Over 2,000 people surrounded the sumo stage at the 2008 US Sumo Open. The 8th annual competition included some dramatic rivalries, shocking upsets, and remarkable matches which stunned the audience!
- World Sumo Champion Byambajav Ulambayar defeated giant Petar Stoyanov for the third consecutive time in the US Sumo Open (in the men’s heavyweight division), but Petar then upset Byamba in the last match of the day — the Openweight Finals — to win his own gold medal!
- Munkhjargal Ulziibayar (“Muugii”) won the men’s lightweight competition for the second year in a row!
- Erdenebileg Alagdaa (“Bilegee”), the lightest middleweight (at only 199 pounds), won the middleweight gold medal. Bilegee had previously won a gold medal in the lightweight division at a past US Sumo Open.
- The lightest heavyweight, Tamir Dolgormaa (278 pounds) was seeded in a bracket that included the former World Champion (440 lbs), the former US Champion (430 lbs), and a former US medalist (340 lbs). Incredibly, the tiny-looking Tamir defeated ALL THREE to win his bracket and advance to the quarter-finals, where he lost to US Champion Dan Kalbfleisch.
FOREIGNER CHAMPIONS WIN REPEAT GOLD MEDALS
The winners of all four men’s weight classes have each previously won gold at the US Sumo Open. In the lightweight, Munkhjargal Ulziibayar (“Muugii”) won gold for the second consecutive year, dominating his opposition with a 6-0 record. In the middleweight class, Erdenebileg Alagdaa (“Bilegee”) had previously won US Sumo Open gold two years ago in the lightweight class. Although he was much lighter than the other middleweights, his skill was overpowering. In the heavyweight class, last year’s US Sumo Champion and current World Sumo Champion Byambajav Ulambayar (“Byamba”) won for the second year in a row. However, he was defeated for the first time ever in the openweight class by Petar Stoyanov, who had previously also won US Sumo Open openweight gold medals in 2002 and 2004.
SILVER & BRONZE AMERICANS
The men’s lightweight silver medallist, Peter Panayotopoulos, made it to the semi-finals of the 2002 US Sumo Open, but had not competed for six years after that. He smashed through his opponents with powerful slapping and pushing, losing only to gold medallist Muugii. The men’s middleweight silver medallist, Robert Ashworth put on an amazing display of athleticism, defeating all the other Americans. Like Peter in the lightweight, Robert lost to no one except for the eventual gold medallist Bilegee.
In the larger heavyweight field, Dan Kalbfleisch proved his improvement with a bronze medal in a very strong field, becoming the first American since 2005 to win a heavyweight medal, by defeating German giant Karsten Grap in the third-place bout. Likewise, Kelly Gneiting attained an openweight bronze medal by defeating Dan.
THE GIANT KILLER
One of the most incredible performances by a non-medallist came from Tamir Dolgormaa, the smallest heavyweight at only 278 pounds. In previous years, he had competed as a middleweight. In his opening bracket, he was matched with 340-pound Marcus Barber (a past US national medallist), as well as 430-pound US Champion Kelly Gneiting and 430-pound former World Champion Torsten Scheibler. It appeared that Tamir stood almost no chance of advancing. Even winning one match would be a feat, but astoundingly, Tamir beat ALL THREE giants, to advance as the leader of his bracket. So, one of the day’s biggest stories was the “little” heavyweight defeating everyone in his group, including the former World Champion and US Champion! In the quarter-finals, though, Tamir lost to eventual bronze medallist, Dan Kalbfleisch.
Because Tamir defeated former World Champion Torsten Scheibler, Torsten ended up facing current World Champion Byambajav Ulambayar in the quarter-finals – a match-up that was expected to occur in the finals!
The perennial lightweight US Champion, Trent Sabo, has a long history of not living up to expectations at the US Sumo Open. In recent years, he has usually not even made it to the semi-finals against strong fields of foreigners. This year was no exception – he made it to the semi-finals (even with a losing record) but lost to Mongolians in the semis and in the third place match, knocking him off of the podium. However, as has done for several years, Trent was sensational in the openweight competition, trouncing the magnificent Tamir Dolgormaa in a one-second display of tripping trickery. For three years in a row, Trent has defeated tough heavyweight opponents in the US Sumo Open, during the openweight competition. His performance against the bigger men was once again quite a highlight!
The officiating was superb. Referees included Davaadorj Damdin of Mongolia, Doug Cochran of USA, and the head referee, Heinz Jenkel of Germany, who has experience as a referee at the World Sumo Championships! Judging duties were shared by Brian Condon, Harry Dudrow, Kenji Osugi, Doug Cochran, and Davaadorj Damdin.
HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE
The US Sumo Open producers want to thank all of the dedicated fans, media sources, world-class athletes, and our long-term sponsors for the success of the event. For 8 years, the US Sumo Open has been one of the premiere, recognized sumo competitions in the world. Thank you all for your participation!