The 4th annual US SUMO OPEN with MUSASHIMARU featured beautiful Japanese dancers in kimono and the traditional “kagamiwari” sake opening ceremony. As part of US-Japan 150 events, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of US-Japan relations, the kagamiwari once again involved representatives from the Consulate General of Japan and the Japan Foundation, as well as Yokozuna Musashimaru (in lieu of Yokozuna Akebono in 2003).

As always, top amateur competitors from several countries, including the USA, Mexico, Mongolia, Hong Kong, Georgia, and Bulgaria competed. American athletes came from several states.

Over 1,000 fans showed up at the venue, many waiting in line for two or three hours. Unfortunately, 300 people had to be turned away at the door when tickets sold out and the arena filled up beyond capacity. Needless to say, a bigger venue is in order for future tournaments!

The men’s lightweight division was action-packed. Several matches ended with athletes flying out of the ring into the first row of seats. Interestingly enough, three of the four semi-finalists were repeaters from the 2003 semi-finals. In a deja-vu sequence, Joe Davis and Timur Baatar won their semi-final matches to advance to the finals, while Kevin Yonemoto lost again in the semi-finals, but, just like last year, Kevin redeemed himself by winning the third-place match for the second year in a row! In a virtual replay of last year’s final, Joe Davis smashed Timur Baatar straight out from the get-go, using power and speed to clinch his second consecutive title. Like last year, Joe Davis went undefeated against all other lightweight competitors.

The men’s middleweight was a struggle for third place, which newcomer Doug Cochran managed to capture. The top two contenders, Kena Heffernan of Hawaii (2003 silver) and Troy Collins of the LAPD (2003 bronze) met once in the opening rounds and again in the finals. On both occasions, Kena prevailed with superior technique. Their match in the final round lasted nearly a full minute, with spectacular smashing, grappling, and recoveries at the edge of the ring.

The heavyweight men’s competition featured two brackets, each half-full with foreign competitors. Only one American, Tyler Tuione of UCLA, made it to the semi-final rounds. In his semi-final match, Tyler upset 2002 champion Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria, who fell forward first, before Tyler tumbled out. In the other semi-final, two-time World Champion Levan Ebanoidze of Georgia was defeated by his countryman Jondo Dabrundashvili. Petar got the better of his rival Levan in the third-place match, while Jondo went in fast and low against the giant Tyler to win gold.

The women’s competition was filled with excitement, as the competitors ranged in size from 114 lbs to 380 lbs! The most dramatic match involved 192-lb Jennipher Heimback of Idaho defeating 380-lb Amanda Soule, also from Idaho. Although Amanda defeated her in the finals, Jennipher got the better of someone twice her size, at least once! May Chung held on for a long time against Amanda, too, but finally succumbed. May has won medals in all four US Sumo Open tournaments, and is the only competitor, male or female, to compete for all four years in a row.

The men’s openweight was no less dramatic with 135-lb Joshua Davis meeting 465-lb Marcus Barber in the opening round! Joshua put up a good fight, but couldn’t get Marcus off balance. Lightweight champ Joe Davis lost to middleweight champ Kena Heffernan, who then lost to Petar Stoyanov in the semi-finals. In the other openweight semi-final match, Troy Collins defeated heavyweight Richard Hopp. Kena took third place from Richard, while the enormous Petar forced middleweight Troy out for the championship.

As in the past two years, the openweight medallists included only one heavyweight, but two middleweights, demonstrating that size is not the only thing that matters. All three openweight medallists, Petar, Troy, and Kena, walked away with two medals each – one in the openweight, and one in their own weight classes.

Petar won gold medals in 2002 and 2004, but did not compete in 2003. Kena won silver in 2003 and gold in 2004 in the middleweight class. Troy, who has yet to win a gold medal, won a total of five (5) medals in the middleweight and openweight classes in 2002, 2003, and 2004, the all-time greatest medal winner of the US Sumo Open! Who will win in 2005?

Yokozuna Musashimaru said he was really interested and excited by the amateur competition, and he would love to come again. After spending several days traveling with and coaching some of the American athletes, including Tyler Tuione, Kena Heffernan, Troy Collins, and Joshua Davis, Musashimaru was delighted to see Kena and Troy meet in the middleweight finals and to win two medals each. Musashimaru had also given special coaching to sumo newcomer Tyler Tuione, who won the heavyweight silver in his first sumo tournament ever, against a tough contingent of World Champion and European Champion heavyweights!

After handing out medals and prizes, Musashimaru graciously stayed to sign autographs and pose for photos with American fans.

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