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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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Small boy, big dream

Aug. 28, 2017

A junior high school boy has his sights set on becoming a professional sumo wrestler -- and he's not willing to back down, despite the challenges.

The sumo club of a junior high school in Tottori is renowned for producing competitive wrestlers. That history is what prompted Rintaro Nioka to move 130 kilometers from home to enroll here.

"Sumo is cool. The wresters charge right at each other. They put all their power into their thrusts and throws," says Rintaro.

Rintaro’s got plenty of enthusiasm. The problem is size. At 143 centimeters and 40 kilograms, he’s small for his age. But he never gives up. He has a role model who’s proved that bigger isn’t always better -- Ishiura.

Ishiura is a professional sumo wrestler from Tottori. He, too, is small. He uses agility and skill to mow down huge opponents.

“He hurls himself into the fight and comes out on top. I think he’s great. I want to work hard to become like him,” says Rintaro.

Rintaro took up sumo when he was 5. He joined a class and defeated a boy who was 3 years older.

Later on, he happened to see Ishiura working out at a gym in Tottori. Ishiura invited the boy to a training session to be held at his old junior high.

The boy begged his parents to let him move to Tottori for sumo instruction. He was still in elementary school at the time, and his family was hesitant. In the end, though, he got his way. His mother relocated with him. "His desire for sumo was so strong, we just had to support him," she says.

Rintaro is now trying to bulk up. He’s taking in plenty of food. He’s also working on his technique by studying videos of Ishiura. "When I see him do something new, I try it myself," says Rintaro.

These days, his attention is focused on moving in from the right side. He’s at a disadvantage if he charges straight ahead. So he tries to turn an opponent's initial assault in his favor.

“Once you grapple, go right. Get a grip on the right and throw,” his instructor says.

Rintaro hoped to make use of the move in his first junior high competition. The event was a chance to prove himself, to himself and others.

“I definitely want to win,” Rintaro said before the competition.

In the first round, he faced an opponent 15 centimeters taller. Just as in practice, he moved in from the right side.

It worked. He maintained his momentum and earned his first junior high victory.

On the second round, he took the same approach...but got a different result.

Rintaro lost. “I want to train harder so that I can use my style to beat those who've beaten me,” he says.

Becoming a sumo wrestler is a tall order for a small boy. But Rintaro is rising to the occasion.