By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterIn a previous column, I discussed notable wrestlers who rose through the college ranks — but there is another rikishi I would like to add to that list.
Oyanagi, of the Tokitsukaze stable, was promoted to the rank of No. 16 maegashira at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament. He thus made his makuuchi debut on Sunday, and also changed his fighting name from Oyanagi, his real name, to the traditional stable name of Yutakayama.
“I wondered if it was OK, that I’m the one [to assume the name]. I want to create a new image [for the name of] Yutakayama,” he said, vowing to take a leap forward.
The current Yutakayama hails from Niigata and graduated from the Tokyo University of Agriculture.
The original Yutakayama rose to the ozeki rank. He later became the stablemaster Tokitsukaze, two generations prior to the current one, and then served as a Japan Sumo Association chairman. And just like the current Yutakayama, he is from Niigata Prefecture and a graduate of the Tokyo University of Agriculture. Ever since he became Yutakayama, the name has been succeeded by Niigata-bred, college-graduate rikishi.
In his senior year at university, the current Yutakayama won a heavyweight title at the Sumo World Championships and was also ranked among the top eight at the All-Japan sumo championship. He eventually became one of the first to qualify for the Sandanme Tsukedashi system, established by the JSA in 2015, under which competent amateur wrestlers who have attained positive results can debut at the lowest rank of the fourth-tier sandanme division without going through bouts between unranked sumo wrestlers.
Yutakayama debuted as a professional sumo wrestler at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in 2016. He has never posted a losing record in the seven tournaments he has wrestled in so far — surely a source of strength and pride.
Under the JSA’s incentive system, those who have attained more solid results can start their careers from the No. 10 or No. 15 ranks in the third-tier makushita division.
Yutakayama takes advantage of the physique he has been gifted: At 1.85 meters tall and weighing 183 kilograms, he is aggressive at the jump-off and possesses the power to overwhelm opponents with pushes and shoves.
Yutakayama is adept at following through after grasping an opponent’s belt, too. Looking at his winning techniques, he uses an oshidashi push to drive out most of his opponents (50 percent), followed by the yorikiri force-out (17 percent) and uwatenage overarm throw (4 percent).
Yutakayama’s hair became long enough to tie into the symbolic mage topknot before the previous tournament in the second-tier juryo division. “I finally became a genuine rikishi. The mage makes me ready myself,” he said with a smile.
With his career just under way, the 23-year-old is expected to be as competitive as many other rikishi from the college ranks.
— Miki is a sumo expert.
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