Arawashi’s Spoils of Battle
The second half of Hatsu opened with some great sumo, and some surprising outcomes. In the middle of all of this, I am keeping a watch on Kotoshogiku. Mathematically, I don’t see any way he cannot be demoted. The question comes: what does he do after that? Right now his legs are trashed, he has no pushing power. Kotoshogiku’s sumo is all about locking up a rikishi and applying those tree-trunk legs to move forward against any rikishi, no matter how big. With his knees out of operation, his sumo is no longer winning matches. Does Kotoshogiku remain in Makuuchi and try to make a come-back? It would require him to get very effective intervention on his knees. He would then have to fight his way back to Ozeki. More likely still, he might retire (intai) and transition to coaching or running the association or a heya.
There is also the question of Harumafuji. The reports from the press state that he is out for a month with a torn ligament in his right thigh. Prior to this, there were vocal threats to push him towards retirement coming form YDC head Moriya. Sumo fans can only wonder if privately, there is a renewed call for him to step down. Frankly, I think Harumafuji, at a workable physical condition, is necessary for the sport. Within 3 years there are likely to be viable Japanese Yokozuna hopefuls, and having the ever inventive Harumafuji to train and match against is crucial to producing the next generation of top quality Yokozuna.
Hatsu Leader Board
- Leader – Kisenosato
- Hunt Group – Hakuho, Takanoiwa, Sokokurai
- Chasers – Ikioi, Takekaze, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Sadanoumi
7 Matches Remain
Torikumi We Are Following
Ichinojo vs Sokokurai – As stated earlier, not sure who put the correct fuel into battle-bot Ichinojo, but he seems to be working again. The day 8 match with Chiyonokuni was an eye opener, as Chiyonokuni is no slouch, but to Ichinojo, it may as well have been an overly busy fly. I am beginning to worry that Inchinojo sneaks away to train with Shin-Godzilla (who is really robo-Hakuho in a suit, after all). Sokokurai is turning in a great performance, and is part of the hunt group. A win today would give Sokokurai his kachi-koshi, and a nice boost in rank for Osaka. Ichinojo has won both of their prior matches.
Takanoiwa vs Aoiyama – Another member of the hunt group faces Bulgarian Aoiyama, who seems to be more focused, more aggressive and more confident this basho than the prior several. He has massive size and unnatural strength. We just have to pray he does not follow Mitakeumi’s example and blend the pusher / thruster oshi-zumō approach with solid yotsu-zumō. A win here would give Takanoiwa his kachi-koshi. These two have split their prior two matches.
Hokutofuji vs Endo – Make no mistake, Endo is in this match today to test Hokutofuji. Endo has been struggling this basho, but he is still part of the “next generation” rikishi, and the NSK is grooming him carefully. At the same time, there seems to be a blossoming crop of youngsters this basho, all of whom need tested and measured against upper level Maegashira. This is the first time these rikishi have met.
Takarafuji vs Shodai – Competition for the lower 4 san’yaku spots in Osaka is fierce. This match will continue the training for Shodai, hopefully Takarafuji can tune him up a notch. They have had 4 prior matches, with an even 2-2 split.
Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – Battle of the 5-3’s, both men are doing well and delivering some great sumo. Mitakeumi has won all 4 of their prior matches, but Tamawashi is going to be ready to break that record.
Kisenosato vs Kotoshogiku – A heartbreak match if there ever was one. Last year’s Hatsu basho champion Kotoshogiku, who is more or less doomed, faces undefeated Kisenosato. Kisenosato wants a yusho, so he does not dare give Kotoshogiku a “gift” – Hakuho will not give Kisenosato any second chances. Kotoshogiku actually leads the series 32-30.
Takayasu vs Hakuho – Well Takayasu, if you want to be an Ozeki, you need to win against Hakuho about half the time. Good luck with that, even though I am rooting for you to make it happen. Takayasu has only one once against Hakuho, with a hatakikomi at Kyushu in 2014.
Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Crowd favorite Ikioi faces a struggling Yokozuna Kakuryu. If I think back to Nagoya’s Hakuho vs Ikioi bout (where Hakuho became injured), Ikioi was terrified of facing Hakuho. Now I am pretty sure he has more confidence in his sumo. The real check for me to watch how he reacts when Kakuryu moves to his defensive entrapment mode against Ikioi’s over eager pushing and slapping attacks. Kakuryu holds the 7-2 advantage in this series.
Note: Wakaichirio will fight again on day 9, as opposed to his “even only” days thus far. On day 9 he is facing Michinoku heya’s Ryuki, who is a former Sandanme rikishi who missed 3 tournaments and is back in Jonokuchi.