The World Championships here in Belgrade are serving as a crucial qualification tournament for the 2024 Paris Olympics. On the first day of these championships, three Indian free-style wrestlers faced tough challenges, and only Abhimanyu, competing in the 70kg category, managed to advance to the quarterfinals.
Abhimanyu, a promising wrestler who previously won a bronze medal at the U23 World Championships in June and is currently ranked 26th globally, made an impressive start. He caused quite a stir by defeating the 7th-ranked Ukrainian wrestler, Ihor Nykyforuk, with a commanding score of 19-9, securing a victory by fall (VFA). Abhimanyu continued his winning streak by outclassing Moldova's Nicolai Grahmez with a score of 13-2, earning a victory through technical superiority and securing a place in the quarterfinals.
However, the road ahead won't be easy for Abhimanyu as he's set to face the world No.2 wrestler, Zain Allen Retherford from the United States, who was the runner-up at the 2022 World Championships in Belgrade last year.
It's worth noting that these World Championships hold significant importance as they are a qualification event for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
India's participation in this global event is taking place under the United World Wrestling (UWW) flag since the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) faced suspension due to its failure to conduct elections within the specified time frame set by the world body.
Abhimanyu's performance in the first round against the higher-ranked Nykyforuk was exceptional, as he wrapped up the contest in just 5 minutes and 41 seconds. The referee stopped the match 2 minutes and 41 seconds into the second three-minute session, with Abhimanyu already holding a commanding 5-0 lead.
In the 61kg category, Akash Dahiya had a strong start, defeating his Moldovan opponent Leomid Colesnic with a convincing 10-5 verdict from the referees. However, he faced a tough challenge in the pre-quarterfinals against Uzbekistan's world No.6 wrestler, Jahongirmirza Turobov, who secured victory by fall with a score of 7-4.
In the 86kg free-style category, Sandeep Mann showcased his skills by defeating Dejan Mitrov of North Macedonia with a dominant 10-0 score, securing a win by technical superiority. However, Mann couldn't maintain his momentum in the second round of qualification and faced a tough opponent in Lin Zushen, losing 0-11. The referee declared the Chinese wrestler as the winner on technical superiority, with nearly 45 seconds remaining in the contest.
In the 125kg category, Sumit, the Indian grappler, had a comfortable first-round qualification match against Japan's Taiki Yamamoto, whom he defeated with a score of 3-1. However, Sumit faced a formidable opponent in Poland's Robert Baran in the pre-quarterfinals. The seventh-seeded Polish wrestler, a silver medallist at the European Championships and a quarterfinalist at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, proved to be too strong for Sumit, securing a 'win by decision' with a score of VPO 3-0.