Akharas for Maha Kesari, but for Olympic gold wrestle with latest sports tech, says Maharashtra wrestling coach

Maharashtra wrestling coach Ravneer Singh Rahal, who has been working with state wrestling association since 2009, feels that state wrestlers have immense talent, but lose out because they train in traditional ‘akharas’.

pune Updated: Mar 19, 2018 15:53 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Maharashtra wrestling coach Ravneer Singh Rahal.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

Maharashtra wrestling coach Ravneer Singh Rahal, who has been working with state wrestling association since 2009, feels that state wrestlers have immense talent, but lose out because they train in traditional ‘akharas’. To win more medals at national and international tournaments, the wrestlers must change their way of training and should adapt a scientific approach, he says. Excerpts from his interview with Ashish Phadnis.

How would you rate Maharashtra’s performance in the sub-junior nationals?

Compared to last year, Maharashtra wrestlers have shown quite an improvement. In the girls category, we gave a good fight to Haryana wrestlers and grabbed the second place. Even in the Greco-Roman and freestyle bouts in the boys category, our wrestlers did a good job. It’s true that none of them won a gold medal, but the overall number of medals have definitely increased and it will keep on increasing in the future. Basically, our primary focus is on the senior category. We haven’t put any pressure on our junior wrestlers for results. We just want them to get the feel of the tournament and match temperament. We want them to learn how to convert chances for winning a medal. This experience will come in handy for them when they will enter the senior category. Therefore, any medals coming in from the junior segment is like a bonus for us.

Compared to the wrestlers from Haryana, Delhi and Punjab, Maharashtra wrestlers seem lacking in fitness and endurance. How can this be improved?

I would partially agree to this statement. Haryana and Punjab wresters always have an upper hand because of their strong physique, but if you look at the sub-junior or junior level tournaments, more often than not, overage players are found to be contesting. We can proudly say that we stick to the rules and don’t allow any overage player to participate. That makes a difference.Secondly, there should be a compulsory dope test for each and every national tournament, be it sub-junior or junior. Firm steps should be taken against malpractices as well.

In which segment can Maharashtra wrestlers improve ?

I feel they lack in adapting modern techniques. Even in cities like Pune, several wrestlers train in the tradition akhara way. It’s fine if your target is Maharashtra Kesari or anything similar. To win medals at the national level, you must adapt modern techniques.In rural areas, mats are only used for district selection tournaments. Mats should be available for wrestlers throughout the year. Only then will they will feel comfortable during the tournament.There are five key areas in modern wrestling; speed, agility, flexibility, strength and power. Our wrestlers have strength and power but lack speed and agility. They have the muscle power but do not use it effectively to gather points.

How can the state association play a role in modernising the sport?

Maharashtra Kustigir Parishad, which is the state body, is doing their best in this realm. We are the only state after Haryana and Delhi to have good number of NIS (national institute of sports) coaches, but that’s not enough. The association should hold workshops and seminars for them. Every coach in rural areas must get the latest information about what’s going on in modern wrestling. They should be aware of the new rules and new techniques. Secondly, before any tournament, there should be a three-month training camp.

Can Maharashtra wrestlers make it to the Olympics?

We have some quality wrestlers like Rahul Aware and Utkarsha Kale, but we must keep on working with other players. We must adapt the training regimes of army wrestlers. They undergo several tests every month, including physical, psychological and skill tests.We must do this to our top wrestlers and their parameters should be compared to Olympic medal winners. This will give them an idea of how far they have to go.

First Published: Mar 19, 2018 15:50 IST