Upcoming wrestling nationals a criterion for team selection

As per the ad-hoc committee's policy, gold medallists of the championships will be eligible for the Ranking Series scheduled five days after the event.
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

CHENNAI: The international wrestling calendar will begin with the all-important Ranking Series in Zagreb, Croatia on January 10 next year. In its bid to send the national team for the event, the ad-hoc committee, looking after the sport in the country in the absence of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), has come up with a selection policy for the two Ranking Series scheduled in 2024.

As per the policy, gold medallists from the 2023 Senior National Championships in all weight categories and 2023 Asian Games medallists will be chosen to participate in the first Ranking Series. "If the 2023 Nationals gold medallist is unable to participate due to injury or any other reason, the silver medallist will be given an opportunity to compete," says the policy.

The United World Wrestling (UWW) organises four Ranking Series for senior wrestlers in a calendar year except in the Olympic year where only two such series are organised. The second event is scheduled in Budapest, Hungary from June 6 to 9. The events are important as they allow wrestlers to secure vital ranking points which in turn give them seedlings thus helping them get a favourable draw during big events like the Olympics.

For the second Ranking Series, the ad-hoc panel's policy says the players selected to represent India at the Olympics after final trials will be eligible.

While the policy to make national gold medallists eligible to compete deserves credit, what raises the question is the fact that the 2023 nationals has not been held yet. As per the announcement made by the ad-hoc committee comprising Bhupender Singh Bajwa and Suma Shirur, the senior nationals is scheduled in Jaipur from January 2 to 5.  

As per the UWW, the participating National Wrestling Federations must register their members through Athena 30 days before the first competition day of the Championship. Once this deadline has passed, entries will not be accepted, and the wrestlers will not be authorized to participate.

Wrestling coach Kripashankar Patel welcomed the move of the ad-hoc committee as he believed it would help the deserving wrestlers to compete in the Ranking Series during the Olympic year. He, however, feels only a few days' gap between the two tournaments (senior nationals and Ranking Series) can affect the performance of the Indian wrestlers. "Entries would not be an issue as the UWW knows about the current situation in the country. It's good that the gold medallists will get a chance to compete there but the gap is too small," Patel told this daily.

Elaborating further, he said, "A wrestler needs at least 15-20 days to recover after an event. The weigh-in and then tough bouts mean they need time to recover. The nationals are completed on January 5 while the Ranking Series starts five days later. This can affect the performance of our wrestlers and may also lead to injuries."

The selection policy says that in the event of a scenario not explicitly addressed in the policy, an ad-hoc committee will reconvene to determine the most objective and fair solution for the wrestlers. So far, the committee has not announced an alternative way in this regard with the last date for entry on Sunday (December 10). Bajwa, the committee member, didn't respond when queried in this regard.

As many as six wrestlers won medals at the Asian Games making them eligible for the Ranking Series as per the policy. However, a minimum of 10 wrestlers can represent the country in each style making it 30 grapplers in three styles (men's freestyle and Greco-Roman and women's wrestling). Besides, each National Olympic Committee is eligible to send a maximum of three wrestlers per weight category in the Ranking Series.

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