Nagoya 2015, Day 11: Sorry So Late!!!

The Leaders:

It’s back to Hakuho and Kakuryu. We knew at least one of the leaders would fall off pace today since Hakuho faced Terunofuji. This lived up to the hype. It was a great bout. Terunofuji seemed to have the early edge since he had position in the center of the ring. But Hakuho is very patient. He very quickly made a move to regain the center, and as a result, Terunofuji lost his left hand grip. Hakuho then used his powerful two-handed belt grip to leverage the shin-ozeki out of the ring. Great. Bout.

Kakuryu, however, dominated Kotoshogiku from the outset. Giku can only afford to lose one more match and he has to face Hakuho tomorrow. I don’t think it will be a stretch to say he’ll be quick out of the gate tomorrow, hoping to overpower Hakuho. He also has Terunofuji, Ichinojo, and likely Kaisei left to face. Assuming he loses tomorrow to Hakuho, he cannot lose any of these other matches or he will be demoted.

Tochiozan fell to an aggressive, attacking Goeido. I like this Goeido. He wrapped his arm around Tochiozan’s head and pulled him down. Tochiozan will face Okinoumi tomorrow while Goeido faces Takekaze. At this point, Tochiozan has the advantage with a much easier schedule. The big test tomorrow, Kakuryu faces Terunofuji. Terunofuji wants to stay in the hunt while I’m sure Kakuryu wants to stay in the lead.

The Rest:

Endo got his kachi koshi against Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki pounced quickly but Endo withstood the charge. Kotoyuki was very aggressive, but also very straight forward and one dimensional. Endo fended off each attack and batted him down with hatakikomi. It’s great to see him back and apparently healthy. He’ll face Seiro tomorrow.

Kyokutenho, on the other hand, has been going in the opposite direction. He now has a losing record and will need to fight to stay in makuuchi. Oosunaarashi ran away from Chiyotairyu and ended up in the 3rd row of spectators. Yoshikaze picked up his winning record in a quick one against Kagamio. Amuru got a straight forward yorikiri win over GAGAMARU for kachi koshi. I’m sure he’s got special prize on his mind now.

Nagoya 2015, Day 10: TOCHIOZAN WANTS YUSHO (updated)

The Leaders:

Tochiozan continues his winning streak by slapping down Hakuho! Both are now in a crowded group at 9-1 with Kakuryu & Terunofuji. Kagamio stumbled against Amuru to slip back to 8-2. We’ve got ourselves quite a tournament. I figured everyone would be chasing Hakuho for a few days but maybe Tochiozan was inspired by the way that Terunofuji’s lightning promotion. He’s got Goeido tomorrow, the last ozeki on his schedule. From there, his path should get easier just as the other leaders’ schedules get more difficult.

Kakuryu staved off a challenge from Takarafuji to remain at 9-1. The yokozuna will face the ever-desperate Kotoshogiku. Takarafuji is tied with Ikioi (at 1-9) for the futility award. Lastly, Terunofuji outlasted Kaisei to keep it interesting. Tomorrow, the headline match has to be Hakuho vs Terunofuji so at least one man will be 10-1 at the end of the day. Meanwhile, Kagamio lost to Amuru so he’s alone in second place. He moves on to face Yoshikaze tomorrow.

The Rest:

Sokokurai came up from Juryo, basically to send Satoyama back down. He was on the offensive the whole time with a two handed belt grip. Satoyama basically held on as long as he could until Sokokurai’s trip finally worked. Very cool kirikaeshi. Endo (7-3) obliterated Takanoiwa with a very strong tachiai, and just didn’t stop until Takanoiwa was sitting in the shinpan’s lap. Chiyotairyu (7-3) also met Kotoyuki with a strong tachiai but then ducked to the side and let Kotoyuki flop on his belly.

Kyokutenho got a very important third win. He’ll need to win the rest to get kachi-koshi but I imagine he’s just taking it one match at a time, trying to stay in makuuchi. Tokitenku withstood Homarefuji’s slaps and gave a few good nodowa thrusts before pulling the rug out and dropping his opponent. Oosunaarashi kept Yoshikaze at arms length and beat him off the dohyo. Both stand at 7-3. We’ll have a slew of men getting their winning records tomorrow.

Sadanofuji’s one of the few that can hang with Gagamaru in the heavyweight division. Today, he outlasted the Georgian and walked him out for the yorikiri win. I’m very happy Ikioi is not more seriously injured after yesterday’s fall. He seemed fine today but his high-level futility continues. M4 and higher, he can’t buy a win, even against guys he usually beats like Kyokushuho.

