Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia cruised through to win the gold medal in the men’s 65kg wrestling event at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham, UK on Friday.
Bajrang Punia, who was the defending champion in the category, beat Canadian youngster Lachlan McNeil in the gold medal match at the Coventry Stadium and Arena.
The 21-year-old McNeil, considered one of the brightest up-and-coming wrestlers from Canada, is a junior Pan-American champion.
"We wrestlers never think whom we are facing on the mat, what their strengths and weaknesses are. We need to perform according to how we trained and that's all we can do. I am happy with my performance here and will work on whatever deficiencies are there in my game," Bajrang Punia.
Bajrang Punia was the early aggressor and the 21-year-old McNeil needed to be quick on his feet to evade the Indian.
A passivity call on McNeil, however, forced the Canadian to throw caution to the wind and Bajrang Punia capitalised on the opening by picking up three quick points with a takedown. Towards the end of the period, Bajrang Punia pushed McNeil out of the ring to extend his lead to 4-0.
McNeil, however, came out all guns blazing after the restart and halved the deficit with a takedown but the Olympian responded with a two-pointer of his own.
The experienced Bajrang Punia gained control of the young Canadian’s right leg time and again and comfortably closed the bout out with a 9-2 scoreline. The 28-year-old Indian only conceded two points throughout the entire tournament.
It was Bajrang Punia’s third medal at the Commonwealth Games. He had won a silver medal in the 61kg at Glasgow 2014.
The Indian wrestler began his campaign with a commanding victory by fall over Lowe Bingham of Nauru in just 1 minute and 47 seconds before pinning Mauritius’ Jean Guyliane Joris Bandou in under a minute in the quarter-finals.
English grappler George Ramm, who finished fourth in the 57kg at Gold Coast 2018, was the next to fall at the hands of the Indian wrestler from Haryana. Bajrang took just one minute and 21 seconds to secure a 10-0 win over the Bolton-based wrestler and marched onto the final.
Pakistan’s Inayat Ullah and George Ramm pocketed the two bronze medals.