Gurgaon: It was a case of so near yet so far for Bengaluru Yodhas as they slipped to a narrow 4-3 defeat against the Haryana Hammers in the Pro Wrestling League on Wednesday night at the Hyatt Regency in Gurgaon. The Yodhas mounted a resilient fightback, the highlight being Yuliya Ratkevich's crushing victory over Oksana Herhel, but were hamstrung by the lack of potency in their lower weight categories and an alarming propensity to drop points in the dying stages of bouts.
Earlier, Haryana Hammers icon player Yogeshwar Dutt won the toss and blocked the Yodhas' 48 kg category, putting Alyssa Lampe out of action. In reply, Bengaluru Yodhas captain Narsingh Yadav who only had the 125 kg category to block, put Davit Modzmanashvili on the sidelines.
The tie opened with Haryana's Nitin Rathi facing Yodhas' Sandeep Tomar in the 57 kg category. Rathi who was a late replacement for the injured Amit Dahiya, trailed by a point at the end of the first period. However, in a surprising reverse, a big take-down saw Sandeep conceding four points before a couple of thigh-holds took Rathi's lead to 9-1. With just 90 seconds left to play, Sandeep attempted to orchestrate a comeback, almost succeeding. He made up seven points, harrying Rathi with his speed and movement, but eventually ran out of time, giving Rathi the win.
Lalita Sherawat attempted to bring the Yodhas back into the contest as she faced Ukraine's Tatyana Kit. However, the 2015 World Championship bronze medallist proved too strong for her, pinning her in the first round to record a 6-0 win.
With the Yodhas trailing 2-0, Pavlo Oliiynik gave them a great chance of storming right back into the tie. The 26-year-old Ukrainian, took apart Yuri Maier of Argentina in the 97 kg category. Oliiynik required just two minutes and 43 seconds to send Maier packing, logging a 10-0 victory and stamping his superiority in convincing fashion. Navjot Kaur then almost pulled the Yodhas back on level terms but for a heartbreaking last five seconds of her bout against Geetika Jakhar. Leading 3-1 with just 15 seconds to go, Geetika somehow found a way past Navjot's defence, taking her down quickly and pinching two points. The bout finished with the scores tied at 3-3 but was awarded to Jakhar on the basis of the Haryana wrestler having picked up the last two points.
The Hammers then sealed the tie in the next bout as Yogeshwar Dutt sneaked through against Bajrang courtesy of two late points, winning the bout 3-2 after Bajrang had been leading with just 20 seconds to go.
The last two bouts of the evening though gave a clear indication of the kind of firepower that rests in the Yodhas' arsenal. Yuliya Ratkevich, the 30-year-old Olympic bronze medallist gave Oksana Herhel, the most expensive player in the Pro Wrestling League, absolutely no quarter as she thrashed her 11-0, ending the contest with a full two minutes to spare. In the very next bout, icon player Narsingh Yadav showed his resilience and awareness as he beautifully controlled the 74-kg bout against Cuba's Livan Lopez Azcuy. Interestingly, the Cuban fought back in encouraging fashion, taking a 5-4 lead with a mere seven seconds left to play. Narsingh though stepped it up when it mattered the most, first pulling of a textbook reversal before capping it off with a barrel role, earning 4 points and victory over the Cuban.
With this result, it is imperative that the Yodhas win their last two matches to seal a spot in the semi-finals of the Pro Wrestling League. Bengaluru Yodhas will now face Punjab Royals on the 20th of December in Noida.