CWG wrestling: After anxious moments off the mat to ‘make weight’, Ravi Dahiya shows swagger on it to win gold

“I am my favourite. I am,” Ravi Dahiya would say in an Insta video recorded by United World Wrestling, on the morning of his Commonwealth Games final where he brought India’s 4th of 6 wrestling gold at Coventry.

It was unintentional swag, it was authentic though. “Arre, I couldn’t think of anyone. They asked, so I answered,” he would say later, even as American Jordan Burroughs topped the tally. Not for India’s silver medallist from Tokyo, and the most watchable grappler since Sushil Kumar.

On the mat, he picked eight points from the snaking phitle, and then finished a technical superiority reaching 10 points a few seconds later, all achieved without much fuss.

It was in the morning though – when not under the spotlight, where he sauntered in and swagged out, and stood with his hand on hips, waiting for the world to settle into an applauding chorus – that Ravi had faced his toughest test: making weight.

He had clearly not been eating much the last few days. To top that, he spent three hours in the morning spilling sweat and getting cranky to come within 100 gm of his required weight. “That is the worst part of these smaller categories. But you have to do it for the country. What to do?” he would say.

Ravi is known to spend three hours at Chhatrasal, prepping for each six-minute fight, where sparring opponents who don’t accord him undue respect, are let loose on him one after the other, as a progressively tiring fighter takes on the fresh challengers. He runs at 4 am, and allows Holi, Diwali and other festivals to drift past year after year. “I’m still in wrestling. I don’t like thinking of anything else,” he says, seeing no need to unwind.

The cardio strength and stamina he’s known for are entirely built on the mat. “No gym. If I have to fight on the mat, I should build strength on the mat,” he says.

His relatively tall stature at 57 kg – teeming with smaller wrestlers – means his hand reach when he swoops them for leg holds is a tremendous sight to watch. When Ravi’s hands flap out, the opponent is about to be baited and turn to a kill. It opens him up for the hulking, bending opponent going for his leg though. “Yes, I’m not known for my defense, really. I’m an attacking wrestler, I don’t believe in defense much.”
He’s grateful for the love and blessings of people. But such is the self-assurance of this man, he’ll win even otherwise.

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