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The only time Jitender Mor settles down is during the 30-second timeout between the bout. Otherwise, he keeps shouting instructions to Karan Mor who is struggling against his opponent in the final. Just a minute into it, Karan calls the referee for a timeout. He complains that Vishal Kalliraman, his opponent, has poked a finger in his eye. Two more similar incidents happened but Karan was not giving up. With a red-eye, he wrestled through the six minutes and in the end, came out on top 3-2. That was the closest bout Karan had fought the whole day.
Jitender jumped in the air as Karan’s hand was raised. Both Karan and Kalliraman train at the same venue — the Chhatarsaal stadium — in New Delhi and that was one of the reasons the former was bothered about his final bout of 66kg the trials to select the team for the Junior World Championships which will be held from August 1 in Finland.
“Because we train at the same stadium, he knows my style and I know his. I had no problem wrestling other guys who are more experienced that me as well but this guy is younger than me but is tougher just because he knows my style so well,” Karan says.
The 18-year-old, who seldom shows his emotions on the mat, was caught in the gut wrench hold thrice but on each occasion, he was able to break it by moving away from Kalliraman and then dragging him out of the ring. Kalliraman was dejected about the bout but Karan, being the older wrestler, went up to him and patted his back for a good show. Karan, thanks to superior defence and quickness, prevailed and booked his spot in the team to Finland. It was one of the rare moments at the SAI Centre Sonipat on Thursday when the crowd clapped, including the very popular coach Vladimir Mestvirishvili of Georgia.
“I see him train every day and he is one of the toughest and talented wrestlers. This junior team in very good but a couple of wrestlers stand out and Karan is one of them. He has good technique,” the coach says.
Well before he joined the stadium in New Delhi, he learnt the basics of the sport from his late father Joginder Mor who trained him at the ‘Kakrola Mod’. Before sending him to the stadium, Joginder made sure he was equipped with more techniques than other wrestlers of his age. His father’s loss due to a kidney failure made him tougher than before and he knew that he could continue doing what his father loved.
“Those moments change your life completely. I had realised what he wanted from me and even after he was gone, I wanted to wrestle. What the wrestlers learn from the foreign coach at the stadium now, my father had taught me in the second year after I began wrestling. When I reached the stadium, I had a lot more to offer than other and it gave me more confidence,” he says.
With that confidence, he has won seven gold medals at age-level competitions at the national level, the latest being the gold medal in junior national championships in Patna earlier this year. Internationally, he has won two bronze medals at the Cadet level and one more at the junior Asia Championships in Taipei last month.
“After I lost my father two years back, my uncle took care of me. He owns a gym and whatever he earns from it, he invests in me. It is struggle beyond measure. Every day you know that I have to help my family and the only way is by winning medals so there is no stopping,” he says.
His uncle Jitender has taken a seat in one corner before the final bout and is shouting instructions to Karan during the bout. He did not stop for a moment until the final whistle. He is ready to help Karan in every way. He takes him all the way from Uttam Nagar to the stadium every day for training and when he returns, makes the badaam milk and food for him. He has brought one bottle to the trials as well.
Karan, however, is focusing more on the upcoming World Championships in Paris which will be his first at this level. He has wrestled at the Cadet World Championships twice earlier.
“This is a big tournament for me a stepping stone. I want to win here so people take notice of an upcoming wrestler. I am not under pressure but may be this opportunity never come again,” he says.
After the major tournament, the grappler is thinking of moving to Russia for some months to improve his skills. Admitting that he has a lot of flacks in his game, Karan says he doesn’t have good technique to pull off a gut wrench.
“This is what happens when you face a guy who trains with you. He knew my weak part and never allowed me to complete the move. These are the small things I need to focus on. This is what is important. I need to sharpen my wrestling brain,” he says.