Athletes from the Ministry of Interior dominated the results table at the 2023 National Wrestling Championship, held from January 18 to 21.

A senior official from the Wrestling Federation of Cambodia (WFC) said the depth of talent on show was promising, particularly among the younger wrestlers. He noted that the interior ministry club serves as the main feeder for the national team. 

The Kingdom is slated to host the Asian Youth Games in 2029, and the strength of the younger competitors bodes well for Team Cambodia’s medal chances.

Across the four days of competition, held at the National Olympic Stadium, the interior ministry wrestling team claimed eight of the 12 gold medals on offer, in both the classical and modern disciplines.

The team also won nine silver and 13 bronze medals, placing them high atop the medal table.

The second placed Kiri Baramei Domrei Mean Rith Club – from Kampong Chhnang province – returned home with one gold, one silver and one bronze. They were followed by another club from the same province, with Yeay Pring Mean Rith Club earning a single gold and a single silver.

Kampong Chhnang’s Rithi Sen Club tied for fourth with Kandal’s Baramei Metorb Moeun Ek Wrestling Club, with both club taking one gold and one bronze.

The Proyab Mean Rith, Khlaing Moeung and Kandal provincial association clubs medalled, but were unable to earn a single gold.

The Preah Theat and Baksei Chamkrong clubs returned home empty-handed.

The gap between the interior ministry club and the other contenders was not as surprising as it appeared, with several of the participants pointing out that the majority of national representatives compete for the team.

This was borne out by a report from the organising committee, which confirmed that 30 of the 66 wrestlers at the competition came from the ministry, meaning that each of the other clubs sent just four athletes.

WFC first vice-president Casey Barnett addressed the competition’s closing ceremony. He offered his appreciation to the organising committee for their excellent work, noting that the event adhered to the rules and regulations of United World Wrestling, the sport’s governing body.

He also highlighted the development of the younger wrestlers, noting that it is especially important, as the Kingdom gears up to host the Asian Youth Games in 2029.

“More and more young Cambodians, both male and female, are taking part in our sport. I commend the technique and skills of the younger wrestlers, who showed marked improvements on previous competitions. This is clearly the result of the efforts being made by coaches in the provinces,” he said.

“The federation’s priority over the next five years is to strengthen our young athletes, ahead of the Asian Youth Games. We plan to hold more local tournaments this year to attract more interest and encourage more young people to take up our sport. There is a long tradition of wrestling in Cambodia, so it is important that we preserve and nurture the sport, and develop it as much as we can,” he added.