The 17th annual US Sumo Open was the most dramatic competition yet! Former champions reclaimed glory, records were set, and a 245-pound athlete won the Openweight title!
Over 4,000 fans rocked the Walter Pyramid – the biggest turnout yet at any US Sumo Open, and the largest crowd for any international sumo competition in North American history.
The theme of 2017 was “upset city”, with many “smaller” wrestlers toppling the giants. Technique was king, and the audience got their money’s worth, as big man after big man fell off the stage.
THE LITTLE BIG MAN
The biggest upset came in the openweight division when middleweight Takeshi Amitani of Japan dominated the field for the gold medal! Takeshi won a bronze in middleweight (losing just once) earlier in the day, but really outdid himself by defeating all comers, including heavyweight opponents, to win the overall title, 5-0!
This upset victory by Takeshi is the first time that a Japanese competitor has won the US Sumo Open since 2005-2006, when former World Champion Koichi Kato did it for two years in a row!
It’s also the first time since 2002 (!) that the men’s openweight title was won by someone other than a heavyweight! In the inaugural US Sumo Open (in 2001), Japanese middleweight Yuko Mitsunaga won the openweight division, and in 2002, Estonian Aap Uspenski, at 231 lbs, also captured openweight gold. Since then, ALL openweight winners were heavyweights, until 245-pound Takeshi broke the streak!
So, Takeshi brought back the success of “small sumo”, and reclaimed a title for the Japanese. His dominance in the openweight was specacular, as he unbalanced all his opponents, and sticking with them, even as they struggled to push or pull him down. Takeshi truly put on a clinic!
THE LITTLER BIG MAN
American Trent Sabo is known for placing third at the 2008 Sumo World Championships, but at the US Sumo Open, he hadn’t won a gold medal for 12 years, and in fact, only got two medals overall during that 12-year span, even though he competed almost every year.
This year, Trent was back with a vengeance. He displayed an arsenal of offensive techniques, including a full body slam in the lightweight quarter-finals. He then defeated the two Ukrainian lightweights in the semi-finals and finals, relegating the Ukrainians to silver and bronze.
In the openweight division, though, Trent really went to town. Defeating middleweight Norwegian Grizzly, and then heavyweight semi-finalist Danny, back-to-back. In the openweight quarter-finals, Trent faced the #2 middleweight finisher, Tuvshuu of Mongolia, a man who had dominated the middleweight field, losing only in the finals to his countryman, Altankhuyag. Trent took down Tuvshuu in less than a second, with a leg-sweep technique.
Although he lost in the semi-finals, Trent became only the third lightweight in history to make it that far, after Stiliyan Georgiev (2006) and Erdenebileg Alagdaa (2011). However, neither of the two previous openweight semi-finalists had won the lightweight gold in those years (as Trent did)!
OTHER “LITTLE” POINTS
The 2017 US Sumo Open showcased incredible skill and dynamism, where speed and technique repeatedly trumped sheer size. Some highlight factoids:
* The MEDIAN weights were 182.5 lbs (lightweight), 236.5 lbs (middleweight), and only 290 lbs (heavyweight). By comparison, the median heavyweight poundages for the previous two years were 342 lbs and 346 lbs. With the huge drop in weight, though, came much more explosive power!
* Of 38 male athletes, 28 of them entered the openweight matches (9 light, 9 middle, and 10 heavy). The openweight quarter-finalists, though, included 1 lightweight, 5 middleweights, and only 2 heavyweights! In other words, most (5 of 9) middleweights reached the quarters, but only 2 out of 10 heavyweights got that far! This shows that the middleweight contenders were actually stronger than the heavyweights, overall!
* In fact, BOTH openweight finalists, Takeshi (245) and Konstantin (241 lbs) were middleweights. The other two semi-finalists were lightweight Trent (187 lbs) and “small” heavyweight Yevhenii (280 lbs).
* The lone lightweight in that group, Trent, was also the only American, as he advanced with 4 Mongolians, 1 Japanese, 1 Russian, and 1 Ukrainian!
* In fact, out of 17 American men competing, Trent was the ONLY one with an overall winning record. He was 8-0 going into the openweight semi-finals, and finished at 8-2.
* The next best American was lightweight standout Cornelius Booker (3-3). Out of the other 15 Americans, all with losing records, MOST of them (8 of 15) could not even win a single match, collectively going 0-25! Aside from Trent, the other 16 Americans tallied a total record of 15-49.
* Out of 38 total men, only 12 had winning records! There were 3 with even win-loss ratios, and a whopping 23 had losing records. This shows the dominance of the top few.
* Conversely, though, no one got a perfect record (which usually happens with Byamba). Even openweight champion Takeshi lost once in middleweight.
Despite all the upsets, Mongolian stalwarts held their ground in the middleweight and openweight divisions. In both 2016 and 2017, powerhouse Altankhuyag Altangerel won the middleweight divisions undefeated, racking up a newsworthy 14-0 middleweight streak. He also went far in openweight in both years.
Legendary, 4-time World Sumo Champion Byambajav Ulambayar (“Byamba”) wowed the crowds for the 11th year in a row at the US Sumo Open. With 7 wins and just 1 loss in the openweight, Byamba won his 10th heavyweight championship, and extended his 11-year, overall stats to 104 wins and just 5 losses! Those are statistics that may never be broken!
Mongolian middleweight silver medalist, Tuvshintulga Tomortogoo, also dominated his opponents, and lightweight semi-finalist, Jambaldorj Mendsaikhan made a strong showing, too.
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
If you speak Russian, you have a lot to cheer about. Middleweight Konstantin Abdula-Zade (Russia) fell to both Mongolians in the middleweight class, putting him out of medal contention there, but he came back to stage a shocking upset, defeating Byamba in the openweight quarter-finals. After beating Trent in the semis, Konstantin lost to Takeshi in the finals, earning the openweight silver medal.
All the Ukrainians medaled, too – Anton Chuev (lightweight silver), Vitaliy Borisenko (lightweight bronze), and Yevhenii Orlov (heavyweight silver, openweight bronze).
Egyptian Ramy Elgazar was steady as usual, capturing heavyweight gold. He’s won medals every year for all three years he’s competed. The team from India did well, too, with several middleweight fighters in medal contention.
Women from Sweden, Mongolia, and India took almost all the top spots. Undefeated lightweight champion, Julia Hansson, secured gold in her first-ever competition. Mongolians won all other gold and silver women’s medals, and 114-pound Amanpreet Kaur of India grabbed lightweight bronze in a highly-contested group of five. The top 2 Mongolians, Zoljargal Dagvadroj and Gantogos Garmaa got the top two spots in both heavyweight and openweight.
READY for 2018
With upsets galore, all bets are off for 2018! Stay tuned for details . . .