There was a couple of firsts in Indian wrestling last year. Two grapplers, Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, bagged medals in the same Olympics. A month later, two women, Babita Kumari and Geeta Phogat, had podium finishes in the World championship.
This year too, the Indian wrestlers have achieved unprecedented success at the highest level. Two freestyle grapplers, Amit Kumar (silver in 55kg) and Bajrang (bronze in 60kg), gathered medals, while Sandeep Tulsi Yadav (66kg) became the first-ever wrestler from the country to claim a Greco Roman medal (bronze) in the World championship in Budapest.
Such success augurs well for Indian wrestling and has raised hopes of a brighter future for the sport.
Except for the seven medals in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Greco Roman wrestlers have not achieved much and Sandeep’s medal was a huge motivation for the practitioners of the style.
Promoting Greco Roman
Coach Hargobind Singh said the process of promoting Greco Roman wrestlers had started and was expected to give results in the next few years. “We knew Sandeep was capable. He is strong, technically sound and has got fast movements. There are some other promising wrestlers, such as Gaurav Sharma (55kg), Harpreet Singh (84kg) and Hardeep (96kg), who can return good results at the top level.
“There is an effort to introduce Greco Roman in the School Games and at the university level. The federation is looking for a foreign coach who can groom the juniors.”
As far as freestyle is concerned, Amit had established himself with his Olympic appearance and medals at Asian championships. The rise of Bajrang, a sparring partner of Yogeshwar, was fascinating. In Yogeshwar’s absence, he got the chance and grabbed it with both hands to land medals in the Asian and World championships.
“Bajrang has really come out of Yogeshwar’s shadow. There are some other up-and-coming wrestlers like Asian champion Amit Dhankhar and World junior medallist Satyawart Kadian who have the talent to strike it big,” said freestyle coach Vinod Kumar.
Vinod said the training-cum-exposure camps before the Olympics and Worlds had really helped the Indian grapplers. In Europe, you find tough competition. You get good partners and a good environment to improve your skills. Holding camp there prior to a big event has its benefits.”
Yashvir Singh, the FILA coach of the year in 2010, said proper planning with a target in mind was crucial.
“Now, we should be planning for 2016 and 2020 Olympics. For that, we have to give exposure to the rising wrestlers. One should ensure that everyone gets to participate in two or three quality events in a calendar year. Training-cum-competition camps are also essential. These allow the wrestlers to come in contact with quality competitors from around the world and hone their skills. The coaches also learn and grow,” said Yashvir.