Aware outclassed American Tyler Lee Graff 11-4 in the 61kg bronze play-off to take India’s tally to five medals, its best-ever at the Worlds. India’s previous best was in 2013, when the country had three in its kitty courtesy Amir Dahiya (silver), Bajrang Punia (bronze) and Sandeep Tulsi Yadav (bronze in Greco-Roman).
Aware was in complete control of the bout and jumped in joy at the end, having won the biggest medal of his career. The Maharashtra grappler had clinched gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and two bronze at the Asian Championships (2009, 2011). The moment the bout started, the American surprised Aware with a double leg attack.
He then earned two points with a takedown. However, Aware became alert and twice wriggled out of Graff’s single leg attacks. He also scored consecutive takedown points to lead 4-2 at the break. In the second period too, Graff got hold of Aware’s right leg but the Indian got himself out of trouble in an impressive manner.
He then pulled the bout away from the American with a flurry of moves – the takedowns and expose – to take a commanding 10-2 lead. It consolidated further when the American lost a challenge. Eventually, Aware won 11-4. The Indian had lost his semi-final bout 6-10 to Beka Lomtadze.
The morning of the final day of the championships brought with it the news that Deepak will not be able to compete in the final against Iranian great Hazsan Yazdani due to an ankle injury, which he sustained during his semi-final duel.
“The left foot is not taking the load. It’s difficult to fight in this condition and I could have aggravated the injury. I know it was a big chance to fight against Yazdani, but I can’t help it,” said Deepak. He had come out of the mat limping and his right eye was swollen after his semi-final bout against Switzerland’s Stefan Reichmuth.
It was a good draw for Deepak and he exploited it well. He became only the fifth Indian ever to reach the World Championship summit clash after Bishamber Singh (1967), Sushil Kumar (2010), Amit (2013) and Bajrang (2018). Only last year, he had won the Junior World Championships. Sushil remains India’s only world champion. He had won a gold in 2010 in Moscow.