By Hirokazu Hayashi / Yomiuri Shimbun Sportswriter In an effort to find promising wrestlers, the sumo association recently took the step of easing the age limit for applicants taking the physical examination required for entry, provided they have already proven themselves worthy in sumo and other sports.
Daiki Yamamoto, who now belongs to the Nishonoseki stable and was given the professional name Ichiyamamoto, is the first of these applicants to become a sumo wrestler. The 23-year-old first entered the ring in maezumo, the pre-ranking competition for newcomers at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January.
He was 2-0 in the lowest jonokuchi division at the ongoing Spring tournament as of Tuesday.
The rookie, who hails from Iwanai, Hokkaido, was a sumo wrestler at Chuo University and later worked as a civil servant in his home prefecture before entering the world of professional sumo.
Ichiyamamoto excels at pushing and shoving techniques, and made it to the top 16 at the All-Japan collegiate championships. He once defeated Oyanagi, who was then a student at Tokyo University of Agriculture and is now listed in the second-highest juryo division.
Ichiyamamoto was also recruited to become a pro but thinking, “The world of sumo might be too strict for me,” he started working for the board of education in Fukushima, Hokkaido, after graduating in spring last year. Fukushima is known to have produced the two yokozuna Chiyonoyama and Chiyonofuji.
At the National Sports Festival in October last year, he was defeated by a college student who wasn’t fooled by his sidestepping move after the jump-off. This was his turning point.
“That loss was it. I just couldn’t get over it,” Ichiyamamoto recalled.
He was already 23 at the time, but with the easing of the age limit from under 23 to under 25, he applied to turn professional and was later introduced to the stable. Waking up at 5 in the morning is the only problem he has living at the stable.