Aki Day 14 Highlights

A fine day of sumo for all. I am starting to think that Shodai has his act together. I am going to be interested to see if he can keep this level of consistency up, because if he can, he will be a force to be reckoned with. If he is going to be regularly at the top of the division, he may need some kind of occasional use nickname. One internet sumo fan suggested “booger”, as Shodai has been found on camera this past week picking objects out of body openings while he waits for his match. Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

The whole thing comes down to Shodai’s match against Tobizaru as the second to last fight of the tournament. Right now, Shodai controls his fate. He is the sole leader in the yusho race, with only Takakeisho and Tobizaru able to challenge if Shodai should lose tomorrow. Pro tip to Tokitsukaze oyakata – go buy the fish now.

Highlight Matches

Shohozan defeats Nishikigi – I liked this match because Shohozan actually was able to generate some offense against Nishikigi. Of course Nishikigi worked hard to establish an arm bar (his favorite grip), and lost the hold at least once. But Shohozan got a nodowa in with his right, and then pulled. This is a risky move, which frequently gives the initiator a swift loss, but Shohozan got Nishikigi down before he stepped outside himself.

Ishiura defeats Ikioi – Watching Ikioi get up after a loss like that is painful. I can’t imagine what it’s like for him. Both end the day at 3-11, and maybe they can fight it out in Juryo in November.

Sadanoumi defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo never could set up any kind of defensive footing, and the smaller Sadanoumi moved him around the dohyo with minimal effort. Both are 7-7 and are headed for Darwin matches. Ichinojo continues to be an enigma, he will fight well one day, and be week and ineffective the next.

Kotoeko defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi could not come up with anything other than defense against Kotoeko’s attacks. But that was a really solid defense. Kotoeko kept working to get his hands inside, and kept moving Shimanoumi back. Shimanoumi gets his 8th loss, and Kotoeko improves to 7-7 and qualifies for a day 15 Darwin match.

Kotoshoho defeats Tokushoryu – In sumo, much of a rikishi’s defense comes from their lower body. This is a great example today, as Kotoshoho maintains his stance and balance under Tokushoryu’s offense. We saw Tokushoryu load up that “magic” tsukiotoshi that took him to the yusho in January, but Kotoshoho kept his feet. Tokushoryu’s 8th loss, and is make-koshi for September.

Ryuden defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku really has no power left in his legs. I marvel at how gentle Ryuden is with him. Good show sir. With a 2-12 score at Maegashira 11, we may be saying goodbye to the Kyushu Bulldozer soon. He might hang in for the November basho if it were to return to his homeland in the West, but I am pretty sure November it will be another basho re-homed to the Kokugikan.

Kaisei defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama gave Kaisei a V-Twin attack, and Kaisei held his ground. Aoiyama found he could only move Kaisei a little, and tried for a doulbe handed slap-down. It was at that moment Kaisei lowered his hips and charged. His win leaves both of them at 7-7, and excellent candidates for a day 15 Darwin match.

Hoshoryu defeats Kagayaki – After getting multiple combos to his face, Hoshoryu shifted from direct attack to deflect and move. Kagayaki followed, keeping the pressure up. As Hoshoryu came perilously close to the tawara, he hooked his leg around Kagayaki and pivoted into kakenage. It was great to see, and some mighty fine sumo. Both end the day at 7-7, and its MORE DARWIN!

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Congrats to Meisei for a solid kachi-koshi (now 9-5) in his rebound match from his quick trip to Juryo. He was there long enough to pick up a yusho, and rough up everyone in the farm league. Hopefully he has recovered from his injury in November of last year. Myogiryu’s 8th loss, and make-koshi.

Enho defeats Terutsuyoshi – We all expected there to be a parade of shenanigans when these two were already make-koshi and facing off late in the basho. Enho employed a flying henka, a reverse battle hug, a quick spin on the Enho-go-round and a push out by the rear for Terutsuyoshi. Bye!

Takayasu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji kept looking to get a nodowa in against Takayasu, and this caused him to reach in a few times toward the former Ozeki’s neck. Takayasu exploited Hokutofuji’s gambled and slapped him to the dohyo. Takayasu improves to 9-5.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – These two threw everything they could think of at each other. It was a wild and chaotic match, and the sumo on display here underscores how far both have degraded from their genki forms. Points to Tochinoshin for sticking with the shifting fight modes, and keeping his balance centered.

