Tokyo: In the 65kg men’s freestyle semifinal, India’s Bajrang Punia defeated Iran’s Morteza Ghiasi by fall. Ghiasi was leading 0-1 throughout the bout, but Bajrang managed to pin him in the second period and win the match. In the semi-finals, Bajrang will face Rio 2016 bronze medalist Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan.
Kazakhstan’s Ernazar Akmataliev had earlier beaten him by criteria in the pre-quarterfinals. In the first period of his first round fight, Bajrang raced to a 3-1 lead. In the second period, Akmataliev, however, came back by pushing Bajrang out of bounds twice. In the end, however, Bajrang managed to defend the last eight seconds successfully, thus taking the bout on criteria with a score of 3-3.
At the Tokyo Games, Bajrang is one of India’s most likely medal contenders. After winning gold at the 2018 Asian Games, he went on to win silver at the 2019 World Championships. The latter result boosted his chances of qualifying for Tokyo 2020.