There was nothing assistant coach Jagmal Singh, or head coach Kuldeep Singh could do but count down the clock, and with it, India’s hopes of a medal at the Wrestling World Championships in Las Vegas. Narsingh Yadav was eight points adrift of Frenchman Zelimkhan Khadjiev in the bronze medal match of the 74 kg category, with just 50 seconds to go. Yadav moved into position for a headlock while facing his opponent. Jagmal found the move peculiar until he realised what his ward was planning.
In the city of big gambles, Yadav played his biggest bet. He was poised to perform the Dhak move — a vicious, crowd-pleasing headlock that has been employed in India’s dangals for hundreds of years.
Yadav turned swiftly to stand side-by-side with his opponent, the headlock still in place. And with a firm thrust, he pulled Khadjiev over his shoulder and threw him onto the mat. The grappler had pinned his opponent on the mat, holding onto the Frenchman’s head firmly under his elbows. It took just four seconds for Yadav to pull off the move, and an additional two for the referee to declare the match over in favour of the Indian grappler.
“Just like that,” the match commentator bellowed into his microphone as the Frenchman was left flailing his feet under the might of the Indian Milo.
A risky technique
“It’s called Dhak. It’s a showboating wrestling move that people use on mud-courts during big village-based tournaments. It’s a crowd pleaser. But very difficult to pull off accurately,” explains Jagmal, who has been coaching Yadav for over 10 years. “It’s also a do-or-die match winning move. That’s why he used it because there was no time and no choice.”
The ease with which the grappler pulled off the move was a reflection of the years he’d spent practising it. Interestingly enough, the technique is not one that Jagmal has actively encouraged Yadav to spend time on. “It’s very difficult. You need to have a strong grip to not slip because of the sweat. And the opponent will always try to wriggle out of it,” explains the coach. “But Narsingh has arms more powerful than most wrestlers, so when I saw him get the grip on Khadjiev, I knew the match was over,” he goes further.
Nonetheless, Jagmal asserts that performing the move on a grand stage means extra hours in training is in order. “It’s a good move to use, but I’d rather he win the match without needing to resort to it.”