Bajrang Punia tastes first defeat on return

American Olympic hopeful Zain Retherford outclassed the Indian wrestler 6-0 in an exhibition bout organised by the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.

By Naveen Peter ·

Just days after making a winning return to competitive wrestling at an invitational event in the USA, star Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia suffered a 6-0 defeat against local American Zain Retherford on Monday.

Competing in a one-off exhibition event organised by the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club in Pennsylvania, Bajrang Punia paid for his unusually defensive approach. By the time he attacked, it was all over. 

Bajrang and Retherford had faced each other in the opening-round bout at the season-opening Matteo Pellicone ranking series tournament in Rome earlier this year. The Indian had won 5-4.

This time, the 25-year-old Zain Retherford was on the money from the opening whistle. The American started by sneaking under Bajrang Punia’s shoulders to inflict a takedown from behind for the opening points. 

Caught off balance, the 26-year-old Indian wrestler could hardly muster anything as Retherford -- a three-time NCAA champion -- ensured that he was on his toes warding off any attempt from the Indian to get back into the game.

Though many expected Bajrang Punia to strike back in the second round, a tactical Retherford, an Olympic hopeful in the 65kg category, sealed the contest with a quality takedown. 

Bajrang Punia, who is training in the USA with his personal coach Shako Bendinitis, returned to competition at the eight-man FloWrestling meet recently in Austin, Texas. There, the Indian wrestler defeated two-time world championships medallist James Green for the title.