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SUMO ABC No. 83 / Can Yutakayama reproduce spirit displayed at Nagoya basho?

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Yutakayama, left, throws Mitakeumi out of the ring on the last day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on July 22.

By Shuji Miki / Yoiuri Shimbun Senior WriterAt the latest Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, Mitakeumi had already secured victory by the 14th day, and the last day of the basho was held with the winners of the Outstanding Performance, Fighting Spirit and Technique prizes also already decided.

Mitakeumi’s bout against Yutakayama — fought in an atmosphere where all the pressures of the tournament had been cleared away — pleased the audience, as both wrestlers showed their energetic spirit.

Yutakayama’s tenacious performance in particular was highly appreciated. Mitakeumi exerted pressure from the jump-off, forcing his opponent to concentrate on defense. The highlight came when Yutakayama’s foot touched the edge of the ring.

Yutakayama, whose favorite style is pushing and thrusting, pushed Mitakeumi back with a furious facial expression and then kept pushing him aggressively as the latter moved around along the bales. The bout featured a fierce exchange of offense and defense, and at the end, both wrestlers tried to throw each other down. Yutakayama eventually used his left leg to trip the tournament winner, flipping him onto the ground.

It may sound like I’m being rude to Yutakayama, but I’ve never seen him put on such persistent performances. Having won no major titles, the wrestler made his professional debut at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in 2016. He initially used his real surname of Oyanagi as his ring name, but changed it to the current one before last year’s summer tournament in May.

Yutakayama is the third rikishi to assume this name, which is associated with the Tokitsukaze stable. All three wrestlers who have assumed the name of Yutakayama have something in common: They are Niigata Prefecture natives who graduated from Tokyo University of Agriculture.

The first wrestler who assumed the name is Katsuo Uchida, now 80, a former ozeki who has served as chairman of the Japan Sumo Association. Uchida was trained by Futabayama, who was dubbed a “peerless yokozuna,” and this fact places high expectations on the current wrestler who succeeded the name.

Yutakayama’s performance was not so great when he was promoted to the uppermost makuuchi division. The latest Nagoya tournament was his sixth basho in this division, and the wrestler achieved a splendid result with 12 wins and three losses, winning the Fighting Spirit Prize, the first time he has received any of the three honors.

In the Autumn tournament that will kick off on Sept. 9, it is certain Yutakayama will be promoted to a higher rank in the makuuchi division, and he will likely face off against yokozuna in the first few days of the basho. I’m looking forward to seeing if the 25-year-old wrestler will once again show the spirit that he exhibited at the Nagoya event.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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