India’s star wrestler Bajrang Punia moves another step closer to earn up seeds for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after he won the gold medal at this month’s Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series tournament in Rome.
The Indian superstar wrestler had the most successful outing in Rome — earning gold and taking home 16 points. In the 65kg finals, Bajrang upended USA’s Jordan Oliver 4-3 to catapult himself from No. 4 to No. 2 in the world rankings. He now trails No. 1 Gadzhimurad Rashidov of Russia by 19 points and sits ahead of No. 3 Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan by one point.
At the Ranking series in Rome, Bajrang had to sweat it out in the first round against Zain Allen Retherford of USA before prevailing 5-4. In the quarterfinal, the Indian sailed past another American Joseph Christopher Mc Kenna 4-2, before getting the better of Vasyl Shuptar of Ukraine 6-4 in the semi-finals.
United World Wrestling states, Ranking Series points are important to Olympic-qualified wrestlers because the top four competitors in each Olympic weight category (from qualified nations) will earn a seed in their bracket, thereby delaying matchups with other top wrestlers until the semifinals and finals. The top three point-earners in each style are also awarded prize money at the end of the season.
In the meanwhile, India’s top women’s wrestler Vinesh Phogat’s ranking also improved from World No. 3 to World no. 2. Vinesh also won her first gold of the 2020 season at Rome Ranking series event. With her dominant performance, the wrestler overcame two strong Chinese opponents to qualify for the finals. In the 53 kg finals, she overpowered Ecuador’s Luisa Elizabeth Valverde to clinch the gold. She never gave a chance to her opponent for attack, rattled her with shoulder pulls and won by a scoreline of 4-0. With 41 points under her belt, she trails Korea’s No. 1 Yong Mi Pak, who has 60 points and sits ahead of No. 3 Japan’s Mukaida Mayu who has 40 points.
The next Ranking Series tournaments will be the continental championships held in February and early March. Gold medal winners are eligible for 12 points plus a bonus based on the number of entries in their weight category.