Ahead of Tokyo, coach Bentinidis wants Bajrang Punia to build mental strength

Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia has been sharpening his skills at the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club in the USA since December.

By Naveen Peter ·

Busy preparing for the Tokyo Olympics later this year, India’s ace wrestler Bajrang Punia is working on strengthening his mental as well as physical capabilities.

Speaking to Wrestling.TV, Punia’s personal coach Emzarios ‘Shako’ Bentinidis said that the focus was perfecting the process in these early months.

The three-time world championships medallist, Bajrang Punia, will begin his Olympic year with the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series in March.

Having stayed away from competitive action since the Asian wrestling championships Bajrang needs to be strong mentally and focus on the process rather than the result, according to Bentinidis.

“I am working on increasing Bajrang’s focus on the mat. I ensure he does not lose his concentration when he fights,” the Georgian coach said, adding: “But when he does, I stop him immediately, fix the problem and make him work all over again from zero. Until he fixes it, we continue the same drill repeatedly.”

Known as the ‘Tank’ in the wrestling circles for his undying stamina, Bajrang Punia often banks on his biggest asset to pocket wins from adverse positions. 

Though the strategy has worked wonders for the Indian ace, Emzarios Bentinidis is also working on adding a Plan B to Bajrang Punia’s kitty.

“He has greatly improved the technical aspects, now it is necessary to add functionality to it,” the 45-year-old Bentinidis said. 

“We are adding new techniques. We have been working on this for a long time and have begun to work well for defence as well,” added the coach.

The Indian wrestler has been working with Shako Bentinidis at Cliff Keen Wrestling Club in Michigan, the USA, since December 4. 

Though Bajrang was scheduled to return home in January, the grappler extended his stay following the sports ministry’s approval a few weeks ago.

Bajrang Punia, who missed the Individual World Cup last month, returned to the mat at an invitational eight-man event to beat two-time world championships medallist James Green to win the Flowrestling title in Austin, Texas.

The win, however, was followed by a loss to America’s Olympic hopeful Zain Retherford in another one-off bout. Punia could compete in another invitational event on January 22 before heading home in February.