TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC4) — Sumo wrestling is an ancient sport that originates from Japan but has been gaining popularity here in the United States.
“It’s you and one other person in a circle and you can push them out of the circle or if any part of their body touches the mat, the ground, or anything like that besides the bottom of their feet, they’re eliminated,” says George Ferris, who competes and trains others in the art of sumo here in Utah.
One of Ferris’s prodigies is 14-year-old Damian Loya from Taylorsville. The Kearns Junior High student was introduced to sumo by his uncle who knew Ferris.
“I told my friend about it and he thought it would be a fun opportunity for his nephew Damian,” said Ferris. “So in January of this year I started training him.”
Loya has played football as a linebacker since he was eight, but after two months of sumo training, Loya was able to make it to the biggest competition in the US.
Standing at 6’3” and weighing 340 pounds, Loya trained with Ferris and made it to the 2023 US National and North American Sumo Championship in Florida.
“He really is a sumo prodigy,” said Loya’s uncle Brandon Braithwaite. Damian competed in two brackets: heavyweight and openweight.
“Heavyweight, which was a round robin and then you have openweight where everyone is competing against each other no matter their weight class,” said Ferris.
In his heavyweight rounds, Loya made it to the final round but fell short coming in at second and winning a silver medal. However, in openweight, Loya faced off with the same opponent from heavyweight in the final round.
But this time, he was able to knock his opponent from the circle and bring home the gold. Ferris says that Loya overcame a lot of adversity for that win.
“Damian’s facing a guy who he lost four times to that day and only beaten once, and he overcame that.”
Loya’s next step is to head to Japan in October to represent the US and compete for a world title.
“The sport, which is traditionally done by people in their late 30s, is now getting younger and younger,” says Ferris. “Damian has the potential to be one of the first American youth to place up in the world of sumo.”