Recap and Highlights of the US Sumo Nationals 2019

The US Sumo Nationals wrapped up last Saturday (2/9/2019), and what a great day of sumo!  There were so many exciting storylines and amazing matches, most of which I will recap and highlight below.  If you don’t want the results spoiled before watching, however, be sure to watch the complete video of the US Sumo Nationals was lucky enough to get access from Americus Abesamis‏, who has been a major player in North American sumo for quite awhile.  Thank you again, Americus!

If you need an introduction into the US Sumo Nationals 2019, be sure to check out our preview post.  It covers some of the primary competitors, but there were a few surprise appearances this year.  If you have any questions or comments afterwards, be sure to email me at  I am always happy to chat about sumo!  Also, please let me know if there are too many gifs on this page for them all to load.  I tried to make them as small as possible, but I may need to recreate this post into two separate posts.

Speaking of email, I’ve been having a record number of people contact me about finding a sumo gym.  I am always happy to look with you, but a good place to start is the United States Sumo Federation’s list of sumo clubs.  If you can’t find a location on that list, then I’ll be happy to find possible local contacts for you.

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

In my preview post, I said that the lightweight division may be the most competitive division at the US Sumo Nationals.  I mentioned that Trent Sabo is the perennial favorite in this division, Justin Kizzart may be the best equipped to defeat him, Cornelius Booker might be the most dangerous competitor in all of sumo, and Al Zander is dangerous in his own right.  On the day of the competition, however, I discovered that Trent was not competing this year.  I’ll have to look into why, but his absence opened up the division a little bit more this year.

And the day started with a bang!  The first matchup was Gabe Unick against Andrew Freund.  Gabe was not in my Preview of the US Sumo Nationals 2019 post, but he has been competing out of Michigan for a few years now.  On the other hand, Andrew Freund is one of the most experienced US Sumo competitors, and most readers will know him as the organizer of the US Sumo Open.

Gabe Unick vs Andrew Freund - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Lightweight

Andrew didn’t see the judo throw coming!  Really unique move that you see more frequently in the lightweight division than in the heavyweight.  While this post doesn’t feature any more of Andrew’s matches, I must say that he looked extremely impressive.  He was incredibly quick off the tachiai, and he had great dohyo control at all times.

This next match features Justin Kizzart against Ryan Williamson.  Ryan is a newcomer to sumo, but he has all the right tools to become a great competitor.

Justin Kizzart vs Ryan Williamson - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Lightweight

…But for now, Justin has the experience on Ryan, and he makes it look easy with the henka.  This may be one of the reasons that lightweights are so weary to commit to the tachiai – it is easier for lightweights to pull a henka than most other weightclasses.

As the lightweight division continued, the competition was extremely close – especially between three competitors.  Nearing the final matches, Cornelius Booker was undefeated, whereas Justin Kizzart had one loss (against Gabe), and Gabe had one loss (against Cornelius).  This forced a match between Justin and Gabe to determine who would compete against Cornelius for the gold.  In this gold medal match, Justin or Gabe would need to defeat Cornelius twice, whereas Cornelius would only need to win once.

Gabe Unick vs Justin Kizzart - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Lightweight

And Justin wins the opportunity to face Cornelius!  This puts Gabe in third place with the bronze medal.

And now for the final lightweight match. . .who will win?  The lightweight sumo machine, Justin?  Or the most dangerous sumo lightweight, Cornelius?

Justin Kizzart vs Cornelius Booker - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Lightweight

Cornelius does it!  He grabs the victory!  Congratulations Cornelius on the gold!  And congratulations Justin on the silver!

As I mentioned in my Who’s Who of Men in North American Sumo post, Cornelius has been putting in more hours than perhaps anyone else in North American Sumo.  I am really glad to see that his hard work paid off, and he was able to bring home the gold.  He truly is one of the most dangerous competitors in North American sumo.  At the same time, it is always a bummer to see anyone lose, but I know that Justin will bounce back from this.  I have a feeling he already has his sights on Cornelius at the US Sumo Open.

Gold – Cornelius Booker

Silver – Justin Kizzart

Bronze – Gabe Unick

P.S.  There were so many more great matches all divisions, but I couldn’t include near enough in this post.  Be sure to check out’s Twitter page, where we post gifs that can’t fit on the website.

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

Surprisingly, the new weight class may have been the most predictable.  Edward Suczewski is one of the best middleweight competitors in America, and he was light enough to drop down to this new weight class.  With his power, it would be a tall order to even take a single victory against him at a 220 lbs weight limit.

