Las Vegas: Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia suffered a heartbreak in the men’s freestyle 61 kg bronze medal match against Vasyl Shuptar of Ukraine, losing on a judges’ verdict after the scores were tied at 6-6 at the World Championships here.
The 21-year-old had earlier defeated American Reece Humphrey in convincing fashion (6-0) and 2015 European silver medallist Beka Lomtadze of Georgia (13-6) in the repechage round in an authoritative display to set up the bronze medal clash on Friday. Bajrang began in tentative fashion, allowing Shuptar to race into a four point lead at the one-minute mark. Shuptar’s quick leg-attack seemed to have surprised the Indian as he conceded quick points.
However, the 2013 World Championship bronze medallist soon found his rhythm and a stunning take-down saw him bag six straight points, shooting into the lead. Bajrang kept the lead till the last 10 seconds but seemed to lose concentration at the fag end of the bout, allowing Shuptar to effect a crucial take-down and tie the scores.
Since the Ukrainian had won the last points, the metal was awarded to him. Having led for a majority of the bout, Bajrang was downcast, saying a small tactical error had cost him a second World Championship bronze. “It wasn’t really the right time to go on the offensive. I knew I had the lead, I just had to defend for the last minute. However, I thought I saw an opening in the opponent’s defence and I just wanted to kill off the match. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out,” said Bajrang, who also has one silver each from Asian and Commonwealth Games.
Earlier, Bajrang had lost to Mongolia’s Noman Batbold 0-10 in a one-sided contest. However, Batbold’s progression to the final gave Bajrang entry into repechage and it was a chance that the grappler grabbed with both hands. Home favourite Humphrey was dismantled in calm fashion before Georgia’s Lomtadze gave Bajrang a small run-around. However, the 21-year-old Haryana-born kept his cool, bided his time and executed crucial attacks which gave him a dominant 13-6 victory over the Georgian.