Arnold Classic Post-Pre-Judging Wrap Up Giles Thomas.

Well, here I am back in my hotel after returning from the Arnold pro open men’s judging. What did I think? Read on…

Arnold Classic Post-Pre-Judging
The Line Up

Ronny Rockel

Certainly delivered in terms of conditioning this time, but did he display the wow factor that many thought might even see him make the top 3? I don't think so, a far smaller frame than the other guys Ronnie suffers from being outsized and out-massed overall.

However, he got some reasonable callouts. Still misses out from the back, not sure that can ever be rectified. If he makes top 6 in this kind of lineup I'll be impressed.

Roelly Winklaar

A disappointing showing from The Dutch Beast. I did some video and shoots with Roelly in his gym in Rotterdam, Holland 2 and a half weeks before the Arnold and I thought to myself then that it would take a miracle for him to display the look that took him to victory at the New York Pro as well as top placements at the Australian pro (3rd) and impressive 7th place debut here at the Arnold in 2010.

It could be a simple case of burnout for Roelly who has competed solidly all last year that culminated in the first of what you could call his 'fall from grace' with his 14th place at the Mr Olympia last year where he simply did not look anywhere near as good as many of us expected and had hoped.

Despite showing some size improvements in his legs and other areas, this has been Roelly's worst appearance yet as a pro. He still needs to work on his compulsories too - they look amateurish. On the bright side though, Roelly is now going on to compete at the British Grand Prix in two weeks as well as the Spanish pro and the Fibo, Germany pro show in several weeks.

With another 4 kilo's off at least Roelly—if he regains that trademark conditioning—could easily move up into the top 3. I think time off is needed for Winklaar now, he needs the rest both mentally and physically.

Top 10 here would be a gift for Roelly when he could indeed be knocking on the door of the top 6. Give him 2 more years and Roelly could be winning shows like the Arnold.

Johnnie Jackson

Despite getting the crappier callouts (indicating an out of top ten placing) Johnnie impressed me. His condition was almost back to his best (like when he won the Montreal pro a couple years back) and those troublesome and lagging legs did not look as much of a weak point for him.

The upper body shots though like his back in the rear double bicep and rear lat spread were jaw dropping. I'd say 10th or 11th for Jackson here today.

Sergey Shelestov

A pretty good showing for Sergey, but even when you're as big and imposing as Sergey and especially when you're close to your best conditioning it's no surprise that you can simply fade into the background when in such good company as Branch, Martinez etc.

No real weaknesses but also no standout bodyparts or areas of note it's a shame to see guys this good get all but zero attention from the judges. Still, his condition was the best it's been for a while now and that deserves credit.

Ben Pakulski

One of the main surprises of the show for me, photos do NOT do this guy justice, he is extremely impressive in the flesh, for me he also had THE most impressive legs in the entire line-up, calves especially. Ben's conditioning was pretty much flawless and with one of the most distinct shapes now in the IFBB I predict big things for Pakulski.

A lack of good callouts left me a little stumped and his weaker areas such as his arms and back were highlighted when up against the best of the best, but I'd say this is the guy to keep an eye on for the future. He's improving rapidly and even though I think a top 6 here is a little out of his grasp today, next year could well be a whole different story entirely.

Dexter Jackson

After Dexter won both the Arnold and the Mr Olympia in 2008 it seemed all set for Dexter to continue his steady rise to fame since he joined the IFBB pro ranks competing here at the Arnold back in 1999. 2009 was not a good year, slipping in both the Arnold (1st in 2008 to 4th in 2009) and the Olympia (1st in 2008 to 3rd in 2009) 2010 we saw a new and perhaps best ever Dexter take a solid 3rd (some said even higher) at the Olympia.

Was he on a roll to look even better here today?

Err, no, not been called out in the first callout and simply not standing out like he normally does in ANY line-up I think today we will witness Dexter's lowest placing for many years. Either he has just not improved or everyone else has it seems that even top 5 would be ambitious today.

