New Delhi: Having enjoyed a a winning start to their campaign in the inaugural edition of the Pro Wrestling League (PWL), Haryana Hammers’ captain and icon player Yogeshwar Dutt wants his team to produce a similar performance in their encounter against Bengaluru Yodhas in Gurgaon on Wednesday.
Haryana defeated Dilli Veers 5-2 in the first match of their campaign at the KD Jhadhav Wrestling Stadium here. Boasting one of the strongest squads in the tournament, the victory underlined the Hammers’ status as one of the favourites for the title.
“We want to defeat Bengaluru and get closer to the semi-finals. Bengaluru is a strong team. They have several strong wrestlers including several Olympics medallists. Bajrang (Punia) is also a part of their squad. They are no pushovers. But I am confident that we will be able to beat them,” Yogeshwar told IANS on Tuesday.
“All our wrestlers did very well in the first match. I am happy with my own performance as well. I defeated the silver medallist from this year’s World Championships. It was a tough bout and winning it gave me a lot of satisfaction. I want all our wrestlers to continue this form against Bengaluru as well,’ he added.
Bengaluru were billed as one of the strong contenders ahead of the PWL. They seemed to do justice to that tag when they started their PWL journey with a comprehensive 6-1 win over Uttar Pradesh Warriors (UPW). But they were brought crashing down to earth in their second match by Mumbai Garudas on Monday.
Yogeshwar however, insisted that Monday’s setback has not dented Bengaluru’s status as a strong challenger for the title.
“Bengaluru are a very good team. They just had an off day. Luck also did not favour some of their wrestlers. There are a lot of matches left and the competition will see a lot of ups and downs,” he asserted.
“I think Bengaluru and Haryana will face each other in the final.”
The contest against Dilli Veers marked Yogeshwar’s return to competitive wrestling after being sidelined for around a year with a chronic knee injury. Up against a tough challenger in 2015 World Championships silver medallist Navruzov Ikhtiyor of Uzbekistan, the star grappler seemed to struggle with his fitness in the second round, but still managed to win his bout 3-1.
But the 33-year-old dismissed concerns over his fitness.
“I am coming out of an injury. I have the dual task of trying to win my bouts and preventing a fresh injury at the same time. I have planned out my strategy accordingly and I will fight all my bouts accordingly,” Yogeshwar said.
“My injury has healed and the knee is okay now. I have already won a bout against a tough opponent and I am happy with how my knee responded. It will not affect my performance on Wednesday,” he added.
“Right now, I am focussing on gradually regaining my fitness and get into form in time for the Olympic qualifiers.”
On Wednesday, the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist will face another strong grappler in his protege Bajrang Punia.
A medallist at the 2013 World Championships, Bajrang was in impressive form in his bout against former Asian champion Amit Dhankar on Monday.
“Bajrang has been with me since he was a child. He is like a younger brother for me. We know each other’s game extremely well. My bout against him will be a tough one. We will both give our best. It will be an exciting contest,” Yogeshwar said.
“We are training with each other since 2008. It will be an emotional moment for both of us. It will be difficult to fight him. But we will have to control our emotions and come up with a professional performance.”