Yogeshwar Dutt is fighting in what is arguably the most competitive division in the Olympic fold — the 65kg freestyle category — on Sunday. The class, which was formed merging the 60kg and 66kg divisions, has had three different world champions since the 2012 London Olympics and all of them are present in Rio.
Also present are a host of other continental and multiple world medallists, posing the biggest challenge the 33-year-old Indian has faced in his 15-year-long international career.
Dutt has a relatively easier pool, with just one former world champion — Soslan Ramonov of Russia — in his side of the bracket. Only marginally easy, though. He starts against Mongolia’s Mandakhnaran Ganzorigiin, who is a two-time world championship bronze medallist and a former Asian Games champion.
If he overcomes the Mongolian, Dutt will be up against, either Ketai Yeerlanbieke of China or Sahit Prizreni of Australia. Yeerlanbieke is the wrestler Dutt struggled with in the Asian Games semifinal in 2014. Prizreni, who used to fight for Albania, is no walkover, either. He is a seasoned campaigner and was the bronze medallist in the 2007 worlds.
If he overcomes the first two hurdles, he is likely to run into Ramonov, a gold-medal contender.
Let’s take a closer look at the champions in Dutt’s category.
Frank Chimizo (Italy)
The Cuban-born wrestler is the 2015 world champion and the man in form, known for his relentless attacks and high-scoring throws. The world No 1 doesn’t let opponents settle on the mat and has the fitness to keep attacking right through the six minutes—the main reason for his success on the world stage. He is the overwhelming favourite in this class.
Soslan Ramonov (Russia)
The 2014 world champion has dipped in form since then (by the exalted Russian standards, that is). He was the bronze medallist in last year’s worlds and has the habit of ending up on the podium, if not on the top rung.
David Safaryan (Armenia)
The 2013 world champion’s form coming into the competition is unknown as he has not fought in any major tournaments during the build-up phase. That makes him more dangerous as he is following an old Russian and Iranian trick—stay hidden and train to peak for the big one.
Toghrul Asgarov (Azerbaijan)
Asgarov was a star on the mat in the London Olympics, displaying an explosive style of wrestling with sudden bursts of attacks from seemingly impossible positions, using his lanky (for the weight division) frame and immense flexibility. He won the 60kg category in 2012 while Dutt won bronze. Asgarov is considered the dark horse in the category and is likely to feature in the medal rounds.
(Yogeshwar Dutt will take on Mongolia’s Ganzorigiin Mandakhnaran in the men’s freestyle wrestling 65kg qualification round at 5PM IST)