The 16th annual US Sumo Open was intense. A sold-out crowd of 4,000+ watched 55 wrestlers participate in nearly 200 matches. The 4-time World Sumo Champion Byamba reclaimed glory, with a 13-0 record, winning both heavyweight and openweight divisions, undefeated. After getting gold for 8 years in a row, he only got silver in 2015, so 2016 was big redemption for him. American standout Roy Sims won silver in both divisions, beating everyone else except Byamba.
The 37 foreign competitors were dominant, with most medals going to Mongolia, Russia, Egypt, India, and Poland. Aside from the women’s heavyweight (with no foreigners competing), the only earned medals for Americans went to Roy Sims. The 12 female competitors were the most ever at a US Sumo Open, in 16 years!
The competition level was spectacular, attracting many medallists from the World Sumo Championships, including Byambajav Ulambayar (Mongolia), Aron Rozum (Poland), Batyr Altyev (Russia), and Munkhtsetseg Otgon (Mongolia). Even Olympic wrestling gold medallist Karam Gaber, trying sumo for the first time, could not get past the quarter-finals in the middleweight division!
The US Sumo Open was held for the 3rd year in a row at the Walter Pyramid, a dynamic venue with great views from all angles, and the largest big screen in ALL of college sports, nationwide, so fans could catch instant replays throughout the tournament!
RETURN OF THE BYAMBA
For 8 years in a row, Byamba had been a machine, winning 8 (of 8) gold medals in heavyweight, and 6 (of 8) gold medals in openweight. His cumulative record was 76-2, but in 2015, he lost twice in one tournament, for the first time ever (8-2 overall), and settled for silver and bronze.
In 2016, Byamba trained hard and it showed. He went 13-0, boosting his cumulative US Sumo Open record to 97 wins and only 4 losses in 10 years! He’s been almost invincible and incredibly consistent. It’s hard to imagine that anyone will EVER match his US Sumo Open success!
Head and shoulders above all other American competitors, Roy Sims has dominated sumo in the States since he debuted in 2014. During his 3 US Sumo Opens, his record has been 24 wins and 7 losses, with 5 of those losses to Byamba, and 1 each to Soslan Gagloev (Russia) and Ramy Elgazar (Egypt). Roy has also beaten all 3 of those opponents at the US Sumo Open!
Byamba’s presence was felt especially strongly in 2016, as Roy went 11-3, with ALL 3 losses against Byamba. No one else seemed to have a chance against Roy. At the rate Roy is improving, he may continue undefeated, year-after-year, against everyone EXCEPT for Byamba!
As expected, Mongolians won the most medals (5 men’s and 4 women’s). Besides Byamba, standouts included perennial heavyweight medal winner Davaanyam (who has medaled for all 3 years he’s competed here), as well as middleweight powerhouse Altankhuyag, who went undefeated to sweep the middleweight title, and also was an openweight semi-finalist!
For the past two years, Nyambayar has gone undefeated in the lightweight division (13-0), but he’s bulked up to the lower part of middleweight, where he got bronze, winning in the semi-finals against Japanese standout Takeshi.
Last year’s lightweight runner-up, Boldbaatar, might have had a shot at gold (with Nyambayar moving up to middleweight), but he showed up late, missing his lightweight matches. Boldbaatar did put on quite a show in openweight, beating two heavyweight opponents, who were each double his weight!
“RUSH IN” ATTACK!
The Russians turned out in force, including a group of three who flew over from Moscow, all of whom medaled. In the middleweight, Konstantin was inches away from gold, losing in the final match to Mongolian Altankhuyag. While his 17-year old brother, Georgy got lightweight bronze, the undefeated lightweight champion was Batyr Altyev, who put on a clinic of shocking flips and lifts-outs. Batyr even made it to the openweight quarter-finals, barely losing to Davaanyam! Watch out for the Russians in 2017 . . .
Although Mongolians continue to dominate, there’s been increasing parity, with more medals going to Egyptians and Russians. With 13 countries competing, the majority of them (7 countries) managed to win at least one medal!
OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALLIST!
For those who follow wrestling, the presence of Karam Gaber (former Olympic gold medal winner in wrestling) was awesome! Karam put on a show in his first sumo competition, but not all his wrestling skills translated to sumo victories. He ended up in a three-way tie for 4th in his division (2-4), and then eked out quarter-final qualification by beating the two who tied with him, before losing in the quarters. With a little training, he might do better next time, even in an incredibly talented middleweight field!
His fellow Egyptians – lightweight Mohamed and heavyweight Ramy – also won medals, as expected.
LADIES . . .
The Mongolian ladies were phenomenal. Middleweight and Openweight Champion Munkhtsetseg was unstoppable, with an 8-0 record. Lightweight Champion Undrakhzaya beat huge opponents to place second in openweight herself!
Other top finishers included Natsumi (Japan), Marina (Poland), and Mandeep (India).
WATCH OUT FOR 2017
This competition has been growing every year, so 2017 should be even better. Get ready for more slams, shoves, flips, and stage toppling . . .