Gerco Roman’s desperate search for big medal

Jakarta, Aug 19 (PTI) Battling an identity crisis in India, the Greco Roman style of wrestling has taken a few steps in improving its image but desperately seeks a big medal for a complete make-over.

The practitioners and coaches of the Greco Roman style, which forbids holds below the waist, do feel they are an ignored lot as freestyle wrestlers hog all the limelight.

Sushil Kumar’s bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics revolutionised the sport in India, taking freestyle popularity to a new high.

“The trend is changing now because even if there is a switch, it is happening at a young age. Earlier, the wrestler would switch (from GR to FS) after 18, 20 years of age but now it has started happening from the age of 14, 15,” India’s National Greco Roman coach Kudeep Singh told PTI.

“Earlier, if 100 people were picking wrestling as their sport, 95 would opt for freestyle. But now the game is being promoted at school and university level, so the change has picked up pace. It’s real effect will be known in next four to five years and Greco Roam style will match the popularity of Free Style,” Singh added.

Singh conceded that Greco Roman wrestlers feel like poor cousins of their freestyle counterparts.

“Yes, that feeling is there. Freestyle wrestlers get more attention of the media and the fans but the WFI is taking good care of the Greco Roman athletes and keeps motivating them and us the coaches.

“And it is only in India. In European countries, Greco Roman is more popular. It depends on the country’s culture. We have dangals and freestyle from the ancient times.”

Harpreet Singh, who hails from Sangrur District and trains in Faridkot in Punjab, is being tipped as the wrestler who can effect a change by delivering a big medal.

And he has the opportunity now as he is set to compete in the 87kg category at the Asian Games.

“It really feels bad. In Pro League, there is no Greco style. Then there are Dangals in our country but they do not have Greco, we feel bad. If there are medals at the Asian Games, Olympics, it will change the face of Greco Roman in India. I feel I can do it,” said the soft-spoken Harpreet.

He switched from Freestyle to Greco a decade back and says it was because he got immediate results and also that his body is more suited to Greco Roman, which requires immense strength in the upper body.

“The last time (Incheon Games) I was close to a medal but committed some mistakes. I was more aggressive in the first round and lost stamina. So, the opponent took advantage in second round. This time I will be careful,” he said.

Kuldeep Singh, who is also the coach of freestyle wrestler Sandeep Tomar, said the change has begun but needs a push.

“There are a lot of coaches now of this style but the number is still less. Now, almost at every wrestling training centre, Greco Roman style is taught, though quantity may be different. If there are 80 freestyle coaches in four districts, Greco would be 10. Navy and Services also have Greco Roman.

“If one of our Greco Roman wreslter achieves the similar feat, it will make a huge difference. Harpreet, Gurpreet and Hardeep, who competed in Olympics, are there who have it in them to do it.”

Singh said it’s a task to keep Greco Roman wrestlers motivated and that’s why motivational lectures are a must at training sessions.

Freestyle wrestling is liked by spectators because it allows grapplers to be more attacking by using both arms and legs, while Greco Roman wrestlers use only upper body.

“Free style is dynamic, Greco needs lot of strength, endurance. Now that kids are taking it up from base level, it will look attract when they will compete.