Athlete Interview series: Jay Holder

Jay is an up-and-comer in the world Sumo wrestling, a sport that we don’t hear too much about in the U.S., which is why I decided to interview a Sumo athlete myself. Jay competes in Sumo wrestling, as well as Powerlifting and Strongman. Jay was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions we had for him., check them out below:

1. Jay, you seem to participate in a multitude of different sports, can you tell us a little about that, and how you got into the variety of sports you are in now? Brandon, I currently compete in Sumo wrestling for the United States Sumo Federation- www. and Strongman for the NAS organization.

I got into strongman a few years ago. I was training powerlifting with some guys and was honestly getting bored. I googled Tennessee Strongman and the NAS website popped up. On there I found the Tennessee state chair Martin Wieckowski and began training with him for strongman.

About a year and a half ago, the strongman team I train with Brose Strength Llama Bears founded by Mike Tumminello and Richard Brose switched to a badass gym called NBS Fitness in Memphis, TN. While training strongman I started talking to one of the best middleweight Sumo wrestlers in America, Rob Daniel. He invited me to train for the Memphis Open with his team 901 Sumo at Memphis Judo and Jui-Jitsu and I said sure. Once I competed In the Memphis Open I was hooked. I won HW Gold, Open weight Silver, and Team Gold at the Memphis Open. Then I went to the Atlanta Open and won HW Gold, Open Weight Bronze. I then started training for Nationals that was held this past Saturday June 14 2014 in Jackson Hole WY. There I won HW Gold and Open Weight Silver. This qualifies me for the World Championship in Taiwan at the end of August.

2. How do you think your strength training has prepared you for the world of Sumo wrestling?

At first the only 2 things I knew was, I am quick and I am strong. So when training with Rob we worked my Tachi-ai which is the initial charge of the bout. You put both hands on the ground then fire out low and hard. My strength served me well in that I was able to push people out of the ring, but I didn’t have any control. That is a problem when facing very seasoned and experienced guys, because they could use that as momentum to throw me. Once we started training for nationals Rob had me focusing on moving in the ring, controlling my power and tachi-ai. We work on a lot of things that will help him and me at the next level.

3. What are some misconceptions you think folks may have about the sport of Sumo wrestling, both internationally and nationally?

I think there are a few, because I had them, so we will go with those.

1. it’s just some fat guys pushing people around – well I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. Sumo wrestlers are athletes. I lost the Open Weight Gold this weekend to Kena Heffernan who is the reigning Middle Weight National Champ and will hit you hard and knock you on your ass ( I’ve been there) very fast.

2. You have to wear a diaper- well the actual name is a Mawashi. It is a loin cloth or canvas belt worn during training and competition. It is used when wrestling as a way to grab your opponent.

3. My naked butt has to show in the Diaper- in amateur sumo you are allowed to wear black compression, spandex, or biking shorts underneath your Mawashi. Now I have competed both ways and prefer going Raw (nothing underneath) however it doesn’t make for pretty pictures. The only thing I have seen as a want/concern, and I have only been doing this for 8 months so it might not be right, but is that the Amateur Wrestlers are hoping and praying that this becomes an Olympic Sport. This is a dream of mine now too.

4. Can you give a little run-through of what your eating looks like? Some of us are familiar of the rigorous bulking diet that Japanese Sumo wrestlers go through, is it the same for you?

In all honesty I probably do not have the typical diet of what you think a sumo wrestler would eat. On some days I only get in 2 meals. On other days I eat 6-7. I typically follow a Carb Backloading type diet. I eat 6 eggs with 5oz of meat for brunch, for lunch I’ll eat 8-10oz of chicken/meat with 2 cups of green vegetable and olive/coconut oil, for dinner I will eat whatever my wife cooks. On training days, I consume post training 3-4 cups rice/gluten free pasta, ice cream, oatmeal crème pies, cookies or whatever the wife cooks for those days.

5. Besides Sumo wrestling, what are some of your other favorite types of athletic competitions?

Well obviously I love strongman, but I also follow powerlifting, Olympic lifting, Crossfit, and then other sports like football. But whenever one of my beautiful daughters Jailen and Jacey have a softball game, basketball game, or volleyball game I am there, and that’s the only sport I care about at that time.

6. What advice do you have for those that may be interested in getting started with Sumo wrestling? How has the sport changed in the past 10 years?

As I’m new to this, I’m not sure how American Sumo has changed over the past 10 years. From what I’ve heard and seen it has been moving in a positive direction because of the governing body: The USSF. If you are a new beginner I say go to USSF website, read the articles, email the contacts there for some info and ask for some contacts you can get with to learn what to do, also just join and compete. That is where you will learn how to fight. One last thing I did and recommend is research Sumo. Learn the culture, the tradition, the ethics and truly grasp what it means to step into the Dohyo.

Five things you may not know about me: 1. I am a big computer nerd 2. I can sing every song on Grease 1 and 2 3. I prefer to cuddle with my wife and kids and watch movies instead of going out 4. I hate traveling alone 5. I hate eating at a restaurant alone even more

I want to thank my beautiful wife Joey, my family, the Llama Bears, 901 Sumo, my sponsors GX Supplements and Play Again Now, and anyone else who has supported me thru all of my competition journeys.

Jay Holder was an All-County football player who played for Belhaven College. He went on to play semi-pro football for the Memphis Xtreme. After playing football, Jay started competing in strongman. He is the current HW Log Press record holder, set in 2012. Jay is now additionally competing in Sumo. His accomplishment include 2 Gold and 1 Silver medal in the 2013 Memphis Open, 1 Gold and 1 Bronze in the 2013 GA Open, and 1 Gold and 1 Silver in the 2014 USSF Sumo Nationals and is the HW Sumo National Champion that will represent USA at the World Sumo Championships at the end of August in Taiwan. Jay is married to his wife Joey with 2 beautiful daughters Jailen (10) and Jacey (9) and a 10 week old son Jay Jr. Jay is also sponsored by Play Again Now and GX Supplements.

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