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Wrestling

Top 10 greatest Indian wrestlers of all-time you need to know about

Published at :August 3, 2021 at 1:28 AM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : Indian Express/TOI/Quint/India Times/Khel Now)

Joseph Biswas


These grapplers have won numerous laurels.

The history of wrestling in India goes way back to the previous centuries. In ancient times the sport was popular as ‘kushti,’ ‘Dangal, ‘Malla-yuddha’ and so on. Earlier considered as a sport for showing power and fitness, the game has evolved a lot. Once played in small villages as a source of entertainment to reaching in international tournaments like the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, the sport has ascended new heights.

Just like the game, Indian wrestlers have also evolved, making their names in the international arena by winning medals and championships.

Here are some of the all-time greatest Indian wrestlers, who made history.

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10. Jatindra Charan Goho

J.C. Goho was a world-famous wrestler and also the first Asian to win the World Light Heavyweight Championship in the United States in 1921. Goho came from a family of wrestlers.

He started his career at the age of 18 years in the year 1910. He was famous for his style and technique. In his 34-year long career, he went on three tours of Europe and fought with world-class wrestlers of that era. He invented some of the unique styles of hold, which later became part of wrestling, such as dhobiya pat.

9. Udey Chand

He was the first person to win an individual World Championship medal for independent India. Also, he was the first athlete to be awarded the Arjun award in 1961 for wrestling. Chand hails from the district of Hisar, Haryana.

He started his wrestling career with the Indian army and also participated in three Olympics i.e Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, Mexico City 1968. He made headlines for his efforts during the Mexico Olympics, as he secured the sixth position in the tournament. Between 1958 and 1970 he remained the undisputed national champion.

8. Bishambar Singh

One of the greatest Indian wrestlers and a prominent name in wrestling during the era of the late 1960s, Bishambar Singh was the first and only Indian to win the silver medal at the World Wrestling Championship in 1967. He became a household name when he won the Hind Kesari title in 1962. 

Singh competed in two Olympics (1964, 1968) and for his performance during the Tokyo Olympics of 1964, he received the Arjuna award. After having a great career in wrestling Bishamber took up a job as a Sports Officer in the railways. He was also awarded the Bhishma Pitama award by the Indian Style Wrestling Association of India.

7. Deepak Punia

Greatest Indian wrestlers
Punia is one of India's biggest medal hopes at Tokyo Olympics (Courtesy: TOI)

Deepak had a spectacular 2019 wrestling season. After creating history at the Junior World Wrestling Championships where he became the first Indian to win gold, he won silver at the senior level and secured a berth in the 86kg category for India at the Tokyo Olympics.

A few months after he won a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships in Nur Sultan, he won another medal at the Asian Championships. Deepak’s exponential rise has given India a big hope of getting its first medal in the heavyweight category.

6. Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat hails from a family with a rich history in wrestling. Her cousins Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari are renowned names in the world of wrestling. She started wrestling at a very early age taking after her cousins. She became the first female Indian wrestler to win a gold medal at both the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

In the year 2019, she also became the first Indian athlete to be nominated for the Laureus World Sports Awards. In her short career, she has taken big strides by winning gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Asian Championships. She has also been awarded the Arjuna award (2016) and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (2020). She is also part of the contingent at the Tokyo Olympics.

5. Bajrang Punia

Bajrang Punia
Bajrang Punia is the only Indian wrestler to three World Wrestling Championships medals (Courtesy: News 18)

He is the only Indian wrestler to win three medals at the World Wrestling Championships. Punia started wrestling at the young age of seven, following in the footsteps of his father, who himself was a wrestler. He started his wrestling career during the 2013 Asian Wrestling Championships, where he won a bronze medal. Later on in his career, Bajrang Punia managed to win a medal in each of the competitions he participated in. Between the year 2016-18, he won six gold medals at different international competitions.

He was also conferred the Arjuna Award (2015), Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (2019) and Padma Shri (2019). He is also among the athletes who have secured a place at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Punia will look to clinch a medal in Tokyo and establish his name as one of the greatest Indian wrestlers of all time.

4. Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav 

K.D. Jadhav was the first athlete from independent India to win an Olympic medal during the Summer Olympics in Helsinki in 1952. He won a bronze medal. During his career, he participated at two Olympics in 1948 and 1952.

After he retired from the international arena, he joined Bombay police as a sub-inspector and won several competitions. He also performed national duties as a sports instructor. 

3. Sakshi Malik

Greatest Indian wrestlers
Sakshi Malik was the first Indian female wrestler to win an Olympic medal (Courtesy: TOI)

She became the first Indian female wrestler to win an Olympic medal when she won the bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Sakshi Malik started wrestling after getting inspired by her grandfather who was also a wrestler. She began her career in the year 2010 during the World Junior Championship, where she won a bronze medal in 58 kg freestyle wrestling. 

Sakshi competed in different weight categories ranging from 58 to 63kg in different tournaments, where she won lots of medals such as the Asian Championship and Commonwealth Games. She has also received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (2016) and Padma Shri (2017).

2. Yogeshwar Dutt

He became one of the three Indian wrestlers, who won an Olympic medal when he won bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. Yogeshwar Dutt won the medal in the 60kg weight category. He was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Padma Shri by the Indian government.

Dutt has participated in various championships during his career such as the Commonwealth Games and Championships, Asian Games and Championships. In all those tournaments he secured top positions with a gold medal to his name.

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1. Sushil Kumar

Sushil Kumar
He won two Olympic medals for India in wrestling (Courtesy: Twitter)

Sushil Kumar was the first Indian wrestler after K.D. Jadhav to win an Olympic medal in wrestling. He won consecutive Olympic medals for India at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (bronze) and 2012 London Olympics (silver) to become one of the greatest Indian wrestlers. During the London Olympics, he was also the flagbearer for the country.

He has won several medals for India at different international tournaments such as the Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Championship, Asian Championships and so on between the weight categories of 66-74kg. Sushil also had the honour to hand over the Queen’s Baton to Prince Charles during the 2010 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.

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