The remarkable emergence of Alex Kessidis (SWE, world no. 14) as a global force continues.
Kessidis marched to the 80 kilogram crown on the second day of the 2017 Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Cup in Warsaw, Poland after surviving one of the event’s most competitive brackets. After getting past Georgian Mindia Tsulukidze in the qualification round 7-2, Kessidis found himself in a tense one in his next bout against Gadzhimurad Dzhalalov (RUS). Kessidis received a passivity point and then benefitted from a caution-and-two call on Dzhalalov to go up 3-0. In the second period, Dzhalalov got a point back before reaching for a bodylock he turned around on to pick up another two points to knot the score, but it was Kessidis who moved on via criteria.
Another criteria win, this time in the quarterfinal over Samat Shirdakov (KGZ), was to put Kessidis and 2016 Olympic silver medalist/three-time World runner-up Mark Madsen (DEN, world no. 2 at 75 kg) together for the second time in a month — but instead, Madsen wound up bowing out of the tournament.
This meant Kessidis, who also won both the Nordic and U23 European Championships earlier this year, automatically got a crack at his third gold medal of 2017 and he took full advantage of it. Taking on 2015 Junior World silver medalist Buhan Akbudak (TUR), the pair traded passivity calls in a grind-it-out first period before the Swede turned the jets on in the second. A front headlock throw initially looked like it scored for Kessidis but was called off due to legs. It didn’t matter. A step-out point shortly after the non-call made it 2-1. Then, in a curious sequence, Kessidis caught a back-peddling Akbudak on his knees and folkstyle “pancaked” him to his back for two more. Two subsequent turns widened Kessidis’ lead to 8-1 and he breezed on home, wrapping up what is an impressively strong showing ahead of the World Championships later this summer.
Kessidis was not the only Scandinavian who made noise today at the Pytlasinski Cup. 2017 European Championships gold medalist Felix Baldauf (NOR, world no. 6), already working with three tournament wins on the year himself, also prevailed to claim the top spot in the 98 kilogram bracket, though it wasn’t always smooth sailing. His first match of the morning versus Uzur Dzhuzupberkov (KGZ) was a clear example. Baldauf netted a passivity point in the first and tacked another on in the second to escape that bout 2-1. Baldauf found his stride in the quarterfinals as he ran over Lithuania’s Laurinaitis Vilius via tech (8-0) in 1:12 on the strength of three takedowns and a two-point straight lift.
Things were dicey for a minute in the semis. Facing off with Siarhei Staradub (BLR), the exchanges were tight and the opportunities scarce. Both wrestlers were dinged for passivity points in the opening period, with Staradub holding a 1-1 criteria edge moving into the second. The action picked up in intensity as the second stanza unfolded with Baldauf holding position in the center and Staradub doing his best to continuously move his counterpart off his spot. Only, it would be Baldauf who seized on the one opening available. Following a break, the Norwegian upset Staradub’s balance, putting his back to the edge. Baldauf kept the forward momentum coming and extended towards the body, leaving Staradub with little choice other than to step out. The point provided Baldauf with a 2-1 advantage he held onto the rest of the way.
Aleksander Golovin (RUS) drew first blood in the 98 kilo finals with a takedown a minute into the contest. Baldauf immediately answered back after the reset. Golovin was pouring in on him towards the edge when Baldauf, in a flash, adjusted and violently whipped Golovin over with a lateral. The maneuver scored just two, but it was enough to give Baldauf criteria. He wasn’t satisfied, because when the bout resumed, Baldauf attempted a booming arm throw. It didn’t yield any further points, but it did set the tone for the kind of clash this was to become in the conclusive period.
Both jockeyed for position from over-under’s with neither able to wrangle an opening. Baldauf received a passive warning with two minutes remaining, but whenever he was caught on his back foot would simply get his legs pumping and re-assert control. Before long, Golovin was also warned, and then again in the bout’s final minute to keep his head up. Baldauf held on from there and in the process, earned his third criteria win of the day along with his third tournament victory of the year.
- 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shinobu Ota (JPN) won the 59 kilogram weight class on Day 1 of the 2017 Pytlasinski Open with a resounding 10-0 tech fall victory over 2016 U23 European Championships winner Sergey Emelin (RUS). It was all over in :31. A four-point throw, a front headlock roll, and then a front-headlock throw for another four. Ota looked lights out the entire day, but he still won’t be representing Japan in Paris at the World Championships.
- 2015 World Champion Frank Staebler (GER, world no. 16 at 66 kg) made his return to international competition for the first time since the Rio Olympics a successful one. Staebler picked up gold on Saturday at 71 kilos by defeating two of the best names in the sport –he (surprisingly) tech’ed out Rio bronze medalist Shmagi Bolkvadze (GEO, world no. 6 at 66 kg) in the qualification round and then got past 2016 World Champion Balint Korpasi (HUN, world no. 1) 3-1 in the finals.
- American Nick Tarpley (75 kg, NYAC) gave it a run on Friday and was defeated 11-2 by two-time Junior World bronze medalist Zoltan Levai (HUN, world no. 14) in the qualification round.
2017 Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Cup Day 2 Finals
71 kg: Frank Staebler (GER) def. Balint Korpasi (HUN) 3-1
80 kg: Alex Kessidis (SWE) def. Buhan Akbudak (TUR) 8-1
98 kg: Felix Baldauf (NOR) def. Aleksander Golovin (RUS) 2-2 (criteria)