Mongolian Tamawashi takes title in Tokyo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
No. 3 maegashira Tamawashi, right, pushes No. 4 maegashira Takayasu at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday in Tokyo.

No. 3 maegashira Tamawashi seems to be getting better with age. At least his latest championship run indicates improvement.

The Mongolian pushed out No. 4 maegashira Takayasu (11-4) to win the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on Sunday for his second career Emperor’s Cup. At 37 years 10 months, he is now the oldest wrestler to win a basho since the start of the Showa era in 1926.

Tamawashi won his first Emperor’s Cup at the New Year Tournament in 2019, but had not had a real run at a title since.

“Absolutely nothing has changed,” Tamawashi said about himself in the post-tournament TV interview about his three-plus-year title drought.

Coming into the final day, he said he just focused on defeating Takayasu.

“No matter what happened, I just wanted to make sure I performed my style of sumo,” said Tamawashi, who went 13-2.

Tamawashi had the lead in the second week, but said he focused on performing each day, not on winning the championship.

“Every day I was nervous, but the warm backing of the support group helped me and I just wanted to do well for them.”

He and Takayasu spar in practice, and the two are now 16-16 lifetime in head-to-head bouts.

“[In practices,] we always have tough matches — we have some heated battles — and I really appreciate him.”

Tamawashi was never in danger of losing in Sunday’s championship showdown.

He knocked Takayasu off balance soon after the tachiai and pushed his opponent toward the bales. A more few thrusts near the edge of the ring, and Takayasu was unable to put up much of a fight, especially with Tamawashi’s final push coming from under his chin.

It was another disappointing end to a tournament for Takayasu, who was out in front of the pack at the Spring Tournament this year, but lost consecutive bouts the final two days and let the tourney title slip from his grip.

The basho’s lone yokozuna, Terunofuji, was forced to pull out of the tournament on Tuesday because of an injury, leaving three ozeki as the highest-ranked wrestlers. Tamawashi took advantage of the open door, with the ozeki basically out of the running over the second week.

Takakeisho, the only ozeki with a winning record at the basho, made quick work of fellow ozeki Shodai (4-11) in the basho finale to close things out with 10 wins. But ozeki Mitakeumi lost to No. 6 maegashira Wakamotoharu (10-5) for a 4-11 finish.

Meanwhile, No. 12 maegashira Ryuden earlier in the day topped No. 15 maegashira Terutsuyoshi (6-9) to end the basho with 11 victories.

Sekiwake Wakatakakage also reached 11 wins, pushing out No. 5 maegashira Sadanoumi (9-6) after a brief moment of struggle near the bales.