CHENNAI: Days before he stepped on the mat to compete in his first senior international tournament in Almaty (Kazakhstan) early this month, wrestler Mohit Grewal was under immense pressure. It was not his maiden appearance that was troubling him but the controversial final bout during the Commonwealth Games selection trials and adverse reactions that followed up were making his life miserable.
Only a medal at the Bolat Turlykhanov Cup (Ranking Series) in Kazakhstan could have silenced his naysayers and the 23-year-old from Haryana did the same. He beat Turkey's Salim Ercan 6-1 before being outclassed by the Tokyo Olympian from Kazakhstan Yusup Batirmurzaev 10-0 in the semifinal. Mohit, however, made a strong comeback in the bronze medal play-off to outscore his Uzbek opponent Sardorbek Kholmatov 8-2 to finish on the podium.
"It (medal) silenced everyone. Before the tournament, everyone was talking about that controversy but everything has changed now," Mohit, who is camping in Sonepat, told this daily.
Making a senior debut is always a learning curve for any athlete and Mohit was no different. The semifinal loss against the Kazakh wrestler had taught him a lot.
"I tried to attack him but he counter-attacked and earned points. Conceding points early in the first period cost me the bout. I should have been patient in the first minute of the bout. I should have analysed his game before going all out. The Kazakh wrestler did the same in the final but his opponent managed to hold him and win the bout in the end. Had that semifinal lasted for a full six minutes, I could have won it as once your opponent is tired, you can dictate the terms."
Notwithstanding the colour of the medal, Mohit terms his senior debut a successful outing.
"Obviously, you always want to win gold but given the fact that it was my first senior tournament, I am happy with my performance," added the wrestler.
He has been into various sports since the beginning and pursued swimming and judo before focusing completely on wrestling.
"I competed in the 50m butterfly in school nationals. Besides, I had also won medals in junior national judo championships. However, wrestling was my priority from the beginning. The bronze medal in the junior Asian Championships in 2018 made it easy for me to leave out everything for wrestling," he added.
A serious knee injury, however, forced him out of the wrestling mat for almost two years.
A determined Mohit made a winning return in 2021 when he won gold at the U-23 national championships.
He also competed in the bronze medal play-off at the U-23 World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. Coming back to the country, he reached the final of the 2021 senior national championships in November and ended with a silver medal.
The U-23 Asian Championships in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from June 19 to 26 will be his next international assignment and the recent medal has made him confident of a good show there.
"The mindset has changed now. I am more relaxed now. This time I will not be under pressure. Instead, I will hope to better my show," he signed off.