Returning to the mat after almost ten months, Bajrang Punia defeated two-time world championship medalist James Green 8-4 in the final to win the $25,000 eight-man invitational FloWrestling meet in Austin, Texas, on Friday. The 26-year-old put in a dominating performance on his return to the sport after a long hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the four Indian wrestlers to have secured a spot in the Tokyo Olympics 2021, Bajrang Punia beat Pat Lugo in the opening bout 6-1 and defeated two-time Pan American champion Anthony Ashnault 9-0 to secure a place in the final. Green beat Bryce Meredith and Alec Pantaleo to become the other finalist.
Bajrang Punia prevails in a close contest
In a close contest, the first period finished 4-4. Green had taken a 4-2 lead with a leg attack takedown, which Punia overcame with just five seconds remaining to level the scores.
Bajrang Punia struck with a spin-behind takedown to make it 6-4 at the start of the second period. Green had no chance to make a comeback as Punia extended his lead to 8-4 after the former couldn't break Punia's bedrock defense.
The Indian grappler took to Twitter to express his happiness after a great return and thanked his fans for the support.
“Glad with my performance & happy to start on a winning note after such a long break due to pandemic. Thank you all for the love, support & blessings,” Punia tweeted.
The 2019 Asian Championships gold medalist had opted out of the recently-concluded Individual World Cup in Belgrade to train in the USA for a month, citing that he wanted to gauge his level against the top wrestlers in the nation.
Bajran Punia will now compete against US-Olympic hopeful Zain Rutherford in an exhibition match on December 22nd before returning to India in January.Published 21 Dec 2020, 00:21 IST