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Sumo's Ironman Tamawashi in the Spotlight at Kyushu Basho

Veteran grappler Tamawashi will have his hands full as he bids for a second straight Emperor's Cup at the 15-day meet in Fukuoka.

Tamawashi will be the man to watch when the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament begins on Sunday, November 13 at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

The veteran Mongolian ironman has been promoted to komusubi for the 15-day tournament after winning his second career grand tournament in September.

Tamawashi, who will turn 38 on November 16, became the oldest wrestler in 40 years to regain promotion to sumo's upper sanyaku ranks, the three highest ranks of komusubi, sekiwake and ozeki under yokozuna. 

He was a No. 3 maegashira during the Autumn Basho meet at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan, where he captured the Emperor's Cup with a stellar 13-2 record. He will be competing in the sanyaku ranks for the first time since July of 2019.

While it will be difficult for him to win a second consecutive title, Tamawashi won't have to contend with compatriot and yokozuna Terunofuji, who announced his withdrawal from the tournament on Friday, November 11. The 30-year-old grand champion  recently underwent knee surgery after being forced to pull out of the September meet on Day 10 with injuries.

Terunofuji's anticipated absence also gives sumo's two ozeki wrestlers ― Takakeisho and Shodai ― a chance to get their careers back on track.

Takakeisho Eyes Third Kyushu Title

Takakeisho has a history of performing very well in Fukuoka and will be bidding for his third title in the 15-day Kyushu meet, the last tournament of the year.

The Hyogo Prefecture native went a respectable 10-5 in September but hasn't had a really dominant performance since going 12-3 a year ago in the Kyushu meet.

Takakeisho won this tournament in 2020 with a 13-2 record and in 2018, when he also went 13-2, and comes in full of confidence.

"I'm just aiming for the title," Takakeisho told Nikkan Sports. "The fact that Terunofuji may or may not not be competing has no bearing on how I will perform. You cannot think because the yokozuna is competing [that] it's OK to lose. I just have to do the best I can."

Shodai Facing Pressure

Shodai is another story.

He went a dismal 4-11 in the September tournament and needs a winning record to maintain his ozeki status for the 2023 New Year Basho in January.

The fact that he lost to a handful of lower-ranked wrestlers last time out means he doesn't get much of an edge with Terunofuji's absence: he simply has to start winning no matter who he faces.

On the bright side, Shodai has been here before. It will be his fifth tournament with his rank on the line as a kadoban ozeki.

Tobizaru won the Outstanding Performance Award in September. (KYODO)
It's just a shoe!

Other Storylines to Follow

Elsewhere, three-time Emperor's Cup winner Mitakeumi will be aiming to regain promotion to sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki and needs 10 wins, a mark he last reached in March in his first tournament at ozeki.

Mitakeumi has had three straight tournaments with losing records, an outcome that resulted in his demotion.

Sumo's Flying Monkey Tobizaru will be wrestling at his highest rank of komusubi after going 10-5 in the last meet where he won the Outstanding Performance Award as a top maegashira.

Tobizaru electrified fans in the September meet with big upset wins over Terunofuji, Mitakeumi and Ichinojo among others and will be aiming for more of the same this time out.

Sekiwake Wakatakakage will be looking to keep the momentum going from a solid 11-4 outing in the previous tournament where he won the Technique Prize.

The Arashio stable wrestler went 9-6 and 8-7 in the two tournaments after winning the March tournament, so his 11-4 in September was a step in the right direction. The crowd favorite should be in the mix for the title.

Hoshoryu, the nephew of former Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu, is back at sekiwake for his second competition in a row. He went 8-7 last time out so has much room for improvement.

Mongolian Kiribayama and Daieisho round out the sanyaku ranks as the other two komusubi.

Further down the ranks, one wrestler to keep an eye on is rising star Nishikifuji. He will be wrestling as a maegashira No. 5 after going an impressive 10-5 last time out.

The Isegahama stable wrestler has quietly put together a string of three straight tournaments with winning records and will be eager to continue his rise up the rankings.

Author: Jim Armstrong

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

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