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DREAMING BIG

Aspiring actor, writer competed in World Games for sumo

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DREAMING BIG

Michael Wietecha represented the country while competing as a sumo wrestler during the 2017 World Games in Poland last weekend.

Photo courtesy of TRI NGUYEN PHOTOGRAPHY/


POSTED July 28, 2017 11:46 p.m.

Michael Wietecha has turned the darkest moments of his past into a bright future.
The 34-year-old Manteca resident returned home from Wroclaw, Poland on Thursday night after representing the United States as a sumo wrestler in the 2017 World Games. He earned a spot on Team USA with a silver-medal finish in the U.S. Open National Sumo National Championship in New Jersey last year.
Wietecha competed in four matches in two divisions. He opened the Men’s Heavyweight tournament with a win over Egyptian Abdellatif Ibrahim and lost to eventual gold medalist Margiev Vasilii in the quarterfinals. He also participated in the Open Weight division and finished 1-3 overall.
Since sumo is not a sanctioned sport for the Olympic Games, The World Games — also a quadrennial multi-sport event that included 104 participating nations this year — is the big time for its competitors.
“I had fun,” Wietecha said on Friday. “The whole point was to represent the U.S. Usually, the U.S. does terrible because we don’t have the funding or a program like other coaches do. I just showed up and did alright, so I’m happy with myself.”
These are happier times for Wietecha, a former elementary school teacher who is now focused on advancing his career as an actor, photographer, writer, artist and, of course, sumo wrestler.
A native of San Jose, Wietecha moved to the Sacramento area when he was 14 and attended Folsom High where he played basketball up until his junior year. He was also an avid martial artist but quit sports after his mother passed away and went on to study at American River College and San Jose State.
Wietecha was also a competitive break dancer in his late teens and early 20s. He battled depression and gained about 165 pounds in a three-year span in his late 20s.
“I played (basketball) pretty well and figured I’d go play in college and then life took a turn,” Wietecha said. “Sumo was a make-up for that in a way. I never played sports at a high level until I was 30 when I started with sumo. I was out of competitive form at that point, and I was watching a documentary on YouTube about it.”
Wietecha entered small tournaments in his first year. In 2016, he decided it was time to after the bigger fish.
“It kind of started almost as a joke, like this is what fat guys do, I guess,” Wietecha said. “I ended up being pretty good at it.”
After making the national team, Wietecha has traveled to four different countries in Europe to compete in higher-level events and perform in demonstrations.
It has been a “whirlwind of a year,” he said. Included are acting gigs. According to his IMBd biography, he plays the role of a wrestling coach in the Indian film, “Agadbam 2” and plays a sumo wrestling football player in “Sushi Tushi.” Wietecha, who has also had roles in commercials, said he’s interviewing for a comedy show in Sacramento next week.
Wietecha is self-taught in all of his new ventures.
“None of this was planned,” he said. “All this happened by trying something new. I used to be a school teacher for five years and I can always go back to that. I’ve made enough of a life to have all the basic life essentials, but then I thought there is a small window left to see what I got physically and artistically.
“I put myself in a position to take risks. If I don’t make it big I’m still happy with my accomplishments.”
As for sumo, there is unfinished business to tend to. He’ll soon begin training again for the next national tournament in Feburary.
“I definitely want to get a gold medal this time,” he said. “I haven’t lost to any Americans except for one.”

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