Deepak Punia’s defence fell apart in front of his idol and Iranian legend Hassan Yazdanicharati as the Olympic-bound Indian settled for a silver medal while Sanjeet claimed bronze on the concluding day of the Asian Wrestling Championship in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Two years after superstar Hassan YAZDANI (IRI) and up-and-coming Deepak PUNIA (IND) were slated to meet for the world title in a match that never came about, the two will finally tangle with an Asian gold on the line.

“I have not wrestled for one and a half years and I thought I should test myself in a lighter competition,” said Yazdani, who won the gold in his only other appearance at the Asian Championships in 2018. “This is just to check how my body is and if it is ready. Thankfully, it was great to start from the first bout today United World Wrestling .”

Deepak lost his 86kg final inside the first period by technical superiority as the Iranian’s relentless attacks had clueless India gasping. It was the second time that Deepak was up against the 2016 Olympic champion and two-time World champion but challenged him for the first time as he had withdrawn from the 2019 World Championship final against the Iranian due to a leg injury.

Definitely, I will wrestle in the final,” Punia said. “I missed a chance to wrestle him before because I was injured. It is always good to wrestle a good wrestler and that, too, when you know that you can meet him in the Olympics. United World Wrestling ”

Another Indian earning a podium finish on Sunday was Sanjeet (92kg) who almost blew away a commanding position against Uzbekistan’s Rustam Shodiev before winning the bronze play-off 11-8.

He led 11-2 at one stage but let the Uzbekistan wrestler clawed his way back. Eventually, the big lead helped the Indian claim bronze.

Overall, India won seven medals from the men’s freestyle event with only Ravi Dahiya (57kg) managing to win gold.

Ravinder (61kg) lost his bronze play-off to Kyrgyzstan’s Ikromzhon Khadhimurodov by technical superiority.

Deepak, who has won two bronze medals at the continental championship before, showed defence skills before the final as he notched up a confident 2-0 win over Korea’s Gwanuk Kim in the semifinals. Kim’s several double leg attacks bore no fruit in the face of the 22-year old Deepak’s solid defence.

The Indian, who secured his Olympic quota with a World Championship bronze, earned both his points on the passivity of his opponent.

Deepak’s defensive tactics also won him bouts against Uzbekistan’s Isa Shapiev (9-2) and Tajikistan’s Bakhodur Kodirov (4-3).

In the 61kg, Ravinder began with a close 4-3 win over Iran’s Majid Almas Dastan but lost 4-7 in the semifinal against Kazakhstan’s Adlan Aakarov.

The home wrestler’s relentless attack resulted in him getting out of breath in the second period but Ravinder could not take advantage of that.

Sanjeet was impressive in his 9-4 win against Japan’s Ryoichi Yamanaka but was no match to Iran’s Kamran Ghorban Ghasempour, who won by technical superiority. Since the Iranian reached the final, Sanjeet has got a chance to fight for bronze against Shodiev.

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