Hatsubasho 2015 – Day 15

Hakuho’s victory over Kakuryu sealed his perfect record in this first tournament of 2015. It was a tight battle but Hakuho prevailed with a powerful force-out win. In the previous bout, Harumafuji destroyed Kisenosato, perhaps a little bitter that his championship hopes were extinguished so early and with such a disappointing loss to Jokoryu.

Goeido will remain ozeki as Kotoshogiku rolled over like a lap-dog for the second day in a row to hand Goeido his eighth win and kachi-koshi on the final day. This bout was disappointingly uncompetitive but perhaps my least favorite was Ichinojo’s performance against Toyonoshima. Both had assured losing records and neither really demonstrated much effort as the 200 kg Mongolian basically let himself be slid to the side of the ring and sluggishly flopped over like a rag-doll. Even Ikioi didn’t seem to want to win today. He started out strong but his slip-up just seemed unnecessary. I mean a loss to Sokokurai? Really? Ikioi will surely fall into the lower third of the maegashira for the March tournament.

In perhaps today’s best match, Terunofuji forced out his Mongolian compatriot, Tamawashi, to secure not only an eighth win and a winning record but also a fighting spirit prize. It was the only special prize awarded after this tournament and rightfully so. The lower sanyaku and upper maegashira wrestlers were so bad Kitataiki will probably be sekiwake w/ Gagamaru as komusubi, fresh from Juryo, and leapfrogging over these maegashira.

All I can say is that in March, all of this drama around #33 will be over, Ikioi, Ichinojo, Aminishiki, Tochinoshin and Endo will all be back in the low-to-mid maegashira ranks with Oosunaarashi, joined by Gagamaru and Kitataiki from Juryo. These will bring some exciting bouts and a few will sweep up 10+ wins. We can finally get back a bit of normalcy.

Hatsubasho 2015: Day 14

Marking Position for Water Break
Marking Position for Water Break

I’ve never seen a water break in the middle of a match. Today, Ichinojo and Terunofuji’s marathon bout was a long stalemate for most of the match. It was really interesting to see how at 4 minutes in, they stopped the match and then the gyoji marked each wrestler’s position and allowed the combatants to get some water. After the break, they started back where they left off but it wasn’t long before Ichinojo finally overpowered Terunofuji, dragging him over the straw bales.

In the yokozuna bouts, Kisenosato assured himself of jun yusho hy beating Kakuryu. He was very aggressive and just too powerful today for the yokozuna, who fell to 10-4. Harumafuji also fell to 10-4, as he had nothing to counter Hakuho. He basically held on for dear life as Hak dragged him around the ring, and forced him out. Tomorrow, Kisenosato takes on Harumafuji with a share of the jun yusho on the line while Hakuho faces Kakuryu with a chance at sealing this tournament with a dominant undefeated zensho yusho.

Endo picked up an impressive quick win against Kotoshogiku while Goeido gave himself a chance to save his ozeki ranking with a nice throw victory over Aoiyama. Oosunaarashi and Okinoumi both picked up their all-important 8th wins. Down in Juryo, Kitataiki has the yusho wrapped up while Gagamaru’s 10 wins will hopefully be enough to ensure both wrestlers make it back to makuuchi.

Hatsubasho 2015: Day 12

Is Hakuho's 2 bout lead impenetrable?
Is Hakuho’s 2 bout lead impenetrable?

Kisenosato is basically our only hope to drop Hakuho and make this basho interesting. Today, he survived a bit of a scare against Toyonoshima in an entertaining bout. Tomorrow they will battle for the 50th time. The superzuna has a 38-11 advantage in this lengthy rivalry that goes back to Makushita when Kisenosato was known by his real family name, Hagiwara. The historical data at Sumo Games is fantastic and really interesting. Forgive the plug but I love data and this is fascinating. In this case it’s also really interesting to see how quickly in their careers Hakuho advanced into the makuuchi and became a Yokozuna.
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Hatsubasho 2015: Day 10

Two-thirds of the way through the tournament and Harumafuji looks possessed. He charged through Kotoshogiku and nearly sent the jack-rabbit ozeki back to Juryo, in spite of a 100+ pound weight difference. Were it not for that ill-advised gamble facing Jokoryu a few days ago…
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Hatsubasho 2015: Day 8

