UP Dangal rode on a heroic performance from former national champion Nitin to eke out a narrow 4-3 win over Punjab Royals in the Pro Wrestling League 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 following 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 score 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.
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 Phoghat 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.
The Royals pulled it back in the next bout after Latvia's Grigorjeva Anastasija beat the local favourite Geeta Phoghat 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 as Grigorjeva further built on her lead.
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.