Haru 2022 Day Thirteen
Maegashira #7 East Takayasu
Sekiwake East Wakatakakage
Ozeki #2 West Mitakeumi
Maegashira #6 West Kotonowaka
Sukuinage. In the middle of the Makuuchi slate, Tobizaru, Kagayaki, and Okinoumi all won with the "beltless arm throw." It's not just a sign that these veterans have something for a wild match, but that this late in the basho things can get wilder.
Match of the Day
Maegashira #7 East Takayasu versus Ozeki #1 West Takakeisho
Takayasu wanted to make this a longer match. Takakeisho wanted to make this a pushing match. They both got their way. Takakeisho prevented a mawashi grip from Takayasu at the start, and for quite awhile. Yet Takayasu was able to keep himself close to Takakeisho to prevent the Ozeki's strongest shove from being unleashed. That winded Takakeisho, and Takayasu thrives on a match that just keeps going on and on. Eventually, he got a strong grip on an exhausted Takakeisho to send him down.
The most consequential match of the day was Mitakeumi beating Wakatakakage. The sumo wasn't super exciting, Mitakeumi took it right to Wakatakakage and bottled him up for an easy yorikiri, but Mitakeumi kept his yusho hopes alive. He also gave Takayasu the chance to become sole leader, which he did in the next match. Intriguingly, Kotonowaka kept the yusho race a four-man affair by beating resurgent Ozeki Shodai. Everyone besides Takayasu, Wakatakakage, Mitakeumi, and Kotonowaka is mathematically eliminated from contention.
On Day Fourteen, the six-man round robin to close the day's matchups has the same people in a different order. Shodai and Takayasu kick off the final trio of matches, followed by Kotonowaka versus Mitakeumi and the main event going to Wakatakakage versus Takakeisho. Takayasu beats Shodai, everyone else is jockeying for position. Shodai gets his eighth win to remain Ozeki in May, everyone else in the yusho-possible quartet gets a chance to improve their standing.
Shodai has a career 15-9 advantage over Takayasu, and he is also the most likely spoiler due to his unpredictable sumo style. Yet even if Takayasu beats Shodai on Day Fourteen, his Day Fifteen opponent could still beat him. The identity of that opponent is unknown and hard to figure out. He has faced the other leaders, and, after facing Shodai, he will have run through the Ozeki corps. He could get Abi, the highest ranked man he hasn't faced, and Abi could be fighting for his eighth win if he can't overcome Hokutofuji on Day Fourteen. If it's not Abi, maybe he'll face Ichinojo for a Sanyaku slot in May.
That is one way to game out the final sequence for just the current leader. Three other men are still fighting for the Emperor Cup and need to have consequential matchups. And if Takayasu loses twice, Wakatakage goes 1-1, and both Mitakeumi and Kotonowaka win out, then we're facing a four-way playoff at the end of the final day. That's not likely, even under our current circumstances, but it's still a possibility. That is fun to think about.
But we need to see what happens on Day Fourteen. These projections are likely to be blown up with just one surprising result. None of this discussion even detailed the 16 rikishi who are still fighting for a kachi-koshi. That includes the lowest ranked trio of Kotokuzan, Kagayaki, and Ichiyamamoto. They are all 6-7 and each likely needs to win out to stay in Makuuchi. Pay attention to the final weekend, because there is going to be a lot to watch.