Deepak Punia settles for silver at Asian wrestling after going down to Olympic champ Hassan Yazdani

The reigning Olympic and world champion beat the Indian wrestler on technical superiority to win the gold medal. India wrapped up the meet with a total of 14 medals.

By Naveen Peter

India’s Deepak Punia was in for a reality check as reigning Olympic and world champion Hassan Yazdani romped home to a 10-0 win on technical superiority to pocket the gold medal in the 86kg freestyle category at the Asian Wrestling Championships on Sunday.

At the Baluan Sholak Palace of Culture and Sports in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the Iranian dominated the proceedings from the opening minute and had Deepak Punia in all sorts of trouble with his quick movements.

The Indian, who has secured his quota for the Tokyo Olympics, was punished heavily for his weak defence as Hassan Yazdani, one of Iran’s finest wrestlers, pounced on every opening to inflict takedowns to collect his points.

Deepak Punia -- who was facing Hassan Yazdani for the first time in his career -- did well to use his brute force to stop Yazdani from rolling him over every time he was exposed to the mat, but it wasn’t enough. The bout was over in under three minutes.

The silver, nevertheless, was Deepak’s best result at the Asian championships. He has won two bronze medals at the continental meet before.

The Olympic gold medallist from Rio 2016, Hassan Yazdani, was returning to the international stage for the first time since his title run at the 2019 World Wrestling Championships.

The Iranian was due to take on Deepak Punia in the final at the Worlds in Nur Sultan, but the Indian was forced to withdraw from the bout owing to an injury.

Later, Sanjeet, competing in his first senior international competition, won a bronze in the 92kg freestyle division. The 22-year-old Indian, who started his career as a Greco-Roman grappler, beat Uzbekistan’s Rustam Shodiev 11-8 in their bronze medal bout. 

Meanwhile, Ravinder lost his bronze medal bout in the 61kg category to Kyrgyzstan’s Ikromzhon Khadzhimurodov 14-4.

Earlier, the Indian national champion in the 74kg category Sandeep Singh Mann, suffered a quarter-final loss to Atamyrat Charlyyev of Turkmenistan 5-4 while Sumit Malik had to pull out of his repechage round following an injury.

The performance meant India wrapped up the Asian meet with a total of five gold, three silver and six bronze medals.