Lower division bouts – Day 8

Nicola captured the former Ozeki; even the loyal fans in the background couldn’t help

Hot on the heels of Bruce’s One’s To Watch post, here are some low-division bouts, including many of the Ones To Watch and their wreckage.

Let’s start at Jonokuchi. Although I thought Toma, Hakuho’s gigantic recruit, would do well in Jonokuchi, simply on the merit of his combined weight and experience, he came into Nakabi with a 1-2 record. Here he is facing one of Futagoyama’s newbies, Denuma:

The boy has a lot of improvement to do despite this win here, if he is going to meet the standard set by all the other uchi-deshi recruited by the dai-yokozuna, namely, to become sekitori and hold that position (barring injury – poor Yamaguchi).

By the way, remember Ito, the guy thoroughly pancaked by Toma on day 3? Well, it seems that getting a 206kg cannonball may be good for your career – he is currently 4-0 with a chance at the Jonokuchi yusho.

Next we move to Sandanme, only stopping at Jonidan long enough to inform you that Toshonishiki is on fire this tournament with 4-0, and I really wish I could find some footage because the man is almost as thin as Hattorizakura. Maybe he charms his opponent with his pretty face.

Well, at the very bottom of Sandanme we have Shiraishi, the tsuke-dashi. That is, a wrestler who entered sumo as Sandanme 100 instead of going through Maezumo and Jonokuchi. This is a privilege you attain by being top 8 in one of the applicable amateur championships. And so far, he has justified it, arriving at Nakabi with a 3-0 record. Here he faces Kaiyuma, from Asakayama beya (Kaio’s stable):

Our friend Yoshoyama is currently at Sandanme 9W, and has a straight win record. If he can keep it up and win the Yusho, he may land right very close to the Makushita “here be dragons” zone. He faces Fujita, who is rather bigger than he is:

This doesn’t stop the Mongolian from Tokitsukaze beya from keeping his straight record.

Next up in Sandanme – Amakaze, who can do the mean splits, and apparently, the mean sumo as well:

Don’t blink. Amakaze is on fire.

Finally, we arrive at the wreckage that is the Terunofuji vs. Daishosei bout. Both come into this bout lossless:

The former Ozeki makes an amateur mistake there, thinking that Daishosei’s foot went out and dropping his defenses as a result. Daishosei is not intimidated enough to miss the opportunity thus opened. Terunofuji goes down the hana-michi cussing (well, to the extent that you can cuss in Japanese – and Mongolian doesn’t even have cuss words).

We’re up to Makushita, and we have Musashikuni vs. Fukuyama. Musashikuni is not having a very good tournament and comes into this bout 1-2:

The American ends up sitting frustrated at the edge of the dohyo, needing to win all his bouts from this moment on.

Next we have Midorifuji vs. Asabenkei. They, too, are 1-2 each as they mount the dohyo. While Midorifuji is very talented, he is also very small. Asabenkei, on the other hand, has some Juryo experience, but seems rather worse for wear.

Midorifuji executes a rather nice katasukashi. You can’t see it in this footage, but Asabenkei has real trouble getting up and over to his position for the bow. Sigh.

So let’s take a look at Hoshoryu vs. Ryuko.

Hoshoryu can’t even cite his lack of weight in this bout. I guess lack of experience.

On a higher note, here is Naya vs. Kaito:

Typical Naya tsuppari, ending in a kachi-koshi and a chance at the Makushita yusho.

Finally, we are up to Juryo – where Kizakiumi is paying a visit, facing Arawashi. Kizakiumi is Churanoumi’s brother, and he is so fresh he can’t even get the oicho-mage that is usually granted to Makushita rikishi who have a Juryo bout.

I thought Arawashi was in a better state than this before the basho. But he may find himself saying goodbye to his kesho-mawashi for the first time since 2013.

My final bout for this report is Daishomaru vs. Aminishiki. Believe it or not, Aminishiki is in the picture for the Juryo yusho, trailing Takagenji by a mere 2 loss margin together with Toyonoshima.

Amazingly, he can still win a bout going forward.

Natsu Day 9 – Ones To Watch

Amakaze – Ready To Compete In the Sandanme Undefeated Bracket

For fans of the lower divisions, day 8 was obliteration, with many of our cohort in the “Ones to Watch” going down to defeat, and others finding their fortunes dashed on the dohyo. With all of our rikishi now having 4 matches complete, only Naya and Amazake are still undefeated, with everyone else taking at least one loss.

