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Ageless Veteran Tamawashi Moves a Step Closer to Title at Autumn Basho

The No. 3 Mongolian maegashira, known as sumo’s iron man, holds the sole lead with two days remaining in the tournament.

Veteran Tamawashi took a major step toward his second Emperor’s Cup on Friday, September 23 when he swatted down Nishikifuji to remain in sole possession of the lead with just two days left in the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

Nishikifuji came in low after the face-off and Tamawashi was able to shift slightly to the side before swatting down the hard-charging No. 10 maegashira to improve to 11-2. 

Nishikifuji dropped to 9-4. He’s not eliminated from contention but his mistake after the face-off was costly to his title chances at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Hokutofuji and Takayasu are both in second place at 10-3. The only other wrestlers still in contention heading into the final two days are rank-and-filer Ryuden and Wakatakakage at 9-4.

It’s been an impressive run for Mongolian Tamawashi, who regularly fights men 10 years younger and is often referred to as sumo’s iron man.

The 37-year-old veteran became the oldest wrestler in the top division when Kotoshogiku retired in November 2020.

In May 2022, Tamawashi overtook Takamiyama to reach fourth place on the all-time list of consecutive career bouts with 1,426.

Earlier in this tournament he reached 1,457 bouts, passing former sekiwake Takatoriki to move into third on the all-time list.

The only other wrestlers with more consecutive career bouts are Aobajo (1,630), who wrestled as a sekiwake between 1964 and 1986, and Fujizakura (1,543), who was also a sekiwake from 1963 to 1984.

Tamawashi’s Consecutive Match Streak

Tamawashi was forced to withdraw from the Nagoya tournament in July due to a COVID-19 infection at his Tamanoi stable. At that point, he had a consecutive match streak of 1,448.

However, the Japan Sumo Association did not regard an enforced quarantine as breaking his run of consecutive appearances as it was no fault of his own.

Tamawashi was thus allowed to continue his streak at the Autumn Basho.

Tamawashi, who won his only Emperor’s Cup in January of 2019, is also aiming to become the oldest wrestler to win a championship. Tamawashi’s compatriot Kyokutenho currently holds that title having won the Emperor’s Cup in May of 2012 at 37 years and eight months.

Tamawashi turns 38 in November. If he wins this tournament, he would have achieved the mark of the oldest championship winner at 37 years and 10 months.

Hokutofuji Ends Losing Streak

In other major bouts, No. 8 maegashira Hokutofuji snapped a three-bout losing skid when he swatted down top maegashira Tobizaru to stay tied in second place at 10-3. Tobizaru had a seven-match winning streak broken and dropped to 9-4.

Tamawashi and Tobizaru square off on the penultimate day

Former ozeki Takayasu, a No. 4 maegashira, maintained his share of second place when he used a thrust-down maneuver to dispatch komusubi Kiribayama (7-6) and improve to 10 wins.

In the day’s final bout at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, sekiwake Wakatakakage gave Takakeisho a taste of his own medicine when he dodged to his left after the face-off and swatted down the ozeki to move to 9-4.

Takakeisho, who dropped to 8-5, pulled the exact same move the previous day to beat Hokutofuji, a tactic that many in sumo frown upon.

Further down the ranks, No. 12 maegashira Ryuden got a right-hand grip on the belt of Endo (6-7) and shoved the sixth-ranked maegashira out with his other hand to move to 9-4. 

No. 14 maegashira Chiyoshoma wrapped up a winning record when he slapped down ninth-ranked Myogiryu (7-6) to improve to 8-5.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for more than 25 years. You can find his articles here.

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