Railways emerge supreme in new-age wrestling

KIRTI PATIL

THE wrestlers on show in the 51st National championship grappled with the new rules, format and the gruelling schedule demanded by the guidelines drawn up by the world governing body of wrestling, FILA. Of the 16 gold medal matches, in the eight weight categories in the freestyle and Greco-Roman styles, a staggering five ended in walkovers. Also, three bronze medals were won without a fight.

Anuj Chaudhary (red) recorded a 7-1 win over Ravinder in the 84 kg freestyle final. — Pic. R. V. MOORTHY-

Typically, in the new scheme of things, a wrestler in any weight category would need to win at least five bouts in the daylong session to win the gold medal. A bronze medal winner might have to go through six matches depending on how the draw of the repechage round is made.

Wrestling certainly has had a makeover and the National in Nidani, near Jind in Haryana, provided the opportunity to understand the changes in the sport, two days before the new rules came into effect worldwide.

"The new rules will mean only the fully fit wrestler gets the medal. There is no time to recuperate because bouts are lined up one after the other before the evening final," said wrestling expert Rajbir Singh. "If there is a muscle pull or a slight injury, one can forget about bouncing back unlike in the past when the wrestler had bouts over three days."

Of the four Olympians on show, Ramesh Kumar and Anuj Chaudhary characterised the fitness required for modern day wrestling under the direct elimination system, which is made to order for the television audience.

After having participated in the Athens Olympics carrying a nagging injury, Ramesh Kumar was a revelation in Nidani. Placed in the bottom half of the draw, Kumar won each of his match convincingly before setting up a final showdown with Sombir. It was hard to justify the reason behind Kumar having to win four bouts before he found a place in the final when five others, including Sombir and local boy Sandeep, were curiously given first round byes in the 74kg class.

The new rules may be at a nascent stage, but the direct elimination system is nothing new to sports. It is very much in use in several sports from badminton to boxing to tennis.

That the Manchester Commonwealth Games gold medallist Kumar defeated Sombir with a devastating show of power was a matter of no surprise.

Ramesh Kumar (blue) recorded a comfortable win over Sombir in the 74 kg freestyle final. — Pic. R. V. MOORTHY-

UP Police inspector, Anuj Chaudhary, was charismatic in the 84kg category. Winning his seventh straight national gold, twice Commonwealth champion and the Commonwealth Games silver medallist Chaudhary proved that a fit wrestler could fit into any format.

His 7-1 thrashing of Ravinder was typical. Chaudhary would foil Ravinder's every attempt of clinch while he smartly executed clean holds to win crucial points. His 12th placing in Athens was no fluke. He had beaten Japanese Hidekazu Yokoyama after having lost to the eventual bronze medallist, Iran's Majid Khodaei.

If Kumar and Chaudhary announced their readiness for the rule change in style, Palwinder Cheema in the super-heavy category was just lucky to survive.

After Punjab refused to give its entries, Cheema's card was accepted as an individual entry. Then, by sheer technical flaw, the jaded-looking Cheema emerged winner against a powerful Rajeev Tomar. The 4-3 verdict at the end of the mandatory three rounds was clearly the making of the referee who awarded Cheema the final point after the mat chairman had sounded the gong signalling the end of the bout. Technically, in such a situation, there should have been sudden death after a toss, but Railways' protest was brushed aside.

Railways, though, had the last laugh winning both the freestyle and Greco-Roman championships. Despite having the best wrestlers in its ranks, in the last Nationals in Puri, Orissa, Railways was made to play second fiddle to the musclemen from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The Olympic year had kept the key wrestlers busy in the preparatory camps and Railways had settled for the runner-up spot in both the categories. In Nidani, though, Railways won the freestyle team championship with 61 points, as against 47 of Uttar Pradesh. In the Greco-Roman category, Railways grapplers performed consistently and the team strutted to the top ahead of Services.

The results:

50 kg: Final: Mandeep (TN) bt Sunil Kumar (Har) 2-0. Semifinals: Mandeep bt Gaurav Kema (MP) 6-0; Sunil bt Ram Chander Pawar (Ser) 3-1. Repechage: Ram Chander bt Sunil (Ker) 6-0; Mudakappa L. Dhoni (Kar) bt Kema 13-3.

55 kg: Final: Kripa Shankar (Rlys) w.o Anil Kumar (Del). Semifinals: Kripa Shankar bt Kuldeep Singh (Pun) 3-1; Anil Kumar bt Sandeep (Nidani) 9-0. Repechage: Shyam Lal (Ser) bt Kuldeep Singh fall; Sandeep bt Komal Kaushal (MP) 6-2.

60 kg: Final: Yogeshwar (MTNL) bt Raj Kumar Patel (UP) 6-0. Semifinals: Yogeshwar bt Krishan (Del) 5-0; Patel bt Narender (Chd) fall. Repechage: Krishan (Har) bt Krishan (Del) fall; Joginder (NCR) bt Ravinder (Rlys) fall.

