Due to dissatisfaction among young grapplers amidst the recently held Asian Championship trials, stars like Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya would not be given direct admission into finals of their groups when national federation organizes qualification trials for Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) had handed straight admission to Bajrang and Dahiya for the spot-clinching final in their particular weight categories during the Mongolia trials, while the others had to suffer through the draw. Bajrang faced a tough battle from Rohit in his sole match in the 65kg division, while an irritated Aman awarded Ravi a walkover in the 57kg final after battling his way to the top.
At Chhatrasal Stadium, both Aman and Ravi train. Deepak Punia (86kg) was also allowed a straight admission into the final, which was seen as unfair by the other wrestlers. Although no one publicly protested, the decision was criticized, and WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was heard telling the wrestlers that better arrangements will be made "next time." The WFI will hold trials for men on May 17 in New Delhi and women on May 16 in Lucknow in order to select teams for the CWG and Asian Games.
"No one will get direct entry to final this time. All will have to come through draw for the CWG and Asiad trials. We have not received any request for special treatment as of today but if star wrestlers want some benefit, given their status, the committee can consider but definitely, they will not get direct entry into the final," said a WFI source. "Will it be fair on a wrestler who wins four bouts and still sits at home?"
The WFI is anticipated to ask top wrestlers to compete in the trials starting in the semifinals. Ravi has been unstoppable since his comeback to competition following a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics. Even though Bajrang tries to regain his touch, he is miles ahead of his peers in his division. Bajrang, who won bronze in the Tokyo Games, was far from his normal self at the Asian Championship in Ulaanbaatar, where he earned silver after falling to 19-year-old Iranian junior world champion Rahman Mousa Amouzadkhalili. Wrestlers vying for a position in the Indian squad in the 65kg category, which Bajrang has dominated for the previous several years, must have been encouraged by his recent troubles.
Because safeguarding unique athletes like Bajrang, Ravi, and Deepak from injury is also a duty of the federation, some in the fraternity think there is nothing wrong with giving a little special attention to them. "If you have four wrestlers whose capability to win international medals is beyond doubt, they must be protected from injuries. Why ask them to play full draw. They are there because they have proved their worth," Sujeet Maan, Bajrang's personal coach, believes they are there because they have proven their value. "I personally feel wrestlers who won either gold or silver at the Asian Championship can be asked to play just one bout, the final against the winner of the draw. "No one plays to lose. The new wrestlers just want to defeat these stars but our second line is still not mature enough to win medals at global events. So why to risk injuries to our real medal contenders," Maan explained, adding that they will finally obey whatever the WFI decides.
Virender Singh, a well-known instructor, also stated that the WFI must consider the sport's general usefulness. "Look, the main thing is to win a medal, not just participation. These 3-to-4 guys go for medals. Others have competed in the past in the same categories but did they win medals? These boys are doing well and again asked to appear in trials, why?," asked Virender.
"By consistently managing weight, their muscle goes weak, kidneys get affected. They have to stay empty stomach and then sweat it out to maintain weight for trials, it affects the body adversely. Doing it, again and again, is not good for their health. "Their recovery is very important since they do the same weight loss drill ahead of competitions. If at all the federation wants to encourage the second line, what they can do is to have trials of other wrestlers on one day and the winner can compete with the established one on the next day, so they are fresh for the tough bout," he suggested.
The victors from the trials will earn spots in the Indian squad for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, while the finalists will participate in the World Championship in Serbia this September.