Takanosho defeats Onosho – Look at Takanosho’s stance. His amazing defensive posture and footwork robbed Onosho of his offense, and at one point his frustration leads to a pull attempt. But Takanosho is planted and is going nowhere. When he finally gets Takanosho on the move, Onosho’s too far forward and wide open for Takanosho’s hatakikomi. Not sure how Takanosho applied that much force when only his little toe had a grip on wrong edge of the tawara, but he made it work. Seriously genki pinky-toe. Feed it some roast beef, sir!

Kiribayama defeats Okinoumi – Very evasive sumo from Kiribayama, with a step to the side at the tachiai. But it was enough for kachi-koshi today, after sitting out a few days earlier in the tournament due to a shoulder injury.

Takarafuji defeats Daieisho – This is a great match to watch a few times at regular match and in slow motion, as Takarafuji has much to teach today. As is frequently his plan, he comes on with a strong defense and works to endure his opponent’s opening attacks. Note where his hips are relative to his feet when Daieisho attacks his neck. Takarafuji his high, but stable. His body is at the extent of Daieisho’s reach, so Daieisho can only apply fraction force. As the fight continues, Takarafuji keeps his feet as close as possible to the center of the ring. Although Daieisho is attacking like mad, Takarafuji converts any attempt by Daieisho to move forward into Daieisho circling around. It only takes a few exchanges before Daieisho notices this and tries to change up his attack. It’s at this point that Takarafuji engages offense, and Daieisho find he is nearly out of territory to work with. The match ends shortly after that. Lesson learned – control the center of the ring, and a strong stance correctly balanced can be a tool to overcoming a vigorous opponent’s energetic attacks.

Mitakeumi defeats Wakatakakage – Mitakeumi recovered after a rough start that saw Wakatakakage claim the attack position from the tachiai. Mitakeumi’s attempted a pull down, and that nearly cost him the match. I do wish he would cut that stuff out. A few moments later, Mitakeumi settles into the fight and gets a proper body position and hand hold on Wakatakakage, and takes him apart. I think this match is a great example of what may fans perceive as Mitakeumi’s inconsistency. He’s an opportunist, and frequently he has a tough time with his second step. Opponents have this figured out, and can goad him into trying to pull, and use Mitakeumi’s release of forward attack to beat him. Fortunately, Mitakeumi prevailed for his 8th win and is kachi-koshi. But yet again his campaign to reach Ozeki are likely reset to zero.

Shodai defeats Asanoyama – Good heavens, that version of Shodai is quite the overpowering monster. Asanoyama’s grip attempt at the tachiai failed, and he found himself turned to the side, with his right flank exposed. Shodai latched on and rapidly dispatched the surprised Ozeki. Excellent sumo, and excellent match plan from Shodai today. He is now the sole leader for the yusho.

Takakeisho defeats Tobizaru – Really impressed with how well Tobizaru did in this match. Takakeisho was trying whatever came to mind, and it was clear that Tobizaru was on defense, but his ability to hang in and stay on his feet was notable. I predict in a year or less, their future matches will have a different tone. Both men end the day 11-3, one win behind Shodai, whom Tobizaru will meet on day 15.

Aki Storylines, Day 13

The Yusho Race

We are down to 2 co-leaders with 11-2 records: Sekiwake Shodai and surprise of the tournament, maegashira 14 Tobizaru. Four additional wrestlers—Ozeki Takakeisho and Asanoyama and high-performing maegashira Wakatakakage and Onosho—are one off the pace at 10-3. Everyone else has at least 5 losses and is mathematically out of contention.

Tomorrow’s bouts could leave us with one leader, or as many as six. In any case, the yusho race will come down to the final day. The key bouts are Takakeisho vs. Tobizaru (first-ever meeting), Asanoyama vs. Shodai (4-3 edge to the Ozeki), Wakatakakage vs. Mitakeumi (first-ever meeting), and Onosho vs. Takanosho (head-to-head tied at 2-2). Should both leaders win, they seem certain to be matched up directly for the championship on senshuraku; other scenarios are too complex to analyze before we know the results of day 14 bouts.

The Named Ranks

Both Ozeki are in the chase group, and could start a Yokozuna challenge with a yusho. Co-leader Shodai has successfully defended his rank, can still hope for an Ozeki promotion and, barring that, should need at most 11 wins to finish a successful run in November. West Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-6) will remain in san’yaku but still needs one win in the final 2 days to maintain his rank; his Ozeki run is all but over.

