Punjab Royals defend PWL championship as Pooja upsets Helen again

New Delhi, January 26: India’s Pooja Dhanda stunned World and Olympic Champion Helen Maroulis to set up Punjab Royals’ second straight title triumph in the Pro Wrestling League here on Friday.

The 2013 and2017 Commonwealth champion, Pooja, who had beaten Helen in the league stagetoo, repeated her feat in the sixth bout of the day that sealed HaryanaHammers’ fate. 

WorldChampionship gold medallist Zurabi Iakobishvili showed his class in the nextclash, to win 4-0 and clinch the championship for Punjab Royals 5-2 in front ofa packed house.

 Earlier,Anastasija Grigorjeva and Koumba Laroque had won two fights for the Royalswhile Vladimir Khinchegashvili and Khetik Tsabolov the other two for theHammers to lock the nine-bout tie at 2-2 after four clashes. Geno Petriashvilimade it 3-2 in the superheavy weight clash, allowing Pooja and Zurabi 

“This is thebest gift I could give to my country on Republic Day,” Pooja said, shortlyafter her sensational victory. “Saare jahan se acha Hindustan hamaara,” sheadded. 

Reigning Olympicchampion Vladimir got the Hammers off to a winning start, scoring acomprehensive 4-0 victory over India’s Naveen Kumar in the 57-kg competition. 

Georgia’sVladimir lived up to his reputation, dominating the opening period and racingto a healthy 4-0 lead straightaway. After the breather, he used all his skillsand strength to ward off the Indian and comfortably defend his lead to put histeam ahead in the nine-bout duel. 

The Royalsdrew level in the second bout, through 2017 World Championship bronze medalistAnastasija Grigorjeva. In an intense fight, she steamrolled India’s Sarita Mor7-2 in the 62-kg women’s contest. 

Anastasijatook an early 1-0 lead but Sarita jumped ahead to 2-1 with a smart move. ButAnastasija fought back to make it 2-2 by the break. She was on song thereafter,taking a 5-2 lead and wrapping up the bout 7-2. 

The Hammers’slipped into a 2-1 lead, with Khetik Tsabolov, the 2017 World Championshiprunner-up, taking down India’s Jitender Kinha 15-0 by technical superiority inthe 74-kg competition. 

In theopening period, Khetik spent majority of the opening period getting a measureof Jitender and taking a slender 2-0 lead. In the second round, the Russian wasat his ruthless best, blitzing his way to victory without breaking into sweat. 

France’sKoumba then beat Pooja Sihag 7-0 to level the tie. 

In the battleof super heavyweights, Punjab’s icon player Geno Petriashvili wrestled withélan to send his side 3-2 up. The World Champion started off slowly but soongot into his groove to thrash India’s Sumit Malik 15-0. 

Geno cruisedto a 11-0 lead in the opening round and comfortably won the bout. He hasremained unbeaten through the entire league. 

In themost-awaited clash, Pooja began on the back foot, losing the initial point tofavourite Helen. She didn’t give up the fight though, giving it her all to takea slender 2-1 lead. 

The dyingmoments proved to be nerve-wracking 

 Dhandacontinued her glorious run in the tournament after she beat current World andOlympic champion Helen Maroulis 3-2 in a thrilling encounter. The US wrestlerbegan well leading 1-0 in the opening period. 

She defendedwell in the second period and it looked like she would avenge her loss but theIndian showed great resiliency to win the humdinger of a clash.

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