India's Greco-Roman wrestlers, Naveen, Neeraj, and Arjun Halakurki won a bronze medal each in their respective weight categories at the Matteo Pellicone Rome Ranking Series opener on Thursday.
Naveen had little difficulty overcoming Samuele Varicelli's challenge in the 130kg quarter-final bout. But he later went down fighting against the 2016 Rio Olympian Abdellatif Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed of Egypt 3-1 in the semis.
In the bronze medal playoff, Naveen was able to keep Stepan David at bay for most of the bout with his comprehensive attack. The Czech did not have any answer to the Indian's strategy and finally surrendered.
Neeraj, on the other hand, was stunned by Sultan Assetuly of Kazakhstan 4-1 in the 63kg quarter-finals. But he got a fresh lease of life when his Kazakh conqueror reached the final, allowing Neeraj to compete in the repechage round of the Matteo Pellicone series tournament.
In the repechage, Neeraj overpowered Russia's Aleksei Tadykin 7-3 and then went on to beat USA's Samuel Lee Jones 6-4 in the bronze medal bout.
Later in the day, national champion Arjun Halakurki was defeated by Kazakhstan's Khorlan Zhakansha and Russia's Viktor Vedernikov but put up a stiff fight against Portugal's Andre Ricardo Cardoso Oliveira Silva. Arjun finished third on the basis of technical superiority and walked away with a bronze medal.
The 2020 Asian Wrestling Championships gold medallist Sunil Kumar failed to advance past the qualification round. He lost to the Russian wrestler Bekkhan Ozdoev in a two-minute battle, owing to technical points.
In the 60kg quarter-finals, 2017 national champion Manish lost to two-time Asian Championships medallist Ildar Hafizov on grounds of technical superiority.
Meanwhile, Gaurav Duhoon edged out Italian Steve Momilia but failed to break the rhythm of Hungarian Mate Krasznai in the 67kg quarter-finals. His medal hopes ended with a loss to Murat Firat of Turkey in the repechage round of the Matteo Pellicone series tournament.
Deepanshu also lost out narrowly 2-1 to USA's Daniel Collett Miller in the 97kg qualification round.
Sonam Malik pulls out due to injury
In a major turn of events, young wrestling sensation Sonam Malik has withdrawn from the Matteo Pellicone event due to a head injury. Sonam had qualified for the ranking series after beating the 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik at the Senior National Championships.
The Matteo Pellicone Rankings Series tournament is crucial for Indian wrestlers to earn valuable ranking points for the Tokyo Olympic qualification.
Two more Olympic qualifiers - the Asian Championships and the World Olympic qualifiers - will be held for wrestlers who haven't yet qualified for Tokyo.