Rajneesh Dalal gave a string of fine performances to claim the first gold medal for India in the first Hari Ram Indian Grand Prix wrestling event at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here on Saturday.
Rajneesh made up for the absence of Yogeshwar Dutt in the 60kg freestyle class as he emerged as the best among the Indian wrestlers.
The 23-year-old grappler from Jhajjar, Haryana, exhibited his never-say-die spirit in a series of tough bouts to reach the summit clash. A Commonwealth championship gold medallist in 2011, Rajneesh defeated Nigerian Welson (3-2, 3-1), Iranian Morad Gholiei (5-0, 6-3) and Georgian Baliashvili (0-1, 6-3, 1-0) to advance to the last four.
In a neck-and-neck semifinal, Dalal beat Batsai Khan of Mongolia 4-2, 8-8. Rajneesh's tremendous effort to close a two-point deficit in the second period won him a big round of applause.
In the final, Rajneesh showcased better skills to overpower Kim Jin Cheol of Korea 3-0, 2-0.
Silver for Neha
Neha Rathi, who had participated in the Olympic qualifier in China in 48kg weight class, had a fine start as she outsmarted Yakhyarova of Kazakhstan by fall and warded off a strong challenge from American Conder Whitney (2-2, 3-2) to make the women's 51kg final.
However, in the title clash, Neha met her match in Hiromi Sakurai of Japan (1-1, 0-2) and finished with the silver medal.
The Japanese showed better control and earned points at crucial moments to negate the Indian's tactics of earning early advantage.
Kamlesh bagged the bronze in the women's 59kg category.
In 120kg, well-known wrestler Rajeev Tomar and Joginder were shown the door early. Especially, Tomar's failure to make the medal round came as a huge shock for the enthusiasts in the stands.
In a second round contest, Tomar, who had comprehensively beaten Khanzada Hamed of Afghanistan (3-0, 6-0) in the first round, ran out of steam against Iranian Mohammad Laghari (0-1, 1-0, 0-2).
The medallists (Indians unless specified):
Men: Freestyle: 60kg: 1. Rajneesh Dalal, 2. Kim Jin Cheol, 3. Morad Gholiei (Iri) and Daniel (Ngr); 96kg: 1. Kerashvili (Geo), 2. Yankouski (Blr), 3. Anakulov (Tjk) and Tahan (Iri); 120kg: 1. Sakandelidze (Geo), 2. Dziatko (Blr), 3. Jung Yei (Kor) and Safed Ahmad (Pak).
Women: 51kg: 1. Hiromi Sakurai (Jpn), 2. Neha Rathi, 3. Conder Whitney (USA) and Narepekha (Ukr); 59kg: 1. Chihiro Kumabe (Jpn), 2. Burkert Jenna Rose (USA), 3. Sukhee (Mgl) and Kamlesh; 67kg: 1. Vashchuk (Ukr), 2. Clodgo Erin Elizabeth (USA), 3. Tsedendorj and Iheanacho (Ngr).
Keywords: Indian Grand Prix wrestling