For national champion Rohit Singh, an introduction to wrestling came about accidentally. He originally stayed in an akhada to support his older brother but a turn of fortune and family conditions forced him to take up the sport.
After beating Services Sports Control Board compatriot Shrawan, he said:
“It was a good competition for me. I know Bajrang Punia is the current No.1 but I will work hard to reach his level."
Rohit Singh made a comeback in the dying minutes of the high-voltage final to win by fall. After the bout, he collapsed on the mat due to cramps but later dismissed his exhaustion, saying it is all part of the process.
“I got cramps and couldn’t feel anything but pain. However, all of this is just part of the sport and is not something to be complained about. It is a process,” he said.
Rohit Singh impressed the national coaching staff with his speed and temperament, but glory, fame and accolades were never on the 20-year-old's mind during his formative years. He arrived at an akhada near IIM Rohtak as an 11-year-old to cook roti and sabzi for his brother. He also helped his father rear cattle.
“I was happy doing that. But then my brother suffered an injury. I saw him and it was quite clear that he would not be able to wrestle again,” said Rohit Singh.
For a family of nine – Rohit Singh is sixth of seven brothers – the income from farming and herding cattle was not enough to run the house.
“I had to do it to support my family,” he revealed.
His father, Dalel Singh, however, never forced Rohit to take up wrestling but was certain that none of his sons would follow in his footsteps. After receiving advice from a neighborhood wrestler, Bholu Pehelwan, he put all his sons into wrestling.
While Rohit continues to wrestle, his brothers have taken up jobs:
“They have left wrestling now and have taken up jobs. I am the one left in the family who is still in the sport.”
For Rohit Singh, success came relatively easier. His Indian Navy coach Kuldeep Singh describes him as an attacking wrestler with natural speed that helps him in launching ground attacks.
“He is very good with speed and technique which are essential to be a good freestyle wrestler. He still needs to work on his timings though, once he can learn it,” says Kuldeep Singh.
He became cadet national champion before bagging the junior crown and ultimately the senior title.
Rohit Singh opens up race for future in Bajrang Punia’s category
The two have met once at Haryana’s famous Rs 1 Crore dangal “Bharat Kesari" in 2019. He lost 16-6 but learnt a very important lesson.
“It was a very good bout. Of course, Bajrang pahelwan is a very big wrestler but the experience was very good. I was very nervous before the bout but after that he was very humble. He told me that I have a long way to go, so the result should not impact me,” revealed Rohit Singh.
In Bajrang Punia’s injury-driven absence, which forced him to skip the nationals, Rohit has emerged as the top wrestler. He has returned directly to his akhada to begin preparing for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games scheduled for next year.
“I know, I still have a long way to go. I have some experience at the senior world championships in Oslo and will build on it. I do plan to compete in 65kg for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. But it is one step at the time,” Rohit Singh signed off.