Of the five Indian World Championships medallists this year, only Vinesh Phogat participated in the senior National Championships. While that fact can be filed under unexpected, much of the proceedings on Saturday went as expected as she won her five bouts with ease to capture the gold medal in the 55 kg category in Jalandhar.
In the final, which was the only bout which she did not win by technical superiority or pinning her opponent, Phogat came out on top 7-3 against Anju of Haryana.
“That was the only bout I felt some competition,” Phogat said. “But good to have some mat practice in your off season.”
Phogat is preparing for the next season which begins with the United World Wrestling Ranking Series tournament in January and the National Championships provided a good check before that. Phogat’s coach Woller Akos was more than happy that Phogat came through without getting injured.
“This tournament was not part our schedule but the best training is on the mat so it’s good,” he said. “There isn’t much to see here because no one can test her but there was no injury so I am happy.”
Other top wrestlers at the tournament like Sakshi Malik were tested more than Phogat. Malik entered the final with ease but managed to just scrape through to win the gold. In a tightly contested bout, she won 4-2 against Radhika of Haryana.
But even the wins of their two biggest stars could not give Railways Sports Promotion Board the team title as Lalita Sherawat, Divya Kakran and Seema Bisla suffered stunning losses to Haryana wrestlers who helped their state win the title with 215 points compared to 198 of Railways.
Former national champion Sherawat made the final of 59 kg final with no real trouble against former cadet world champion Anshu Malik. The two were tied 2-2 at the break and Sherawat took the lead in the second period before Anshu, with 30 seconds left, scored a takedown to tie it 4-4. But the youngster won the gold by virtue of scoring the last point.
Kakran, a two-time defending champion, faced veteran Anita Sheoran in the 68 kg final and was expected to win a third title on the row. But Sheoran had different plans. She did not let Kakran finish her favourite cradle move and managed to win the gold medal 5-1.
Another veteran wrestler, Gursharanpreet Kaur shone in the front of the home crowd after she captured the 76 kg title by beating Pooja 4-2 in the final. Pooja had defeated Kaur in the bronze medal bout last year in Gonda.
Kaur won her first national title after a gap of seven years and sixth title in total. After being away from wrestling for four years, she made a comeback last year and finished fifth. An inspector with Punjab Police, it was fitting that she won the top medal at the Punjab Armed Police Complex on Saturday.
Bisla, who represented India at the World Championships in 50 kg, lost to Nirmal of Haryana in the semi-final and ended up winning the bronze medal. Nirmal, 36, is a multiple time national winner and she came second after dropping the final against Sheetal Tomar of Rajasthan.
Pinki of Haryana dominated her category to win the 53 kg gold medal while Sarita Mor was the top wrestler in the 57 kg category as she defeated Neetu of Chandigarh in the final.
The 65 kg category final saw Nisha Dahiya upset former national champion Navjot Kaur to win gold medal after she won the U23 national championships gold medal last month. Kiram Godara, competing in the 72 kg category, overpowered Naina Karwal to finish with the top medal.