The title of this year’s Beat the Streets event was “United in the Square”, a fitting moniker given the international context. For Andy Bisek, however, the name of the cause wasn’t so important. He had bigger things to worry about.
It was an unseasonably crisp late-Spring showdown which saw uber-popular US star Bisek (Minnesota Storm, 75 kg, world no. 5) tangle with 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kim Hyeon-woo (KOR, world no. 3). The pair meeting up in a May exhibition match had everything fans would want: Two world medalists, in Times Square, battling it out in what could very well turn into a preview of things to come in Rio. It may have only been an exhibition, a showcase of sorts, but the action betrayed quite the opposite of two high-level athletes just playing around.
It was a tense battle right from the beginning. Bisek did his best to dictate the tempo, no easy task against someone with Kim’s energy level. The American wrestler tried to tussle his way inside and came close to holding onto a two-on-one chance early on. Kim, known not only for his relentlessness but also his usually unbreakable stance, got knocked off balance in the opening exchanges. This seemed to be a strategy for the 29-year old Bisek – upset Kim’s rhythm and there might be an opening. Of course, Kim had his own game plan, too. One of the Korean’s greatest weapons is his arm-throw, a maneuver he goes to on a frequent basis. Sure enough, an opportunity came in the first period as he snagged a semi-extended arm-spin off the center of the mat. Bisek quickly adjusted his hip placement to account for the attempt. It didn’t give Kim any exposure points, but it was good for two and the lead heading into the second frame.
Bisek did not deviate from his approach to open the conclusive period. Working to control the ties, his footwork once again caught Kim off-kilt, just not enough for him to capitalize on. Credit to Kim, because he too kept at what works for him, which is pushing forward at a near-breathless pace. And that is what made this match-up so fascinating to begin with – both athletes simply refuse to back down. It’s just in their DNA’s. In fact, there wasn’t a single passivity chance for either one throughout the entire contest.
Moving into the latter stages of the bout, Kim and Bisek caught just enough static near the edge for the Korean to dip Bisek out of bounds for a step-out point. 3-0, Kim. That meant it was time for the Minnesotan to go after it even more. He tried to rough things up inside in order to find a wedge, but all advances were met with Kim’s playback. As time wound down, Bisek would lower his level to come in only to have his opponent immediately fend off the effort. Another attempt to make something happen was also blocked, giving Kim the victory in the night’s opening match.
Despite falling short, Andy Bisek looked composed, confident, and ready for “peak season.” There really aren’t too many opponents the Beat the Streets organization could have found who would have posed more of a test as the months tick down to August. Kim deserves his credit, too. He’s an athlete who never disappoints and operates with a style that suits him well. The stakes may not have been high but don’t be fooled: These guys went for it. The energy was high, the action constant, and the tension, palpable.
Hopefully we see more of this again real soon.