Action from day 8

RikishiOutcomeScore
HoshoryuLoss2-2
MidorifujiWin2-2
NayaWin4-0
MusashikuniLoss1-3
TerunofujiLoss3-1
ShojiLoss2-2
AmakazeWin4-0

Some highlights and lowlights: Amakaze tossed Shinyashiki like a sack of rice being loaded onto a truck; it’s really the only way to describe it. He picks up his kachi-koshi, remains undefeated and enters the yusho playoff bracket that holds 12 rikishi. Unless something odd happens, there WILL be a playoff for the Sandanme yusho.

Terunofuji’s match was a stumbling mess, and the former Ozeki looked completely off tempo and was ripe for a loss. This gives him his first black star, and takes him out of the yusho race. It also considerably slows his rise back toward the salaried ranks, and he may not find himself out of Sandanme for a bit longer.

Naya remains unbeaten, and he will enter the bracket for the Makushita yusho for the second consecutive tournament. Does this mean that Naya is suddenly better than his rival Hoshoryu? No, it underscores how brutal and effective the meat grinder is at the top of Makushita.

Hoshoryu found himself on a fast track to the south side zabuton when he squared off against another young fast-riser in Ryuko, who made quick work of Hoshoryu. Focus on 4 wins, Hoshoryu – you are in fine shape to get there.

Now on to day 9. You will note that most of the 4-0 lower division rikishi are in action on day 9, as they start to winnow the undefeated pool and try to get to a yusho winner within the remaining 3 matches. In Sandanme and Jonidan, it’s almost certain there will be playoff matches on day 15, but it’s going to be a great adventure to get there. Day 9 is heavy with the Makushita side of our roster, so it’s another late night for Team Tachiai!

Wakamotoharu vs Jokoryu – In this 1-3 bracket match, the loser goes away make-koshi, and facing demotion for Nagoya. Both of these men are trying to return to Juryo, one of them will face disappointment today.

Ichiyamamoto vs Hoshoryu – Two of our “Ones to Watch” up in the same match, it’s a 2-2 bracket that brings two scrappers face to face and underscores that fierce nature of the top ranks of Makushita. Ichiyamamoto won their only prior match.

Midorifuji vs Takakento – Another rematch will see Midorifuji try to even up the career record in this 2-2 bracket fight. Former Takanohana rikishi (now Chiganoura) Takakento is fighting at his highest ever rank, and needs 2 more to advance higher on the banzuke.

Naya vs Tsukahara – A 4-0 bracket match, the winner advances into the ever decreasing pool of rikishi who will compete for the Makushita yusho. Naya will face off against another fast risking young star in Kasugano’s Tsukahara, who has a Jonokuchi and Jonidan yusho to his name.

Roga vs Kototora – Young Roga finds himself in an upper Sandanme 2-2 bracket match, looking for 2 more wins to reach the safety of kachi-koshi. Kototora is fighting at his highest ever rank, but his 55 basho experience may provide a decisive edge.

Amakaze vs Tsugaruumi – Sandanme yusho bracket match sees former Juryo mainstay Amakaze go to work against Sandanme mainstay Tsugaruumi. Tsugaruumi has struggled with injury, and is one of the lighter rikishi in Sandanme. This might set up a second consecutive “grab and toss” from Amakaze.

Kitanowaka vs Oba – Former high school Yokozuna finds himself in a 3-1 bracket, but surprisingly he still has a path to a Jonokuchi yusho. With 3 matches left, there are only 3 rikishi with a 4-0 record, meaning there is a fair chance that the eventual yusho winner will not be undefeated. To remain in the hunt, he needs to get past Oba.

Hattorizakura vs Higohikari – Congrats to Higohikari who will pick up his first win today against perpetual soft-sumo expert Hattorizakura.

Natsu Storylines, Day 8

One former (and hopefully future) Ozeki lifts another

Who will take the yusho?