I seriously think Japanese athletes and teams need to invest more in sports psychologists. Hakuho is ice when he’s in the ring. He’s cool as a cucumber. With the exception of the 2012 women’s soccer team, it seems Japanese athletes and teams in the spotlight just don’t have the confidence or the mental toughness to advance to their full potential. From Mao-chan to Kisenosato, I just don’t think their head is in the game when it’s all on the line. Ikioi shouldn’t be going down to a hatakikomi today.

Sadanoumi was no match for Aoiyama (5-5). Myogiryu also advances to 5-5 with a dominant win over Okinoumi. Tochinoshin needs to step on the gas if he wants to be in the sanyaku next tournament. It’s good time to meet Ichinojo, then. Ichinojo just hasn’t had much answer against Tochinoshin since his size is easily negated by the Georgian’s power. Kisenosato wants to stay in the hunt. Kotoshogiku came at him with everything but he withstood the charge, got position at the center of the ring and steadily pushed him out. Goeido showed great reaction time as Aminishiki attempted the henka. Goeido recovered while Aminishiki’s own momentum tripped him up.

Nagoya 2015, Day 9: Tochi From Kochi Upsets Kakuryu, Hakuho Leads Alone

The Leaders:

Hakuho is usually so cool…but today we saw a hostile side we never usually see. He handled Ichinojo with little difficulty but Ichinojo must have said something about his mother. After Hak pushed him over the edge, he gave Ichinojo a good shove to the face, well after the win. The only thing missing was a cream pie.

Tochiozan must have oiled himself up today. Kakuryu clearly had problems trying to get a hold of him. While he struggled, the sekiwake kept their momentum moving Kakuryu backwards and out of the ring.

Terunofuji straight blasted Kisenosato off the dohyo. He nearly threw the senior ozeki twice but each time Kisenosato was able to regain his balance. The last time, though, Terunofuji got him going the wrong way and finally ejected him – bouncy, bouncy – into the front row. Kagamio stays in the running and gets his kachi koshi with a yorikiri win over Homarefuji, who falls to 3-6. He faces a serious test in Amuru tomorrow.

The Rest:

Now, two wrestlers desperate to stay in makuuchi: Kotoyuki and Tokitenku. Kotoyuki took a page out of Oosunaarashi’s playbook and destroyed Satoyama with an aggressive tachiai, aimed right at the head. Tokitenku pulled out the henka/leg sweep, ketaguri, to improve to 4-5.

Amuru is really impressive this tournament. He meet the much larger Toyohibiki head on, even giving up 50 kg, jostled for a two-handed belt grip, then threw him about 6 feet to the left. It took him a long time to get into makuuchi and now I’m beginning to think he’ll be here for a while. Kitataiki, on the other hand, has not been having a good tournament. Two wins coming into today, I’m sure he’d been feeling the pressure to win. But pulling out a henka on a maegashira 13?

I think Endo is back! He gives up 50 kg to Sadanofuji and earns his yorikiri victory. Kyokutenho is going the opposite way. He had nothing against Toyonoshima who hasn’t exactly been burning up the dohyo, either. Chiyotairyu (6-3) jumped out of the gate, startling Tamawashi (3-6), and blasting him over the edge.

Oosunaarashi got Gagamaru off-balance, chasing after a belt grab. Oosunaarashi improves to 6-3 and faces a great Yoshikaze (7-2). Gagamaru falls to 4-5. Aminishiki picked up an important third win against Kyokushuho (3-6). I’m concerned about Ikioi. To me, it looked like he broke his arm in the fall. I hope I’m wrong.

Tochinoshin picked up an important third win against Takarafuji, who falls to 1-8 with Ikioi, getting his make koshi. Tochinoshin battled with Uncle Muscles for a good while but timed his surge at the right time. He picked Takarafuji a meter off the floor and dropped him over the bales. Tochinoshin battles Ichinojo tomorrow! Takarafuji faces Kakuryu. Kotoshogiku and Goeido picked up important fifth wins today, against Aoiyama and Kaisei, respectively.

Nagoya 2015, Day 8: Ikioi Gives Kakuryu a Scare

The Leaders:

Hakuho seemed content to let Kaisei wear himself out in a good belt battle. Hakuho demonstrated his patience and his power, able to counter any move Kaisei attempted. When Kaisei appeared to have nothing left in the tank for another go, Hakuho powerfully escorted him and his extra 40 kg out of the ring. Again, to note, rather than let himself get thrown off the dohyo and risk injury, Kaisei let up and stayed upright. Many of the lower ranked guys need to learn this in order to protect themselves.

