Indian wrestling is well and truly on an all-time high as the country, in what turned out to be a double delight, on Friday earned a maiden World Cup berth on the back of its best-ever sixth-place finish in men's free-style at the World Championships in Budapest.
India finished the tournament in the men's freestyle category with 23 points, which has catapulted the country to sixth in rankings behind Iran, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and USA.
As per the FILA rules, the top eight teams in the World Championship automatically qualify for the World Cup and Amit Kumar Dahiya's silver medal in the 55kg and Bajrang's bronze in the 60kg freestyle category ensured India its maiden World Cup appearance next year.
The freestyle wrestlers produced India's best-ever show at the World Championship in a span of two days.
The news couldn't have come at an opportune time for the Indian wrestling community as the sport battled successfully to regain its place on the Olympic Games roster following its controversial axing in February by the IOC.
The news of India's World Cup qualification is music to the ears for two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt.
"It's raining good news for India as after wrestling's re-inclusion in the Olympic movement, our wards performed extremely well in the World Championship. Their efforts paid rich dividends as now India's sixth rank has led to our World Cup qualification for the first time in the history of the men's senior wrestling," chief coach Vinod Kumar said.
"The World Championship acts as a qualifying event for the World Cup. In the next year's World Cup, free-style wrestlers will be spearheading the country's challenge while the fate of greco-roman and women's wrestlers will be decided after the championship," he said.
Prior to this, India's best-ever finish in the World Championship in the men's category came in the year 2009 when it finished 10th, while year 2010 and 2011 saw them finish 13th and a lowly 31st respectively.
"Last year, the World Championship in the men's category did not take place as it happened to be an Olympic year while the championship in the women's category happened in September after the London Games," he said.
The Indian women wrestlers had qualified for the World Cup for the first time this year where they finished fifth in the eight-team event held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia from March 1-3.
But the honour of representing the country in the World Cup always eluded the senior men's wrestlers including the likes of Olympic medallists Sushil and Yogeshwar.
Vinod, who has been with the team since 2007 and played an important role in India reaching the pinnacle of the sport, also informed that India accumulated nine points from 55kg (Amit Kumar), eight points from 60kg (Bajrang) and six points from 74kg (Narsingh) to arrive at a grand total of 23 points from the World Championship and finish sixth ahead of much-higher ranked nations.
"Our wrestling is on the ascendancy and it has been proved by our wrestlers," he said.
Image: Amit Kumar
Photograph: Grigory Dukor/Reuters