Shin-Sekiwake Daieisho (4-9) will drop out of san’yaku along with both Komusubi, Okinoumi and Endo. The number of open san’yaku slots is 2, unless Shodai creates a third by earning promotion, and they seem all but certain to be filled by M1e Terunofuji and M1w Takanosho, both 8-5.

Division Exchanges

With all the active demotion candidates paired up, Shimanoumi, Hoshoryu, and Ichinojo moved closer to safety, all but sealing the demotions of Shohozan, Ishiura, and Kotoshogiku.

Certain to drop to Juryo: Abi and Kyokutaisei.

Hard to see how they’d stay up, even with two wins and favorable banzuke luck: Shohozan, Ishiura.

Needs two wins and some banzuke luck: Kotoshogiku.

Safe with one more win; might already be okay depending on what happens in Juryo: Shimanoumi, Ichinojo, Hoshoryu (Hoshoryu technically needs 2 wins to absolutely guarantee safety).

Moving up to the top division: J2w Kotonowaka (9-4).

Certain to move up with another win, and has probably done enough already: J2e Kotoyuki, 8-5.

Should move up with another win, might move up anyway: J11w Chiyonokuni, 12-1, the Juryo yusho race leader.

As many as six other Juryo rikishi remain in the running for a lucky ticket to the top division.

The Makushita-Juryo exchange picture is complicated by the mandated absences and uncertain banzuke fates of J7 Azumaryu and J14 Fujiazuma, as well as the possibility of sekitori intai. There are three certain openings in Juryo, one created by Kizakiumi’s retirement and the other two by Oki’s 0-13 sekitori debut and J14 Kitaharima’s (5-8) near-record 8th demotion. J12 Daishoho (6-7) needs 1 win for safety.

In the Makushita promotion zone, Ms1e Takagenji (4-3) clinched a return to the sekitori ranks by winning the Darwin match against Ms3w Sakigake (3-4), eliminating the latter from contention. With 3 open slots, Ms1w Jokoryu (4-3) will also move up. The remaining contenders are Ms2e Chiyonoumi (4-3), Ms4w Naya, 4-2, Ms5w Ura (5-1), and Ms5e Kotodaigo (3-3). Kotodaigo will be last in the promotion queue even if he wins his final bout, and will drop out of contention with a loss. Naya visits Juryo tomorrow to take on Daishoho, will Ura presumably set for a similar visit on senshuraku.

Aki Day 13 Highlights

In a surprising development early Friday, Chiyotairyu and Terunofuji were both declared kyujo. Chiyotairyu had not really appeared hurt, but his medical certificate cited injury to both feet. We hope he gets well and can come back in fighting form. Fans who had been cheering the remarkable comeback of Terunofuji were initially surprised to read he had dropped, and they are now worried as his medical certificate cites injury to his left knee. Terunofuji’s knees are little more than gristle and pain at this point, and we assumed it would be the first thing to fail on him. I wish him best of luck getting them back together and back in the fight. He had a score of 8-4 when he went kyujo, so he will (at minimum) keep h is Maegashira 1e rank for November.

In competition, Shodai prevailed over Takakeisho, and for at least one day, the yusho race is between Tobizaru and Shodai. The schedulers have chosen Asanoyama to face Shodai on day 14, and Tobizaru gets a try at Takakeisho. Depending on day 14 results, there could be as many as six (6!) rikishi tied for the yusho on the final day. A brilliant job of shaping the yusho race by the scheduling team.

Highlight Matches

Shimanoumi defeats Shohozan – Shohozan cements his position as captain of the slow barge of the damned headed to Juryo. He’s a great competitor, but injury seems to have robbed him of his sumo. Thanks for all of the great matches, “Big Guns”.

Hoshoryu defeats Ishiura – Ishiura had a lot of guts to jump back in the basho with a damaged ankle. I am sure it was an attempt to pick up any wins he could to soften his demotion. I can’t blame his motivation, and only time will tell if his judgement was sound. Hoshoryu picks up a much needed win, but his best possible outcome now is a day 15 Darwin match.

Ichinojo defeats Kotoshogiku – Also in the grizzled veteran who may be making his last top division appearance is dear former Ozeki Kotoshogiku. He had almost no defense today against Ichinojo, thanks to knees that are completely worn out from decades of sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Kaisei – Kaisei was not happy with his hand and body position at the tachiai, and his moment of indecision was all of the opportunity Sadanoumi needed to win the match. Both men are on a solid trajectory for a day 15 7-7 Darwin match.