The only other competitor in this weightclass was Joshua Clements, who is competing out of Redemption Jiu Jitsu Academy in Georgia.  As I mentioned in the preview, Redemption Jiu Jitsu sent a lot of competitors, and they could be a major shake-up on the sumo scene if a few of their wrestlers could medal.  But could Josh be the ultimate spoiler and take gold from Ed?  It would be difficult, as I heard that he made the cutoff for lightweight but chose to compete in the new weight-class instead.

Edward Suczewski vs Joshua Clements - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - New Weight Class

Valiant effort, but not enough to take the victory from Ed.  Ed would also beat Josh in another match, giving him the first-place finish.  Congratulations to Ed for being the first ever gold medalist in the 220 lbs division at the US Sumo Nationals!  And Congratulations to Josh for being the  first ever silver medalist in the 220 lbs division at the US Sumo Nationals.

Gold – Edward Suczewski

Silver – Joshua Clements

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

We saw some new faces at Middleweight this year.  Redemption Jiu Jitsu had a few competitors fall within the middleweight division, and there were some other new middleweights from across the country.  On the other hand, there was one very familiar face in this division – Kena Heffernan.  The primary story line of the middleweight division this year became Kena vs. everyone else.  Could he survive the field?

The first match-up below is Kena against Jacob Gill.  Although Jacob is a newcomer to sumo, he won the middleweight gold medal at the Georgia Sumo Open.  He trains out of Redemption Jiu Jitsu, so he is getting some good hours on the dohyo with his teammates.

Kena Heffernan vs Jacob Gill 3 - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Middleweight (actually first match)

Wow!  Jacob does the impossible and hands Kena a loss!  He did a great job of absorbing the tachiai and going on the offensive after.  Can he hold on for the rest of Nationals to get the gold?

I skip most of the middleweight division to feature the next match below, which was for third place.  It includes Cesar Valle and Ryan White.  Cesar competes out of Rhode Island, and he finished third in the middleweight division at the Georgia Sumo Open.  Ryan competes out of New Jersey, and he has competed for several years at the US Sumo Open.  Typically, he competes in the heavyweight division, but he dropped down a weightclass this year.

Cesar Valle vs Ryan White - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Middleweight

Such a good match!  Great to see the two representing East Coast sumo wrestling, and Ryan was barely able to edge out Cesar.

As a side note, I find it interesting that Cesar finished third in the Georgia Sumo Open and fourth at Nationals.  Does this mean that the competition level at the Georgia Open is approaching the competition level at Nationals?  I questioned whether the Georgia Open will cause North American sumo to have a “big three” instead of a “big two” in a prior post, and only time will tell.

The final matches in the middleweight division were Kena Heffernan against Jacob Gill.  After losing early to Jacob, Kena did not lose another match.  Jacob did not lose a match altogether at this point.  This forced a final series of matches.  If Kena won two in a row, he would be awarded gold.  If Jacob won either of them, then he would be awarded gold.

Kena Heffernan vs Jacob Gill - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Middleweight

Kena did not take any chances in the first match – a textbook tachiai and pushout.  Can he do it again to win it all?

Kena Heffernan vs Jacob Gill 2 - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Middleweight

And he does!  A great effort by Jacob in these two final matches, but it wasn’t enough to grab a victory in either.  Congratulations to Kena for winning gold, Jacob for winning silver, and Ryan for winning bronze!

Gold -Kena Heffernan

Silver – Jacob Gill

Bronze – Ryan White

Men’s Heavyweight (No Limit)

Personally, I was most excited for the lightweight and heavyweight divisions.  I was excited for the lightweight division because of the overall strength of the competitors, but I was excited for the heavyweight division because of one match: Roy Sims vs. Robert Fuimaono.  Roy is the current favorite in American Sumo, but Rob is steadily coming for his crown.  Could he take it this year?

Once I started watching, though, I also got into the other heavyweight matches just as much.  The US Sumo Nationals had several heavyweights that are all-time fan favorites: Americus Abesamis, Kelly Gneiting, André Coleman.  The division also has some relatively new faces, too.  So, there was a lot to love in this division.

The first match below features Daniel Avila against Nick Levenger.  Dan has competed at the US Sumo Open before, and he did quite well in both 2017 and 2018.  I don’t know much about Nick, but he looked very solid in his matches.  He had several very strong victories, so this was a very good match-up.

Daniel Avila vs Nick Levenger - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Heavyweight

Dan wins!  Dan would go on to finish in third place.  Great work from him, and congratulations on winning the bronze!

