Nelson’s Sang Hlichal was crowned the New Zealand Chin Wrestling champion in February. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Sang is the last man standing

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Sang Hlichal survived almost an hour on the mat and eight different opponents of all sizes and skill to be crowned the New Zealand Chin Wrestling champion in Wellington last month.

The 18-year-old endured the gruelling ordeal at the 2020 Chin National Day and Triennial Conference in what was his competitive debut.

Wrestling is a religion in Myanmar’s Chin culture and it was showcased with three competitions, including the notorious last man standing or Minung tambik teitu in which a fighter must go through multiple opponents.

“They just keep coming until there’s no one else.”

Sang entered the three hour contest at about the midway point with about 20 wrestlers already eliminated.

Standing 180cm and weighing 85kg, the bodybuilder is an impressive physical specimen and used his power to overwhelm his opponents, some who were almost twice his age.

“There were some big boys who were really technical but I dominated them with my strength.”

During his run, Sang defeated eight men, including two former New Zealand champions until no one else dared to oppose him.

The Nelson College student says he carried the customs of his Chin ancestors onto the mat.

“It’s the best aspect of our traditions and the one we are most proud of. One person would beat the whole village until there was no-one else left.”

Sang uses the style of ‘Kehlei vangkar’ in which he generates his power from his left leg.

Sang’s victory was made more impressive by the fact he was unable to train for two weeks due to a back injury.

However, his debut competition wasn’t over yet as he was talked into competing in the heavyweight division later in the day.

After some spray, vitamins and a massage, Sang went on to almost claim a second belt, beaten only in the final match of the day.

Moving to New Zealand in 2009, Sang was also a talented footballer but dropped it to focus on wrestling and bodybuilding.

“I am addicted to the gym, I go every day.”

Sang is self taught and has spent hours watching Chin wrestling bouts on YouTube. He will return to the capital in early 2021 to defend his title.