While the focus was on seasoned stars, it was Sandeep Tomar who grabbed the attention with his stunning performance in the do-or-die bout, helping MP Yodha edge out Mumbai Maharathi by 4-3 in the Pro Wrestling League in Panchkula on Thursday.
Vinesh Phogat of Maharathi literally ripped through Ritu Phogat, showing little mercy as she trounced her younger sister 15-0 in the 53 kg category.
Having lost the first match, a lot was riding on Yodha’s 2018 Commonwealth Games silver and world championship bronze medal winner Pooja Dhanda.
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MP Yodha vs Mumbai Maharathi
She started nervously against the Pan-American Championships bronze medallist Betzabeth Argüello in the 57 kg category. In fact, Pooja trailed by 1-2 going into the break. However, she made a splendid comeback in the match, defeating her opponent with the same pin fall technique she used to win most of her bouts last year. Her 7-4 bout win was crucial in bringing the Yodha’s back in the contention.
The match turned back in Mumbai’s favour as Deepak Punia, a 2018 national championships bronze medallist, made it 3-2 in Maharathi’s favour, beating his namesake and former national champion Deepak in the 86 kg rubber.
However, there was a new twist in store as Elise Monolova of Yodha won the 62 kg rubber against Mumbai’s Shilpi Yadav 4-0 to make it 3-3 going into the last bout, the decider.
The 57 kg bout was between Maharathi’s Russian wrestler Ibragim Ilyasov and Yodha’s Sandeep Tomar. The former provided an early lead of 4-0 to his team, but as had been happening the entire evening, Tomar came from behind to make it 4-4 when he won a pinfall right going in the break. Another pinfall and Tomar was in a comfortable 8-4 lead. Tomar was especially tenacious on counter attacks, scoring two more points in one such attempt to help Yodha win the deciding tie by 10-7.
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Earlier in the day, Maharthi’s national wrestling champion Harphool faced Haji Aliyev, a European Championships gold medallist himself, in the 65kg category opening match.
Harphool had been in a tremendous form, having given the Asian Games gold medallist Bajrang Punia a run for the money in the previous round. Nonetheless, he failed to repeat the action against the European champion on Thursday. The Azerbaijan-based wrestler eventually won the bout by 7-0 to give MP Yodha a winning start.
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