Asian Wrestling C’ships: Ashu reaps early bird virtue in Greco-Roman
Not many Greco-Roman wrestlers in India are introduced to the style as kids. Most of them make a switch from freestyle. Ashu, however, took up Greco-Roman straightaway and the virtues of his early start show in his grasp of its nuances. On the second day of the Asian Wrestling Championships here on Wednesday, the 19-year-old won bronze in 67kg to warm-up for the Tokyo Olympics qualifier next month.
India won two more bronze medals—Aditya Kundu (72kg) and Hardeep (97kg)—to take their Greco-Roman medals tally to one gold and four bronze, an improvement from the four medals (3 silver, 1 bronze) won at the previous championships in Xi’an, China.
“Our target was to win six medals. The bright side was that we finally won gold (Sunil Kumar, 87kg) after 27 years. This performance coming before the Olympic qualifiers next month will boost the confidence of the team,” chief coach Hargobind Singh said.
It was a dominating show by Ashu and Kundu in their bronze medal bouts. Ashu defeated Syrian Abdulkarim Mohammad Al-Hasan 8-1 while Kundu dispatched Japan’s Nao Kusaka 8-0 in the first period. The other bronze was won by Hardeep, who edged past Beksultan Shamsiddinov 3-1.
Ashu lost a close semi-final against Makhmud Bakhshilloev of Uzbekistan in the morning. The scores were tied 4-4 at the end of the bout. Makhmud was declared winning on criteria (four-point throw). Ashu was trailing 0-4 but fought his way back. With the scores level, Ashu used all his power to push Makhmud out of the playing area for the winning point but the Uzbek wrestler defended well.
“I was attacking too much. If I had shown a bit more patience, I could have won. The experience will help me when I compete in the Olympic qualifiers. I want to represent India at the Tokyo Olympics,” he said.
In his first bout, Ashu defeated Chinese Taipei’s Fu Hao Lin 10-0 (technical superiority). From the time he hit the mat, he looked to score against the top seed. He quickly went up 4-0 and then lifted his opponent and flipped him over for a four-point throw in the second period.
In 72kg, Kundu came through the qualification round beating Alijon Khuseynov of Uzbekistan 9-1. In the quarter-finals, he got the better of Tadjikistan’s Amirkhonzoda 9-0 before losing to Kazakhstan’s Ibragim Magomadov 0-9.
India’s foreign coach Temo Kazarashvili feels Ashu is cut out for the big stage. “When I saw him first at the national trials, I marked him out for his strength and grit. He will keep coming at his opponent. In a short time, he has improved a lot. There is not much time remaining for the Olympic qualification, but we will prepare him well,” the coach from Georgia said.
Hailing from Sonepat, Haryana Ashu has been training at Pratap School, Kharkhoda. He showed promise at junior level, winning silver at the world sub-junior championships and gold in the Asian sub-junior championships. In his first senior international competition, he did not show any signs of nervousness.
Kazarashvili, a former world champion who was appointed India coach in February last year, feels India can do much better at the world stage if Greco-Roman wrestlers get more competition. “There are two main problems in Greco-Roman wrestling in India. First, it is not competed in schools or grassroots and therefore most of them come from freestyle. Secondly, they need to play more tournaments. Now, we are training most of the time. To raise the level, they will have to face the top wrestlers regularly in competitions,” said Kazarashvili.
Since most of them are introduced to Greco-Roman late, they are not good in the technical aspects and their ground wrestling is weak.
“They can wrestle well from standing position. They have good power, but they need to improve ground wrestling. You can finish a match with one or two good throws,” he said.
Vinesh-Mukaida face off in first round
There will be no respite for Asian Games champion Vinesh Phogat, who is drawn to fight her tough rival Mayu Mukaida of Japan in the first round. Phogat lost to Mukaida twice last year, at the world championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan and in the Asian Championships in Xi’an, finishing with bronze in both events.
Phogat is seeded fourth and Mukaida third in the 10-women draw. The 53kg competition will take place on Friday.