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Asian Games preview: Despite training woes, PH wrestlers ready to take on Asiad foes

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Philippine wrestling team set for Asian Games (4:21)

Get to know the Philippine wrestling team set to compete in the Asian Games. (4:21)

Editor's note: As part of our coverage of the 2018 Asian Games to be held in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia from August 18 to September 2, we will be previewing the different national teams that will see action for the Philippines.

2014 Asian Games performance

The Philippines sent two wrestlers to the 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon, South Korea but both failed to medal in the wrestling competition. Margarito Angana Jr., who competed in the 59kg category, lost to Khazakstan's Ahmadjon Mahmudov in the Round of 16. Jason Balabal, meanwhile, fought in the 85 kg division. Balabal was able to get past Palestin's Ibrahim Hanini in the Round of 16 but eventually lost to Kyrgyzstan's Azat Beishebekov in the quarterfinals.

2018 Asian Games representatives

  • Alvin Lobreguito

  • Jefferson Manatad

Background

In the previous edition of the Asian Games, the Philippines came up empty-handed in the wrestling competition. Jason Balabal got eliminated in the quarterfinals, while Margarito Angana Jr. didn't make it out of the Round of 16.

But the country had better luck in the 2017 Asian Indoor-Martial Arts Games (AIMAG), which is one of the five major continental-level multi-sport events (Asian Games included) organized by the Olympic Council of Asia. Alvin Lobreguito and Jefferson Manatad each bagged bronze medals -- two of the 30 overall medal haul by the Philippines -- in Turkmenistan.

Because of their success, the pair will once again represent the country in the wrestling competition of the 2018 Asiad. Both Lobreguito and Manatad have been preparing for the competition for a while now, training six days a week, three times a day.

"We wake up at 5 a.m. to jog for an hour and a half before we have breakfast. Then at 9 a.m. we do mat training where we spar six times then master techniques after. In the afternoon we go cross-training, either weights or basketball. That's the cycle of our training the whole day," said Lobreguito.

Barely having any time to spend time with their families, the two wrestlers said they are going heavy in their preps to become well-equipped by the time they compete.

"Right now the heavy training that we do is preparation for the Asian Games because this is where we develop our power and how we can execute the techniques we have learned. It's important to properly master everything in the training sessions so when you fight, it all comes together," added Lobreguito.

The two, however, expressed that an ample supply of vitamins, overseas training and having more sparring partners could have helped a great deal with their development.

"Here we train with different guys, there's no consistency because they have different weights. Some are lighter than you are while some are heavier," reasoned Manatad. "Training abroad (is important). You will get to chance to train against different guys who have their own unique techniques."

"Wrestling here won't develop because we train with the same people. For example, you have a partner you spar with constantly, you don't develop new skills and techniques because you already know what his tendencies are. What if I compete against someone who has a totally different style then my sparring partner? That will catch me off guard," Lobreguito chimed in. "You need more sparring partners to develop your own wrestling style, because you will have a chance to adopt new and different techniques -- that's how we can improve."

Despite the shortcomings in the preparations, the 26-year-old Lobreguito said he is "prepared to give my best and show the results of our hard training."

"I want to show the Filipinos' talent in wrestling. I want to have a great showing so my family and the country will be proud of me," he said.

Prognosis for Jakarta

Lobreguito and Manatad have eyed athletes from Iran, Korea and Mongolia as the heavy favorites in the upcoming Asian Games because of their experience, technique and power.

"(The Asian Games) will be tough because you'll be competing against other athletes who are much stronger than you and have better techniques," said the 23-year-old Manatad.

The pair has already competed in past international competitions so they both already have a sense of what to expect in the Asian Games. Apart from the AIMAG, Lobereguito and Manatad also won medals in the 2014 Southeast Asia and Australasian Wrestling Championships. Those experiences, the former said, "will help a great deal."

"The pressure I've gone through in competitions before will help me overcome anything in upcoming fights," Lobereguito added.

The two wrestlers admit returning home from Indonesia with medals would be a long shot, especially since they still lack newer wrestling techniques, but Lobreguito and Manatad said that won't stop them from performing at their best.

"What pushes us is our fighting spirit. We want to show people that we can fight. Of course what I learn here is what I'll bring to the Asian Games -- all the hardships in training," said Manatad.

"Honestly, our chances of medaling in the Asian Games is small because wrestling in the Philippines has yet to be fully developed. But we vow to give our best to win a medal for the country," ended Lobreguito.