With both of the frontrunners taking their first losses on Day 8, nothing has really changed in the yusho race. Only two rikishi in the modern era (since 1958) won the yusho after starting 5-3: Kyokutenho in 2012 and Harumafuji in 2017. Couple that with the rarity of maegashira yusho, and the fact that all of the pursuers are rank-and-filers (M8 Asanoyama, 7-1, and M4 Abi, M5 Ryuden, M14 Enho, and M15 Kotoeko, all 6-2), and Yokozuna Kakuryu and Sekiwake* Tochinoshin remain overwhelming favorites.

Will Tochinoshin regain his Ozeki rank?

With 7 victories in 8 days, Tochinoshin’s chances look good. He only needs to find 3 victories in the remaining 7 days, albeit against tougher competition. It would seem that his biggest challenge tomorrow is escorting out an obviously injured Takakeisho, who shouldn’t be anywhere near a dohyo, without hurting him further but also without letting up too much and reprising Mitakeumi vs. Hakuho at Hatsu. Edit: it seems that Takakeisho will do the sensible thing and sit out, giving Tochinoshin his 8th win by default.

Who will occupy the San’yaku ranks in July?

At this point, it looks likely that three slots will open up: Tochinoshin’s via promotion and Ichinojo and Aoiyama’s via demotion (Ichinojo has pulled out after recording only two victories, and Aoiyama would need to reverse his 2-6 start with a 6-1 finish to remain in San’yaku). Despite his hard-luck loss today, Mitakeumi (5-3) is in good shape if he can avoid a second-week fade, and he is through the meat of his schedule, with only Tochinoshin left to face in the upper ranks. Record 3 more wins, and he can return to Sekiwake.

The current frontrunners to occupy the open slots are the aforementioned Abi, Ryuden, and Asanoyama, along with M2 Daieisho (4-4). M1 Hokutofuji (3-5), M1 Kotoshogiku (3-5), M2 Endo (3-5), and M3 Tamawashi remain within striking distance if they can finish the basho with more wins than losses.

Who will be in Makuuchi in July?

If the tournament ended today, only two rikishi would be headed down to Juryo, and they are the last two on the banzuke: M16w Ishiura and M17e Chiyoshoma, both 3-5. It’s unlikely that either would survive again with a losing record, so they have their work cut out for them to go 5-2 or better the rest of the way. The others with the most work to do to reach safety are M14 Tokushoryu (2-6) and M15 Terutsuyoshi (3-5).

Down in Juryo, J2e Takagenji (8-0) is threatening to run away with the yusho, and is almost certain to make his top-division debut in July. J1e Toyonoshima (6-2) needs only two more victories to secure a quick return to Makuuchi. Former Makuuchi regular Kyokushuho ( J3e; 5-3) is the best of the rest in a weak promotion race.

Who could make the jump from upper Makushita to Juryo?

As has been noted on a number of occasions, upper Makushita is loaded with exciting prospects looking to cross the “heaven/hell” boundary into the salaried ranks. Fortunately for them, two slots in Juryo are guaranteed to be opened via demotion of the absent Chiyonokuni and Hakuyozan, and several additional slots are likely to be made available via poor performances by those attending, depending on how the final week plays out.

Promotion usually requires a strong winning record in the top 5 ranks of Makushita, or an undefeated record in the top 15. Only M15w Bushozan (4-0) could still qualify via the second route, and tomorrow he faces fellow undefeated man Takanofuji (Ms2w), who may have already done enough for an immediate return to the second division. With both Ms1’s holding 1-3 records and needing to win out to qualify for promotion, the leading candidates behind Takanofuji are Ms2e Kotokamatani (3-1), Ms3w Kizakiumi (4-1), and Ms4e Ryuko (3-1). “Ones to watch” Ms3e Ichiyamamoto and Ms4w Hoshoryu, both 2-2, need to win out to stake a real claim, and only one of them will still be in a position to do so after they face off tomorrow.

Natsu Day 8 Highlights

Endo – The Golden

What better time to really shake up the basho than the middle day? The first week was nothing but warm up, a prelude if you will to the real contest that starts now. And change was afoot in the Kokugikan, with losses dealt to fan-favorites up and down the banzuke. Some of that will be covered in today’s “Ones to Watch” post, some of it… Now.

Day 8 Highlights

Daishoho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi tries to be as low as possible, and leaves himself wide open for Daishoho to apply lateral and downward force. The result is a nicely executed katasukashi, with Daishoho rendering a look of both satisfaction and amusement that Terutsuyoshi thought that what he was doing was going to work.

