Preview of the US Sumo Nationals 2019

The US Sumo Nationals are only a day away!  The event takes place in Kansas City tomorrow, and it will determine the best sumo wrestlers in America.  Perhaps more importantly, it will determine who represents Team USA at the World Sumo Championships, which will take place in Hawaii this year.  It is always a honor to represent Team USA; it is an even greater honor to represent Team USA on your home turf!

While new competitors could enter at the last moment, NorthAmericanSumo.com got the inside scoop of the wrestlers that already committed to appear.  I briefly discuss each of them below and their chances of winning gold at the US Sumo Nationals.  I also highlight some competitors that have yet to be confirmed, but I would be very surprised if they did not compete.

Also, a new weightclass has been added this year.  From the last that I heard, a name has not been clearly established by the International Sumo Federation, so I just call it the “New Weight Class” in the descriptions below.  It is between lightweight and middleweight, with a limit of 100 kg/220lbs.

As always, please contact me at NorthAmericanSumo@Gmail.com with any questions or comments.  Thanks for reading!


Men’s Lightweight (85kg / 187lbs Limit)

Trent Sabo vs Kelly Gneiting US Sumo Nationals 2010 Openweight
Trent Sabo vs. Kelly Gneiting in the Openweight Division at the US Sumo Nationals 2010

Trent Sabo.  The man to beat in the lightweight division is Trent Sabo.  He is the residing gold medalist of the US Sumo Nationals lightweight division, where he has made a one-man monopoly for several years.  He also won the silver at the World Sumo Championships 2017, making him one of the top North American sumo wrestlers of all time.  Anyone finishing ahead of Trent in the lightweight division would be an upset, but anything is possible in sumo.

Justin Kizzart.  Justin Kizzart has the best chance of beating Trent.  He has the physical abilities, and his sumo skills aren’t too far behind.  In my interview with Justin, he mentioned that beating Trent is his current sumo quest, and he has been practicing specifically for this match up.  Personally, I don’t think it is a question of whether Justin will ever beat Trent, but I think it is rather a question of when.  Will it be this weekend?

Cornelius Booker vs Will Werner US Sumo Nationals 2016 Lightweight
Cornelius Booker vs Will Werner in the Lightweight Division at the US Sumo Nationals 2016

Cornelius Booker.  As we saw in the Georgia Sumo Open and the Texas Sumo Classic, Cornelius has many tricks up his sleeve.  He can pull out a toss or a trip from nowhere, making him one of the most dangerous competitors at the US Sumo Nationals.  Cornelius has the ability to spoil the drama between Trent and Justin to grab the gold, but would lightning need to strike twice for that to happen?

Al Zander.  With his wrestling background and deceptive strength, Al is a formidable foe.  He is able to execute moves that are rarely seen in sumo, often leaving his opponents scratching their head as they fall on their back.  Like Cornelius, Al has the ability to defeat anyone in the lightweight division, which perhaps makes the lightweights the most interesting division this year.


Men’s New Weight Class (100kg / 220lbs Limit)

new orleans sumo camp - video 2
Edward Suczewski vs. Robert Fuimaono Exhibition Match at the Big Easy Sumo Camp Winter 2018

Edward Suczewski.  Ed Suczewski is a sumo powerhouse.  When I heard that a new weightclass was being added to the US Sumo Nationals this year, I thought for sure that Ed would remain in the middleweight division.  After all, he did represent Team USA in the middleweight division at the World Sumo Championships last year.  But, it seems that Ed is under the new weightclass’s limit, which makes me sorry for anyone that competes against him.  After watching Ed toss around heavyweights at the Big Easy Sumo Camp, I don’t see how anyone can beat him in this weight class.


Men’s Middleweight (115kg / 254lbs Limit)

2016 US Sumo Nationals - Open Weight - Kena Heffernan vs Ed Suczewski
Kena Heffernan vs. Ed Suczewski in the Openweight Division at the US Sumo Nationals 2016

Kena Heffernan.  Fans of North American sumo will recognize the name Kena Heffernan, as he has been an elite competitor for years.  He often trades wins with Ed Suczewski in the middleweight division, and he always places well in the openweight division.   He has represented Team USA at the World Sumo Championships, including last year.  Whenever Kena is competing, he has a great chance of grabbing gold.

Mark Lawrence.  Mark Lawrence has also been in the North American sumo scene for several years.  He has previously medaled in the heavyweight division at the US Sumo Nationals, making him a formative opponent in the middleweight division.  I think he’ll be great competition for Kena, and I look forward to seeing their showdown.


