Iron Belly Sumo Tournament (August 28th, 2021)

Did you think you’d have to wait two whole months for another write up? THINK AGAIN! Hello to all of you amazing sports fans and sumo wrestling supporters! This is Mak of the GSB and this is a review of the inaugural Iron Belly Sumo Tournament hosted by IronLife Athletics held on August 28th down in Orlando Florida.

Thanks to the amazing folks at Florida Sumo and IronLife Athletics, Jake and I had the distinct honor of trying our hand at both play by play and color commentating for the event. We had an absolute blast and hope everyone else enjoyed our analysis and breakdowns of the events.

But enough about us, LET’S GET TO THE GOOD STUFF!

Though the numbers did favor the Florida Sumo Club, we had 21 competitors that represented organizations from all across the United States including a few of those elusive Ronin. (M) for Male and (F) for Female competitors.

Florida Sumo Club

Aaron “Coringa” Conway (M)

Cornelius Booker (M)

Mark Jones (M)

Tyler Veinot (M)

Logan Graves (M)

Dustin Hawkins (M)

Garry Stevens (M)

Zachary Gleason (M)

Rocky Malphurs (M)

Kendrick Klett (M)

Brandon McLeod (M)

Appalachian Sumo Club

Christopher Pierce (M)

Ohayo Sumo Club

Bill Forster (M)

Jersey Sumo Club

Ryan White (M)

Colorado (The Community) Sumo

Kyler Ferriter (M)

Georgia Sumo Club

Juwaan Dowdell (M)

Christopher Houghton (M)

Kevin Gibson (M)

California Sumo Club

Angel De La Torre (M)

Gilberto De La Torre (M)

The Ronin

Zanabazar Bayarsaikhan (M)

Ruslan Mukhamadiyarov (M)

Some of these competitors showed their stuff at the U.S. Sumo Nationals earlier this year but of the 21 competing, twelve of them were new to us. Of those we had not seen before, there were two Ronin that stood out: Zanabazar and Ruslan.

After speaking with some people in the know, we found out that Zanabazar is originally from Mongolia and has been practicing Sumo since 2006. He has a few accolades to his name including a Silver Medal at the Junior World Sumo Champtionships in the Lightweight Division. Additionally, he has experience in Mongolian wrestling and has trained with Mongolian Yokozunas Hakuho and Harumafuji. We also found out Ruslan is originally from Russia and has also been a long time competitor in Sumo Wrestling. Needless to say, we were stoked to see what these guys would bring to the mat along with all the other new comers we had yet to witness.

The stream of the event can be found below and a breakdown of the event times can be seen under the video link. I highly encourage anyone with the time to check it out for themselves.

https://www.twitch.tv/floridasumo/video/1144314255

Men’s Middleweight (MW) Group Stage (8:20 – 34:30)

Men’s Heavyweight (HW) Group Stage (48:20-1:03:10)

Men’s LHW and MW Finals (01:40:20 – 02:03:30)

Men’s Heavyweight Finals (2:19:00 – 2:32:00)

Openweight Division (02:58:00 – 03:30:00)

Novice Openweight Division ( 04:01:00 – 04:12:45)

Medals Ceremony (03:43:30 – 03:52:00 AND 04:13:00 – 04:14:45)

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*************************YOU’VE BEEN WARNED************************

******************************LET’S DO THIS*****************************

Disclaimer: The deciding technique (kimarite) that follow are as I saw them and interpreted them. If anyone has another opinion, please reach out and let’s discuss. Our goal is to get better at calling the kimarite and help to improve sumo knowledge and quality in the U.S.

Side note: There’s nothing more painful than listening back to your commentary and catching your own mistakes, but I digress.

Men’s Middleweight Group Stage

The Men’s Middleweight Group Stage was a combination of men from the Middleweight and Lightweight groups. Unfortunately, their weren’t enough entrants in the Men’s Lightweight division and it was decided that the two groups would combine. The intensity the lightweights and middleweights bring to the mat is always a sight to see. If you are more of a fan of poise and composure, I’d recommend you avert your eyes because these guys get the adrenaline PUMPING. Body slaps, quick jumps and stair downs, anything to get their head in the game. One of the matches that really got the blood flowing was Tyler Veinot against Zachary Gleason. As we saw at Nationals earlier this year, Tyler has intense psych ups and is not afraid to charge straight ahead at his opponent. He held is own against Zach in their bought and a winner could not be determined, forcing a discussion by the side judges (monoii). It was too close to call and the judges deemed a rematch between the two. Tyler came out again guns blazing, or arms thrusting, against Zach’s powerful belt game. Both combatants gave it their all, but Zach gained the upper hand with his grappling and defeated Tyler with with an under arm throw.

