Wrestler Bajrang Punia secures semifinal spot with stunning win over Iranian (Ld)


Top Indian grappler Bajrang Punia defeated Iran’s Morteza Ghiasi by fall in the quarterfinal of the Tokyo Olympic Games men’s 65kg event to secure a last-four berth at the Makuhari Messe Hall on Friday.

Punia will be up against Azerbaijan’s Haji Aliyev — the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist in 57kg and a three-time world champion in 61kg — in the semifinal. Aliyev defeated Daulet Niyazkebov of Kazakhstan to enter the last-four.

Earlier on Friday, Punia had survived a scare to overcome Kyrgyzstan’s Ernazar Akmataliev in the opening Round-of-16 bout to set up a quarterfinal clash against Ghiasi.

Punia, 27, who is making his Olympic debut, earned his first point after a passivity penalty on his Kyrgyzstan opponent, Akmataliev.

Akmataliev levelled the score with a push-out but in the final moments of the first period, Punia surged ahead 3-1 with a takedown.

Early in the second period, Punia looked the more aggressive of the two grapplers but Akmataliev held his ground with a tight defence.

Towards the end, though, the Kyrgyzstan wrestler made his move and scored back-to-back pushouts to level the score at 3-3. Punia defended with all his might in the final seconds of the bout to not concede a point.

Despite the score being level at the end of the contest, Punia took the win since he had scored the highest-scoring move in the match — the two-point takedown in the first period.