These wrestlers produced some memorable performances in the competition.
The U-23 World Wrestling Championships are organized for athletes under the age of 23 by the United World Wrestling. Having commenced in 2017, they has been organized every year, except in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India has been a part of the event in all the editions till now. The Indian grapplers have won a total of 11 medals, seven silver and four bronze, in the tournament so far. India had the most successful campaign at the recently concluded U-23 World Wrestling Championships. The Indian wrestlers clinched five medals, the highest in any edition till now. However, the wait for a gold medal at the championships is still ongoing.
Let’s take a look at all the Indian wrestlers who have won a medal at the championships:
Bajrang Punia (2017)
Bajrang Punia won a silver medal at the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2017. The Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist clinched the medal in the 65kg category.
He lost 6-17 to Russian grappler Nachyn Kuular in the final to settle for silver. He thereby became the first Indian wrestler to win a medal in the competition.
Vinod Kumar (2017)
In the same year, Vinod Kumar became the second Indian wrestler to win a silver medal for the country. Competing in the 70kg freestyle category, Vinod lost to Richard Lewis in the final. The American grappler defeated Vinod 3-1 to finish first at the U-23 World Wrestling Championships.
Ritu Phogat (2017)
Ritu Phogat became the first Indian woman to win a medal at the U-23 World Wrestling Championships. She scripted history in 2017 in the competition held in Budapest, Hungary. The Indian wrestler won a silver medal after losing to Even Demirhan of Turkey in the final.
Ravi Kumar Dahiya (2018 & 2019)
Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Ravi Kumar Dahiya is also a two-time silver medalist at the U-23 World Wrestling Championships. Ravi Kumar was the sole Indian wrestler to return with a medal from the 2018 edition of the tournament. He lost 0-6 to Toshihiro Hasegawa of China in the final to settle for a silver medal in the 57kg category.
The 22-year-old came back stronger in the next edition to settle for his second silver medal. Competing in the 61kg category, Ravi Kumar lost 3-5 to Ulukbek Zholdoshbekov of the Kyrgyz Republic in the final.
Pooja Gehlot (2019)
Pooja Gehlot claimed India’s second silver medal after Ritu Phogat at the championships. Competing in the 53kg category, she went down to Japan’s Haruna Okuno, who was the 2017 world champion.
In the earlier rounds, she beat Ekaterina Verbina of Russia 8-3, which was followed by 8-0 win over Meng Hsuan Hsieh of Chinese Taipei in the semi-finals.
Shivani Pawar (2021)
Shivani Pawar won a silver medal in the 50kg category after losing to Emily Shilson of the USA in the final. In doing so, Shivani became only the third Indian woman wrestler to win a silver medal at the tournament. Despite her starting with a two-point lead, the American finished the bout with a 4-2 scoreline, after she pinned the Indian down.
The young Indian wrestler had earlier defeated Maria of Russia in the semi-finals, after brushing past Tetiana Profatilova of Ukraine 13-6 in the quarter-finals. Moreover, this victory was a turnaround for Shivani, who was so close to ending her journey in her first bout against Anastasiya Yanotava of Belarus.
In the women’s 55kg category, Anju produced a sensational comeback to win the bronze medal. Up against Canada’s Virginie Gascon, the youngster trailed 2-6 in the early stages before storming back to win 17-6 by technical superiority.
Earlier, Anju defeated Viktoriia Vaulina of Russia 5-4 in the semi-finals, after brushing past Alexandra Hedrick of USA 11-8 in the quarter-finals. These two medals by Shivani and Anju was the first time that two Indian female wrestlers finished on the podium at a single edition of the U-23 World Wrestling Championships.
Entering the 62kg bronze medal match through the repechage round, Radhika defeated 2019 European senior silver medalist, Aurora Campagna of Italy 6-4 to clinch the bronze medal at the U-23 World Wrestling Championships.
Having lost in the quarter-finals to Kateryna Zelenykh, she got a second chance in the repechage round. The Indian wrestler won the repechage round by defeating Hsin Ping Pai of Chinese Taipei. She showed top quality and crushed her opponent 13-2 to move into the bronze medal match.
Nisha also produced splendid performances in the tournament. The young Indian wrestler defeated Elma Zeidlere of Latvia 10-0 by technical superiority in a one-sided bronze medal contest. It was pure domination by the Indian to clinch the medal.
Divya Kakran (2021)
Two-time Asian champion Divya Kakran pinned USA’s Kayla Marano 6-2 in the 72kg category to clinch the bronze medal. After losing 3-10 in the qualification round to Anastasiya Alpyeyeva of Ukraine, the Indian got her second chance in the repechage round. Divya did not disappoint, as she defeated Alexandra Zaitseva of Kazakhstan 4-0 to move into the bronze medal match and clinched glory.