The last match of the lightweight and middleweight group stage was one that left me staring at the screen and rewinding over and over. Coringa and Zana were coming into their bought at 3-0 and both had won with powerful pushing and thrusting moves. Zana’s near unbeatable defense against Coringa’s upper body strength, WHO WOULD WIN? The match started with a bang as Zana went low for Coringa’s belt while Coringa wrapped Zana’s shoulders and arms up, keeping his hands away from his belt (mawashi). Coringa attempted a pull down which gave Zana the opening he needed to get a firm left hand outside grip on Coringa’s mawashi. Coringa maintained his right hand grip underneath Zana’s left arm, preventing him from getting any leverage and then the two began to fence with their opposite hands. Blocking and reaching and trapping all the while maintaining their balance and ring sense. Both men shuffled around the ring, attempting half throws and pull downs until Zana managed to wedge his head into Coringa’s chest. Coringa attempted pull down after pull down but Zana maintained his balance and footwork, preventing Coringa from overpowering him. It wasn’t until Coringa worked his left arm up to get Zana in a full boxing guard that he was able to get enough leverage to pull Zana down by a hand pull down (hikiotoshi).

Men’s Heavyweight Group Stage

The Men’s Heavyweight Group Stage division saw many returning faces from the 2021 Nationals event. The new comers had their work cut out for them as they were facing nationals medalists and winners of tournaments past. That being said, Mr. Kendrick Klett was able to claim a victory over Gilberto De La Torre. Right from the initial charge (tachiai) Kendrick launched into Gilberto’s defense but could not budge him. The match then became a grappling contest of who could lock up the others arms and get to their belt. After a quick shove, Kendrick was able to get both of his arms underneath Gilberto’s for a double inside grip on his upper body. Maintaining his control, Kendrick continued his assault and forced Gilberto to twist away to avoid a ring out. However, Kendrick was unrelenting and seized the opportunity Gilberto presented him and began his attack from Gilberto’s side. Gilberto put up a strong defense but Kendrick maintained his position and forced Gilberto out with a rear push out. An excellent bout between a newcomer and a veteran, showing the importance of a strong tachiai and seizing on split second opportunities. In the end though, the veterans proved victorious and advanced to the finals.

Men’s Middleweight Finals

The Men’s Middleweight Finals featured one sumo newcomer, Zachary Gleason, and three seasoned veterans. Unfortunately for the rookie, he was paired up with the current middleweight champion, Coringa, right off the bat. His luck did not improve much in his second round as he faced Zana. Though Zach did not prove the winner in these matches, he stood his ground for every bout. He stared down Coringa and charged straight into his upper body. Coringa was able to block Zach’s hands from getting to his belt and brought his momentum to a stand. Then Conringa was in control as he pulled down with his left arm and forced Zach’s balance to falter, thrusting him to the ground. Then he met Zana’s defensive style sumo. Zach went high for a strong tachiai while Zana went for a low reserved charge. Right away, Zana was able to get his hands on Zach’s mawashi and force his head into Zach’s upper body. From there, Zana maintained control as Zach attempted to shake him loose. With a quick spin, Zana broke Zach’s grip and created an opening where he was on his heals. Zana then charged straight ahead and Zach could not recover as he was thrust down and out of the ring.

The three veterans were in some tough bouts with each other. Ruslan’s style of sumo for this tournament was all about balance and leverage. He worked to maintain his base and stand his opponent up before dropping his hips down to get underneath their upper body. It worked well for him in the group stage as he went 3-0, but how would it fair in the finals? Unfortunately for Zana, his defense did not work in his favor this time as he was overpowered by Ruslan and Coringa. Ruslan was then able to continue his win streak against Coringa in the following match. Though Coringa went low and got underneath Ruslan, he was able to pull off a backward pivot through (utchari) and throw Coringa from the ring. However, a monoii was called as the side judges could not agree on who won. The match was to be replayed and this time, there was no doubt that Ruslan won with an overarm throw (uwatenage) after Coringa’s failed leg grab. But the excitement didn’t end as Coringa fought his way back form the losers bracket to face off with Ruslan again. In order to claim the gold, Coringa would need to beat Ruslan twice.

I was on the edge of my seat for the first match, would Ruslan’s balance and footwork win or would Coringa’s strength and grappling prove superior? Turns out…I’d have to wait. With a move I was not expecting, Coringa hurled his upper body over Ruslan in a flash and brought his hands down over Ruslan’s upper back forcing a slap down (hatakikomi). It was so fast, Ruslan was left bewildered, we were left bewildered, and even the side judges were left bewildered. A monoii was called, the tape was replayed, and Coringa was given the victory. That just enhanced the second match all the more. Ruslan was visibly frustrated with how that match turned out and wanted to bring it for the final round. Ruslan charged high while Congrina went for a reserved defensive tachiai. Ruslan tried to get his grip over Coringa’s shoulders but Corings kept his arms locked in tight underneath Ruslan’s armpits. Ruslan attempted a right upper arm thrown but Coringa’s grip didn’t break and he was able to defeat Ruslan with a thrust down.

