2023 Asian Wrestling Championships: India's hopes pinned on Deepak, Anshu, Sonam and co.

Sonam Malik (L), Deepak Punia (C), Anshu Malik (R) headline India's contingent at the 2023 Asian Wrestling Championships. ESPN/Getty Images

An ongoing inquiry, Olympic medallists missing and a new-look squad - there's plenty of drama surrounding India's 2023 Asian Wrestling Championship campaign, an event which was supposed to be held in New Delhi but is now beginning in Astana, Kazakhstan on April 9.

The six-day event will determine the seeds for the World Championships to be held in mid-September in Serbia. The World Championships, consequently, will serve as the qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

India has a 30-member squad across the women's and men's freestyle and Greco-Roman divisions, led by Tokyo Olympian Deepak Punia. The 22-year-old is the only top-flight wrestler in this new-look team that was chosen by the Oversight Committee (appointed to launch an inquiry into the allegations made against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and take over the Federation's administration).

If you haven't had the chance to follow the developments around Indian wrestling over the last few months and want to know more about India's 2023 Asian Championships campaign, we've got you covered.

Weren't the Asian Championships supposed to be held in New Delhi?

That's right, the Asian Championships were initially to be held from March 28-April 2, a few days after the Women's World Boxing Championships, in New Delhi. However, on February 23, United World Wrestling (UWW) announced that the event was shifted to Astana due to the pending investigation against the WFI.

The Sports Ministry and the Indian Olympic Association both constituted committees to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct, financial irregularities and administrative lapses against the WFI, but nearly three months since their appointment, neither committee's findings have been made public.

So who selected India's squad for the 2023 Asian Wrestling Championships?

The Oversight Committee held selection trials in March and chose the 30-member Indian contingent. The WFI had no role to play in the selection process.

What is India's full squad for the 2023 Asian Wrestling Championships?

Here's India's full team for the Asian Wrestling Championships -

Women's Freestyle: Neelam Sirohi (50kg), Antim Panghal (53kg), Sito (55kg) Anshu Malik (57kg), Sarita Mor (59kg), Sonam Malik (62kg), Manisha (65kg), Nisha Dahiya (68kg), Reetika Hooda (72kg), Priya Malik (76kg).

Men's Freestyle: Aman Sehrawat (57kg), Pankaj (61kg), Anuj Kumar (65kg), Mulayam Yadav (70kg), Yash Tushir (74kg), Deepak (79kg), Jonty Kumar (86kg), Deepak Punia (92kg), Deepak Nehra (97kg), Anirudh Gulia (125kg).

Greco Roman: Rupin (55kg), Sumit (60kg), Neeraj Chhikara (63kg), Ashu Bazard (67kg), Vikas (72kg), Sajan Bhanwala (77kg), Rohit Dahiya (82kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg), Narender Cheema (97kg), Naveen Sevlia (130kg).

Wait...where are the big names?

All the big names such as Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat did not attend the selection trials. They had earlier said they would not compete in any international or domestic events until the inquiry against the WFI was complete and hence opted out of the two Ranking Series events earlier this year. Ravi is also nursing a knee injury, so that rules him out.

However, Sonam Malik and Anshu Malik, who were part of the protests, will compete at the Asian Championships.

What's at stake?

For starters, the Asian Championships will decide the seedings for the World Championships slated for September. And then there are the ranking points and the chance to bag a medal at the highest level of Asian competition.

What happens to those missing the Asian Championships? Can they compete at the World Championships?

They sure can. While the Asian Championships will decide the seedings for the Worlds, it is up to the Federation to choose the wrestler who will represent the nation in each weight category. As per a WFI source, another trial will be held before the Worlds to determine the squad. Which means that the likes of Bajrang, Ravi and Vinesh all have a chance of making it to the Indian squad for the World Championships.

Who are India's best medal hopes?

Aman Sehrawat in the 57kg has a bright chance of making it to the final. He's the U23 world champion and has impressed domestically also, in the category that is ruled by Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi. Then there is Deepak Punia, who has moved from the 86kg to the 92kg category. Deepak has four Asian medals and is on the hunt for his first gold medal at the event.

In women's freestyle, the big hope is in 19-year-old Antim Panghal in the 53kg division. Antim is the Asian junior champion and the world U20 champion as well. Sonam Malik, who won silver at last year's junior Worlds, is a bright prospect and as is Anshu Malik in the 57kg category, who won bronze at the 2022 Asian Championships. The most seasoned campaigner in the women's division is Sarita Mor in the 59kg category, who is a two-time Asian champion.

Where to watch the 2023 Asian Wrestling Championships?

The 2023 Asian Wrestling Championships will be streamed live on the UWW website and the UWW app.