Indian wrestling superstar Bajrang Punia will take part in a $25,000 eight-man tournament in Texas following the recent cancellation of the Wrestling World Championships. The gala event will see Bajrang Punia going up against the likes of two-time World Championships medallist James Green and two-time Pan-American champion Anthony Ashnault. Other American grapplers participating are Joey McKenna, Pat Lugo, Bryce Meredith, Jordan Oliver, and Evan Henderson.
The Asian Games champion, who is set to tie the knot with fellow wrestler Sangeeta Phogat on November 25, will leave for the USA end of the month.
In an interview with The Tribune, the 26-year-old revealed that it was the cancelation of the Wrestling World Championships that spurred the decision. Bajrang had been putting in the hard yards at the SAI Center in Sonipat for nearly three months now. The entire Indian contingent was gearing up for the mega event which was supposed to be held in Serbia in December.
But with too many teams pulling out due to rising COVID cases, the event failed to get the go-ahead.
Bajrang Punia told The Tribune that he got an invite from the American event even before the World Championships got cancelled. Even though initially he had made it clear he would prefer to compete in the World Championships, he later changed his mind.
"I got an invite from the organisers 15-20 days back and then I told them that I was keen on competing at the World Championships but later on, I gave them my consent when the World Championships was cancelled," said Punia.
The Indian wrestlers haven't got the opportunity to compete in any tournament since the Asian Championships which was held in New Delhi in February. It is crucial to gauge one's level at competitions and that's why Punia is keen to see where he stands against some of America's best wrestlers.
"The tournament will be an important factor, as it will tell us where we stand in terms of performance, as I have not competed for a long time. It will show me where I am lacking in power, stamina or speed, so that is why I am going there," said Bajrang Punia.
Bajrang Punia to train in the USA for a month
The 2019 Asian Championships gold medallist also said that he is looking to stay back in the USA and train for a month at a facility near the Michigan University. With sparring partners available, Bajrang Punia is looking to make the most of this opportunity.Published 19 Nov 2020, 00:25 IST