NCR Punjab Royals ended UP Dangal's campaign in the Patanjali Powervita Pro Wrestling League Season 2 by registering an emphatic 5-2 win at the K D Jadhav Indoor Stadium here today.
Punjab secured the first advantage by winning the toss as they decided to block the 58 kg Women's category, ruling out UP's star wrestler Geeta Phogat from taking part in the tie. UP chose to block the 97 kg Men's category, preventing the heavyweight wrestlers from both camps to feature in the match.
Cricketer Rohit Sharma, who co-owns UP Dangal turned up to support his team and Bollywood actor Bobby Deol was also in the dugout supporting Punjab, co-owned by Bollywood veteran Dharmendra.
The first bout of the evening was fought between UP's Amit Kumar Dahiya and Punjab Captain and 2016 Olympics Gold medalist Vladimir Khinchegashvili in the 57 kg Men's category. The Georgina grappler displayed exemplary defence in both the rounds and took Amit by surprise in the first round with a takedown. Amit retaliated by attempting to push Khicnhegashvili out of the protected zone, but was out-muscled by the Punjab Captain, who registered a comfortable 6-2 victory.
UP came back into the match in the next bout as an intense contest between UP Captain Elitsa Yankova and Punjab's Nirmla Devi culminated in a 2-1 victory for UP. Yankova overcame a tough challenge put forth by Nirmla Devi, even as two points were lost by each player due to passivity. Although Nirmla used all her experience to score the winning point, attempting a push out on Yankova. An unsuccessful protest from the Punjab camp resulted in one point being given away to Yankova, resulting in UP's victory in the 48 kg Women's category.
NCR Punjab Royals took control of the game from the third bout onwards as Jitendra stunned UP Dangal's foreign import Tariel Gaphrindashvili 6-1 in the 74 kg Men's category. Jitendra was attacking from the beginning and defended stoutly each time Gaphrindashvili looked for an opportunity to score. Jitendra effected two clear takedowns to register a clinical win.
Punjab won the fourth bout as well, the energetic Odunayo Folasade Adekuoroye overpowering UP's Pinki in the 53 kg Women's category 16-0 by virtue of Technical Superiority. Pinki, who replaced Babita Kumari of the fame Phogat sisters, put up a brave fight against Odunayo, who is in fine form this season. The Nigerian grappler who earned Gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, delighted the spectators with her characteristic victory dance following her victory.
PWL debutant Ilias Bekbulatov from Punjab clinched the tie in his team's favour as he overwhelmed UP's Andrey Kviatkovski 6-3 in the 65 kg Men's category. Russian grappler Bekbulatov who replaced the injured Togrul Asgarov, showed tremendous aggression as he accumulated points rapidly, even as Kviatkovski tried hard to make a comeback. In the second round, Bekbulatov intelligently switched to a defensive game and held on to his lead as Punjab secured an unassailable 4-1 lead in the tie.
Amit Dhankar from the UP side salvaged some pride for his team, routing his Punjab opponent Pankaj Rana 13-5 in the 70 kg Men's category. Initially, both wrestlers look to go neck-in-neck, but it was Amit Dhankar who wrestled control in the final moments of the bout, employing successful leg locks and tackles to emerge the winner.
The final bout of the evening was played between UP's Maria Mamashuk and Punjab's Vasilisa Marzaliuk in the 75 kg Women's category. Marzaliuk prevailed 3-1 over Mamashuk, a 2016 Olympics Silver medalist as Punjab registered a comfortable 5-2 victory over UP. With this loss, UP Dangal went out of contention in the race for the Semi Finals.
NCR Punjab Royals' star wrestler Odunayo, who has had two wins by the virtue of Technical Superiority, said: "The environment is very conducive. There is excitement everywhere around the world about PWL and hence I have to perform really well to make my fans happy. The turn out of fans here is amazing. I am really looking forward to my bout against Sofia Mattsson on the 16th Jan. And by God's grace same like season 1, I will go undefeated this season as well."
Punjab's Jitendra said: "I am very happy. My coach advised me to take care of defence and I followed the same strategy. My team is really great and our captain Vladimir is always guiding us for a better performance."
UP Dangal's Amit Dhankar, who exhibited some explosive action to register a win, said: "I came out on the mat with only one thought that I have to give my 100% today which I did. I was sad about my last match hence, the focus was on improving. I have previously also fought many matches with Pankaj so I knew what techniques will help me find my way today."