By Deepak Ansuia Prasad
Wrestlers from every state in India gathered in Tamil Nadu earlier this month for the Sub Junior National Wrestling Championship, hosted by the Tamil Nadu State Amateur Wrestling Association.
The weather in Tamil Nadu was hot and humid, but there was the occasional sea breeze to cool things down a little.
It was a long trip for some of the wrestlers, many of whom arrived a couple of days early just in case there were delays with the trains. Some of them stayed in hotels, but those who couldn’t afford the extra nights’ accommodation just stayed in the waiting room of the train station. Some of the wrestlers from Northern India were surprised to be served meat and fish, which they normally don’t eat. But the diet in the South is different. It didn’t matter. Everyone found something to eat. And inconveniences like these are nothing to wrestlers. They are tough and disciplined and can handle any situation.
My friend Coach Tony from Guru Shyam Lal Akhara brought one of his star wrestlers, Jeetu Pahalwan, to compete. Jeetu’s first match was against a wrestler from Bihar named Krishna. Jeetu scored a quick victory, pinning his opponent and that raised his hopes of winning a medal. But he was up against the best wrestlers in the country, so it wasn’t going to be easy. In the quarter finals he faced a Delhi wrestler, Anil of the famous Guru Hanuman Akhara. It was a tough match. Jeetu lost the first round 2-1 and the second he lost 3-1. For Jeetu, the loss was disappointing to say the least and Coach Tony consoled him. He still had a chance to win a medal, even if it wasn’t gold.
Anil went on to defeat a wrestler from Haryana named Suraj on points, 5-0, and then he pinned a wrestler from Karnataka, earning him the gold medal.
Jeetu also wrestled Suraj, who he beat 6-0, and the Karnataka wrestler, who he pinned. That secured Jeetu the bronze medal.
In the end, Haryana wrestlers won the most medals, followed by Punjab, Delhi and Maharashtra. But Delhi received the overall championship title, which means that they can enter two wrestlers into all the weight categories in the next competition.
After the tournament, the wrestlers went to the shores of Kanyakumari to enjoy the ocean and relax.
Jeetu may have been disappointed not to have won the gold, but his home village of Ghitorni had nothing by pride for their favorite son. He was welcomed back like a hero as the whole village turned out, placing garlands around his neck and giving him blessings.
A procession was organized and they stopped by every house in the village so people could congratulate him on his performance. A few wealthy well-wishers gave some money to this son of a poor farmer who brought honor to their village.
Mastarm Lohia ji, presented Rs. 51000/- cash, while others gave as much as they could, like Rs. 1100/-, 500/-, 100/- 50/- even 10/-. Coach Tony, who played a major part in training Jeetu, was also honored with cash prizes. It all brought back memories of the celebrations held for his grandfather Guru Shaymlal, a great wrestler, who lives on in the hearts of the villagers.
Wrestling has brought such joy to the people of this village. And I hope by watching this, many more children will certainly come forward and take up the sport.
More photos at: https://picasaweb.google.com/kushtiwrestling