Before his weigh-in, Amit Kumar wore a nervous look on his face. After more than a year, he was taking part in a competition and the pain-staking task of cutting weight was clearly taking a toll on him. His nervousness increases once he sees the draw for his weight category. He knows that the quality of competition has increased in the last one year he has been away from the mat.
Since his last bout at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas, Amit has not wrestled and when steps on the mat for his first bout at the Senior National Championships in Gonda on Sunday, he will be aware of his new and stiff competition. A lot has changed since his last bout but Amit is confident that he can return as the best wrestler in the 57kg in the country.
“The knee injury kept me out for a long time and I have missed being on the mat and wrestle. Once I missed the Olympic trials because of the same injury, I had targeted this tournament as my return. I have worked hard for the last one month to be ready for this event,” Amit says.
The Haryana wrestler has missed every competition after the World Championships due a ligament tear in his left knee which includes the Senior Nationals 2015 as well. This was the tournament that a new champion emerged from the 57kg category and represented India at the Rio Olympics as well. Though Sandeep Tomar failed to win a single bout at the Games, it ended Amit’s dominance in the lightest weight category at the national level. And once again, it will be Tomar who will try and spoil his return.
“Tomar is a good wrestler but it is sad that he could not win a single bout at the Olympics. It will be tough to face him, if we do, here as well,” Amit says.
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Away from the talks of who’s is fighting whom, Utkarsh Kale is lying on the grass after his weigh-in. A bronze medallist at the last nationals, Utkarsh has decided to bag better medal than last year. Utkarsh, who began wrestling at the age of 16, has showed signs of upsetting any top wrestler in the past. Like he did at the Olympic trials in March this year by defeating Tomar.
“Utkarsh is good wrestler and now has experience of last nationals with him. He will be a threat to all the top guys,” Utkarsh coach says.
Both Amit and Utkash are expected to meet in the semi-finals but the latter has to overcome a stiff challenge from Mangal Kadyan as well. Kadyan, a bronze medallist at the World Military Games in 2015, was the other bronze medallist alongwith Utkarsh at the 2015 Senior Nationals. Tomar, the defending champion of the 57kg, will likely meet Nitin from Railways in the semis.
Bajrang aims gold
While most blockbuster bouts in wrestling are either the semi-finals or finals, the 65kg offers a different picture. Bajrang, the defending champion, from Railways will be up against the silver-medallist from last year’s Senior Nationals Rajneesh in the first round itself.
Bajrang has dominated the category in Yogeshwar’s absence and aims to do so again. “Nothing is easy in wrestling. To win a gold medal, you don’t have to win only one bout. I know the competition and I know the expectations from me and I will try to meet them,” he says.
Schedule for Sunday:
57kg, 65kg, 74kg
58kg, 75kg, 85kg
48kg, 55kg, 63kg