By Dan Lonergan
Australia came agonisingly close to breaking our eight-year medal drought on the Gold Coast as Connor Evans led our team of eight representatives on the wrestling mat.
Evans wrestled for bronze but lost in an admirable first Commonwealth Games performance.
He won his first two fights before coming up against the world’s best and one of India’s most popular sporting figures, Sushil Kumar. Under the rules of wrestling Evans would get the chance to compete again in a repechage if his opponent made it all the way to the gold medal playoff.
As expected Kumar cruised through and Connor fought for the right for bronze but fell short. However, he did his country proud.
It was a tougher day at the office for 53-kilogram wrestler Clarissa Holland. She had shed 10 kilograms just to fight in this division and a tough loss in her first match in what was a round robin event affected her for the remaining matches.
Her next three bouts resulted in her being pinned, which is the equivalent of a knock out in boxing.
Naomi De Bruin who is new to the sport lost her only match in the 76-kilogram division and needed her opponent to progress into contention for gold, but the English wrestler got beaten in her next contest by Erica Webb of Canada.
Rounding off the opening day for Australia was local boy, Tom Cicchini. The lightweight at 57 kilograms won his first match, but not his next two. He was still happy to have one victory in a tough competition.
It was tougher going over the next two days. Nick Verreynne in the 97 Kilogram class, who was a late replacement for Rob Whittaker, won his first match and was gallant in his next two despite losing both.
He certainly fought hard for the Australian cause as he has war marks to indicate that on his forehead.
Mehrdad Tarash, competing in his third games, lost by a 10 point margin inside three minutes in the 65 kilogram division.
Jayden Lawrence, probably Australia’s best prospect for a medal before the games in the 86 kilogram class, was presented with a very hard draw.
He played one of the favourites from Pakistan, Muhammed Inam. He lost and needed Inam to keep winning and play off for gold to get another chance to keep his medal hopes alive.
He got that, but lost to India on his second chance. Australia’s lightest female wrestler, Rupinder Kaur was also outclassed in the 50-kilogram division.
Overall as expected India and Canada were the strongest nations in the wrestling, but for Australia and it’s young team it was a great learning experience.