Hak dispatches Aminishiki
Hak dispatches Aminishiki

Aminishiki (5-3) has been impressive but after a strong tachiai and quick grapple, Hakuho (8-0) side-stepped the charging maegashira and sent him sprawling off the dohyo. Nothing fancy about Harumafuji’s attack against Kaisei today. He went straight for the throat and the Brazilian could do nothing but retreat. Harumafuji stays one loss off pace at 7-1 while Kaisei drops to 4-4. Kakuryu fought off the hard-charging Aoiyama for his sixth win (6-2).
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Hatsubasho 2015: Day 7

Harumafuji slips up
Harumafuji slips up

Harumafuji’s slip-up gives up a surprising gold star to a visibly injured Jokoryu. There’s a lot of speculation about why the yokozuna fell so easily but my take on it is he was trying for a rare kimarite and underestimated Jokoryu’s ability to stand his ground. I’ve never seen anyone reach all the way round the opponent to grab the thong part of the mawashi. Until I know the real name, I’m going to call it an attempted nuclear-wedgie. I will not fault Harumafuji for trying because I enjoy his creative style of sumo. He seems to always find new ways to win that I haven’t seen, like the komatasukui from yesterday. The timing today is questionable, when tied for the lead with Hakuho to close out week one.
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Hatsubasho 2015: Day 6

#70
Hungry for Yusho
#69
Searching for #33

 
 
 
Harumafuji and Hakuho are the last two with perfect records.

Harumafuji had his longest bout of the tournament so far and one of the more interesting bouts in the way he won. He waited patiently with a solid belt grip. Toyonoshima tried to use his legs but that opened him to danger as the yokozuna got the better of him by reaching down with the left arm and grabbing for Toyonoshima’s left leg. Off balance, the maegashira was forced backwards and off the dohyo, into the crowd. I don’t think I’d ever seen an example of komatasukui kimarite before.
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Homasho, say it ain’t so! Homasho retires.

Homasho

Though it does not come as much surprise due to the nature of his latest injury, Homasho has announced his retirement at the age of 33. He has missed the last three tournaments due to an ACL tear suffered in July in a bout with Harumafuji. He had just bounced back into the upper ranks of maegashira after being demoted to the lower Juryo division in 2013 and again to start 2014 due to previous injuries.

Over the course of the last twelve basho, he had only completed 6, three of them in Juryo. While recovering from the ACL tear, he had dropped out of the salaried sumo ranks to Makushita #7 and would surely face further demotion if he were to try to compete in March.

Before these injury plagued two years, Homasho was a solid upper Maegashira wrestler and had acheived the rank of komusubi three times. Each time he reached komusubi, however, he was only able to garner four wins so he’d drop back into the maegashira rank-and-file. He has won the Fighting Spirit prize five times and the Technique prize twice during his career. He’d also come in second, garnering jun-yusho, three times.

I always enjoyed his style, always giving 100% effort and demonstrating utmost respect and sportsmanship. He will remain in sumo with the Shikorayama stable as a coach under the name Tatsutagawa.

Hatsubasho 2015: Day 5

HakuhoIkioi

Ikioi (0-5) came close to pulling off the upset of his career against Hakuho. In a characteristically spirited fight he very nearly conquered the yokozuna, slapping the champ down by the shoulder. But, the gyoji was right calling Hakuho as victor. On review, the heel of Ikioi’s foot had touched the dirt on the wrong side of the straw bale while Hakuho was still in the air [blurry picture above]. He’s clearly much better than his winless record would attest…but he’ll get there.
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Hatsubasho 2015: Day 4

Painful stance for Kotoshogiku
Painful stance for Kotoshogiku

I really think Ichinojo puts a lot of planning into each bout. He’s a real tactician. He was very slow at the tachiai…waiting for Kotoshogiku to make the first move. With the ozeki’s knee issues, it was apparent that he was experiencing discomfort holding a crouched stance for more than a few seconds before the tachiai. After just a few seconds, he had to adjust into more of a forward lean and finally had to go ahead into a three-point stance and initiate the charge rather than wait on Ichinojo. As he bulled across the dohyo, Ichinojo just grabbed him by the back and pushed him down. Some do not like his tactics but I enjoy the chess he plays. Kisenosato used to slow roll his tachiai, getting many opponents to false start, until Ichinojo abused him.
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