Bajrang Punia got his act together to claim a bronze medal after ultra-defensive tactics resulted in his opening-round defeat even as Aman claimed his first gold medal at the senior level with a commanding show in the 57kg competition at the Bolat Turlykhanov Cup on Sunday. Bajrang, the Tokyo Games bronze winner, struggled in his opening bout against Uzbekistan's Abbos Rakhmonov, losing 3-5 but competed much better in the bronze-play off where he played smartly to score on counter-attacks against Kazkahstan's Rifat Saibotalov, winning 7-0.
Bajrang foiled a right leg attack from Saibotalov and then scored two points on counter attack after his rival went for his right leg. The 28-year-old converted a left-leg attack into points and foiled another valiant effort from the home-favourite. Bajrang was quick with his movements that was key in his mix of defence and attack in the crucial bout. Earlier, the overtly defensive tactics that Bajrang has been adopting, of late, continued against Rakhmonov and paid the price.
Bajrang got the first two points when his rival was cautioned twice for foul play. He hardly made a move but the Uzbekistan wrestler converted a left-leg attack into a take-down move for two points to level the score. The celebrated wrestler later got one more point on the passivity of Rakhmonov and was leading but dropped guard when only six seconds were left in the bout. It seemed Bajrang took it easy, thinking the referee has whistled to halt the action but Rakhmonov grabbed the opportunity to launch a leg attack and eventually got decisive two points. Later Rakhmonov reached final, giving opportunity to fight for bronze.
In the 57kg, Aman, who trains at Chhatrasal stadium with Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Dahiya, was very impressive. He began with a 15-12 win over Meirambek Kartbay in the high-scoring opening bout and followed that with a technical superiority win over Abdymalik Karachov from Kyrgyzstan. In his final bout, he edged out Kazakhstan's Merey Bazarbayev 10-9 to stay unbeaten in the five-wrestler category to claim gold. It is Aman's third medal this season, having won a silver at Dan Kolov and a bronze at Yasar Dogu.
Meanwhile, Vishal Kaliramana (70kg) and Naveen (74kg) missed out podium finishes after losing bronze medal rounds. Gourav Baliyan (79kg) could not make the medal round while Deepak Punia forfeited all his bouts due to injury in 92kg category, where Viky lost both his bouts. India thus signed off with 12 medals from the Ranking Series event with the women's wrestlers claiming eight of them, including give gold.