Former city councilman hosts backyard sumo wrestling summer camp

Roy Sims and the national team prepare for world championship in Japan.
Daniel Avila vs Roy Sims. Photo by Noe Magaña.NIck Kleppinger working out with a tractor tire during the sumo camp. Photo by Noe Magaña.Nick Kleppinger entering a tent to change for the morning workout. Photo by Noe Magaña.John Elison and Cornelius Booker pushing a tractor tire back-and-forth during training. Photo by Noe Magaña.Roy Sims working out with a medicine ball. Photo by Noe Magaña.Jose Galindo hitting a tire with a sledge hammer. Photo by Noe Magaña.

In preparation for the upcoming World Sumo Championship in Osaka, Japan, several members of the U.S. national sumo wrestling team took part in a recent summer camp hosted by Hollister resident Roy Sims, bronze winner at the 2016 world championship.

Sims, director of technology for the San Benito County Office of Education, a former Hollister city councilman, and two-time U.S. Open champion, created a training ground on his property that included a Dohyo, or wrestling ring. The team also worked out at Rovella’s Athletic Club and Sunset Beach near Watsonville. To maximize their time together, the wrestlers set up camp in Sims’ backyard.

The time spent together at the four-day camp was atypical for wrestlers, as most train alone and only see each other at competitions. 

“We don’t get that team training that a lot of other teams around the world get,” Sims said. “So I really wanted to bring them together, eat together, camp together, train together.”

The main reason the U.S. team trains separately is because its members have full-time jobs that limit the time they can put into sumo. Sims, who has been sumo wrestling since 2014, said while the camp involved a lot of physical workouts, it was important for the team to focus on the mental and spiritual sides of sumo. 

“We were working on a lot of other things and developing people,” Sims said. “Not just to do sumo, but to overcome anything.” He added that when a wrestler combines mental and spiritual aspects, he or she becomes more explosive. 

Six of the 12 wrestlers who participated in the camp, including Sims, are part of the U.S. team heading to Japan in October. The other six are top contenders vying for a spot on the national team. Sims said this is the strongest team the U.S. has had. 

Team member Morgan Chateau, a 33-year-old Los Angeles resident, wrestles in the middleweight division. She said sumo helped her develop a tougher skin because it’s a sport that you learn through losing.

“You learn a greater respect on how to lose even if you don’t get what you wanted,” Chateau said. “How to learn even though you didn’t win.”

Though she has been practicing sumo for less than two years, Chateau has risen through the ranks fairly quickly. She won silver at the 2018 U.S. Sumo Open in the lightweight division. Her interest in the sport began when she attended the 2017 U.S. Open in Long Beach and saw women competing.

“I didn’t know women can do it,” she said. “I saw them doing it and I had that thought, ‘You know, I think I can take her. I think I can beat her.’”

Soon after, Chateau began training with a sumo club and competed in nationals that same year. She said participating in trainings that have varying styles could help her get to the next level.

That next level is something Daniel Avila, 21, is also aiming for in order to dethrone Sims and fellow sumo wrestler Robert Fuimaono, who also attended the camp in the heavyweight division. 

Avila, a student at California Lutheran University, has been doing sumo for about three years. He won bronze at the nationals in February, coming in behind Sims and Fuimaono.

Avila said he considered the camp an example of how dedicated the wrestlers are at getting better by taking time off from work to train.

Sims said part of the reason he hosted the camp was to pass on what he has learned throughout his career. 

“I was really blessed to have these guys come from all over the United States to train with me,” he said. “I think they’ve gotten a lot out of it. I definitely got a lot out of it. It was a beautiful experience.”




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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.