The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) introduced a major change in its participation norms at the national championships. It can have an impact on the big 3s – Haryana, Railways and Services – and can also hurt their medal chances.
The federation at their Annual General Meeting (AGM) held during the senior nationals held in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh, put a cap on teams participation. They believe it will help wrestling in other states grow and help the sport grow.
Why will change impact wrestling in Haryana?
Haryana is the hub of Indian wrestling. The state has been the biggest feeder to the national team for nearly three decades now. Wrestling is the only sport that has won a medal for India in every competition since the Beijing Games in 2008 – Sushil Kumar won a bronze.
Interestingly, all the medals have been won by a wrestler from Haryana – only KD Jadhav is a non-Haryana wrestler to win an Olympic medal.
Railways and Services enjoy the services of these athletes. They are the two biggest employers for wrestlers and have a maximum participation at the national level.
At the nationals in Gonda, these teams and Haryana fielded A and B teams along with Haryana. These teams have so many good wrestlers that accommodating all in one team is not possible.
This is where the problem starts. Haryana and Services feel, WFI’s decision will impact wrestling’s growth.
Rajkumar Hooda, Secretary General of Haryana Wrestling Federation, said it is unfair to Haryana and they were being targeted.
“It is unfair to us. We have been producing so many good wrestlers. All the medals at the Olympics came from our wrestlers and despite that they have taken this decision. It will not only hurt us but the entire country and wrestling,” he told Sportskeeda.
A railways coach echoed Hooda and added:
"Why do WFI need to touch a winning formula? Haryana is good in combat sports. It is their USP then why do we need to change it? Why do we need to tinker with the winning formula?”
Are there any positives from WFI’s decision for wrestling?
WFI’s move is intended to allow wrestlers from weaker states more opportunities. The wrestlers from the formidable Haryana end up dominating those nationals, which is unfair to other states.
“They field two teams with one wrestler in each A and B side. The Railways and Services also field wrestlers from Haryana and Delhi. This way in all 30 weight categories we have wrestlers mostly from Haryana. This is unfair to the states and also to wrestling,” WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said.
Senior Services coach Kuldeep Singh said the move is positive only if implemented in the right way.
“It is a good move but they need to implement it right. We will see what happens at the next nationals,” he said.
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The next senior national championship will be held in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh in November 2022.