Free-flowing Bajrang Punia wins eight-man invitational meet in US

The star Indian wrestler beat two-time world championships medallist James Green in the FloWrestling final in Austin, Texas. 

By Utathya Nag ·

Returning to competitive wrestling after almost a year-long COVID-enforced hiatus, Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia showed little signs of rust as he won the eight-man invitational 150lbs (68kg) FloWrestling meet in Austin, Texas, on Friday.

Punia, who is one of the four Indian wrestlers to have won a quota place for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, beat two-time world championships medallist James Green 8-4 in the final to clinch the title and the $25,000 prize money.

The 26-year-old Bajrang Punia, a three-time world championships medallist, started the final bout against the US wrestler strongly with a two-point exposure. Green, though, bounced right back with back-to-back takedowns to build up a 4-2 lead.

Bajrang responded with a takedown of his own to make the score 4-4 going into the break.

In the second period, the Indian took control of the bout and raced to an 8-4 lead after executing a takedown and turn. He then fended off Green's attempts to mount a comeback effectively to secure the bout along with the title.

“Glad with my performance and happy to start on a winning note after such a long break due to pandemic. Thank you all for the love, support and blessings,” Bajrang, who recently married fellow Indian grappler Sangeeta Phogat, said after the match.

He also noted that he could see visible improvements in his performance levels bout to bout in the tournament.

Bajrang beat US wrestler Pat Lugo 6-1 in his opening bout before dominating two-time Pan American champion Anthony Ashnault 9-0 to make his way into the final.

In the other bracket, Green beat Bryce Meredith and Alec Pantaleo to set up the final bout against Bajrang. Pantaleo finished third after beating Ashnault in the third-place playoff bout.

Bajrang opted to skip the recently-concluded Individual World Cup in Belgrade in favour of his training stint in Michigan, USA. He will wrestle US Olympic hopeful Zain Retherford in an exhibition bout organised by the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club on December 22 before heading back to India in January.