In the closed bid process, the six franchises for the Pro Wrestling League Season 2, picked their wrestlers to complete their teams for the 2017 competition. Auctioneer Bob Hayton led the proceedings. Despite demonetization, the franchise owners of PWL splurged their wallets to own the desired wrestlers.
With an eye on solidity and consistency over flashier purchases, the six franchises: Mumbai, Delhi, Punjab, Jaipur, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, bid cautiously and sensibly to ensure they had competitive squads going into the second season.
According to the rules all teams operated with a Rs 2 crore cap on the purse to form a 9-member squad that should have five men and four women, five Indian and four international wrestlers.
Rio Olympics gold medalist Vladimer Khinchegashvili, bought by Punjab franchise, was the top-buy at a price tag of Rs 48 lakh. The Georgian grappler bettered his 2012 Olympics silver medal at Rio in the 55-60 kg category. Delhi franchise splurged Rs 47 lakh for Mariya Stadnik making her the most expensive women wrestler at the auction today. The 48 kg wrestler won the silver in 2016 and 2012 Olympics with a bronze in 2008 edition.
Bajrang Punia was the most expensive Indian wrestler signed up by Delhi for Rs 38 Lakh. Joining him in Delhi is Sakshi Malik, the Indian grappler, who won bronze at Rio Olympics, fetched Rs 30 lakh. But Ritu Phogat, 2016 Commonwealth Championship gold medalist became the most expensive Indian women wrestler at Rs 36 lakh after being signed by new entrants Jaipur.
Joining Sakshi in Delhi will be her fiancé Satyavart Kadian (97 kg) while the Phogat sisters Babita and Geeta will represent the Uttar Pradesh franchise.
Among other top buys, 2016 world champion Magomed Kurbanaliev from Russia was bought by Haryana franchise, to become the second most expensive men’s wrestler at Rs 47 lakh. Mumbai snapped 2016 gold medalist (75 kg) Erica Wiebe for Rs 43 lakh making her the second most expensive women wrestler followed by three-time world champion Sofia Mattsson from Sweden who was signed by Haryana at Rs 41.50 lakh.
Other notable buys included Nigerian woman wrestler Odunayo Adekuoroye who was bought by Punjab for Rs 32 lakh. Mumbai also splurged Rs 43 lakhs to rope in Jabrayil Hasanov in men’s 74 kg category. The Georgian had won bronze at 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was impressed with the way teams went about buying wrestlers. “Season two auctions have been really balanced and the team owners bid very strategically. It’s exciting to see how juniors emerged as dark horses. I am confident of an action packed season 2 seeing the energy and enthusiasm that the team owners have shown.”
Bollywood legend and co-owner of Punjab team Dharmendra was happy with the team’s balance. “We are happy with the kind of wrestlers we got in our kitty. Vladimer continues to be with us from season one and we are happy we could retain him even at a higher price. In totality I feel we have a great team and hopefully we will become Champions this season.”
Sunny Katyal from Investors Clinic, the owners of Uttar Pradesh team said, “It’s an amazing feeling to be part of PWL. We followed the league in the first season and were quite convinced of coming forward this season. I believe we have bought some of the best in business today like Babita and Geeta. We can't wait or the action to begin.”
Goldie Behl, Co-Owner Haryana team said, “We have been part of the first season so I believe we had a more strategic approach rather than playing in the dark this time. The class and spread of the players was also much more so we have more options to choose from.”