category which has been treated as a second child in India.
But overall, with 30 wrestlers participating, India cut a sorry figure to win just three medals across categories. What makes it worse is that India failed to finish in top 10 of Greco-Roman and women’s freestyle while it managed to finish fifth in men’s freestyle, thanks to a historic gold by Punia.
Results: Men’s freestyle
57 kg: Vijay Patil - 5th
61 kg: Ravinder - 7th
65 kg: Sunny - lost in qualification
70 kg: Vishal Kalliramana - lost in pre-quarterfinal
74 kg: Praveen Malik - 7th
79 kg: Sandeep Mann - lost in quarter-final
86 kg: Deepak Punia - gold
92 kg: Viky - bronze
97 kg: Akash Antil - 5th
125 kg: Vishal - lost in quarter-final