Promising wrestler Praveen Rana lifted the 66kg freestyle title on the concluding day of the first Hari Ram Indian Grand Prix wrestling championships at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, here on Sunday.
Nineteen-year-old Rana, who had bagged the Asian Championship bronze earlier this year, gave a clinical performance to outwit Georgian Lobjanidze (3-0, 2-0) in the intensely-fought final and claim his first international gold medal at the senior level.
In the absence of Olympic bronze medallist Sushil Kumar, Rana lived up to the expectation of his coaches who had great faith in the teenager's ability.
“He is the next big thing in this weight after Sushil.
“He has shown tremendous improvement in the last one year,” said his coach Vinod Kumar.
Delhi-based Rana, a 2011 World junior medallist, relied on his swift counterattacks to grab three points in the opening period of the summit clash.
A successful video-referral from the Georgian left Rana with just a one-point lead in the last 30 seconds of the second period.
However, he held his nerve and succeeded in his strategy of attacking Lobjanidze's left leg to emerge as the deserving winner.
“My coaches had told me to attack his legs and the strategy paid off for me,” said an elated Rana, who would participate in the Asian Junior Championship in Kazakhstan next month.
On his way to the final, Rana had got the better of compatriot Manoj Kumar (1-0, 3-0), Azerbaijan's Muslimov (2-2, 4-0) and Mongolian Khultee (by fall in the first period).
Besides Rana's gold, India gathered three bronze medals on the final day of the event. Manoj was the second Indian medallist in 66kg, while Pawan Kumar finished on the podium in 84kg.
There was huge expectation from the experienced Gursharan Preet Kaur in women's 72kg.
Gursharan, who lost early, salvaged some pride by winning a bronze medal.
The host wrestlers failed to manage a podium finish in the women's 63kg category.
India, which had three entries in several weight classes, collected two gold, three silver and five bronze medals from the event.
The medallists (Indians unless specified):
Men: Freestyle: 66kg: 1. Praveen Rana, 2. Lobjanidize (Geo), 3. Manoj Kumar and Nasiri (Iri).
84kg: 1. Reader Jonathan (USA), 2. Kim Gwan (Kor), 3. Pawan Kumar and Mohd. Hamedipour (Iri).
Women: 63kg: 1. Haruka Sato (Jpn), 2. Zaitseva (Kaz), 3. Kim Hye Bin (Kor) and Sharkhuu (Mgl).
72kg: 1. Ochirbat (Mgl), 2. Davis Kristie (USA), 3. Gursharan Preet Kaur and Hiroe Suzuki (Jpn).
Keywords: Indian Grand Prix wrestling