Move over Haryana. Parts of Western Uttar Pradesh have now become the new wrestling hub of India. Several villages in Ghaziabad district that have begun to produce national-level wrestlers. Lovers of the sport claim that the region is fast catching up on the wrestling scene and young boys from various parts of the state are getting attracted to the game. Remarkably, a village namely Shahpur Bamheta in Ghaziabad district, possessing four wrestling centres, has produced two national-level wrestlers and dozens of state champions in barely two to three months. The success of these centres have not only attracted aspirants from various parts of Western UP but also scores of young boys from Haryana.
Although the region has no rich history of wrestling, the past one year has witnessed a sudden rise in the number of participants, especially from the Yadav community. Members from the community, considered to be physically strong, have left no stone unturned to facilitate the wrestling scene.
Recognising the potential of these young aspirants, a few international-level athletes have come forward to extend their support. Such acclaimed wrestlers are involved in guiding young athletes, without taking a single penny for their efforts. The government, however, is ignorant about the upcoming talent from this region. Such indifference, however, has hardly affected spirit of the sport in these parts.
While visiting one such wrestling centre, called the Sanjay Gurukul Akhara, which was started about a year back in Shahpur Bahmeta village, we witnessed intense preparations, as well as unbridled dedication to the sport. As many as 30 aspirants between the age of 13 and 18 years are being trained at this wrestling centre. The centre remains functional throughout the day and wrestlers are trained without incurring any expenses. Talking about the achievements of the wrestlers, Satpal Yadav, an international wrestler and care taker of the centre, says that they have produced two national level athletes, namely Shankar and Kapil Yadav, besides over half a dozen state champions.
He claims that these wrestlers have not won medals at events conducted in the state but have received success in Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Uttrakhand. ‘In a span of one year, we have achieved a lot. Our wrestlers have been recognised on the national level and hopefully we will do better in coming days,’ said Yadav.
Talking about the infrastructure at his centre, Yadav claims to have set up world class facilities, which only a few centres in Haryana possess. From the mat to the wrestling hall, every thing has been arranged like a standard wrestling centre, he said. ‘Till now we have spent around Rs 50 lakh. An additional Rs 50 lakh is being spent to construct a hall, which will attract young people in droves. Although we have no major source of funds, we are doing our bit to develop a sound infrastructure.
Since we are providing free training, we have struggled monetarily. Conditions will improve when our wrestlers will bag medals at national and international events,’ he added.
Another wrestling centre, which has drawn close attention, is the Baba Shjantinath Akhara. It’s been two years since the centre was set up. The centre has produced two wrestlers, who have recently been selected among probables of Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. UP state wrestling champion Vijaypal Yadav, who trains the wrestlers here, informed that recently two wrestlers finished in runner-up positions in the national championship. Subsequently, they were sent to the national camp by the government. These two were also receiving training in the United States, to prepare for the next Olympic games. ‘Both players, who are national champions in junior category, won silver and bronze in 86 and 66 kg category last week. The players were not just recognised by the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) but were selected for the mega event,’ said Vijaypal, adding that both akharas are doing well and hopefully both will appear on the world wrestling map very soon.
However, the GDA and other local bodies have also been running wrestling centres, which has increased the popularity of the sport. Wrestling aficionados claim that the game has become so popular among the youth of West UP, that they are being enrolled from almost all districts. ‘Earlier, there was no infrastructure for this game in the region. However, after opening one akahara a couple of years back, the level of competition has begun to grow. Now over a hundred young athletes are receiving training in the district, which is highly appreciable,’ said Vijaypal.