Ikioi always brings it. No matter who he faces, he always gives it his all. Today, he faced Kakuryu and surprised the entire arena by very nearly throwing the yokozuna to his first loss. When Kakuryu moved for Ikioi’s belt, (or maybe an ill-timed kick?) Ikioi countered and used the leverage to shove the pair over to the edge. However, Kakuryu recovered and promptly threw Ikioi off the dohyo for his 8th win. Ikioi falls to 1-7.

Tochinoshin showed up for a great bout with Terunofuji (7-1). He even controlled the action for a little while as Terunofuji realized he wouldn’t be able to just bull him over. The ozeki eventually wore him down, though, and picked up an impressive yorikiri win to stay one loss behind the Hak & Kak.

Tochiozan stayed on pace with a great, methodical yorikiri win over Ichinojo. He withstood the initial charge and quickly gained control of the bout. With a good tug, I think he scared Ichinojo into thinking he was going for hatakikomi but instead walked the monster out backwards. Kagamio (7-1) wants his kachi-koshi bad. He pulled out a glorious henka on Toyohibiki (4-4). He’s definitely got a chance against Homarefuji tomorrow. Among the bottom ranks of the makuuchi, he’s really only got Satoyama left to face so this week should be more of a challenge.

The Rest:

Seiro (4-4) improved to .500 by overpowering Satoyama (3-5).  Kyokutenho (2-6) picked up his second win of the tournament against Hidenoumi (3-5) with a great throw. Amuru has been doing really well this tournament, improving to 5-3 while facing solid maegashira. What I mean by that are guys in the 8-12 ranks instead of down in the 14-16. He faces Toyohibiki tomorrow. Tokitenku tried a rather feeble slap against Yoshikaze but Yoshikaze controlled the ring and chased the Mongolian out to improve to 6-2.

Provided injuries don’t end their careers too early, the Endo v Oosunaarashi rivalry promises more great sumo. Endo still needs to get Oosunaarashi on the belt. If he lets the Egyptian keep the battle at arms length, like he did today, he’s got little hope of hanging with that aggressive style. Both now stand at 5-3. I think Okinoumi showed how it should be done two days ago. Speaking of Okinoumi, he improved to 6-2 by dominating Gagamaru, who falls to 4-4. He quickly brought the battle to the belt and pushed the Georgian out. Okinoumi faces the solid Yoshikaze tomorrow and Gagamaru takes on Oosunaarashi in a battle to watch.

Takayasu slipped in the tachiai to provide the most anti-climactic bout of the day. Aoiyama happily picked up the win to improve to 4-4. I haven’t wanted to report on Uncle Takarafuji’s impotence this tournament. Let’s just say it continued today. Myogiryu improves to 3-5. Kotoshogiku won the ozeki battle with Goeido both are at .500 with a week to go. Kisenosato dominated Aminishiki, staying two losses off pace – as usual.

Nagoya 2015, Day 7: Goeido Sole Ozeki Winner

The Leaders:

Hakuho played with Ikioi for a little bit, perhaps to build his confidence, before easily pushing him out for yorikiri win. Kakuryu fended off an early challenge from Kaisei to stay undefeated. As soon as he got a two-handed belt grip, Kakuryu had the match in the bag.

Terunofuji (6-1) faced Goeido (4-3) in the first Ozeki match up of the tournament. Goeido prevailed with a slick kick to the shin, catching the shin-ozeki off-guard. Lastly, Endo (5-2) put an end-o to Kagamio’s (6-1) unbeaten streak. Tochiozan (6-1) stayed in the hunt with a great win over Myogiryu. It’s now a yokozuna battle for the title with this small group of 3 now chasing.

The Rest:

Kisenosato (5-2) was in control of his match against Aoiyama (3-4) until devastated by a fierce nodowa. That turned the tables in the match and turned the ozeki out. It likely took the ozeki out of contention for the yusho. Kotoshogiku (3-4) also fell today, flat on his face after a Takayasu (3-4) henka. After looking a bit rejuvenated with very strong bouts over the last few days, he slipped back under .500 with the loss. With 8 days remaining, Giku can only lose 3 more to remain an ozeki and these upcoming bouts will be against the strongest competition, including both yokozuna and three ozeki.