66 kg: Final: Sushil Kumar (Rlys) w.o Shokinder Tomar (UP). Semifinals: Sushil bt Kashimdeen (J and K) 5-3; Shokinder bt Harvind Patel (MP) 3-0. Repechage: Rakesh (NCR) bt Kashimdeen 5-2; Ramesh (TN) bt Mohinder Singh (Ser) 8-0.

74 kg: Final: Ramesh Kumar (Rlys) bt Sombir (Har) 12-1. Semifinals: Ramesh bt Jiwan Annarao (Mah) 9-0; Sombir bt Narender (UP) 2-1. Repechage: Narender bt Sandeep (Nidani) 5-2; Ram Parvesh (Jhar) bt Rajesh (Del) 5-0.

84 kg: Final: Anuj Chaudhary (UP) bt Ravinder (Har) 7-1. Semifinals: Chaudhary bt Parveen Shiwal (Jhar) 7-0; Ravinder bt Balram (Rlys) fall. Repechage: Anil (Del) bt Shiwal 3-1; Balram bt Ramesh (Del) 7-2.

96 kg: Final: Rakesh Kumar (MP) bt Navin Kumar (Har) 5-1. Semifinals: Rakesh bt Satish Kumar (Ser) fall; Navin bt Satender (Chd) 9-4. Repechage: Satender w.o Anant Kumar (Man); Anil Mann (Rlys) bt Satish Chand (Bih) fall.

120 kg: Final: Palwinder Singh Cheema (Pun) bt Rajeev Tomar (Rlys) 4-3. Semifinals: Cheema bt Sohan Singh (Har) fall; Tomar bt Praveen (Nidani) fall. Repechage: Jagdish Kaliraman (UP) bt Sohan Singh fall; Praveen bt Pradeep (Del) 3-0.

Greco-Roman:

50 kg: Final: Joginder (Har) bt Jagbir Singh (Nidani) 5-4. Semifinals: Joginder bt Bajrang Yadav (Bih) 4-1; Jagbir bt Sandeep (Pun) 10-3. Repechage: Aditya Raj (Ori) bt Sandeep (Chd) 3-1; Triloki Nath (UP) bt Rattan Lal Jat (Rlys) 10-0.

55 kg: Final: Joginder Pal (Chd) bt Naveen (Del) 4-0. Semifinals: Naveen bt Rajesh (Nidani) 6-0; Joginder bt Ajay Kumar (NCR) 2-0. Repechage: Rajesh bt Yashbir (Rlys) 2-0; Ajay Kumar w.o Sagerao (Mah).

60 kg: Final: Ravinder (Rlys) bt Sukhbir (Del) 7-1. Semifinals: Sukhbir bt Sandeep (NCR) 4-3; Ravinder bt Dhamodhar (UP) fall. Repechage: Satish (Del) bt Sandeep fall; Krishan (Ser) bt Manoj (Kar) fall.

66 kg: Final: Dayanand (Har) bt Ajay Kumar (Del) 2-0. Semifinals: Dayanand bt Rajan Kumar Singh (UP) fall; Ajay bt Jagbir (NCR) 7-6. Repechage: Sunil Kumar (Ser) bt Jagbir 4-1; Rajan Kumar Singh (UP) bt Jai Bir (Pun) fall.

74 kg: Final: Gautam (Rlys) w.o Jitender (Del). Semifinals: Jitender bt Rajbir (TN) 2-0; Gautam bt Sanjay (Har) 2-2 (1-0). Repechage: Rajbir bt Chander Vijay (UP) 4-1; Sanjay w.o Surender (Chd).

84 kg: Final: Kuldeep (Ser) bt Sanjay Kumar (Rlys) 2-0. Semifinals: Sanjay Kumar bt Pawan (Har) 2-0; Kuldeep bt Mukesh (Nidani) fall. Repechage: Pawan bt Vijay Kumar (Del) fall; Harender (UP) bt Durgish Yadav (Man) fall.

96 kg: Final: Dharmender (Chd) w.o Satish (Nidani). Semifinals: Dharmender bt Navnath (Mah) 5-3; Satish bt Joginder (Del) 3-1. Repechage: Anil (Har) bt Daya Kishan (Ser) 3-0; Joginder bt Satender (Rlys) fall.

120 kg: Final: Virender (Rlys) w.o Vedpal (Nidani). Semifinals: Vedpal bt Sandeep (HP) 2-0; Virender bt Devender (Chd) fall. Repechage: Yogesh Dokad (Mah) bt Sandeep 2-0; Devender (Goa) bt Devender (Chd) fall.

Team championship:

Freestyle: 1. Railways 61 pts, 2. Uttar Pradesh 47, 3. Haryana 45.

Greco-Roman: 1. Railways 45 pts, 2. Services 37, 3. Nidani 36.

Medal tally:

Freestyle: Railways 3-1-2, U.P. 1-3-2, Tamil Nadu 1-0-1.

Greco-Roman: Railways: 3-1-0, Haryana 2-0-3, Chandigarh 2-0-0.