The Wanpaku Tournament has always had its fair share of coverage on various platforms, and Japanese TV have always produced hour-long programs with action from the finals. However, starting with the 26th Wanpaku Tournament in 2010, for the first time ever, live coverage of the event was available on Ustream (which has since been moved to Niconico).
When the rikishi in Grade 4 came out for their opening bouts, one kid stood head and shoulders above everyone else (literally), and drew gasps from the audience when he stepped onto the dohyo. I'm talking, of course, about the star from the Future Monster series, Okinawa's Toma Tsuguto (當真 嗣斗), who has attracted quite a bit of media attention over the past few years.
In his Wanpaku debut, Toma Tsuguto breezed through to the final with his oshi-zumo, where he faced the not as big but equally as strong Haruyama Mantaro (春山 万太郎). Just when everyone were expecting a good bout between them, Toma ended the match in one second - a henka. So who exactly is this Haruyama Mantaro, whom even Toma didn't want to engage in a proper battle?
Haruyama Mantaro (left), with his Saitama Sakae team-mate Naya Konosuke:
A friend once explained that the reason the Honbashos are held at their current locations is because Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya are the 3 largest metropolitan areas in Japan. But wait, what about Kyushu? Apparently it's because they have produced a lot of rikishi over the years, and are continuing to do so.
In order to give his son the best sumo education he could get, when Haruyama Mantaro was only 5 years old, his father closed down their acupuncture & massage shop in Osaka and moved their family down to Amami Oshima, a group of islands in Kagoshima Prefecture. This is a place that lives and breathes sumo. There are dohyos everywhere, and the sumo clubs there train EVERY DAY, that's compared with twice a week for most other clubs and dojos in Japan.
Under the watchful eyes of his father and through the daily training sessions, Haruyama Mantaro was able to fulfill his potential as a sumo wrestler at a young age, and was soon one of the best in his year group. Strength is definitely his biggest asset, so he prefers to do oshi-zumo. Skill-wise though, it's a bit rough around the edges, a topic which is worthy of a post in itself.
With Haruyama Mantaro bulldozing through his opponents in Kagoshima, Toma Tsuguto was doing pretty much the same thing in Okinawa, and with both prefectures being a part of Kyushu, Haruyama and Toma were always going to be crossing paths during regional tournaments, and cross paths they did. We don't actually know what their head-to-head record was like at regional level, but what we do know is that in the only video that exists which shows one of these bouts, this is what happened: (from 0:56)
And so having faced Haruyama many times already, when they eventually met in the final of the Wanpaku Tournament, Toma decided to take the easy way out and pull a henka.
They met each other again at the Wanpaku Tournament in Grade 5, this time in the semi-final. Haruyama went in far too low at the tachi-ai, just asking for a Hatakikomi, which Toma duly delivered.
The following year, another Wanpaku face-off (in the quarter-finals), another henka, another Toma yusho. Haruyama just doesn't learn. (from 1:29:36)
Toma Tsuguto and Haruyama Mantaro faced each other 3 times over 3 years at Wanpaku, and I have to say, their bouts have not exactly been classics (just look at the Yamamoto-Utetsu rivalry for example).
Both of them are now in their third and final year at High School, with Toma being the new captain of Tottori Johoku and Haruyama a key member of Saitama Sakae. As fate would have it, they faced each other again at the Kanazawa Tournament a month ago in the team competition, for the first time in years. You can check out their bout in the newest video in this post, from 22:53. It's actually a good bout this time.
It would be interesting to see what paths the two of them choose to take in the future. I feel like Toma Tsuguto's sumo career is what Yamamoto Masakatsu's would have been if he hadn't been injured so much at Middle School. As for Haruyama Mantaro? He's done well this year so far, getting a jun-yusho at the Kanazawa Tournament, and being a student at Saitama, he has some of the best training partners in the entire country. Just as his father would have hoped.