These youngsters have the potential to shine on the biggest stage.
The recently concluded Tokyo Olympics once again underlined India’s strength in wrestling. The nation bagged two medals in the sport, a silver and a bronze courtesy of Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Bajrang Punia respectively. In addition, Deepak Punia came mightily close to clinching another medal, only to narrowly lose his bronze medal clash.
India continues to produce several talented young wrestlers. The young duo of Anshu Malik and Sonam Malik had competed at Tokyo 2020. In addition, several others are waiting in the wings to take the big leap forward.
Let’s take a look at the upcoming wrestlers who could become big names in the near future:
Young Indian wrestler Tannu showcased her immense talent at the 2021 World Cadet Wrestling Championships. She sealed the crown in dominant fashion, grabbing the 43kg title without conceding a single point throughout the tournament.
The final initially seemed to be a gripping contest. However, Tannu soon turned it into one-way traffic with her all-around game and won it by fall against Belarusian Valeryia Mikitsich. It was her third victory by fall in four bouts for Tannu, who was a class apart in her category. Her performances on the global stage are a sign of greater things to come.
4. Gaurav Baliyan
Gaurav Baliyan’s win at the 2019 Wrestling National Championships 74kg final against the heavyweight Parveen Rana had more than one meaning to it. Firstly, there was a new kid on the block, who was ready to go toe-to-toe with his seniors. Secondly, the 74kg spot will soon be a battle between the seniors and the youngsters.
But, just like other youngsters, whatever Baliyan lacks in experience, he covers up with his talent. He is amongst the youngest national champions. In 2016, he had won the School National title. It was followed by the first of two cadet national titles a year later. He is also a silver medalist at the World Cadet Championships.
The Muzzafarnagar boy’s transition to the senior setup has been seamless. In his first outing with the senior team at the Asian Wrestling Championships on home soil, Baliyan clinched a silver medal in the 79kg category. Earlier this year, he added another medal by winning the bronze at the Junior World Championships held in Ufa, Russia.
3. Pooja Gehlot
The 24-year-old is probably the biggest talent in the Indian women’s lightweight category. But, while the 53kg category is already dominated by Vinesh Phogat, Gehlot harbours an Olympic dream in the 50kg division.
The top spot in the 50kg weight class is currently held by veteran Nirmala Devi. She is the 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2020 Asian Championships silver medalist. Gehlot knows that it will be a tough task, but believes that her training will help her during crucial bouts.
In 2014, she finished second at the Cadet National Championships. The following year, Gehlot had won the Junior National Championships gold. In 2017, she became the junior Asian champion. Pooja Gehlot underlined her ambitions by bagging a silver medal in the 53kg category at the 2019 U-23 World Championships held in the Hungarian capital Budapest.
2. Priya Malik
Priya Malik had sent the country buzzing with her exploits at the 2021 World Cadet Wrestling Championships. She had clinched a gold medal at the event in Budapest. Her victory came just a day after Mirabai Chanu had won a memorable silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
However, Malik becoming the champion in the 73kg category is a testament to her aptitude. The grappler thumped Kseniya Patapovic of Belarus 5-0 in the final. She had earlier won the gold medal at the 2019 edition of Khelo India in Pune. Another gold medal triumph had followed at the 17th School Games in the national capital. This is a teenager with immense talent and has the potential to be a world-beater on the senior international stage.
1. Ravinder Kumar
One of the flag-bearers of the next-gen Indian wrestlers, Ravinder Kumar is the silver medalist of the 2021 Junior World Wrestling Championships. It was a fantastic performance, especially given the fact that he had recovered from an ACL injury not so long before.
Prior to the injury, Kumar had also won a silver medal at the U-23 World Championship in 2019. The Haryana wrestler had shot to fame after winning the School National gold in 2013. He then picked up a bronze at the 2013 Asian Cadet Championships. The following year saw Kumar securing yet another honour, the Senior National silver.
Ravinder Kumar is held in very high regard in the Indian wrestling fraternity and he certainly has all the ingredients to become a future wrestling sensation.