National Greco Roman Wrestling Championship: Defending champion Gurpreet Singh looking for a positive start

The wrestler is treating the tournament as a preparatory platform for the upcoming Asian Olympic qualifier

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

Gurpreet Singh is looking to put his best foot forward in the 77kg category at the Greco Roman national championship, slated to start on Saturday in Jalandhar.

The grappler had contracted Covid-19, which unfortunately saw him miss the Individual World Cup in Serbia.

"I've fully recovered. The symptoms of the virus were very mild. I have been training hard for the past six weeks. I'm looking forward to a good performance on Sunday," he told IANS.

Since he missed out on the international tournament, the national championship is a perfect platform for him to test his readiness for the Asian Olympic qualifiers.

"The overall performance would reflect on my preparation for the upcoming Asian Olympic qualifier in April," he stated.

Singh is the reigning champion in the category and he wants to retain his title come what may. However, he does not want to take his opponents lightly.

"I might face tough competition from the Railways squad. The departmental teams have the cream of wrestling. So, I can't take it easy," he said.

He had been in a rich vein of form before the pandemic and in spite of moving up to the 82kg weight category, he managed to win a gold in the World Ranking Series in Sassari, Italy. His win in Europe made him the first Indian to win back-to-back titles in World Ranking Series.

Due to the pandemic, the Olympic qualifier was postponed and he could not make the most of his good form and secure a Tokyo berth.

"I hope this time there won't be any change in the schedule," he said.

More than 300 wrestlers are expected to take part in the Greco Roman Nationals in 10 different weight categories.

Haryana's Sunil Kumar is another wrestler who will be looking to make a mark in the nationals in the 87 kg weight category. He bagged the silver medal in the 2020 World Ranking Series.

"I'm expecting good competition in all the weight categories. Since domestic competition resumes after 12 months, I see a lot of enthusiasm amongst the competitors. It makes us believe that an exciting contest is on the cards," said chief coach Hargobind Singh.

It must be noted that India have not yet booked an Olympic spot in the Greco Roman event. Whereas, in freestyle, four wrestlers have booked a place for Tokyo through Ravi Dahiya (57kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), and Vinesh Phogat (53kg).