Below is the first match against Roy Sims and Robert Fuimaono.  Can Rob take the crown from Roy?

Roy Sims vs Robert Fuimaono - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Heavyweight

So close!  This match actually came to the judge’s decision.  As you can see, Roy’s heel went out barely before Rob’s toe went out.  Rob wins!

As the day went on, Roy did not lose another match and Rob did not lose a match at all.  Like many of the other weight-classes, this forced a final pair of matches.  Roy needed to win both matches to get gold, whereas Rob only needed to win one.

Roy Sims vs Robert Fuimoano 2 - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Heavyweight

Again, such a close match!  I honestly didn’t know who won when I first watched this match, but Roy was awarded the victory.  When watching the reply, Rob indeed hit the mat first.  This forced one final match for the gold!

Roy Sims vs Robert Fuimoano 3 - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Heavyweight.gif

This was the closest match of the three!  Roy and Rob are sooo evenly matched, and I love it.  As you can see at the very end, Rob barely stepped out.  This gave Roy the victory and the gold medal.  Congratulations Roy on the gold medal!

Also, I heard a rumor that Roy said this would be his final US Sumo Nationals.  While I hope that it isn’t true, he has accomplished so much in North American sumo, and I am glad that we have been able to see him compete for the past few years.

Gold – Roy Sims

Silver – Robert Fuimaono

Bronze – Daniel Avila

Men’s Openweight (Everyone)

Now with all the weightclasses finished, we have the openweight division!  I really enjoy seeing the lightweights vs. the heavyweights and everything in between.  How often can you see someone weighing <188 lbs go against someone twice their weight?  At the US Sumo Nationals – that’s where!

I am actually going to create an entirely separate post to feature the openweight action in the near future.  Be sure to check back in a few days/weeks to see highlights of the openweight division.  Until then, these are the results below:

Gold -Robert Fuimaono

Silver – Kena Heffernan

Bronze – Edward Suczewski

Women’s Lightweight (65kg / 143lbs)

Of all the weight classes at the US Sumo Nationals this year, I think that the women’s lightweight may have been the most unpredictable.  Each of the other weightclasses, women’s and men’s, had at least one veteran of the dohyo that was the favorite.  In the women’s lightweight, there were no favorites and all competitors had an equal chance of winning.  So who could rise above the rest?

The first match was Candice Herman against Nicole Casares.  Candice is very new to sumo, and I believe that the Big Easy Sumo Camp was one of her first times on the dohyo.  Nicole has a little more experience, as she has competed in the US Sumo Open, but this match was open to either competitor to win.

Candice Herman vs Nicole Casares - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Lightweight

Candice with the very impressive tachiai and the victory!  She showed a lot of strength for a lightweight, and Nicole couldn’t stay on her feet.

The next match-up was Nicole against Ava Chan.  Like Candice, Ava is relatively new to sumo, and her competitors didn’t know what to expect from her.

Nicole Casares vs Ava Chan - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Lightweight

But now they do!  Ava picked up the win and started eyeing the gold medal.

The third match was Candice Herman against Ava.  At this point, both of these competitors were undefeated, so it was a great test of their abilities.

Candice Herman vs Ava Chan - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Lightweight

What a close match!  It was so close that I had to cut off the first ~10 seconds from the gif.  Ava ended up winning, giving Candice her first loss.

The final match of the lightweight division was Ava against Candice, again.  Candice would need to win two in a row to get the gold medal, as she had already lost to Ava once.  Ava would only need to win one match to grab gold.

Candice Herman vs Ava Chan - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Lightweight 2

Ava wins!  She gets the gold medal!  Candice and Nicole would have a playoff match for second and third.  Candice would win, giving her the silver medal.  Great work in this division and congratulations to all!

Gold – Ava Chan

Silver – Candice Herman

Bronze – Nicole Casares

Women’s New Weight Class (73kg / 161 lbs)

It seems like the women were waiting for the new weightclass, as it already has some tough competition in its first year.  Morgan Chateau was likely the favorite in this division.  She represented Team USA in the middleweight division at the World Sumo Championships this year, and she placed second in the lightweight division at the US Sumo Open.  On the other hand, Jenelle Hamilton placed first in the lightweight division in 2014 and 2015 at the US Sumo Open, and Vanessa Flanders is a newcomer who could be the wildcard.

The first matchup was Morgan Chateau against Vanessa Flanders.  This was a great opportunity for Vanessa test her sumo skills.

Morgan Chateau vs Vanessa Hamilton - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - New Weight Class

While Vanessa has a lot of skill, it was not enough to beat Morgan.  Morgan picks up the win and is off to a great start.