Kotoeko vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu suffers again from his “cab forward design”, as Kotoeko expertly uses Tokushoryu’s propensity to fall forward to great effect.

Enho defeats Chiyomaru – Everyone was hyped for this match, and it did not disappoint. Enho does a masterful job of not staying still long enough for Chiyomaru to do anything rather than get frustrated. Enho grabs a leg and helps Chiyomaru out. As I love to say, being enormous is not necessarily a sumo tactic. Especially if you fight Enho.

Shimanoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a hit-grab-shift, but Shimanoumi stays focused on Ishiura’s center-mass and rolls with him, never allowing Ishiura to generate any real offense.

Shohozan defeats Yago – In the battle of the giant heads, it’s great to note that you have Yago expending a lot of energy flailing away, and you have Shohozan who stays compact and low. He keeps Yago in front of him, and is very efficient with his sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Tochiozan – Sadanoumi gets the job done by repeatedly overwhelming all attempts by Tochiozan to change the pace and form of the match to his terms. Sadanoumi works quickly, and keeps changing the attack profile, and always moving forward.

Shodai defeats Tomokaze – There are days when (as readers note) I think Shodai is a complete chump who stumbled into the top division, but he’s so nice and so polite no one wants to ask him to leave. Then there are days when this form of Shodai shows up and you go “daayyymm”. True to form, Shodai’s tachiai is terrible, but after that it’s ka-boom!

Meisei defeats Onosho – Watch this match in slow-motion. Now watch it again. It’s over in a blink of an eye, but you can see Meisei instinctively react and execute with perfection after Onosho lands a forceful tachiai, and looks ready to bowl Meisei over.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – It was not flashy, it was not amazing, but Asanoyama got the job done. He is looking really sharp this basho, and his fans hope that he’s made a step change to his sumo.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – again we don’t see much offense from Yoshikaze, but sadly we did not see much offense from Kagayaki either. This was a kind of pointless match where they both could have taken a kuroboshi and gone to the pub instead.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi still showing up, but whatever kami had a hold of him earlier this year is back in whatever massive tree it normally inhabits. Ryuden keeps plugging away, and we will see him near the top of the rank and file in July, I would guess.

Daieisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has nothing to bring to this match, no canon-ball tachiai, no blistering tsuppari, he’s just not brining his best sumo. Daieisho does his part by driving hard and focusing on Chiyotairyu’s expansive upper body.

Abi defeats Hokutofuji – Matta, Matta, ker-blam! Hokutofuji shuts down Abi-zumo for a moment, but then Hokutofuji decides to try a pull / slap down, and reaches high. This opens up his chest and here comes the double arm shove from Abi. Hokutofuji needs a formula to win against this guy.

Endo defeats Tochinoshin – Fans know Endo is a master technician who many times can’t quite execute his brilliant sumo plans. But then you have today where he sacrifices a chance at Tochinoshin landing his lethal left in order to latch a mae-mitsu with the right hand. He mixes that with a pivot and a bit of luck (Tochinoshin loses traction) and its uwatedashinage magic at the shikiri-sen. Tochinoshin picks up his first loss.

Aoiyama defeats Takakeisho – On one hand, I could complain that Man-mountain Aoiyama executed a henka like a chump. Or I could look at this as the easiest way to defeat Takakeisho without taking much of a chance at further injuring him. One thing is clear, the path to kachi-koshi just got a lot more risky for Takakeisho.

Takayasu defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi made this harder than it should have been, but I liked it because it was an excellent showcase for Takayasu’s really outstanding yotsu abilities. I am sticking with the theory that Takayasu is low-function now due to injury.

Goeido defeats Mitakeumi – Goeido gets a lucky break when the tata-gyoji scampers to a bad position on the dohyo and arrests Mitakeumi’s forward pressure, allowing Goeido to rally and carry the match. Truth be told, Goeido looked sharp this match, putting in doubt my theory that his ankle is back in poor shape.

Tamawashi defeats Kakuryu – Tamawashi focuses, pushes and drives. He is rewarded with his 3rd kinboshi and a storm of zabuton flying at the dohyo. Kakuryu takes his first trip to the clay, and suddenly the chase for the Emperor’s Cup is blown wide open.

With no rikishi now undefeated, the stage is set for a brutal brawl to the finish, it’s anyone’s guess who will take the yusho.