Haru 2022 Day Five
Maegashira #7 East Takayasu
Ozeki #2 West Mitakeumi
Sekiwake East Wakatakakage
Sekiwake West Abi
Maegashira #4 East Kiribayama
Maegashira #6 West Kotonowaka
Maegashira #13 West Chiyonokuni
Maegashira #17 East Kagayaki
Hikkake. It wasn't just Abi pulled out the unusual maneuever of "arm grabbing force out." It's that Abi has serious counters when someone blows up his two-handed thrust, like Takanosho did on Day Five.
Match of the Day
Maegashira #4 East Kiribayama versus Ozeki #2 West Mitakeumi
MItakeumi had the advantage through much of the match, pushing Kiribayama back at the tachiai and establishing a solid grip. But Kiribayama is very good at pretzeling himself in a way that befuddles opponents, and Mitakeumi never found the killer opening. Kiribayama started an awkward looking lean that worried both men, but Kiribayama was able to power into a yorikiri for the upset win.
Mitakeumi got his first loss. Terunofuji got his second loss. Shodai got his first win. Sekiwake duo Wakatakakage and Abi both kept pace. Further down the Banzuke, so did Kiribayama (by beating Mitakeumi) and Kotonowaka. Most importantly, Takayasu withstood Takarafuji and ended up slapping him down. That was the consequential match, because Takayasu is the sole leader and only undefeated rikishi after five matches.
All those other results help illustrate how strange Takayasu's place atop the leaderboard is. Typically, Day Five has a shared top spot in the yusho arasoi, because multiple men are undefeated. Even when there is a lone unbeaten rikishi, that rikishi is usually a Yokozuna or an Ozeki. Takayasu isn't in either of sumo's top ranks, and he wasn't even the most likely non-Ozeki or Yokozuna to be in such a position coming into the Haru basho. Wakatakakage, Abi, Hoshoryu, and Kotonowaka are coming off very strong bashos in January. Daieisho and Tamawashi are former yusho winners still in the upper ranks.
Takayasu had an 0-0-15 record in January, because he was withheld from the basho after stablemates tested positive for COVID. He is also a former Ozeki who is probably the most notable rikishi never to have won a yusho. Among men whose careers are not right at the beginning, he is certainly the best rikishi never to have won a yusho. He has all the ability to lift the Emperor's Cup, but he's never put it together. He also looks the best version of himself, extending matches as long as possible, keeping his footwork strong, and ending with decisive throws.
Yet the strangeness of Takayasu being the sole leader is the very reason why he shouldn't be penciled in for a championship. The Yokozuna got loss number two by being unable to counter Tamawashi attacking his arms to prevent a grip, but Terunofuji is still dangerous. Shodai showed real life for the first time. Takakeisho is getting wins without his usual power. MItakeumi's first loss shouldn't be the start of a collapse. The two Sekiwake are fighting extremely well. To win from the Maegashira ranks, anyone will need to likely beat most if not all of those men. That warning applies equally to Kiribayama and Kotonowaka as it does to Takayasu.
Most of all, the Haru basho has had at least one surprising upset, either by rank or record, every single day for its first five days. Those are likely not going away with a topsy-turvy Sanyaku. And the zero sum nature of sumo means that someone must lose every match, while the quick nature of every match means that it's often surprising.