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Posted at: Jul 8, 2015, 1:05 AM; last updated: Jul 8, 2015, 12:32 AM (IST)

Yogi rests his case, once and for all

Sabi Hussain

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 7

Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt and Asian Championship silver medallist Amit Kumar Dhankhar today went head to head to determine who’s the boss in the 65kg freestyle category.

This was the bout everyone wanted to see.

The wrestling arena at the Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium was packed to the rafters as thousands of villagers from the neighbouring Haryana state descended on the capital to witness the selection trials for the World Wrestling Championships, to be held in Las Vegas on September 7-12.

Of the 40 bouts that took place in 16 weight division in the freestyle and Greco Roman categories, the most eagerly awaited one was between Dutt and Dhankhar. Apart from securing a berth to the World Championships, there was something much more valuable at stake for the two seasoned grapplers from Sonepat — pride and honour.

It was a chance to not only assert their supremacy over each other, but also to let others know who’s the country’s top 65kg freestyle wrestler. It was the duo’s first meeting on the mat since June 2014, when Dhankhar had moved the Delhi High Court, challenging the decision of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to select Dutt for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games without conducting trials.

Dhankhar had alleged favouritism on the part of the WFI, while Dutt maintained that the selection process was fair.

Thus, many saw today’s bout as a ‘grudge’ match between the two. The occasion provided a perfect opportunity to them to settle the weight category debate once and for all.

When the names of the two wrestlers were announced amid thunderous applause by a WFI official, their dislike for each other was quite palpable, as was the tension to get selected for the World Championships.

The bout began on an aggressive note. Each time Dhankhar managed to get a hold on Dutt’s ankle, he would somehow manage to wriggle out of it. Slowly, Dutt added points to his tally, despite a spirited fight from Dhankhar, who won gold in the World Police and Fire Games in Ireland.

In fact, there came a time when Dutt lead 5-2, and he challenged the referee’s decision, only to see his opponent gaining an extra point. Going into the final minute, Dhankhar trailed the Incheon Asian Games gold medallist by two points, and he tried his best to pin Dutt down to get the full two points and then go for a kill.

But, Dutt, looking stronger than ever before, went for his famous ankle clutching hold and double leg-tackle to slay his opponent 6-3 on points in a fiercely-contested bout.

The fierceness of the bout could be gauged from the fact that Dhankhar was left bleeding from his nose after Dutt went for an aggressive hold. Dhankhar had to receive multiple treatments during the bout to stop the bleeding.

The crowd went berserk after Dutt’s victory, and his supporters picked him up on their shoulders. The WFI officials heaved a huge sigh of relief that their decision to send the 32-year-old grappler in the 65kg category to the Glasgow CWG was proved correct.

“Yes, there was pressure on me to beat him. Although I was pretty confident of defeating him, in case I had got unlucky today, people would have got a chance to point fingers at me,” Dutt told reporters.

“There would also have been criticism against the WFI, who had chosen the team last time for the Commonwealth and Asian Games. People would have said that the federation's chosen team was not right. So today, I proved that the team picked last year was the most deserving,” he said.

Another bout that stood out was between Sushil Kumar’s heir apparent, Narsingh Yadav, and Praveen Rana in the 74kg weight category.

A shoulder injury to Sushil had handed Yadav the chance to fight for an Olympic berth in the World Championships. The 25-year-old made optimum use of the opportunity as he defeated Rana 6-5 in another fiercely-contested bout to qualify for the Worlds.

Yadav later said that he hoped to make it to the Rio Olympics as well.

After the weight category qualification is done, the WFI will have trials again between Sushil and Yadav to decide who will go to the Rio Games.

“While India would get a place in a particular category, but generally wrestlers who earn the country a place, go to the Olympics eventually. So let's see what happens,” Yadav said.

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