Far away from the bustle of international sport, unknown to most even in India, lives the ‘greatest wrestler of his generation.
Or so believe an army of his admirers in a remote village called Kidima in Nagaland.
Kikhwesiil Thokhwe simply laughed when asked about this, his coronation as the ultimate wrestler.
“I was not bad at all,” he said modestly. “But that is an exaggeration, just the love of my villagers,” he added.
To be fair, Kikhwesiil had won many national, state and district titles during the Nineties. The catch was that it was in a unique style of wrestling called Naga wrestling.
“Wrestling was a lifestyle for me. I couldn’t think of anything beyond that,” he revealed.
So when his body called time on him, Kikhwesiil decided to teach the art to kids around him, just so that he never had to be away from the sport.
He founded the Sports Academy for Wrestling in Kohima and aside from the traditional style also coaches kids freestyle. Not too surprisingly, the entire bunch in the Nagaland wrestling team at the Khelo India Youth Games are his pupils.
The Naga Wrestling Championship is held every year during the Hornbill Festival, attracting competitors from various tribes around the region, each of whom exhibit their own variation of the sport.
To the uninitiated, Naga wrestling is fairly different from other forms of wrestling in India and indeed from wrestling styles in the Olympics.