The next match was Vanessa against Jenelle Hamilton.  Could the newcomer defeat the two-time US Sumo Open champion?

Vanessa Flanders vs Jenelle Hamilton - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - New Weight Class.gif

And she did!  Extremely impressive by Vanessa Flanders to defeat the former US Sumo Open champ.

The third match was Morgan Chateau against Jenelle – the battle of the two experienced competitors of the division.  This could put Morgan firmly into first place, but it could also create a three-way tie.

Morgan Chateau vs Jenelle Hamilton - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - New Weight Class

Jenelle wins after the grueling match!  This caused a three-way tie, in which a series of matches were required to determine the final match.

The first of these was Vanessa against Morgan, which Morgan won.  The second was Vaness against Jenelle, which Vanessa won.  This put Morgan at 1-0, Vanessa at 1-1, and Jenelle at 0-1.  So, the final match was Morgan against Jenelle to determine whether Morgan would win gold.

Morgan Chateau vs Jenelle Hamilton 2 - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - New Weight Class.gif

Morgan wins!  And with that, she wins the gold medal!  Congratulations to all three of these competitors.  This division was probably the closest of them all at the US Sumo Nationals, and I really look forward to seeing how it grows in the future.

Gold – Morgan Chateau

Silver – Vanessa Flanders

Bronze – Jenelle Hamilton

Women’s Middleweight (80kg / 176 lbs)

With the arrival of the new weightclass, some of the prior middleweight competitors either moved to the new weightclass or up to heavyweight.  This left one favorite in the division: Cody Stout.  Cody co-hosted the Big Easy Sumo Camp with André Coleman, so she clearly is an expert on the dohyo.  Could she capitalize on the moment to get gold?

Her opposition was Carrie Hubery.  Carrie is a newcomer to sumo competitions, so it was difficult to determine how she would match up against Cody.

Carrie Hubery vs Cody Stout - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Middleweight

Cody wins!  Cody would also go on to win their second match, which would give her the gold medal.  Congratulations to Cody!  And Congratulations to Carrie on the silver!

Gold – Cody Stout

Silver – Carrie Hubery

Women’s Heavyweight (No Limit)

The heavyweight division included three of the most well-known female competitors in North American Sumo: Mariah Holmes, Danna Engelberg, and Jasmine Jones.  In our list of who’s who in North American sumo, Mariah was awarded the female senshu of the year award, and it was noted that Danna was the only other senshu who could have competed with Mariah for that award.  Jasmine has been in the sumo game for quite awhile, too, and she is a favorite in any competition that she enters.

The first match was Danna Engelberg against Jasmine Jones.  Such a wonderful match up to start the division!

Danna Engelberg vs Jasmine Jones - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Heavyweight

Danna wins after a hard-fought victory! Her lower center of gravity seemed to help her get the leverage needed to beat Jasmine.

The next match was Danna against Mariah Holmes.  Mariah is typically a middleweight competitor, so fighting in the heavyweight division would be a new experience for her.

Danna Engelberg vs Mariah Holmes - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Heavyweight

But she didn’t let it phase her at all, and she got the win!  This put Mariah at 1-0, Danna at 1-1, and Jasmine at 0-1.

The third women’s heavyweight match was Mariah Holmes against Jasmine Jones.  Quite the tall task for Mariah to take down Jasmine.

Mariah Holmes vs Jasmine Jones - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Heavyweight

But she does it!  Great work by Mariah, putting her firmly into the lead in the women’s heavyweight division.  This forced the final match up of Mariah and Donna.  Mariah only had to win one of two matches to win gold in heavyweight, whereas Donna needed to win both.

Danna Engelberg vs Mariah Holmes 2 - US Sumo Nationals 2019 - Heavyweight

Danna steps out!  Mariah is the winner!  This puts Mariah in first, Danna in second, and Jasmine in third.  Congratulations to all three on their performance!

Gold – Mariah Holmes

Silver – Danna Engelberg

Bronze – Jasmine Jones

Women’s Openweight (Everyone)

Like the men’s openweight, I am going to include the women’s openweight division in a separate post.  The results are below, and the heavyweight women swept the division.  Danna got her revenge on Mariah, and Jasmine picked up another bronze medal.  Congratulations to the three of them!

Gold – Danna Engelberg

Silver – Mariah Holmes

Bronze – Jasmine Jones

That is all for the US Sumo Nationals…for now.  I will be uploading a review of the Openweight division in the next few days/weeks, so don’t forget to check in again soon!

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