Time to crank up the final weekend for the Aki basho, and what a weekend it is likely to be. Yes, there are two paths (you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on) to the finish line. One is likely and it involves Goeido staying in charge and holding course until Day 15, when it won’t matter what happens when he faces Harumafuji. The other, more interesting and unlikely path involves some brave soul (Takakeisho?) finding a way to defeat the lone surviving Ozeki, and forcing the option of a Senshuraku Showdown. Then it all comes down to Harumafuji, and a win would force the barnyard brawl that we know would light the sumo world on fire. While the 10 rikishi who are 2 wins behind Goeido will likely thin quite a bit before Sunday, a multi-way battle for the cup would be a fitting end to Wacky Aki.
Aki Leader board
Goeido is 2 ahead of an army of 10 chasers, which is everyone who is kachi-koshi as of day 12. Amusingly enough, that means even Endo and Asanoyama!
Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Harumafuji, Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daieisho, Endo, Asanoyama
3 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 13
Nishikigi vs. Sadanoumi – Nishikigi is one loss away from make-koshi, and he faces Sadanoumi who is headed southbound in a big way. Nishikigi has a series advantage for 7-4, but both rikishi are struggling this tournament.
Daishomaru vs. Arawashi – Daishomaru working to close out his winning record against a strong and fierce Arawashi. Arawashi has faded a bit in week 2, but not as severely as Daishomaru. The two have split the previous matches 4-3, favoring Daishomaru.
Takanoiwa vs. Chiyomaru – Former leader board occupant Chiyomaru is hosting to finish out his kachi-koshi today as well, but he has to overcome Takanoiwa to get there. I am going to assume this match will come down to a pulling / thrust down kimarite, as both of these men are hoping to avoid a protracted battle.
Endo vs. Takarafuji – Clearly at test match for Endo, with the question being “how well has he healed up?”. Takarafuji has been fighting well, and a win here will give him his kachi-koshi. Takarafuji also holds a series lead of 5-2 over Endo.
Chiyonokuni vs. Kotoshogiku – This match has real potential, as the grumpy badger Chiyonokuni tests his mettle against the Kyushu Bulldozer Kotoshogiku. Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins to lock down a winning record, but I don’t think that Kotoshogiku is going to cut him any slack. The real question is if the match is going to be Kotoshogiku wrapping up Chiyonokuni from the tachiai, and applying the yori-gabori, or if Chiyonokuni is going to stay mobile (not Kotoshogiku’s strong suit in spite of recent improvements) and force it to be a battle of footwork and balance. I can’t wait to watch this one.
Tamawashi vs. Aoiyama – The man-mountain Aoiyama seems to have gotten in step with his sumo now, and he is using his enormous reach and huge strength to manhandle his opponents. Tamawashi is one loss away from make-koshi and a his first demotion out of San’yaku in about a year, so I expect him to fight like it’s his last stand. Also another match with huge potential, as it could come down to Tamawashi’s blistering speed vs Aoiyama’s enormous strength. Also of note, Tamawashi has a habit of false and shaky starts to his matches, and he could employ that to throw of Aoiyama’s timing.
Mitakeumi vs. Ichinojo – Both rikishi come into today’s match 6-6, and can only drop one more match to have a hope of a winning record at the end of the day Sunday. Big Ichinojo has been hit or miss this basho, but in the past week has been more hit than miss. Mitakeumi seems to be at about 80% of his typical power, so it’s tough to know how this match is going end. Ichinojo won their only prior meeting.
Takakeisho vs. Goeido – This is a pivotal match, and Goeido has a complex problem to solve. Takakeisho has an impressively low center or gravity, he holds a great deal of mass below his belly button. This makes him quite stable as long as he can keep his balance. This is one case where it may be critical that Goeido be able to employ a solid henka. Goeido really needs to sell it, and get the relatively inexperienced Takakeisho to push off the tachiai with full force. Even a hit and shift could work in this case. For Takakeisho, Goeido’s best attack is to likely try and do a torpedo tachiai and blast him from from the dohyo before Takakeisho can set up his “Wave Action Tsuppari”. So actually, Takakeisho either needs to just stand up at the tachiai, or henka himself. For Goeido, this is a “must win” match if he wants to put the cup out of reach of the chasers.
Yoshikaze vs. Harumafuji – There was a match between these two in Nagoya in 2016 that turned into a bloody street fight that sent Yoshikaze to the hospital to get his face rebuilt. Since then these two have been strictly business when it comes to their bouts. Yoshikaze is now safe in his Sekiwake slot, so the question comes down to how high does he want to try and run up the score? Harumafuji is kachi-koshi as well, but Yokozuna have a higher bar, and anything less than double digit wins may be seen as sub standard performance. These two are evenly matched 9-9 in their prior bouts.