Defending champion Punjab Royals picked up Asian Games gold medalist Bajrang Punia for Rs 30 lakh. The fourth edition of the Pro Wrestling League begins from 14-31 January.

 

Two-time Pro Wrestling League (PWL) defending champion Punjab Royals picked up Bajrang Punia, who is currently at the top of his form, for Rs 30 lakh to get a winning combination for the fourth edition of the league.

The Indian wrestler, who has had a medal-winning season last year with a Commonwealth and Asian Games gold and a silver at the World Championships, is at present the world No.1 in his 65kg weight category. The star wrestler is at present troubled by a right elbow joint injury he suffered at the Worlds following which he was away from the mat for two months to make a comeback at the league.

The second costliest player from India at the PWL players draft was lone Indian women Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat, who was taken by Mumbai Maharathi for Rs 25 lakh. Among other Indians, Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik cost Rs 20 lakh to Delhi Sultans while World Championship bronze medalist Pooja Dhandha was chosen by debutant MP Yodhas.

Dhandha played for Punjab in the last season and proved her value by stunning World and Olympic Champion Helen Maroulis to send her team into a second straight title triumph. It would also be interesting to see Sakshi on the mat as the Olympian has had a gloomy period post the Rio medal win. She, however, recently won the senior nationals and that might give her some confidence.

The highest-paid foreign wrestlers were Venesa Kaladzinskaya (53kg) from Belarus, who went to UP Dangal, and Khetik Tsabalov (74kg) from Russia for Delhi Sultans, for Rs 25 lakh each. Apart from the big names, a host of Indian national level and junior wrestlers were also a part of the draft. The biggest gainers were U-23 Worlds silver medalist Ravi Kumar and junior World Championship silver medalist Naveen who will play for Haryana and UP for Rs 8 lakh and 10 lakh respectively. Other players to watch out for will be Anju (53kg) and Anita (62kg) who impressed with their performances at the nationals held last month.

Overall, it looks like Punjab made smart picks of all the six competing teams. They have the likes of European Championship bronze medalist Dato Marsagishvili (86kg) and European Championship silver medalist Mimi Hristovan. The team also has Nitin Rathee who became a sensation in the previous season after defeating the then world No.3 Andrei Yatsenco.

The teams had a cap of Rs 1 crore to pick five Indian and four foreign players to make a team of nine. This time, instead of auctions, the players were teamed up by a draft system. This edition of the league will see a change this season with more than one city hosting the bouts, a first since the inaugural season.

The fourth edition of the PWL will be held from 14-31 January.

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