The 85 kg division at the 1st OG Qualifier featured a pretty deep field, but it also wasn’t incredibly crowded with world-ranked competitors. If anything, the bracket set up nicely for a showdown between Damian Janikowski (POL, world no. 3) and Robert Kobliashvili (GEO, world no. 4). These two have banged heads once or twice before with Janikowski having the upper hand. In their 2014 bout, Janikowski held a slight 2-0 edge before whipping a headlock for four more to close out the match 6-1.
Kobliashvili is a wrestler who has steadily improved as he has logged more matches on the senior level, and the 22-year old now finds himself as one of the world’s top competitors in this weight class. Janikowski, however, has long been established. He’s an Olympic bronze medalist, a World silver medalist, and holds a variety of other continental titles. He’s also still young, coming in at only 26 years of age.
None of this means anything, because these two hooked up in the first round in Mongolia and both failed to qualify their weights. As of press time, it is unclear if both Janikowski and Kobliashvili are going to give it a shot at the 2nd (and last) OG Qualifier in Istanbul. Which makes their match on Friday all the more appealing. Two top-ranked guys going head-to-head in the first round of a major qualifier? It doesn’t get much better than that.
Kobliashvili versus Janikowski from the 1st OG Qualifier
Robert Kobliashvili has become increasingly confident on his feet and not just from an offensive perspective. It’s in his attitude, body language. If he doesn’t like how something is going, he’s not afraid to break and re-set. Of course, that kind of approach will lead to passivity being called more often than not. Then again, what if that is the goal?
It likely wasn’t Kobliashvili’s objective, but he was nailed for passivity twice within the first minute and a half of the opening period. Not an ideal modus operandi when going up against someone like Janikowski. However, it couldn’t have been more fortuitous for the rising Georgian star. Janikowski either took his lock for granted or didn’t have the power to continue his roll. Whatever the issue was, Kobliashvili was right on it and snagged a quick 2-0 lead.
Despite it being relatively early in the match, Janikowski seemed to be pressing a little. An athletic freak, Janikowski can explode at any moment with a big move, but he forced a couple of drop-steps in the first period that Kobliashvili had no trouble dealing with.
If you look at the above example, he even winds up off-balance. Janikowski is normally a very fluid wrestler, but Kobliashvili did a great job of frustrating him in the ties and maintaining his own balance whenever Janikowski looked to move in.
This is when the action heated up.
Janikowski once again looked to mix up his approach, at one point lowering his level and going for an arm-spin off the miss. It wasn’t a bad idea, but it appeared almost desperate, given the score and how much time was left in the match.
For however much credit Kobliashvili may deserve for sustaining his base and warding off Janikowski’s attempts, once again that kind of thing is going to lead to passivity. The official rightly called it again and awarded a point to the Polish wrestler, making the score 2-1 in favor of Kobliashvili.
This time, Janikowski didn’t rush things. He set his lock and head position, found the momentum he’d need, and rolled it over for two and a 3-2 lead with under two minutes remaining in the match. It would also be the last time he scored.
This might have been what the Georgian needed to get him going, because following the passivity call and subsequent gut by Janikowski, Kobliashvili turned it on. First, he reversed a lift attempt by Janikowski that saw him take his opponent to his back. No points were awarded for the sequence, as it was ruled legs were involved. No big deal. After the reset, Kobliashvili countered a lock by Janikowski, lifting and turning him for four points…
…and then re-locked for another two.
That is a total of six points in 16 seconds acquired the hard way. This wasn’t a series of gutwrenches rolled across the mat a few times. This was one world-ranked guy hitting big points against another as if a switch had been flipped. The context is not as magnified as perhaps it might have been if this match had been the wrestle-off, but make no mistake, it was a clutch performance of the highest degree.
The strangest part of it all occurred with just five seconds left, as Janikowski broke away from Kobliashvili. Breathing heavily, he rested his hands on his knees and Kobliashvili followed suit. It’s understandable when an athlete has nothing left, but there was still time on the clock. Maybe the odds of launching a five-pointer weren’t high, but it was still weird to see. Maybe Janikowski had given all he could.
Janikowski’s day ended when Kobliashvili was soundly defeated in the quarterfinal by Ramsin Azizsir (GER, world no. 11), and the Georgian’s tournament was concluded when Azizsir lost in the semifinal. It was still an interesting match to watch between two studs at 85 kg, leaving one to wonder if they are still on a collision course heading into Turkey.