The 74kg men's weight category in Indian men's wrestling may have two of the most famous names in the country – Sushil Kumar and Narsingh Yadav – but it was national champion Jitendra who made all the difference at a packed KD Jadhav Stadium here on Thursday, winning the last and decisive bout in the second season of the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) to help Punjab Royals take the title 5-4 against Haryana Hammers.
Haryana, which was runner-up in the inaugural edition as well, had managed to win the face-off in the league stage but came up short once again in the final. With the nine-bout match tied 4-4, Jitendra, the reigning Commonwealth Championship winner, was favourite against Sumit Sehrawat in the 74kg, and he duly delivered, dominating all through and winning 10-1 to seal the deal in his team's favour.
Till then, however, the tie went as per the script with the bigger names winning their bouts easily even as the foreign wrestlers in the fray proved their worth. Haryana captain Abdusalam Gadisov kept his unbeaten record in the competition intact, winning by technical superiority against Krishan Kumar by racing to a 15-0 lead in just two and half minutes. His Punjab counterpart Vladimir Khinchegashvili, who had suffered an upset against Sandeep Tomar earlier, ensured there would be no repeat as he ensured a single take down in a narrow 3-0 win in the 57kg, all the points coming in the first round.
Tunisia's Marwa Amri, too, remained unbeaten in the 58kg, winning 12-0 against Manju while Magomed Kurbanaliev almost pinned Pankaj Rana in 55 seconds but stepped out of the competition area before ultimately prevailing 9-4 in the 70kg. Vasilisa Marzaliuk and Ilias Bekbulatov were the other winners for Punjab.
The crucial tie for both teams was in the women's 53kg with Haryana's Rio bronze medallist Sofia Mattsson up against Nigerian Odunayo Adekuoroye. The former, who had lost in the league stage for her only defeat so far in the PWL this season, managed to edge ahead 4-3 by virtue of getting a penalty point after Punjab's protest was rejected right at the end. Odunayo almost won by pushing Sofia out of the competition area but ran out of time. This was Odunayo's first loss through two seasons of PWL.
The win put Haryana ahead 4-3 but Nirmala Devi avenged her earlier defeat by overpowering Indu Chaudhary 5-2 in the 48kg to keep her team in the fray before Jitendra put it over the finish line.
Haryana received the winner's purse of Rs 1.90 crores while Punjab's Nirmala Devi (48kg) was adjudged the best wrestler of the final.
Final:Punjab Royals beat Haryana Hammers 5-4
Women: 48kg: Nirmala Devi (Pun) bt Indu Chaudhary (Har) 5-2; 53kg: Odunayo Adekuoroye (Pun) lost to Sofia Mattsson (Har) 3-4; 58kg: Manju Kumari (Pun) lost to Marwa Amri (Har) 0-12; 75kg: Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Pun) bt Kiran (Har) 5-0;
Men: 57kg: Vladimir Khinchegashvili (Pun) bt Sandeep Tomar (Har) 3-0; 65kg: Ilias Bekbulatov (Pun) bt Rajneesh (Har) 13-0 retired hurt; 70kg: Pankaj Rana (Pun) lost to Magomed Kurbanaliev (Har) 4-9; 74kg: Jitendra (Pun) bt Sumit Sehrawat (Har) 10-1; 97kg: Krishan Kumar (Pun) lost to Abdusalam Gadisov (Har) 0-15.
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