Star kabaddi player Nitin Tomar feels that his early foray into wrestling helped refine his performance on the kabaddi mat as well.
Nitin Tomar has spent five seasons in vivo Pro Kabaddi and has had stellar outings in 2017 and 2018 when he scored on an average 8.6 points per match over the two seasons.
He is 14th on the all-time top raider list and scores 6.6 points per game. Legendary veteran Anup Kumar scored 5.79 points per match in his career.
The bulky Nitin Tomar’s proficiency in raiding comes from the combination of his agility and brute force. It’s a skill the 25-year-old has learned from wrestling in his younger days in North India.
“Wrestling teaches you to develop quick reflexes, build your upper body to muscle through defenders, and sheer power which helps you to escape in time,” Nitin Tomar explained on Beyond The Mat, vivo Pro Kabaddi’s live chat show on Instagram. “All of this is very useful in kabaddi.”
Nitin Tomar used to wrestle as a child, influenced by his family’s involvement in the sport. His uncle is Rajeev Tomar, an Arjuna Awardee, Olympian and a Commonwealth Games silver medallist for India.
“Everyone in my village was a wrestler and so pehalwans (wrestlers) were everywhere,” Nitin Tomar pointed out. “We didn’t play kabaddi much as kids but we did wrestle a lot.
“My uncle was a wrestler, and my grandfather used to run an akhada (wrestling pit). That’s where I got to wrestle with other kids and hone my wrestling skills.”
The fact that wrestling was easily accessible also played its part.
“Neither wrestling nor kabaddi needs a specific ground or type of equipment,” he added. “All you need to play these sports is some space. There were two or three akhadas in my village which were open to everyone when I was growing up. People could go to play and train and it was by watching the pehalwans there that we picked up the sport.”
Other kabaddi players also started their sporting careers as wrestlers. Star kabaddi all-rounder Manjeet Chhillar revealed on Beyond The Mat that he too was a grappler in his early days.
The overlap in skills in the two sports was also pointed out by India’s ace wrestler and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Geeta Phogat, during an event for Gujarat Fortunegiants in 2017.
“Both (kabaddi and wrestling) involve a lot of body contact and place a lot of value in power,” Geeta Phogat observed. “Wrestling and kabaddi demand quick decision-making from the players in action.
“Just like wrestling, Pro Kabaddi is followed by more people in rural areas since they can relate to the action and appreciate the athleticism and courage,” added the Indian wrestler, who hopes to represent India at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
Many prominent overseas kabaddi players, particularly Iranians, such as Fazel Atrachali, Abozar Mohajermighani, Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh and Meraj Sheykh were also aspiring wrestlers who tussled their way into the world of kabaddi.
Meraj Sheykh, in fact, likens grappling moves in wrestling to tackling in kabaddi, while Abozar Mohajermighani reckons his wrestling training transformed him into a better kabaddi player.