Haryana has undoubtedly become the Mecca of Indian wrestling. In recent time, more than half of the Indian wrestlers have come from the state, with most these gems winning medals for India, and Bajrang Punia is leading the pack.
How it all started for Bajrang Punia
Bajrang Punia was born on 26th February 1994 in Khudan village of Jhajjar district, in the state of Haryana.
In 2015, his family moved to Sonepat for him to attend Regional Center of Sports Authority of India. The sport has now spread to neighbouring districts, with Jhajjar and Rohtak emerging as the powerhouses of the sport.
The kids of Jhajjar take to wrestling like ducks to water and being a freestyle wrestler is an honour in the region. You can find an akhara in every village and during the morning and evening where kids slug it out in the mud.
And this is where Bajrang Punia got his first lessons in wrestling.
Bajrang Punia: The Story so far
- Bajrang Punia first shot to fame after winning the bronze medal in 2013 Asian Wrestling Championship in 60 kg category.
- A year later he went one step ahead and won the silver medal (in 61 kg category) in the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow.
- In 2014 Asian Games in South Korea, Bajrang won the silver medal in the men’s freestyle 61 kg category, after losing 1-3 to Masoud Esmailpour Jouybari of Iran.
- In 2014 Asian Wrestling Championships Astana, Kazakhstan, Punia again won silver medal in the men’s freestyle 61 kg category.
- In 2015, Bajrang Punia was bestowed with Arjuna Award. In the same year, he also secured gold medal in Dave Schultz Memorial Tournament.
- In 2017 May, he won a gold medal at the Asian Wrestling Championship held at Delhi.
- In November 2017 he secured the silver medal at the U-23 Senior World Wrestling Championships. It was also his first medal at world level in the Olympic weight category.
- In the Pro Wrestling League, he was bought by Bangalore franchise or a sum of Rs 29.5 lakhs.
- In 2018 Commonwealth Games Gold Coast, Australia, he won the gold medal in the men’s freestyle 65 kg category.He overcame Kane Charig of Wales by Technical Superiority to clinch the gold.
Bajrang Punia mentored by Indian Wrestling Champ
Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt feels Punia is the best wrestler in India in this weight category. Before CWG 2018 started Yogeshwar showered praise on his prodigy, saying, “Bajrang has the calibre to win medal in the Olympics. He is a hardworking boy and his strength is his stamina. I am sure he will win medals in 2018 Commonwealth Games and also in Senior Asian Championship and yeah Tokyo 2020 too.”“He’s (Bajrang) Olympic material.”
Why is Indian Wrestling marred with controversies..
In 2016 for most part of the year, wrestling hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, a bitter court battle, followed by an embarrassing dope scandal, the chain of events that set in ended up disgracing the sport.
Even London Games bronze-medallist Yogeshwar Dutt failed to live up to the expectations, bowing out in the qualifying round to end his Olympic campaign on a disappointing note. Though Sakshi Malik’s heroics provided solace, it was not enough to eclipse the shock and embarrassment that India had to endure with Narsingh’s ouster from the Olympics.
What started as a minor tussle for an Olympic berth in men’s 74kg freestyle between Narsingh & Sushil Kumar, snowballed into an ugly slanging match that ended in a legal battle: though he won in the court, the ordeal was far from over as Narsingh landed in a bigger mess with his blood sample returning positive for a banned substance.
What followed was another battle to clear his name. Narsingh claimed innocence, saying it was a conspiracy against him and his food supplements and water had been spiked. Even WFI stood firmly behind the wrestler, supporting his sabotage theory.
Narsingh was eventually handed a four-year ban for flunking a dope test after the ad-hoc division of the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) overturned the clean chit given to him by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
Pro Wrestling League – An Enabler
Essentially the Pro Wrestling league is trying to bring in the level of competition that is best in the world, so that our wrestlers are exposed to the best talent globally.
Indian wrestlers get an opportunity to compete with wrestlers from across the world at their home ground. Young wrestlers can learn a lot from Olympians and world champions in team .
Oldest Sport in India : Kushti (Wrestling)
Wrestling is the oldest sport in India. The earliest mention of Kushti or also called ‘Dangal’ is in the Mahabharata.
Kushti has simple rules and is fought between two protagonists in a large arena covered only with sand and loose mud. The men wrestle only on this natural environment and normally there is nothing like a ring. The game is a trial of strength and the victor who pins his opponent to the earth with both shoulders touching the sand and mud. No blows with the hands are allowed and the men grapple with each other face to face.
The place where the wrestlers train is called an Akhara. The head of the Akhara is referred to as ‘Guru’ who is invariably Kushti champions himself.
The exercise system for the Pehlwans also follows the Indian system of exercise and includes exercising with large wooden clubs, Dand (Push ups) and Baithak (squats).
Over the centuries this Indian form of wrestling continued in India. It is different from the Free Style and Roman style of wrestling which is universally recognized all over the world. This style of wrestling is confined only to the sub-continent and now is home only to India and Pakistan.