In­dia’s gift to New Zealand wrestling

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - CHELSEA MCLAUGH­LIN

New Zealand wrestling could soon have a new in­ter­na­tional star thanks to a com­mit­ment from Tawa Tigers Wrestling Club head coach Scott Lau­ren­son.

In­dian Akash Khullar is near­ing the end of his im­mi­gra­tion process, which has been spon­sored by the club.

The 25-year-old came to New Zealand in 2012 to study in­ter­na­tional sports stud­ies, re­turned to In­dia, then came back in 2014. He wants to con­tinue to in­crease the pro­file of wrestling in his adopted country.

The 74kg com­peti­tor was orig­i­nally a com­pet­i­tive swim­mer, but wrestling was a more pop­u­lar sport in In­dia. He took it up be­cause of the in­flu­ence of his older brother, now an In­dian cham­pion.

Khullar has al­ready com­peted in­ter­na­tion­ally for In­dia and hopes to be able to do so for New Zealand.

Lau­ren­son, who was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing Khullar with im­mi­gra­tion, said it was worth in­vest­ing time in him.

‘‘He’s such a terrific wrestler. In In­dia he was right up there,’’ Lau­ren­son said.

Khullar com­fort­ably won gold at last year’s New Zealand cham­pi­onships and was judged to be the most sci­en­tific wrestler in the country.

‘‘When we took him to the na­tion­als last year he just cleaned every­body up,’’ Lau­ren­son said.

Khullar said he was aim­ing to rep­re­sent New Zealand at the 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games.

‘‘I have to first get a medal in na­tion­als next year and then there might be some qual­i­fy­ing rounds, but hope­fully I can do it,’’ he said.

Khullar is based in Palmer­ston North, but trav­els south each week to train and coach the club’s new academy ath­letes.

Lau­ren­son has been work­ing hard to es­tab­lish an academy fo­cused on in­ter­me­di­ate and col­lege-age wrestlers.

‘‘We want them to com­pete at the na­tion­als and then maybe carry on with in­ter­na­tional stuff. That’s what we’re aim­ing for.’’

There had been an in­crease in chil­dren in­ter­ested in the sport, he said.

Khullar said wrestling was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a resur­gence thanks to the pop­u­lar­ity of other com­bat sports such as mixed mar­tial arts. ‘‘Wrestling is the base of mixed mar­tial arts and ju­jutsu, so that’s why wrestling is be­com­ing more fa­mous in New Zealand. It is get­ting re­ally huge,’’ he said.

PHOTO: CHELSEA MCLAUGH­LIN

Akash Khullar hopes to rep­re­sent New Zealand at the 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games.

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