The US Sumo Open 2019 concluded last weekend, and it was quite the event! There were upsets but also dominant performances; there were lopsided matches but also very close contests; there were regulars winning medals but also newcomers winning medals. Most of all, it was a lot of fun! All the competitors should be proud of their efforts, whether they won gold or didn’t win a match.
Like most of my recap posts, I had planned on making gifs of the highlights and detailing the storylines of the event. For those who have recently checked the Preview of the US Sumo Open 2019 post, however, USA Sumo recently notified me that they cannot approve any usage of the US Sumo Open footage – even for making gifs. Let me first say that this is 100% their right. If they cannot approve any usage, then they cannot approve any usage. I will also say that this drastically altered what I could do in this recap post. So, instead of my original idea, I will simply make bullet-pointed descriptions of the major happenings of the US Sumo Open 2019 at the end of this post.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at NorthAmericanSumo@Gmail.com. Thanks for reading!
Gold – Sviatoslav Semykras (Ukraine)
Silver – Demid Karachenko (Ukraine)
Bronze – Anatolii Khliustin (Ukraine)
Gold – Takeshi Amitani (Japan)
Silver – Mohamed Kamal (Egypt)
Bronze – Anton Chuiev (Ukraine)
Men’s Light Heavyweight
Gold – Vazha Daiauri (Ukraine)
Silver – Edward Suczewski (USA)
Bronze – Ganzorig Namsrai (Mongolia)
Gold – Oieksandr Veresiuk (Ukraine)
Silver – Jose Galindo (USA)
Bronze – Hiroki Sumi (Japan)
Gold – Oieksandr Veresiuk (Ukraine)
Silver – Vazha Daiauri (Ukraine)
Bronze – Ramy Elgazar (Egypt)
Gold – Karyna Koiesnik (Ukraine)
Silver – Alina Duzhenko (Ukraine)
Bronze – Ila Erickson (USA)
Gold – Svitlana Kolesnyk (Ukraine)
Silver – Julia Dorny (Germany)
Bronze – Marine Holmeide (Norway)
Women’s Light Heavyweight
Gold – Maryna Maksymenko (Ukraine)
Silver – N/A
Bronze – N/A
Gold – Ivanna Berezovska (Ukraine)
Silver – Mariah Holmes (USA)
Bronze – Natalie Burns (USA)
Gold – Ivanna Berezovska (Ukraine)
Silver – Maryna Maksymenko (Ukraine)
Bronze – Mariah Holmes (USA)
- Sending Their Best: The biggest storyline this year was certainly the dominance of Ukraine. Out of 10 divisions, Ukraine won the gold medal in nine! The only division that they did not win was the Men’s Middleweight, in which Takeshi Amitani (Japan) won. So what was their secret? Simply put, they were stronger, faster, and more skilled than everyone else. I am not certain about this, but I have been told that Ukrainian sumo wrestlers are able to make careers competing in sumo as well as other types of wrestling. So, while most American amateur sumo wrestlers only practices between their day jobs. Ukrainian amateur sumo wrestlers practice for a living.It should also be noted that the Ukrainian team has very different styles between their lightweights and heavyweights. The lightweights had a more traditional wrestling style – going for grabs and throws similar to judo. The heavyweights had a more traditional sumo style – going for push-outs and lifts. The differing skillsets were extremely effective, and I would personally like to see American amateur sumo begin to differentiate the styles more between lightweight and heavyweight competitors.
- Who is Jose!?: The US Sumo Open is. . .well. . .open to anyone. Sometimes, you see people walk in off the street to give sumo a shot, and these competitors have limited success. . .most of the time. Jose Galindo (USA) had apparently only practiced sumo a handful of times before competing in this year’s open, and he was placed in the “group of death”. To make it to the final bracket, heavyweight competitors needed to finish in the top two of their round-robin group of four. Jose’s group included Ramy Elgazar (Egypt), a former US Sumo Open gold medalist, as well as Robert Fuimaono (USA), a gold medalist in this year’s US Sumo Nationals. While most competitors would have had no hope whatsoever, Jose made it out of his group stage – by beating both Ramy, Robert, and the third person in his group!In the final bracket, Jose kept the steam going. He ended up finishing second, ahead of the likes of the legendary Byamba (Mongolia) and the former-professional Hiroki Sumi (Japan). This may have been the best first-appearance performance of an American amateur sumo wrestler ever! I really hope to see more of Jose in future events, as he seems to have a very bright future in the sport.
- Heavyweights Fall Harder?: As you just read, many of the favored heavyweights did not finish as expected. Every year, Byamba is expected to win gold, but this year he didn’t receive a medal at all. Is the legendary amateur sumo competitor of America finally looking vulnerable? Likewise, Robert Fuimaono was expected to perform very well, but the upset by Jose kept him out of the final bracket in the heavyweight division. Even Remy did not get a medal in the heavyweight division, although he was able to redeem himself with a bronze in the openweight division.Perhaps the most surprising, though, was the placement of Hiroki Sumi (Japan). Only two years ago, he was battling in the middle of the makushita division of Japanese professional sumo. A few years before that, he had made it to juryo. Many people expected him to dominate the heavyweight division of the US Sumo Open, much like Byamba did when he migrated from Japanese professional sumo. However, Hiroki finished behind both Oieksandr Veresiuk (Ukraine) and Jose. Could this be a sign that amateur sumo around the world is catching up with Japanese professional sumo? Even if it is only a little bit?
- The Third Weightclass is the Charm: In my preview post, I mentioned that Edward Suczewski (USA) was perhaps the American with the best chance of winning the light heavyweight division. He did the country proud by finishing second! It was a tough battle for Ed, as he was bumping up a weightclass from his US Sumo Nationals appearance. However, his strength, speed, and strategy allowed him to take down some of the best – along with a very well-timed (and surprising) loss by Ganzorig Namsrai (Mongolia) to a different competitor. Be sure to check out our interview with Ed, as he is now a medalist at the US Sumo Open in three different weightclasses.
- That Dang Henka: As also mentioned in my preview post, the best chance of America winning gold was probably in the hands (or mawashi?) of Mariah Holmes (USA). In the heavyweight division, Mariah competed in a hard-fought battle against Ivanna Berezovska (Ukraine), but she ultimately came up short. Anyone watching the openweight division could see that Mariah was determined to avenge her loss. It looked like she was going to do it, too, as she was steamrolling through her opponents on the way to the semi-finals.Mariah lined up against Maryna Maksymenko (Ukraine) in the match that would determine who would go to the finals to compete against Ivanna – the person that beat Mariah in the heavyweight division. As the ref gave the signal, Mariah charged forward with a tachiai that would have certainly given her the victory. Unfortunately, Maryna stepped aside, performing a henka, and then easily pushed Mariah out for the victory. You could instantly tell that Mariah felt immensely disappointed, but she quickly congratulated her opponent.Mariah ended up winning the third-place match, which is an incredible accomplishment. She is well on her way to being the best American amateur sumo wrestler of 2019, and I really look forward to her performance in the World Sumo Championships.
- Others?: There were so many other competitors and storylines that I wish that I could mention, but this post would then go on forever. I should give a shout-out to Cornelius Booker (USA) and Justin Kizzart (USA), who represented America very well in the lightweight division. Trent Sabo (USA) should also be recognized for putting on mass and bumping up a weightclass, although it did not work out for him in the end. Dr. Morgan Chateau (USA) gave it her all, but did not medal this year. Ila Erickson (USA) did win a medal, though! Danna Engelberg (USA) also tried everything that she could, but it was Natalie Burns (USA) that rounded out the heavyweight division by receiving the bronze medal. Great work, Natalie!