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Pro Wrestling League: Punjab Royals beat Mumbai Maharathi 4-3

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NCR Punjab Royals dictated terms on Day 4 of the second edition of the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) as they beat Mumbai Maharathi 4-3 at the K.D. Jadhav Indoor Stadium in Delhi on Thursday.

Mumbai had an early advantage as they won the toss and decided to block the 53 kg women's category, thus preventing the dangerous Odunayo Folasade Adekuoroye from contesting the tie. Punjab blocked the 74 kg men's category, as Mumbai's Jabrayil Hasanov had to sit out as well.

Star cricketer Harbhajan Singh, co-owner of Mumbai Maharathi, turned up to support his team and added to the excitement in the evening.

The opening bout of the tie was won by NCR Punjab Royals as their captain Vladimir Khinchegashvili used all his experience to overcome a stiff challenge from Mumbai Maharathi's Rahul Aware.

The Maharashtra grappler, who was carrying the burden of expectations after his brilliant victory over Haryana's Sandeep Tomar in the opening PWL game, employed several tactics to score points, but Vladimir, the Rio Olympics gold medallist was the better opponent on the day, winning the bout 7-3.

Mumbai captain and Rio Olympics gold medallist Erica Wiebe drew level with Punjab in the next bout, staging a remarkable comeback to defeat Vasilisa Marzaliuk 4-2.

In a bout that saw both blood and sweat drip, Erica, who got injured in the game, countered Vasilisa's aggression using single leg tackles and effecting crucial takedowns to win the 75 kg women's category bout.

A highly engrossing bout followed this as Indian grapplers Pankaj Rana from Punjab and Pritam from Mumbai fought neck-and-neck in both the rounds of the men's 70kg category.

In the first round, both wrestlers showed tremendous skill and control, even as Pankaj Rana finished on top. The second round saw a flurry of points as a cat-and mouse-game between the two grapplers ensued, even as the spectators were treated to superbly executed takedowns, leg tackles and ankle holds.

Eventually, Pankaj came out on top, winning the fascinating 70 kg men's bout 9-8.

The fourth bout was contested between Punjab's Nirmla Devi and Mumbai's Carolina Castillo Hidalgo in the 48 kg women's category.

The 33-year-old Nirmla, a 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, used all the experience in her arsenal to win the contest 3-0.

Colombia-born Carolina struggled against Nirmla, playing a defensive game and giving away points. By virtue of this win, Punjab went up 3-1 in the tie.

For her brilliance on the mat, Nirmla Devi was adjudged Player of the Day.

Following this, Mumbai Maharathi's Vikas Kumar took on Punjab's Togrul Asgarov in a crucial fifth bout of men's 65 kg category.

Asgarov, who won the gold medal in the London Olympics and silver in Rio proved too good for Vikas as Punjab nailed the bout 7-3 and gained an unsurpassable 4-1 lead in the tie.

Mumbai's Sarita kept fighting to salvage her team's pride, as she won the 58 kg women's category against Punjab's Manju Kumari.

Sarita's cleverly executed manoeuvre won her a crucial couple of points as she banked on tactical defence to keep Manju at bay, winning by a slender 2-1 margin.

The final bout of the day was contested between Punjab's Krishan Kumar and Mumbai's Pavlo Oliynik in the heavyweight 97 kg men's category in which the Ukrainian prevailed 2-0, denying his opponent any chance to score points.

Although Mumbai finished strongly in the tie, they conceded a 3-4 defeat to Punjab at the end of the day.

Speaking after the match, Punjab captain Vladimir said: "I am very happy for the team's victory!"

Nirmla Devi appeared confident after her victory. "I felt very fresh and confident and put in my 100 percent in the match today. Happy with my performance but yes I wasn't able to attack much," she said.

Heavyweight wrestler Krishan Kumar said, "Had full faith in myself. The coach had also said that you just have to focus on winning and that's what I followed."