World Sumo Championships Gossett grabs Reins of U.S. National Junior Team

Life-long Liberty resident heads to Mongolia for international competition

A lifetime-worth of love for wrestling and martial arts has taken Bill Gossett to just about all corners of the world. However, it’s a rather new-found interest in sumo wrestling that had him adding the most recent stamp to his passport, this time in a place he had never previously visited until now anyway. Gossett was selected as the head coach for the United States National Sumo Junior Team. And after making the 25-hour flight to Chinggis Khaan International Airport, he led the country’s most talented athletes at the World Sumo Championships this past week in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

​“Sumo is like a treasure,” Gossett said. “It’s locked up in this treasure chest that nobody in the United States knows about. And I say that with all my experience as being a wrestler and martial artist my whole life. I have this love for those two sports at the same time, and I finally unlocked sumo about seven years ago.

“... It was a perfect piece to the puzzle with my background.”Indeed. Gossett, who has an extensive background in Eastern Asian culture, serves on the national board of trustees for the United States Sumo Federation. Although he was specifically in charge of the U.S. National Sumo Junior Team, which features athletes ages 13-17, for the world competition July 28-31, he was part of the U.S. delegation that also oversaw the entire national team.

​One of his athletes, heavyweight Roy Simms of California finished third in his division. It marked only the second time in history that an American earned a medal at the sumo worldsGossett, who has studied and practiced both wrestling and martial arts for the better part of the past 50 years, eventually found this new calling in sumo, a sport that is attempting to gain traction in this country due in large part to the efforts of individuals like Gossett.“This has been 49 years of an evolutionary process,” Gossett said. “I’m one of the luckiest men in the world because I make a living doing something I have a passion for and I love.“... It’s really amazing how God has this way of bringing things together. When you listen to what He’s trying to tell you in a whisper, sometimes it doesn’t look like it makes sense. But eventually, you realize how it was meant to be.”

​A lifelong Liberty resident, Gossett has touched the lives of many in town — and far beyond to even a global scale — through the years. His interest in contact sports started at the age of 9, when his mother encouraged him to learn wrestling and martial arts at the Clay-Platte YMCA.Gossett, a 1976 Liberty High School alum, turned himself into a state-qualifying wrestler and team captain with the Blue Jays and then a NAIA national qualifier at William Jewell College before graduating in 1980. He later returned to Jewell as an adjunct professor and taught East Asian cultures and martial arts from 1987 to 1998.

​What started as a hobby has become a way of life. Gossett owns 10 martial arts schools around the globe, including several in the United States, including Hawaii, and another halfway around the world in Okinawa, Japan, and he still conducts clinics, demonstrations and seminars today. He used to own a school in Liberty, which he has passed on to former student Scott Hannah, who still runs Ryukyu Life Protection Arts at St. James Catholic Church today.“Bill has had a huge influence on my life, and he’s an inspiration to so many people,” Hannah said. “The things that he does just blow your mind.“... It’s always been an honor and privilege to learn from him.”

​Continuing his passion for sports, Gossett became the executive director of the America Crown National Wrestling Series. Many youth wrestling fans are most familiar with his Liberty Nationals event, which started at William Jewell, called Municipal Auditorium home for years, and has recently moved to St. Joseph. Gossett started both youth wrestling programs for the hometown high schools, the Liberty Wrestling Club for Liberty High years ago in the 1980s and the Eagle Wrestling Club for Liberty North, and he’s a USA Wrestling gold certified coach.

​“You just don’t want to let him grab onto you. You never know what can happen,” chuckled former multi-time world champion wrestler Nate Carr, a 1988 Olympic bronze medalist, who has worked with Gossett through the years. “... But seriously, what Bill has done with his love for contact sports is just amazing. He wants to share his knowledge with young people. He wants to help them compete at the highest level and reach their potential. He gives aspiring athletes the opportunity to be their very best.”That only continued this past week during his first-ever appearance at sumo worlds. And it’s safe to say this may not be his last trip overseas with the U.S. National Team.

​Gossett has touched the lives of multiple Olympians over the years, some that won championships at his youth wrestling tournaments and went on to decorated careers. One of those includes Columbia native and University of Missouri junior J’Den Cox, a former four-time MSHSAA champion and two-time NCAA national champ, who will compete in the 86-kilogram (189-pound) weight class at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which begins this weekend.

​“For me, in my heart and in my soul, the significance of being part of this is unprecedented. I feel like I’m becoming part of history,” said Gossett, who has conducted United States Sumo Federation National Championships for the junior and youth divisions the past few years as well. “This is ground-breaking for sumo in this country.“... The beauty of this sport, just like wrestling, is that it’s all you out there. There are so many skills that you develop on the mat that are translatable to real life. You have to learn to deal with failure and how to overcome fears, and that’s one of the reasons why I love it.”

​Liberty Sports EditorChris Geinosky can be reached at 389-6654 or chris.geinosky@libertytribune.com.