Undermanned Philippine Wrestling Team Still Impressive in 26th SEA Games

By: Karlo Silverio L. Sevilla III

Two gold, three silver, and three bronze medals were contributed by the Philippine Wrestling Team (PWT) in the just concluded 26th Southeast Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia. This achievement translates to a perfect and highest athlete:medal ratio - 8:8, 100% - among all sport teams of the entire Team Pilipinas delegation. The PWT also comes in second to the Philippine Boxing Team in terms of athlete:gold medal ratio, with 8:2 (25%) compared to boxing's 10:6 (60%).

Philippine Wrestling also registered as one of the 21 sports, out of the 42 that the country participated in, that won gold.

All these despite only eight wrestlers were funded to join the Biennial Regional Sports Festival - which offered a maximum 13 wrestling slots/gold medals per country - reducing the team to become the smallest contingent compared to other combat sports' fielded by Team Pilipinas (Fencing 20, Taekwondo 17, Judo 15, Wushu 14, Boxing 10, Karatedo 9, and Pencak Silat 9 athletes).

The PWT Medallists are:

01. Gold - Margarito Angana Jr. (Greco-Roman 55 kg.);
02. Gold - Jason Balabal (Greco-Roman 84 kg.);
03. Silver - Michael Baletin (Greco-Roman 74 kg.);
04. Silver - Robertson Torres (Greco-Roman 120 kg.);
05. Silver - Roque Mana-ay Jr. (Freestyle 60 kg.);
06. Bronze - Paulo Delos Santos (Freestyle 50 kg.);
07. Bronze - Jimmy Angana (Freestyle 66 kg.); and
08. Bronze - Jason Balabal (Freestyle 84 kg.)

Jerry Angana (Freestyle 55 kg.) had a chance to fight for the bronze medal but defaulted due to the knee injury he sustained from his first match versus the eventual champion wrestler from Vietnam. (A very close match, with both rounds ending with the identical score of 1-1. The Vietnamese scored last in each round, therefore winning the match according to International Wrestling Rules).

Angana Jr.'s shutout championship victory earned the profuse praise of Asian Associated Wrestling Council (AAWC) President Chang-Kew Kim, stating that "Margarito Angana Jr. is the best wrestler of the entire Southeast Asian Wrestling Tournament." An opinion shared by AAWC Board Member Vangsan Suchantbutr of Thailand and 1988 Olympic Champion Han Myung-Woo of South Korea.

Next year, 2012, the PWT will attempt to qualify its athletes in the London Olympics. Its campaign will be spearheaded by two-time SEA Games Gold Medallists Angana Jr. and Balabal. The last time a Filipino wrestler saw action in the Summer Olympics was in 1988, in Seoul, Korea.

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