Josh Katz adds to his collection with another strong performance.
Positive Start for Team JudoAus
Sam King started the 2022 European Open in Warsaw with a strong performance in his opening round, -73 kg Division, match against the young Aitor Goikoetxea Alonso of Spain. The 21-year-old Spaniard proved to be a tough opponent for King, but it was the Australian who prevailed in the end with an Uchi-mata throw at 1:52 in the golden score period.
King’s second-round opponent was another young competitor in Joan-Benjamin Gaba of France. Gaba has been strong in recent events finishing seventh at the Tel Aviv Grand Slam and winning a bronze medal at the European Open in Sarajevo. The two competitors were slow to start as they looked for an opportunity to gain the advantage and it was Gaba who found that opportunity when he performed an O-soto-gari throw securing the win by ippon with 3:38 left in regulation.
Day 1 Recap
The four remaining Team JudoAus members who were in action on Day 1 saw mixed results.
Jake Bensted faced off against Marcin Kowalski of Poland in their first-round -73 kg Division match-up. The two came out quickly with Kowalski aggressively locking in his grip on Bensted. After a quick scramble, the young 19-year-old Polish national performed a Seoi-nage throw, scoring a Waza-ari that left the Australian’s arm exposed. Kowalski quickly reacted and locked in a Kansetsu-waza arm lock and securing the ippon by submission with 3:37 remaining in regulation time.
Tinka Easton’s -52 kg Division match against Hibiki Shiraishi of Japan was hard-fought but didn’t end the way Easton would have hoped. The two judokas were evenly matched as they both attempted throws that were unsuccessful. Near the halfway mark of the match, Shiraishi scored a Waza-ari with a Ko-uchi-gari throw and quickly followed just 20 seconds later with a well-timed Seoi-otoshi throw to secure the victory with 2:00 remaining in the match.
In the Women’s -63 kg Division. Maeve Coughlan faced Mathilde Briant of France in their second-round match. The contest was quick as both judokas were aggressive in their approach and both had opportunities to secure the victory, but it was Briant in the end who found success with an O-uchi-gari throw that scored the ippon with 1:50 remaining in regulation.
For Josh Katz, competing in the Men’s -60 kg Division, his second-round match-up with Zeo Agudoo of Ghana was an exciting flurry of speed and quickness. The pair immediately engaged as the match started and within ten seconds the duo was on the mat scrambling for position. In the end, it was Katz that found himself on top, pinning the strong Agudoo to the mat and holding him down for the 20-second Ippon with 2:57 left in the period.
This would be the start of Katz amazing run on the night.
Day 2 Recap
For the eight Team JudoAus judokas competing on Day 2 of the event, the night did not go as planned as many of them would have expected it to.
In the Women’s -78 kg Division, Olena Usenko and Maria Swan both had first-round losses to home crowd favourites Paulina Muszynska and Sandra Lickun of Poland. The Australians competed with grit and toughness but were unlucky in their results against two very good Polish judokas.
In the Men’s -81 kg Division, Calvin Knoester, Rihari Iki and Uros Nikolic were all defeated in their opening matchups. For Knoester, this was his first international competition of the season and his opponent, Musa Simsek of Turkey, was a tough draw. Although the Australian fought hard, it was Simsek who was able to secure the win.
For Iki and Nikolic, their second-round contests were against two tough Polish judokas, Pawel Drzymal and Sebastian Marcinkiewicz. The Australians performed very well against the crowd favourites, but the home support for the two Polish judokas was too strong for Iki and Nikolic to overcome in the end.
In the Men’s -90 kg Division, Harry Cassar and Robert Vukovich suffered tough loses in their second-round contests against Aristos Michael of Cyprus and Remo Feuillet of Mauritius. Michael and Cassar’s match was well contested by both judokas, but in the end, it was Michael who would advance on the night.
For Vukovich, he performed extremely well against Feuillet, but was caught late in a hold and suffered an unlucky defeat to Mauritian.
Liam Park faced another home crowd favourite in his first-round match against Dominik Majowski of Poland. The two were evenly matched as they fought to the end of regulation, but it was Majowski who would advance after scoring a Waza-ari earlier in the contest.
The Silver Lining
Josh Katz night was almost over early when he faced the tough Tornike Maziashvili of Georgia. With just over a minute remaining in regulation, Katz was down a Waza-ari score but was able to draw level with a clutch throw with 0:57 seconds remaining in the match. As the match headed into the golden score period, Katz worked hard and maintained composure as he caught his opponent off-guard with a well-timed Seoi-otoshi that secured the victory at 0:49 seconds into the extra period.
In his quarter-finals match, Katz faced a young 20-year-old Austrian, Daniel Leutgeb, who looked impressive in his previous round matches. The two came out eager to secure their spot in the Semi-finals and neither was willing to back down from the challenge each faced. The Austrian scored a quick Waza-ari that was later corrected to no score by the judges.
The pair continued their feverous approach, each one wanting to advance and feeling the possibility growing with each encounter. The regulation period was never going to be enough to decide this match as the two continued to push well into golden score. After several exciting exchanges, Katz would prevail with a well-timed Ashi-guruma throw that scored him the victory at 2:55 into the golden score period.
A spot in the finals awaited the winner of Katz next match against a tough, young Nazir Talibov of Azerbaijan. The pair were evenly matched and equally poised to reach the finals of their division. The match went back and forth with both competitors looking for an opportunity to strike and just before the halfway mark, Talibov found an opening and scored a Waza-ari with an Uchi-mata throw.
As the match progressed, both competitors found themselves with two Shido’s, one more for either would hand the match to their opponent and with one second remaining on the clock, Talibov was given a third Shido for intentionally going outside of the contest area. This costly mistake meant that Katz would be heading to the final.
In his finals match, Katz would face another tough Azerbaijani, Ahmad Yusifov. Both competitors were strong and eager to finish atop the podium. As the two methodically worked their grips, it was Yusifov who was able to counter a throw by Katz the score the first Waza-ari of the match at just one minute into the contest.
Although he had given up a score to his opponent, Katz was quick to react and nearly caught the Azerbaijani in a submission hold as the two scrambled on the mat for nearly a minute, but Yusifov was able to narrowly escape the Australians grip.
As the match was restarted, Katz immediately went to his opponent, pushing the tempo as he fought with vigour to secure the win. He was relentless, aggressive, and attacked with the ferocity of a tiger. Restart after restart, Katz fought hard as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
In the end, it was Yusifov who was crowned the victor of the tournament, but Katz was the champion on the night as his opponent stood hunched over, hands upon his knees, searching for air after enduring a barrage of attacks by the Australian who stood upright on the mat with a bittersweet stare.
The silver belonged to Katz who proved once again that he is a judoka to be reckoned with in the Men’s -60 kg Division.
What’s next for Team JudoAus
Next up for Team JudoAus is the European Open in Prague, Czech Republic on the 5 – 6 of March.
Fourteen competitors will compete in 8 divisions as they continue their European tour.
Katharina Haecker and Aoife Coughlan will be in action this time out while Josh and Nathan Katz head back to Australia closing out this leg of their European tour.
More updates and news will be announced as the events draw near.
Author: Charles Hall
Information in this article can be found on the European Judo Union Results – Warsaw Open Competition site: https://bit.ly/3HmKXJj