India’s gift to New Zealand wrestling
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.
Akash Khullar hopes to represent New Zealand at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.