Men’s Light Heavyweight

The Men’s Light Heavyweight division had three competitors in a double elimination round robin. Crush outs were the theme for this group as three of the six kimarite were frontal crushouts (yoritaoshi). All of these bouts were full of energy and probably the most excited to be competing was Rocky Malphurs. He was so excited, he couldn’t wait for his name to be called for the matches and tried to sneak in on a middleweight finals match. I loved the enthusiasm. The seasoned veteran Cornelius Booker took the division though, establishing his dominance as a Light Heavyweight mainstay.

Men’s Heavyweight Finals

I would like to talk more about the Men’s Heavyweight division finals…but sadly due to some technical difficulties, we do not have the data on how three of the matches went. We do know the winners, but the kimarite will have to be left to your imaginations. I think we can all blame it on the intense De La Torre stare down for the opening match. Haki, yes that’s a One Piece reference, of that magnitude has been known to short out electrical components and that’s exactly what happened in that match. That or their power levels went well beyond 9,000 (I couldn’t help myself, DBZ rules). ANYWAY, once a back up camera was established we were able to see Mark Jones go on a tear through the heavyweight finals from the losers bracket and defeat his Openweight 2021 Nationals nemesis Kyle Ferriter. Mark had to win twice in the final rounds to claim the gold and he succeeded with those massive cannons for arms leading him to victory.

Openweight Division

And then….came my absolute favorite division of the tournament, THE OPENWEIGHT DIVISION. This endurance contest pits all weight classes against each other in a contest that pits skill against skill. There were many lift outs as heavyweights were pitted against light and middleweight division competitors along with some surprising kimarite. Cornelius Booker was able to win with a leg pick (ashitori) against Gilberto De La Torre and Ruslan pulling off another utchari against Kendrick Klett to name a few. Despite some amazing performances, it was Mark Jones who stayed strong and channeled his energy to the very end. He repeated what Kyle Ferriter had done at the 2021 Nationals and achieved a flawless record to take the gold in the open!

Novice Openweight Division

I was most happy with the addition of the Novice Openwieght division. This branch of the openweight was restricted to anyone who had been competing in sumo for less than a year and had not meddled at the U.S. Sumo Nationals earlier this year. It was a great opportunity for the rookies to get some more experience against other newcomers and build up some experience. The division opened up with a great outside leg trip (sotogake), outside leg trip, by Brandon McLeod over Zach Gleason. From there it was another pushing and thrusting slug fest. It was an excellent show from the new blood and I cannot wait to see how these guys develop in later tournaments as they figure out their fighting styles.

The Results

Middleweight Division

Zanabayar Bayarsaikhan
Ruslan Mukhamadiyarov
Aaron “Coringa” Conway

Light Heavyweight Division

Rocky Malphurs
Ryan White
Cornelius Booker

Heavyweight Division

Gilberto De La Torre
Kyle Ferriter
Mark Jones

Openweight Division

Cornelius Booker
Angel De La Torre
Mark Jones

Novice Openweight Division

Brandon McLeod
Garry Stevens
Kevin Gibson

The Iron Belly Sumo tournament was an absolute blast! It was a great watch and an even greater pleasure to commentate and provide the play by play. The highlights for me were seeing Coringa and Cornelius solidifying themselves as middleweight and light heavyweight mainstays along with watching Mark Jones take gold in both the heavyweight and openweight divisions.

The Florida Sumo Club is definitely a force to be reckoned with and I look forward to budding competitive rivalries within the U.S.A Sumo Clubs.

If you’d like to know more about the Starting Sumo or learning more about the clubs who participated in the event, please see the list below. A big thank you to Iron Life Athletics and the Florida Sumo Club for hosting the event and letting us be a part of it. SEE YOU ALL FOR THE NEXT TOURNAMENT!

United States Sumo Federation Starting your own Sumo Club: https://www.ussumo.org/startingsumo

Iron Life Athletics: http://ironlifeathletics.com/

Florida Sumo Club: https://www.facebook.com/FLSumo/

Appalachian Sumo Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/appalachiansumo/

Georgia Sumo Club: https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaSumoClub/

California Sumo Club: https://www.usasumo.com/learn/yamamoto-sumo-dojo/

Ohayo Sumo Club: https://www.facebook.com/Ohayosumo/

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