India’s Greco-Roman wrestlers show renewed promise

The Greco-Roman style has always been a disadvantage for Indian wrestling. While the rise of Indian wrestling in recent years has been largely driven by the freestyle wrestling categories, Greco-Roman wrestling has been its poor cousin, mostly relegated to the background.Read also – Rio 2016 Olympic Games: Hardeep Singh loses his Greco-Roman fight; waiting for the result of the repechage

However, if the performance at the Asian Junior Wrestling Championships here last week is to be believed, Greco-Roman wrestling in India is showing signs of changing for the better.

With one gold, two silver and two bronze medals, the Greco-Roman wrestlers came close to matching their freestyle counterparts for once.

Sonu Khatri, the coach of the Greco-Roman Indian team, is a proud man these days. Sitting among his students in the sweat-soaked warm-up hall of the Indira Gandhi Stadium – adjoining the main arena where the Asian Junior Championships were held – Khatri was already dreaming of achieving greater glory in the future.

“This time we did very well in the Greco-Roman categories. We had a three month camp before the tournament where we tried to iron out our weaknesses.

“We focused more on the ground stances which have always been a weak point for Indian Greco-Roman wrestlers. In Greco-Roman wrestling, positions on the ground are very important. Most of our losses are due to this reason. Unless you are perfect in offensive and defensive movements in the ground positions, it is difficult to win against the best wrestlers,” Khatri told IANS.

“We have also brought in foreign coaches for more specialized training in Greco-Roman techniques. Standing positions have always been our forte. But isn’t it so important that ground positions decide the outcome of a fight. This new approach has paid off as many of our wrestlers have been doing well recently.

“We’ve been doing better since last year when we won a Greco-Roman medal at the World Championships after a gap of 17 years,” he added.

Khatri praised Sajan, who beat Iran’s Shayan Hossein Afifi 3-0 in the 77 kilogram final to win the only Greco-Roman gold medal for India. It was the only defeat on the first day of competition for the Iranians, who had won four of the five gold medals on offer that day.

“He’s a world-class wrestler. He had won bronze at the World Championships last year. He had prepared very hard for this tournament. Before that, we had won a medal at the Championships for the last time. of the Greco-Roman world when Mukesh Khatri won bronze in 2001,” he said.

“This is his last year at the junior level. The junior and senior world championships will take place in September. We are confident that he will win medals in both tournaments,” added the coach.

India also clinched a rare silver medal in the 130kg division after Aryan Panwar suffered a narrow loss to Iranian Amin Mohammadzaman Mirzazadeh in the final. Panwar had done well before conceding a late point to lose 1-2.

“We have always done well in the heavyweight classes in freestyle wrestling. But we also started playing Greco-Roman. Last year we got silver at the Asian Junior Championships and we repeated that performance this year,” said Khatri.

“We were behind in the Greco-Roman categories earlier. But those days are now over. We are now doing well consistently. Previously, we were content to qualify for the Olympic Games, the Asian Games or the World Championships. But now every wrestler competes with the goal of winning gold.

Robert J. King