First Look At Leaders and Contenders
The middle weekend of Hatsu is upon us! Rejoice sumo fans! If you are fortunate enough to get the full NHK feed (in english) for the matches, you can enjoy John Gunning’s color commentary in addition to Murray’s play by play. Sadly, that does not include your humble blogger, as I am on a 777 bound for London, where sumo will be hard to find.
We are closing in on the half way mark, and everyone faced enough opponents that we can start to plot out who is in contention for the yusho, who is scraping by, and who is in trouble.
In Juryo, Ura was dancing around, defying the laws of physics and undefeated. That changed on day 6, and now a broad group of sekitori are back in contention.
Juryo Leaders: Ura, Homarefuji, Satoyama, Daiamami
Juryo Hunt Group: Daieisho, Tokushoryu, Tsurugisho
Personally I am hoping Ura will be able to prevail here, and either take the yusho or runner up.
In Makuuchi, the picture is even a bit more exotic
Makuuchi Leaders: Hakuho, Kisenosato
Makuuchi Hunt Group: Hokutofuji, Takanoiwa, Sokokurai, Ichinojo, Sadanoumi
So in essence, you have 2 heavy hitters undefeated, and a pack of mid to lower ranked rikishi who have one loss each. This is absolutely fantastic news, as it speaks strongly to the strength of the middle and lower Makuuchi ranks this basho. With a real possibility of losing 2-4 sanyaku in the next 12 months, a strong farm team is a must. Sumo’s popularity in Japan (and indeed world wide) is on the upswing for a variety of very good reasons, and keeping the world of sumo competitive and exciting will continue to draw fans, new and veteran, to the world of sumo.
Osunaarashi vs Toyohibiki – Osunaarashi’s accumulated injuries, maladies and pain are overwhelming his sumo. He has limited mobility on the dohyo, and it shows. Toyohibiki is up from Juryo to balance out the card due to Tochinoshin’s kyujo, so we shall see how he fares. Toyohibiki was in Makuuchi last tournament, and holds a 3-2 career advantage over Osunaarashi.
Takanoiwa vs Ichinojo – I had to look at this twice, as I really was not keeping a close eye on Ichinojo; he’s 5-1. This is a battle between two of the low / mid ranked rikishi who have only one loss going into the half way point, which is actually pretty impressive. Both men are 3 wins away from kachi-koshi already. Ichinojo won the only prior bout between these two.
Shodai vs Goeido – This should be another stage in Shodai’s education in sanyaku, but it’s really more of an open question as Goeido is not super potent this basho, and Shodai is hanging on at 3-3 in Sekiwake, which is actually quite an achievement. Shodai is almost done with his “hard” week, and will likely have some easier matches week 2. He might actually pick up kachi-koshi in one of the most punishing ranks in sumo. 3 career bouts in this series, with Goeido taking 2.
Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – We will get a really good indication from this match if the sumo guys are going to try to let Kotoshogiku survive. In the past it has seemed that Takayasu is not beyond a “strategic loss” from time to time. In past bashos there has been a handful of curious losses to Ozeki who needed to hang on. Personally I would rather see Takayasu back at Sekiwake than to see Kotoshogiku hang on in mal-performing misery. Kotoshogiku leads the series 11-6, but in his current condition it’s not predictive.
Terunofuji vs Mitakeumi – This is going to be an ugly bout, Terunofuji is vague and weak due to injuries and medication. Mitakeumi should be able to win this one given the poor condition of Terunofuji. Mitakeumi has beaten Terunofuji once before in their prior matches, which was their bout in Kyushu last basho.
Ikioi vs Harumafuji – Harumafuji is banged up, beat up and each time he steps on the dohyo, he rolls the dice on an actual career ending injury. I know he continues on because he loves sumo and he is under an threat of retirement. Ikioi, as a pusher-thruster, is going to bring a very high impact sumo into this bout. My hope is for no additional injury to the Yokozuna. Ikioi has never won in their 10 prior matches, and it would be a monstrous kinboshi if he prevails on day 7