UP Dangal rode on a heroic performance from former national champion Nitin to eke out a narrow 4-3 over Punjab Royals in the Pro Wrestling League at the Siri Fort Indoor Stadium in New Delhi on Thursday.
Nitin beat a fighting Utkarsh Kale, the reigning national champion, 8-7 in the decider after the two teams were locked 3-3 after six matches.
Utkarsh, the favourite in the contest, did well to win the opening period 2-0. However, he could not counter Nitin's attack in the final round to lose the crucial bout.
Down 2-3, Punjab's Koumba Selene Fanta Larroque of France showed great character under pressure to clinch a 4-0 victory over Zsanett Nemeth of Hungary in the 76-kg women's category to keep her side alive in the contest.
In the earlier match itself, UP Dangal were in sight of victory after taking a 3-1 lead. But Geno, the 2017 World Champion, dished out a spectacular performance against Azerbaijan's Jamaladdin Magomedov in the 125-kg category to give Royals a new lease of life.
Both the wrestlers were at their defensive best in the opening round, with the Punjab wrestler faring a little better to take a one point lead. In the second period, he scored a three pointer to increase the lead to 4-0. Jamaladdin made a late surge and reduced the gap to one point but Geno hung on and sealed the bout to keep Punjab afloat in the tie.
Earlier in the day, Dangal won the toss and blocked European championships gold medalist Bekbulatov Ilyas of Russia from competing, while Punjab kept World Champion Vanesa Kaladzinskaya of Belarus out of action.
Captain Vinesh Phogat entered the fray with a handy 2-1 lead in the tie. She showed great character to register a convincing 16-0 victory through technical superiority over Nirmala Devi in the 50-kg competition.
Punjab suffered another setback when an unfortunate injury saw Mausam Khatri retire mid-way and concede the bout against Vicky, even though he was leading 4-2 in the 92 kg category.
Geeta Phogat loses
The Royals pulled it back in the next bout after Latvia's Grigorjeva Anastasija beat the local favourite Geeta Phogat in the 62-kg women's competition. The World championship bronze medalist was in a punishing mood right from the word go. She sized Geeta up from the initial stages of the contest and took a 10-2 lead in the opening period.
After the breather, Geeta tried to attack but could not cause any major damage a Grigorjeva further built on her lead to win the duel.
In the opening bout of the day, 2017 Asian Championships gold medalist Abdurakhmonov Bekzod of Uzbekistan got UP Dangal off to a great start beating Jitender 9-0 by pinfall in the 74 kg category to help his team log first point of the day.
Bekzod who came into the bout as a strong favourites live up to his top billing and took a five point lead in the opening round. He maintained his dominance in the second round as well and sealed the contest by pinning Jitender to the mat.
UP Dangal beat Punjab Royals - (4-3)
Abdurakhmonov Bekzod beat Jitender – (9-0)
Geeta Phogat lost to Grigorjeva Anastasija - (2-14)
Vicky beat Mausam Khatri – (4-2) (Retd. hurt)
Vinesh Phogat beat Nirmala Devi - (16-0)
Jamaladdin Magomedov lost to Geno Petriashvili – (3-4)
Zsanett Nemeth lost to Koumba Selene Fanta Larroque – (4-0)
Nitin beat Utkarsh Kale - (8-7)