Whenever Indian wrestling is in the news, there has to be a Sushil Kumar connection. Such is the stature of the double Olympic medal-winning grappler.
But to think that Sushil could have something to do with the success of a young grappler here in Mumbai — hundreds of miles away from Sushil’s Sonepat training ground — is surprising. Had it not been for Sushil, Sandeep Tulsi Yadav (25) would never have won the bronze medal in Budapest on Sunday when he made history by becoming India’s first ever medal-winner at the World Championships in the Greco-Roman category.
According to Jagmal Singh, Yadav’s personal coach at the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) training facility in Kandivli, Sushil is the reason Yadav had to make the switch from Freestyle to the Greco-Roman category.
“I’ve been training Sandeep for over a decade here, but when he developed into a good wrestler at the senior stage, I was in a fix because Sandeep was in the same weight category as Sushil — 66 kg. Sushil is one of the world’s best Freestyle wrestlers, so I knew Sandeep would struggle to beat him. That’s the reason I told Sandeep to take up the Greco-Roman style,” Jagmal told MiD DAY yesterday.
The switch obviously wasn’t smooth. “Wrestling in India is all about Freestyle and with Sushil and Yogeshwar Dutt’s success at the Olympics, people hardly know anything about Greco-Roman which is tougher and more technical.
Sandeep had a little inclination towards lifts and pulls (needed for Greco-Roman wrestling), so I trained him simultaneously in both. Eventually, as fate would have it, he was better in Greco-Roman and is now a world-beater,” added Jagmal.
Such is the popularity of Freestyle wrestling in India, that Greco-Roman wrestlers face ridicule for their medal-less run. “About a month back, Sandeep told me that he was disappointed at not having achieved any glory on the world stage. He would hear people saying things like, ‘here come the Greco-Roman strugglers.’
“Sandeep has won medals at the Asian level and even in the Commonwealth Championships, but a world medal was missing. At the 2011 World Championships (in Turkey) he was ousted in the first round. But this time, I was confident he would do well because at his age, a wrestler is at his peak,” explained Jagmal, who trains a bunch of 33 young grapplers at SAI Kandivli.
At Budapest, Yadav first beat Moldova’s Mihail Cosniceanu 6-2, before losing to South Korea’s Han-Su Ryu in the quarter-finals. However, the Korean went on to win gold in the 66kg category and Yadav got his chance for a medal through the repechage route. He won his two repechage bouts. He first beat Sweden’s Sharur Vardanyan and then got the better of Serbia’s Aleksandar Maksimovic 4-0 for the bronze medal.
Yadav rounded off India’s best-ever show at the worlds with three medals after freestyle wrestlers, Amit Kumar Dahiya and Bajrang, won a silver and bronze in the 55 kg and 60 kg respectively.