In a Battle Royale, Punjab Royals produced a dramatic comeback to edge out Haryana Hammers 5-4 in the final and win the second edition of the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) at the KD Jadhav Indoor Stadium in the Capital on Thursday night.
For Haryana the loss must have been heartbreaking since they had not lost a single tie in this edition leading up to the final. For a team which remained unbeaten in the whole tournament the narrow loss in the final would remain a bitter pill.
In a nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat contest, befitting the final, Haryana took the lead a couple of times with Punjab staging a dramatic comeback on both occasions.
With the tie locked at 4-4, the fate of the championship boiled down to the final bout between Punjab’s Jitendra and Sumit Sehrawat of Harayna in the men’s 74 kilogram division. Jitendra dominated right from the start to win 12-1 and gift the title to Punjab.
With Jitendra leading 2-1 early in the second period, an injury to Sumit forced a temporary stoppage for medical attention to the Haryana wrestler.
Jitendra grabbed the initiative immediately after the restart and opened up an 8-1 lead. That virtually killed off the contest as Jitendra executed another takedown in the final seconds to take a comfortable win as the Punjab squad and supporters erupted in celebration. Earlier, Abdusalam Gadisov handed Haryana the best possible start as he outclassed Punjab’s Krishan Kumar by technical superiority in the men’s 97 kilogram division.
Gadisov brought down his opponent and pulled of a couple of rollovers to lead 7-0 before the first two minutes were up. The 2016 World Cup champion from Russia continued to rake in the points and was leading 16-0 with 30 seconds left in the first round when the referee stopped the contest.
Marwa Amri outclassed Punjab’s Manju Kumari 12-0 in the women’s 58 kg bout to double Haryana’s lead. The Rio Olympics bronze medallist opened up a 4-0 lead by the break and completely dominated her opponent in the second round.
Punjab captain Vladimir Khinchegashvili reduced the gap for his team with a 3-0 win over Haryana’s Sandeep Tomar in the men’s 57kg contest.
The Rio Olympics gold medallist, who had suffered a shock defeat to Tomar in the league stage, thus managed to avenge that loss. Vladimir opened the scoring with a pushout before taking two more points with a single leg hold to lead 3-0 at the break.
The Georgian star used his superior technique and experience to good effect to stave off Tomar’s desperate atempts to score in the second round. Russian star Magomed Kurbanaliev further increased Haryana’s lead to 3-1 with a 9-4 verdict over Pankaj Rana in a bitterly fought men’s 70kg contest.
Despite facing the reigning world champion, Rana showed no nerves and kept his opponent under pressure till the end.
The bout was off to a dramatic start with the Russian almost clinching the issue at the 55-second mark.
Rana pulled off the first takedown to lead 2-0, but Kurbanliev pulled off a counter to take three points. He seemed to have pinned Rana’s shoulders to the mat, and the referee awarded the contest to Kurbanaliev by fall.
But a protest from the Punjab team folowed and the judges changed the decision to two points for the Russian after studying television replays. Rana continued to attack after the break and attempted a single leg hold right after the restart. But Kurbanaliev defended well and executed a single leg hold of his own to bolster his lead by two points.
Despite trailing by five points with a minute to go, Rana continued to play with power and aggression and the world champion was forced to use all his technical prowess and superior experience to ensure victory. Vasilisa Marzaliuk reduced Punjab’s deficit to a single point with a 5-0 win over Haryana’s Kiran in the women’s 75kg section.
The former European champion from Belarus suffered a nasty cut to her face in the final minute of the bout, but that was enough to deter her. Punjab drew level at 3-3 when Ilias Bekbulatov overpowered Haryana’s Rajneesh within 58 seconds in the men’s 65kg category.
The Russian executed a takedown followed by multiple rollovers to take a 12-0 lead in the opening seconds. That induced a groin injury in Rajneesh’s already heavily strapped right leg. Although the Haryana grappler decided to carry on, he was unable to carry on and conceded the bout due to injury with the Russian already leading 13-0.
Haryana regained the lead through Sofia Mattsson who registered a dramatic, hard-fought 4-3 win over Punjab’s Odunayo Folasade Adekuoroye in the women’s 53kg category. In a replay of their bout at last year’s Rio Olympics, Sofia took a 1-0 lead in the first round thanks to a pasivity point against Odunayo.
The Punjab grappler managed to draw level at 1-1 before taking the lead. But Sofia equalised at 3-3. The final seconds saw high drama when Odunayo claimed a pushout. Her appeal was rejected by the judges following television replays and a penalty point was awarded to Sofia thus handing victory to the Rio Olympics bronze medallist. Punjab clawed their way back to level terms once again with Nirmala Devi edging out Indu Chaudhary 5-2 in the women’s 48kg contest thus ensuring that the contest went right down to the wire.