Meisei defeats Enho – Meisei starts the match taking Enho to his chest, but a moment later Enho breaks contact. The familiar cat-style fight ensues, with each pawing the other with a series of tentative strike and withdraw combos. Meisei loses interest in this, lunges forward to grab Enho and power him on a flight trajectory to the tarawa. Meisei kachi-koshi.

Kotoeko defeats Aoiyama – This match was full of suprises. The first that Aoiyama decided to go chest to chest with the much smaller Kotoeko. Second that Kotoeko somehow tapped into some kind of energy reserve and was able to out-brute the man-mountain Aoiyama.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshoho – Takayasu gets his 8th win to secure kachi-koshi for September. Kotoshoho had a lot of power and forward momentum in the tachiai, but Takayasu completely blocked out Kotoshoho’s attempt for a grip. Kotoshoho kept up the pressure, but lost footing while trying to swing Takayasu around. The kimarite is listed as tsukite, meaning Kotoshoho fell down and lost.

Onosho defeats Takarafuji – This match makes me wonder if Takarafuji has some kind of back / hip pain he is contending with. Not to detract from Onosho’s powerful and efficient attack. But Takarafuji had no chance to set up any kind of defense, and quickly found himself pushed out of the ring.

Kagayaki defeats Tochinoshin – Oh, I am sure the drama in sumo fandom will rage around this one. The match proper featured Kagayaki initially overpowering Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin responded by setting up a back of the neck pull, that seemed to take forever to deliver. But Kagayaki went face first to the clay, and the gumbai went to Tochinoshin. A monoii decided that Tochinoshin’s heel touched out before he even completed the pull against Kagayaki, and the match was awarded to Kagayaki. I can only imagine the shimpan saw something I could not from the video.

Myogiryu defeats Tamawashi – Myogiryu put a huge effort into this match, and found a way to deflect or nullify almost every move Tamawashi could deliver. Tamawashi was limited mostly to responding to Myogiryu’s attacks but showed some really great balance. The final move saw both men locked chest to chest, each throwing the other down. A very athletic twisting move by Myogiryu ensured that Tamawashi landed first. Great ring sense from Myogiryu. Tamawashi make-koshi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Hokutofuji – I am going to guess that Hokutofuji is the only person in the sumo world who did not see this one coming from a mile away. Two matta by Terutsuyoshi followed by a henka. That’s loss number 8 for Hokutofuji, and he once again can claim “The most powerful make-koshi in sumo”.

Tobizaru defeats Takanosho – Takanosho had great position in the tachiai, but found himself with a bit too much forward power. Tobizaru gave way and allowed Takanosho to move forward while Tobizaru’s third step turned him to the side, and positioned him to drive Takanosho out. Tobizaru maintains his spot as co-leader.

Ryuden defeats Okinoumi – The word for this match – makikae (grip shift). Ryuden does this very well, and he was able to nullify Okinoumi’s early advantage, and get both hands inside and on Okinoumi’s mawashi. Sadly both were make-koshi before this match, so now they are just fighting to figure out how far down the banzuke they will drop.

Kiribayama defeats Daieisho – Kiribayama comes back from kyujo and brings some decent sumo with him. Daieisho generated almost zero forward resistance against Kiribayama. I am not sure if he had his heart set ons some kind of pulling move, could not get his feet set, or is nursing an injury. Kiribayama looked pained following the win.

Shodai defeats Takakeisho – Shodai absorbed everything that Takakeisho could land on him. Under a rain of blows from the Ozeki, he kept his feet and stayed in the match. Again I see Kakuryu’s sumo showing itself in Shodai, and it’s great. Shodai’s first attempt to swing Takakeisho by him on Takakeisho’s thrust failed, but the second one a moment later delivered, and the Ozeki hit the dohyo. Shodai maintains his portion of the lead in the yusho race. Perfect selection of tactics for this match on Shodai’s part. Well done.

Asanoyama defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi looked like little more than practice ballast for Asanoyama today, and it did not take more than 3 steps to get the original tadpole airborne. Asanoyama stays in the hunt, and will have his one chance to pull himself back in the yusho race on day 14 when he faces Shodai. Frankly, I can’t wait.