US Sumo Open to Bring Over 60 Competitors from Across the Globe to Long Beach


Photo courtesy of the US Sumo Open.

Get ready to rumble, Long Beach; the sumo wrestlers are coming, as over 60 competitors meet on September 20 to compete in the largest sumo competition on the planet outside of Japan.

The 14th Annual US Sumo Open will find its newest home at the Walter Pyramid under the auspices of event producer Andrew Freund, who has been producing the event since its inception in 2001. Then, it was held at UCLA (where Freund taught) and began to move around as popularity grew: from the LA Convention Center to the Sports Arena to Little Tokyo, the US Sumo Open has catered largely to an Angeleno-specific audience.

Until now.

“Basically I can’t find a better venue than the Walter Pyramid,” Freund said. “The only concern is that geographically most of our fan base is LA—but I think we’re not only gonna develop a new fan base but also show off Long Beach to the fans in LA.”

The inaugural Open saw just under a thousand attendees while last year’s saw over 4,000—a number Freund is hoping to top as the event invades Long Beach’s blue architectural icon. Men and women of several weight classes will show off their skills across some 100 matches in just three hours.

While one might be shocked at the idea of female sumo wrestlers—traditionally speaking, sumo wrestling was for men only and featured no weight classes for an all-out, push-to-the-edge battle—Freund said that nearly a quarter of the open’s competitors will be female. In fact, it was at the first US Sumo Open where women first competed in the US.

The openness to female sumo wrestlers largely rests on the fact that the International Sumo Federation—the Japan-based organization that oversees sumo worldwide—has been pushing since the early 1990s to get sumo wrestling into the Olympics as a formal sport. This led to the creation of weight classes and the inclusion of women to seem more appealing to Olympic officiates in terms of equity and accessibility.

“Every year, we see more and more women,” Freund said, “a fact that we love.”

Before the formal September event, Freund has invited Yamamotoyama Ryūta—Japan’s heaviest man ever weighed, coming in at a staggering 584lbs.—to Long Beach in a rare class to be offered to CSULB students. One of sumo wrestling’s most respected competitors, “Yama” will work directly with CSULB Club Sports students, from wrestling students to jiujitsu students, to teach them the skills needed to sumo it out.

“I am told that a handful of the students are actually going to train for the competition in September,” Freund said. “And that’s not a stretch because most Americans who join sumo come in from football and martial arts and other arenas. They lack any formal training and just go for it.”

Beyond the chance to see some local students attempt to win a title come September, attendees will have the rare chance to watch one of the oldest sports on the planet—and one that Freund emphasizes is fast and quick to understand. With a pin-him-down or push-him-out rulebook, viewers are easily drawn in as they can watch a handful of intense matches in just under 30 minutes (or watch all the matches over the course of the Open’s 3-hour length).

For Freund, beyond just showing new minds and eyes the art of sumo, he is excited to bring the open to Long Beach.

“We are really psyched to go down to Long Beach,” Freund said. “We love the campus and the Pyramid and the City’s overwhelmingly supportive response. I’m genuinely looking forward hosting a competition there.”

The US Sumo Open will occur on Saturday, September 20 at the Walter Pyramid at CSULB, located at 1200 Bellflower Blvd. For tickets and more information, click here.

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