The US SUMO OPEN Rebound — #21
From 2001 – 2019, the US Sumo Open grew from about 1,000 fans to 5,000 fans. In 2020, we held the competition, but with no fans present. This time (2021), due to county mandates, we capped the number at 1,000 people, but even with the smaller crowd, the action was dynamic and intense!
We enjoyed the return to Little Tokyo, this time in the iconic Terasaki Budokan, a brand new gym, where the US Sumo Open just made history as the first large-scale sporting event there.
In total, 44 athletes from 6 countries competed in 154 back-to-back matches. For the first time EVER (in 21 years), a majority of the men’s gold medals went to U.S. athletes, as Emilio Morales won Light Heavyweight, while Jose Galindo won both Heavyweight and Openweight. All other gold medals, for both men and women went to Mongolians, with strong medal showings from Egypt, New Zealand, and Russia, too.
During the previous 20 years, American men were never able to win a majority of gold medals. In fact, foreign athletes often SWEPT all gold medals, in many years. Now, in the 21st year of the US Sumo Open, American men managed to get 3 out of 5 gold medals – an unprecedented level of success!
Jose Galindo went 13-1 overall, to capture BOTH the Heavyweight and Openweight titles. This is the second year in a row that he has accomplished this amazing feat! This puts Jose in lofty company. Only two (2) athletes have previously been able to win both divisions in back-to-back years, and BOTH of those men were former World Sumo Champions.
Kato from Japan competed in the 2005 & 2006 US Sumo Opens, winning both divisions, both times. Among his 17 total gold medals (10 Heavyweight and 7 Openweight) at the US Sumo Open, 4-time World Champion Byamba was able to win BOTH gold medals for 5 years in a row, at one point (from 2009 – 2013)! Can Jose surpass Kato next year, and start to approach Byamba’s records?!
Another American standout was Emilio Morales, who shocked everyone with the Light Heavyweight gold medal, in his second sumo competition ever. In the semi-finals, he defeated Moataz from Egypt (who had beaten Emilio last year, to win the gold medal), while Emilio also pummeled Russian powerhouse Artur, who had beaten Emilio in the preliminary rounds. Emilio was also the only non-Heavyweight to make it to the Openweight semi-finals! Both Emilio and Jose train together in Los Angeles at Yamamoto Sumo Dojo.
In the Middleweight division, the #2 middleweight in the country, Jimmy Doyle (also out of Yamamoto Sumo Dojo) captured silver, losing only to Mongolian “Bilegee” (the second most-decorated US Sumo Open competitor, after Byamba, for the past 15 years)! Also, JJ Jones managed a bronze medal in Lightweight, in a very strong field, which included multi-time US Champion Trent and current US Champion Joe, as well as four (4) dominant Mongolian wrestlers!
These Mongolians were nearly unstoppable, as 3 out of 4 of them reached the semi-finals in Lightweight competition. Last year’s champion, Altangerel, did it again, going head-to-head with countryman “Laya” in the final match, where Altangerel eked out a controversial victory, after losing to Laya earlier in the prelims.
Bilegee’s return in the Middleweight was stellar. He went undefeated, 6-0, for a dominant victory, at 46 years old! Since 2006, Bilegee has about 7 times at the US Sumo Open, winning 11 medals including 3 in lightweight, 5 gold medals in middleweight, and even 3 openweight medals (even at around only 200 pounds!). These include 6 gold medals, 3 silver, and 2 bronze. The last time he competed was in 2015, so to have him back again, with perfect results, was spectacular!
2016 semifinals in massively strong international field
In women’s competition, Togosoo, a returning US Sumo Open Champion, back for her second tournament, destroyed the women’s field with a 5-0 perfect record, to win both Heavyweight and Openweight titles!
As usual, Egyptians did well. The giant Ramy Elgazar has won medals at the US Sumo Open every year he’s competed (since 2015), including a gold medal, but he settled for silver in the Heavyweight this year, losing to Jose in the finals. The three other Egyptians each won bronze medals – Kamal in Heavyweight, Moataz in Light Heavyweight, and Fathy in Middleweight.
Maki from New Zealand, with NFL experience, performed very well in his first competition ever, doing better as he went along. He had an amazing 15 matches, going 5-4 in Heavyweight and 5-1 in Openweight. Meanwhile, Artur from Russia was perfect in the Light Heavyweight class until the final match, when he lost to Emilio (who he had beaten earlier).
Eric from North Carolina was a crowd-pleaser. The smallest heavyweight, at just 275 lbs, he faced some opponents in the 500-pound range. He lost to 512-pound Simeon, but managed a powerful upset against eventual silver medalist, 488-pound Ramy. He also placed third out of 22 fighters in the Openweight.
The 1,000-pound match up!
At weigh-ins, Simeon weighed in at exactly 512.0 pounds while Ramy weighed in at exactly 488.0 pounds. Together, they would create a 1,000-pound collission (not including the weight of their mawashis, i.e. sumo belts)!
For this heaviest-collission ever at the US Sumo Open to-date (over 2,000 matches and counting), most fans stood with cell phone cameras to capture this historic moment. The match did not disappoint, as the two locked up and tussled. Ramy came out on top as he threw down Simeon, for the victory, to wild cheers from the audience!
Back to Bigger Scale for 2022 . . .
There was strong excitement among fans, to be back at the US Sumo Open live. This year did not hit the normal 4,000 – 5,000 person level of attendance, due to restrictions, but we look forward to returning to that level, next time. Stay tuned . . .