Haru 2022 Day Fifteen
Sekiwake East Wakatakakage (Playoff Winner)
Maegashira #7 East Takayasu
Ozeki #2 West Mitakeumi
Maegashira #6 West Kotonowaka
Uwatedashinage. After all, when you win a yusho with a pulling overarm throw, that's the most notable maneuver.
Match of the Day
Sekiwake East Wakatakakage versus Maegashira #7 East Takayasu
A playoff should be match of the day, even if it was less than thrilling. This might have been match of the basho if it was the same sumo between two lower Maegashira on Day Two. Get ready to see it over and over in highlight reels.
Wakatakakage did a good job of preventing Takayasu getting a grip with an inital hit and shift, but the momentum was in Takayasu's favor. It was sort of a slap-fest, although Takayasu was maneuvering for a grip, and he kept Wakatakakage going backwards. There was constant action and chaos, but it also seems like a simple push out. And then, in a last desperate move, Wakatakage slid along the tawara. Simultaneously, he grabbed Takayasu's arm and pulled to deliver a yusho-winning uwatedashinage.
Coming into the musubi no ichiban, Wakatakakage knew he just needed to beat Shodai and the Emperor's Cup was his. Hoshoryu managed to throw Kotonowaka by disrupting his wide leg-base first, taking the Sadogatake scion out of contention. Abi put up a relentless pressure to overwhelm Takayasu, leaving him on 12-3. Wakatakakage simply had to best Shodai to get his 13th win and take home the yusho.
He couldn't do it. Shodai did his excellent defensive sumo to give Wakatakakage no opening. Shodai got the kind of awkward grip that would bother any other rikishi, but which he is able to make the other guy feel even more awkward. The Ozeki showed he is still on his form enough to defeat the Sekiwake. That meant a playoff, as well as levelling the final number of wins on the banzuke. Wakatakakage and Takayasu were both on 12 wins.
Wakatakakage has either found a new level of sumo, is riding an incredible lucky streak, or both. Takayasu is looking like he did as an Ozeki. Wakatakakage is at his career high rank as a 27 year old, and is essentially in the middle of his prime. Takayasu is 32, dealing with injuries, and hasn't been on this form in a while. This just might have been his last chance to shake off the "Best to Never Win a Yusho" title he has in the current Makuuchi.
He didn't do it, in the end. Abi's two-handed thrusts didn't immediately topple him, but he never recovered. Similarly, Wakatakakage's constant motion disrupted his attempt to get a grip. On Day Fifteen, Takayasu couldn't get the marathon match he loves to have. There was no leaning and no small shifts of grip. He had to move, and that meant he couldn't win. But only barely.
Wakatakakage may have just had the basho of his life, and what a basho it was. The sumo was simultaneously contained and thrilling. He tries to keep it inside, but is willing to always move if he needs to. He secured his yusho with one of the best bits of tawara dancing imaginable, while also executing a nice throw. Wakatakakage has possibly just started a potential Ozeki run if his next two basho are good. This could also be the high point of his career, but what a high point it is.