In a big upset, Olympic silver medallist wrestler Ravi Dahiya was knocked out at the selection trials for the Asian Games in Delhi on Sunday while Vishal Kaliraman won the 65kg trials and vowed to earn his right to be India's representative in the category where Bajrang Punia has already been given a direct entry.
Atish Todkar beat Dahiya with a sensational 'pin', the scorecard reading an unbelievable 20-8 and a 'win by fall' for diminutive wrestler from Maharashtra. However, it was Aman Sehrawat, who won the 57kg trials to qualify for the Asiad.
Todkar consistently dodged Dahiya by moving swiftly from under his arms to move back for take-down moves. Dahiya had a small 6-4 lead going into the second period but from there it was one-way traffic. Two consecutive takedowns and a four-pointer from the edge of the mat that Todkar pulled off had rattled Dahiya. Using all his might, Dahiya went all out for a pin but Todkar wriggled out and got himself into a position from where he had his opponent's shoulders on the mat.
Dahiya's support staff said he had recently recovered from a knee injury and lacked mat-time to be performing at his best.
"Ravi had suffered both ACL and MCL tears in his right knee on February 6. We started training early April and he began practising full throttle about 10 days back. He needed competition and lack of it, hurt him," Dr. Munesh Kumar, who looked after Dahiya's rehabilitation told PTI.
After ousting Dahiya and Naveen (7-3), Todkar later lost to Rahul by technical superiority in the semifinal. Todkar could not do much against Rahul, who successfully employed the move after taking a 4-0 lead to end the bout early in the second period.
Aman Sehrawat, the Asian champion, was a bit wobbly at the start with Rahul Aware scoring an impressive four-pointer against him but the Chhatrasal trainee remained unperturbed to win 9-6.
He followed that up with wins by technical superiority against Ankit and Shubham. In the final too, he used his speed, technique and strategy for an easy win. Kaliraman wins 65kg trial
His right eye swollen due to a blow he took in his opening bout, Vishal Kaliraman won the 65kg trials and said he would also fight to go for the Asian Games.
On Saturday, the decision to name Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat in India's Asian Games wrestling team without trials was upheld by the Delhi High Court, dismissing the petition filed by wrestlers Antim Panghal and Sujeet Kalkal.
In the same category, Sujeet, who lost his, faded in the quarterfinals against experienced Rohit. Vishal and Rohit clashed in the final in which the Hisar wrestler erased a 1-4 deficit to win 9-3.
"I just wanted to win the trial today. Even if Bajrang was here today, I would have won, I was determined to win. We respect him for his achievements but what they are doing may destroy the careers of junior players," Kaliraman, 25, said after his win.
"We will fight this, if we have to go to Supreme Court, we will go. We have been training for 15 years now. They just can't give him entry like that," he added.
Kaliraman's parents had held a demonstration in Hisar and also outside the Olympic Bhawan to get the exemption decision reversed.
"We had supported Bajrang and Vinesh in their protest. They had said the protest is for juniors and now they are hurting the juniors. They are cheating us. We will fight against this injustice," his father Subhash Chander told PTI.
His mother Rajbala said, "I don't even talk to my son for days because I don't want to disturb him in his training. I don't see my son for weeks and months because he is trying to learn and compete at big stage. Now that this chance is being taken away from him, what do we do?"
Not only Kaliraman's parents but the coaches at the Chhatrasal stadium said they will devise a strategy to counter this exemption decision. "We will sit and find a way. If need be, we will move the Apex Court to get the decision reversed," said Praveen Dahiya and Lalit. Other winners From among the established names, Olympian and 2019 World Championship silver medallist Deepak Punia edged Jonty Bhati in a very close final to seal his place in the Indian team in the 86kg category.
In the 125kg, Sumit Malik, who successfully fought off a doping ban, sealed his place in the Indian team while Vicky (97kg) and Yash (74kg) emerged winners in their respective categories.
With PTI Inputs