Greco Roman’s desperate search for prominence

The practitioners and coaches of the Greco Roman style feel they are an ignored lot as freestyle wrestlers hog all the limelight.

India’s National Greco Roman coach Kudeep Singh conceded that Greco Roman wrestlers feel like poor cousins of their freestyle counterparts. (File Picture)   -  S.K. Mohan

Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling were first introduced as a modern Olympic Games event in 1896. As far as India is concerned, the freestyle wrestling has hogged all the limelight in recent years, thanks to Sushil Kumar’s bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The practitioners and coaches of the Greco Roman style, where wrestlers aren't allowed to grapple below the waist, feel they are an ignored lot as freestyle wrestlers hog all the limelight.

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“The trend is changing now because even if there is a switch, it is happening at a young age. Earlier, the wrestler would switch (from GR to FS) after turning 18 or  20 but now it has started happening from the age of 14, 15,” India’s National Greco Roman coach Kudeep Singh said.

“Earlier, if 100 people were picking wrestling as their sport, 95 would opt for freestyle. But now the game is being promoted at school and university level, so the change has picked up the pace. Its real effect will be known in the next four to five years and Greco Roman style will match the popularity of Free Style,” Singh added.

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Singh conceded that Greco Roman wrestlers feel like poor cousins of their freestyle counterparts.

“Yes, that feeling is there. Freestyle wrestlers get more attention from the media and the fans but the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is taking good care of the Greco Roman athletes. It keeps motivating them and us the coaches.

“And it is only in India. In European countries, Greco Roman is more popular. It depends on the country’s culture. We have dangals and freestyle from the ancient times.”

Harpreet Singh, competing in the 87kg category at the Asian Games, is carrying India's hopes in the Greco Roman category.

“It really feels bad. In Pro League, there is no Greco style. Then there are Dangals in our country but they do not have Greco, we feel bad. If there are medals at the Asian Games, Olympics, it will change the face of Greco Roman in India. I feel I can do it,” said  Harpreet.

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He switched from Freestyle to Greco a decade back and got immediate results. Harpreet's body is more suited to Greco Roman, which requires immense strength in the upper body.

“The last time (Incheon Games), I was close to a medal but committed some mistakes. I was more aggressive in the first round and lost stamina. So, the opponent took advantage in the second round. This time I will be careful,” he said.

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Kuldeep Singh, who is also coaching freestyle wrestler Sandeep Tomar, said the change has begun but needs a push.

“There are a lot of coaches teaching this style but the number is still less. Now, almost at every wrestling training centre, Greco Roman style is taught, though quantity may be different. If there are 80 freestyle coaches in four districts, Greco would be 10. Navy and Services also have Greco Roman.

“Harpreet, Gurpreet and Hardeep, who competed in Olympics, have what it takes to win a medal. That would make a huge difference.”