(Image source from: Sportswallah)
Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia lost a thrilling 65kg category bout in the ‘Grapple at the Garden - Beat the Streets’ event at New York’s famous Madison Square Garden to unheralded American Yianni Diakomihalis by a narrow 8-10 margin.
Bajrang was invited by the USA Wrestling - the national governing body for the sport in the United States - to participate in the event.
The 25-year-old became the first Indian wrestler to compete at the iconic Madison Square Garden.
Bajrang had won nine gold medals in his last 10 international tournaments - the one in which he missed out was 2018 World Championships where he won silver. He is now the world No. 1 in the 65kg category.
"It was a fantastic experience to fight at the Madison Square Garden. The match was very competitive and gave me a few lessons to learn. I can assure that I will come back stronger," Bajrang told TOI.
"The fact that I competed in three different continents in three weeks is itself quite challenging. I am thankful for all the support that I have received through this period. I did have the belief that I could do well in these competitions and am pleased with my performances," he added.
In the last three weeks, Bajrang won a gold each at the Asian Wrestling Championships in Bangkok and the Ali Aliyev Wrestling tournament in Kaspiisk (Russia) before traveling to New York for the fight.
After the match, Yianni, two-time NCAA as well as cadet world champion, tweeted: "Much respect to @BajrangPunia. The match was fought very hard and I can't wait to battle the world No. 1 again." He added: "The win just shows that I have it in me to beat the best in the world."
Yianni struck first and was up 2-0 through an exposure move. Bajrang then fought like a wounded tiger and nailed a single leg move to bring the match on level terms. After the first period, both wrestlers were tied at 2-2.
Soon after the break, Diakomihalis was up 4-2 with a brilliant takedown in the second period. Bajrang and Yianni exchanged two points on the lookout as the score moved to 6-4 in favor of Yianni. The American wrestler was in no mood to let his advantage slip and came up with another takedown to move ahead 8-4.
Bajrang then showcased his famous second-period stamina and came back in the match to restore parity at 8-8. But Yianni, the 2019 U.S. Nationals champion, came out with a wild scramble late in the match to emerge victorious at 10-8.
The event's main bout saw 2012 Olympic champion and four-time world champion, Jordan Burroughs of the U.S., score an 11-0 technical fall over countrymate Ben Askren. Also on the winning side was 2016 Olympic champion, Kyle Snyder of the U.S., who scored a technical fall over Nishan Randhawa of Canada with the final score being 15-1.
By Sowmya Sangam