Come October and Indian wrestlers will get a taste of an IPL-style auction. Cashing in on the success of the London Olympics, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has announced that its much-awaited Indian Wrestling League (IWL) will kick off from January 15 next year. There will be six franchise-based teams and bouts will be held on a home-and-away basis.
The wrestlers will be graded into three categories --- A, B and C, according to their achievements. There will also be an icon player in each team, for whom no amount has been fixed.
Of the six teams, two will be in Haryana, and Jindal Industries has already been roped in for the Hisar team. The second team will either be Sonepat or Panipat. The other cities being looked at are Delhi, Nandini Nagar (Gonda, UP), Pune or Kolhapur and one from Patna, Varanasi, Bathinda or Jalandhar. Competition will be held in all seven weight categories of freestyle wrestling in the men and women's section and each team can have four foreigners (two men, two women). The inclusion of four regional players is a must.
The total prize money is Rs 1.1 crore, including Rs 25 lakh, Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for the first three positions, respectively. There will also be a prize of Rs 5 lakh for individual category winners.
Apart from changing the face of the sport, the IWL will be a boost for women wrestlers, as government sports quotas offer limited job opportunities to them. Also, unlike their male counterparts, there aren't too many tournaments which have money at stake.
"The IWL should raise the standard of women's wrestling and help the girls earn a decent living," said Geeta Phogat, the first Indian woman wrestler to compete in the London Olympics.