The US Sumo Open returned to historic Little Tokyo, where multi-time heavyweight & openweight past medalists Byambajav Ulambayar, Bayanbat Davaadalai, Kelly Gneiting, and Siosifa Isamau all medaled again in 2012, in some exciting re-matches from years past. The tournament took place in Noguchi Plaza at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC), a Little Tokyo landmark. An enthusiastic crowd of 1,000+ enjoyed Hakutsuru Sake, Sapporo Beer, Fuku-Burger, and sushi while watching the live sumo event! L.A. Matsuri Taiko performed again as the musical act.
Bill Watanabe, the acting Executive Director of JACCC, welcomed the US Sumo Open, with a gracious speech, followed by a presentation by Phillip Chen, Board Deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. Mr. Chen presented plaques from Los Angeles County to US Sumo Open producer Andrew Freund and to three-time World Sumo Champion Byambajav Ulambayar.
The 12th annual tournament included some long-term rivalries. In the heavyweight and openweight divisions, four of the biggest men who were all past US Sumo Open medalists dueled again, all getting medals this time, too!
WORLD CHAMPION UNDEFEATED AGAIN!
Three-time World Sumo Champion Byambajav Ulambayar was once again dominant in the US Sumo Open, going undefeated again, with a record of 9 wins and 0 losses!
Byamba’s cumulative US Sumo Open record over the last 6 years is now an astounding 58 wins and 1 loss! He far surpasses all others in US Sumo Open success, with a total of 11 gold medals and 1 silver medal! Can anyone give him a real challenge next year? We shall see . . .
VIRTUAL FOREIGN SWEEP
As has been the case for a dozen years, foreigners dominated the competition, winning gold medals in every single division, except for one. In fact, 12 out of a total of 21 medals went to foreigners from Mongolia, Poland, Brazil, Japan, and Tonga. There was a single American gold medal winner, though . . .
OUT OF NOWHERE
The lone standout was Gene Eydelman, winner of the Fighting Spirit Award. In his first sumo competition ever, Gene was not expected to do much. He had planned to compete in the lightweight division (up to 187 pounds), but at 211 pounds, he had to go middleweight, where most of his opponents were 240 or 250 pounds or more.
Against these adversaries, Gene went undefeated, shocking the field with a 5-0 record. In the process, he defeated perennial US lightweight champion Trent Sabo (twice), as well as Gene’s own Illinois training partner, Aaron Delmar, who also made his sumo debut with a bronze medal. Watch out for these guys down the road!
A trio of Polish siblings crushed the competition in the men’s and women’s lightweight division. Marina Rozum was undefeated against lightweights, and only lost one match in the openweight division, against a much larger opponent. Her brothers both beat all contenders in the men’s lightweight, where in the last match, older brother Aron defeated younger brother Kewin.
The dramatic performance by the Rozums made a big impact in the tournament, and we look forward to future sibling successes like theirs.
Likewise, a trio of Canadian brothers, Kodiak (middleweight), Brodi (heavyweight), and Kolton (lightweight) also competed. It was the first time three brothers all competed in the event, and interestingly enough, in all three weight classes!
Officiating was handled by a veteran team of referees and judges. The referee rotation included Nick Stevens (Idaho), Jimmy Leung (California), and Brian Condon (California). Judging duties were shared by the referees, as well as Jay Tan (California), Reza Momeni (California), and Tsogsuren Tsogkhuu (Mongolia).
Having run continuously for 12 consecutive years, the US Sumo Open may be the longest-running international, annual sumo tournament in the world (outside of Japan). Even events like the amateur World Sumo Championships have skipped some years, but the US Sumo Open has taken place every single year from 2001 – 2012!
This year, we passed another milestone. With 76 matches taking place, the cumulative total US Sumo Open matches over the years eclipsed the 1,000-match mark! The total number of US Sumo Open matches now stands at 1,054 total bouts – hooray!