Men’s Heavyweight (No Limit)

Roy Sims vs Byamba - US Sumo Open 2018
Roy Sims vs. Byamba in the Heavyweight Division at the US Sumo Open 2018

Roy Sims.  NorthAmericanSumo.com awarded Roy Sims the Senshu of the Year 2018, after he won both the US Sumo Nationals and the US Sumo Open in the heavyweight division.  Who else would be the favorite to win the heavyweight division this year? None other than Roy Sims.

Robert Fuimaono.  Roy’s biggest competition, however, will be Robert Fuimaono.  Robert is a relative newcomer to sumo competitions in North America, but his skills reflect years of training with André Coleman.  When matched with his strength, Robert can beat anyone – including Roy Sims.  Robert vs. Roy may be the match to watch at the US Sumo Nationals this year.

Kelly Gneiting vs. Paul from Nevada Sin City Sumo Tournament 2010
Kelly Gneiting vs. Paul from Nevada in the Openweight Division at the Sin City Sumo Tournament 2010

Kelly Gneiting.  Kelly Gneiting has been a mainstay of North American sumo for years.  Best known for his bouts with Byamba, Kelly knows how to win a match.  I’m excited to see how well he performs.

Ryan White.  Ryan has also been in the sumo game for quite awhile.  He had seen success at the middleweight division, and now he has bumped up to the heavyweight division in recent years.  Could this be his breakthrough year as a heavyweight?

Americus Abesamis.  This will be the 12th year that Americus Abesamis will be competing in the US Sumo Nationals.  What an amazing accomplishment!  Americus isn’t as close to the top of the heavyweight division as he used to be, but he is still a very formative opponent.  I could see him doing quite well, and I look forward to seeing him compete.

Shawn Buller.  My source did not specifically mention that Shawn Buller was going to appear at the US Sumo Nationals, but I would be very surprised if he did not compete.  Shawn is one of the top heavyweights in America, and he may be the most recognizable.  Like Robert Fuimaono, Shawn does have the potential to take Roy Sims down, leaving some uncertainty at the top of the heavyweight division.


Women Divisions

Unfortunately, my source did not provide any names for the women who will be competing.  Nevertheless, there are several female senshu that appear most years that I should mention.

Janna Van Witbeck.  The winner of the lightweight division at the US Sumo Nationals 2018 was Janna Van Witbeck, and she also scored a bronze medal at the US Sumo Open 2018.  She will be the woman to beat if anyone else wants to win gold in the lightweight division.

Sumo World Championships 2018 - Mariah Holmes - Match 2
Mariah Holes vs. German Competitor in the Openweight Division at the World Sumo Championships 2018

Mariah Holmes.  Mariah Holmes may be the most talented female senshu in America.  She had a top-notch performance at the World Sumo Championships 2018; she won gold in the middleweight division at the US Sumo Nationals 2018; and she wold both gold and silver at the US Sumo Open 2018.  It will be extremely tough to beat her in any division, let alone in the middleweight division.

Morgan Chateau.  Mariah’s biggest challenge will be Dr. Morgan Chateau.  Morgan is a tough competitor, who finished second in the middleweight division at the US Sumo Nationals 2018 and second in the lightweight division at the US Sumo Open 2018.  I’m not sure whether she will be competing in the lightweight or middleweight division at this event, but she always has a chance of finishing first.

Danna Engelberg.  Danna Engelberg has made quite the splash on the North American sumo scene.  She won gold in the heavyweight division at both the US Sumo Nationals and the US Sumo Open in 2018.  Can she repeat this spectacular performance?

Natalie Burns.  Natalie Burns finished second in the heavyweight division at both the US Sumo Nationals and the US Sumo Open in 2018, right behind Danna in both.  Is this her year for revenge?

Helen Delpopolo vs Jenelle Hamilton US Sumo Nationals 2015
Helen Delpopolo vs. Jenelle Hamilton in the Openweight Division at the US Sumo Nationals 2015

Helen Delpopolo.  Helen is the current United States Sumo Federation President, and she won the openweight division last year.  I don’t think winning is a requirement to remain president, but I am sure that she will want to keep her #1 spot.  Let’s see if anyone can take it from her.


Other Things to Watch For?

Redemption Jiu Jitsu.  According to Twitter, the Redemption Jiu Jitsu Academy from Georgia will be sending five members to compete in the US Sumo Nationals.  This gym is relatively new to sumo, but they performed extremely well at the Georgia Sumo Open.  They could cause a major shake up on the North American Sumo scene if they have multiple members medal.  Can they do it?

Surprise Appearances.  It is difficult to know whether anyone will make a surprise appearance in sumo.  It could be a former great returning to claim their throne, or it could be a talented individual from a different sport appearing to take the sumo crown.  Be sure to read our coverage of the US Sumo Nationals next week, where we will discuss the results.

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