The year 2014 has been an outstanding one for Indian wrestling. It began on a bright note with the men's freestyle wrestlers winning an unprecedented four medals at the Dave Schultz Memorial International tournament at Colorado in February, despite celebrated wrestlers — double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar and London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt — missing the event.
Sushil Kumar (in blue) takes on Qamar Abbas of Pakistan in Glasgow 2014 final
Praveen Rana clinched a gold medal in 74kg category, while Amit Kumar (57kg) won silver. Meanwhile, Sandeep Tomar (57kg) and Bajrang (61kg) settled for bronze medals.
This was just a precursor as the country’s wrestlers continued to impress in the tournaments that followed. At the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, spurred by the presence of Sushil and Yogeshwar, India’s wrestlers snared medals in 13 out of the 14 categories that were held at the event.
Five of these 13 medals were gold, including those that Sushil and Yogeshwar won. One would expect the duo to be clinching gold easily at the CWG but, they had their task cut out due to the world wrestling body, FILA, rejigging the weight classes. Consequently, Sushil, who won silver at London 2012 and a bronze at Beijing 2008 in 66kg, was forced to move up to the 74kg weight class. Yogeshwar, who brought home bronze in 60kg, had to move up to the 65kg category.
Harsh reality check
But the nation’s grapplers were handed a harsh reality check just before the Asian Games in Incheon, as the second-string wrestling contingent for the World Championships returned empty-handed from Tashkent in September. The Incheon Asiad held later in the month was a bittersweet one.
While Yogeshwar clinched India’s first Asiad gold in 28 years, the contingent could only win five medals. Bajrang bagged silver (61kg) while Narsingh Yadav (74kg), Vinesh Phogat (48 kg) and Geetika Jakhar (63 kg) settled for bronze.
India’s performance on the wrestling mat in 2014 was especially heartening considering Sushil and Yogeshwar missed most tournaments. With these two seasoned wrestlers likely to participate in more tournaments in the coming year with an eye on the 2016 Olympics, one can expect much more success from the Indians in the sport in 2015.