PWL set to start without star power

Two of the biggest draws in Indian wrestling – Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt – have both withdrawn from the PWL, so have Ukraine's Oksana Herhel and USA's Adeline Gray.

Olympic Bronze Medalist Sakshi Malik will be the main crowd puller for the organisers.   -  PTI

The second season of the Pro Wrestling League would kick off with last year's finalists Mumbai Maharathis and Haryana Hammers taking on each other in the opening bout at the KD Jadhav Indoor Stadium here on Monday with the organisers hoping that good contests would help overcome not only the absence of some of the biggest names in Indian wrestling from the competition but also some of the logistic issues.

Two of the biggest draws in Indian wrestling – Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt – have both withdrawn from the PWL with the presence of Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sakshi Malik small comfort. Other big names including Ukraine's Oksana Herhel, who was the highest-paid wrestler last time around, and USA's Adeline Gray have given the event a miss this time. The release of the movie Dangal, however, has raised interest in the Phogat sisters, who would all be in action.

When the second season of the PWL was announced in October last year, the organisers had claimed to make it a month-long event with eight teams. However, the season remains a six-team, 15-day event for now with Dutt's protege Bajrang Punia being the most expensive wrestler. Several of the teams have revamped completely including changing their names. Delhi Veer, for example, has now become Delhi Sultans, Mumbai Garuda has become Mumbai Maharathi and Bengaluru has pulled out, replaced by Jaipur.

Last year, Mumbai managed to get past Haryana both in the league stages and the final and, led by former World and European champion Sofia Mattsson of Sweden, Haryana would be hoping to avenge its loss this time around. However, defending champion Mumbai has a strong line-up of its own, led by Rio gold medalist Erica Wiebe of Canada in the 75kg category. Jabrayil Hasanov of Azerbaijan (74kg) and Reineris Salas Perez (Cuba), both former World Championship medalists, further strengthen the line-up.

The Indian challenge would be led by Rahul Aware in the 57kg and his bout against Sandeep Tomar would be interesting, given the rivalry between the two. Aware had, in fact, even claimed bias by the Wrestling Federation of India for picking Tomar ahead of him for the Rio Games. Other Indians in the Mumbai franchise include Vikas (65kg), Laita Sehrawat (53kg), Pritam (70kg) and Sarita (58kg).

Meanwhile Haryana Hammers unveiled its team and sponsors for the second season of the PWL here on the eve of its opening tie against the Mumbai Maharathis. With two Rio Olympics medallists in its ranks — Sofia Mattsson (53kg) & Marwa Amri of Tunisia (58kg) – the franchise is hoping to go one better than the opening year when it finished runner-up.

Besides the two, the team has Russians Abdusalam Gadisov (97kg) and Magomed Kurbanaliev (70kg) in the higher weight categories. The Indian wrestlers include Olympian Sandeep Tomar (57kg), Rajneesh (65kg), Sumit Sehrawat (74kg), Indu Chaudhary (48kg) and Kiran (75 kg).

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