Evan Centopani

The fan favourite! Coming off a strong win at the Flex Pro just two weeks previous beating such heavy hitters like Dexter, Dennis Wolf and Fouad much was expected from 2009 New York Pro champion Evan after his long contest layoff. Was I impressed? Yes and no really, I hate to use the word over-rated but I think that applies here to Evan.

He doesn't lack anything, his condition is good, he has huge calves, big arms and several other plus points but being a fan of lines and shape Evan just doesn't do it for me as a fan I'm afraid. Still, many other people feel quite differently and he was in the very first callout so I'd say top 3 is a strong and likely possibility.

Victor Martinez

After so much bad luck and some pretty harsh placings (8th in 2010 Olympia for example, I had him 5th) of late I was really pulling for big Vic to pull it out of the bag this time. And he DID! I first glimpsed him backstage and my jaw dropped. For me, he was perfect, or as near as you can get anyway!

His condition was excellent, his left leg completely back to full strength and just the overall blend of lines, aesthetics and mass for me anyway makes Victor the out and out victor (pardon the pun) here today! But, I have a bad feeling for not only was Victor not in the first callout shockingly would you believe?

Personally I'd give Martinez first, but I think 2nd is a more likely possibility. However, my spidey sense tells me that Wolf and maybe even Evan might beat Victor today and that sucks big time if that is indeed the case! Vic is back with a vengeance!

Essa Obaid

Last year's overall amateur Arnold amateur champion Essa—in his first competitive outing as a pro just a few months after turning pro - is one that I was looking forward to seeing here today. I've heard so many good things about him and some true experts tipping big things I was intrigued to see how this guy would look.

Well, Essa DID live up to all the hype and what was expected of him, condition-wise Essa could simply not have been any harder, every single last drop of fat and water was totally stripped away and that is impressive to behold folks. The rate at which this guy improves is astonishing but sadly the callouts just weren't there for him, he was practically ignored and that's not good for Obaid.

7th-10th is the likeliest outcome for this new phenomenon.

Branch Warren

Big, big, big, that's the first thing that springs to mind with beastly Branch. Along with Evan he was the crowd fave, is this his turn to win after coming 2nd, 3rd and 4th over the past 5 years competing here in Columbus? I'd say so, yes.

However, as awesome as Branch is this was not him at his best, I was more impressed by his Olympia showing last year where he took 3rd (I had him 2nd!). Why? Not 100% sure if I'm perfectly honest, the wateriness in his back was returned and aside from freaky size and great condition I can't see what else Branch has to offer.

I'd be shocked to hell if Branch does not win here today and I'd imagine with a clean sweep from the judges too, you'll see. So where does Warren go from here after the Arnold? More size? It's a thinker that's for sure.

Fouad Abiad

A couple of years ago I pipped Fouad to be one of the next pro's to raise his game and go up a level to join the 'a' game pros. And that is exactly what he has done.

Coming 3rd in the Flex Pro beating three time top 6 Olympian Dennis Wolf a fortnight previous to today Fouad had made huge improvements in his overall shape and conditioning whilst still managing to retain those crazy lines of his. He looks good here today, but this is a tough day to be competing.

Top 10 is a likely outcome for Abiad.

Dennis Wolf

This is definitely the best Dennis could have looked here today. Much bigger and thicker after his 5th place at last September's Olympia, Wolf has made big strides in his physique. The condition could indeed still be sharper by a smidge but not a bad showing for Wolf here today.

The calves are still pretty crap but we are finally seeing improvements in his hams and glutes. For some reason I have a feeling he will place 3rd, we will see tonight.

Robert Piotrkowicz

Poland's freakiest export! Aside from some stomach distention he's pretty hard to fault. His condition is always good, his back, chest and overall shape is brutally thick although the arms still need added work.

I don't predict a good placing for Robert today but my all means he did not look out of place here on this day.