Sorry for this being so late.
Day 10 of the Haru Basho 2018 opened with an intriguing matchup: AARP member Takekaze visiting from Juryo to battle the surging Bulgarian, Aoiyama. This low on the banzuke, Aoiyama’s been mopping up wins against youngsters; his only losses thus far have been to fellow sanyaku journeymen, Myogiryu and Ikioi. The prize for this bout is a winning record and a rise up the banzuke, with an added incentive for Takekaze of an assured return to Makuuchi in May.
With all of this riding the outcome of the bout, a decent staredown was expected. Aoiyama finally gave in and committed first. With a bit of “come at me, bro,” he absorbed Takekaze’s initial charge, allowing the visitor from Juryo to drive him back…but not all the way to the tawara. Perhaps sensing a hatakikomi attempt, Takekaze backed off. This allowed Aoiyama to begin a slapping charge of his own, which ended in a heap on the power water as Takekaze ducked to the side, as if to say, “this is how it’s done, son.” Takekaze picks up that crucial 8th win, secures his return to makuuchi, and Aoiyama falls out of yusho contention.
Our second bout saw rising Asanoyama taking on an overranked Hidenoumi, hoping to stave off a sixth losing record in the top division. A firm tachiai saw Hidenoumi let Asanoyama drive him to the edge, where he got purchase with one foot on the tawara and tried a throw. The throw failed but gave Hidenoumi better position in the center. From here, Hidenoumi seemed out of ideas while Asanoyama took the initiative and again began to drive his opponent across the dohyo. This time, Asanoyama pulled up short, letting gravity do his job, dropping Hidenoumi onto his belly – and back down to Juryo.
Ishiura has been hanging on, of late, and has hopefully been finding more confidence as he’s found some non-henka success in the lower quarter of the division. Today’s bout against Myogiryu brought us back to the Ishiura we’ve come to expect. Henka. Myogiryu was unable to recover and got spun out of the ring. Ishiura improved to 5-5, Myogiryu slipped to 4-6.
Sokokurai has not been having a great tournament so a bout against an injured Kotoyuki likely looked like a gift. With the first two rows of spectators on alert for the roly poly in pale purple, the two engaged at the center in some leaning. Just when I started thinking, “I could settle in for a bit, maybe grab a beer,” Sokokurai dropped Kotoyuki like a cheap yo-yo that won’t come back up. In this condition, it looks like it will be a while before Kotoyuki returns from Juryo.
Daiamami has impressed many this tournament, two wins short of the yusho leader into the second week, and fighting to remain “in the hunt” and pick up a kachi-koshi today. Tochiozan, however, has been struggling and needs to lead a serious charge to get a winning record, so I was expecting him to pull out some tricks. Instead, Daiamami pulled out the henka. But with the injured Tochiozan lumbering at him at a glacial pace, the youngster was quickly back to the drawing board. Thrust, nodowa, thrust…Daiamami continued steadily on the attack, but nothing was sustained long enough to drive Tochi back to Kochi. Instead, the door opened for Tochiozan to reach out for the youngster’s oicho-mage and drive him down for a hatakikomi win. Sorry to say it, but I don’t see Daiamami trying to pick up the 10 wins he’s capable of. Seven wins in hand, he’ll pick up one against Juryo visitor Kyokutaisei tomorrow and probably stay on cruise control – don’t get injured mode – through the weekend.
Ikioi faced Yutakayama, looking for an eighth win, and hopefully the ability to sit out and rest his leg. He sure was up for it, attacking vigorously from the outset. Wildly pushing, pulling, thrusting, grabbing at everything he could get a hold of. After sending Yutakayama to the dirt, however, it was clear that some of that grabbing involved the youngster’s topknot. Ikioi loses by forfeit (hansoku), both 7-3. Purple nurples are okay in this sport. Hair-pulling is not. Maaa… Kagayaki better watch out tomorrow.
Chiyonokuni came prepared. Strong tachiai, strong thrusts, Nishikigi’s face had nowhere to look but skyward until a quick pull drove Nishikigi’s face into the clay. Kagayaki followed up by ushering Daishomaru (on cruise control) quickly over the bales. He’ll face a real test tomorrow.
After some initial thrusts, Chiyoshoma and Daieisho locked in for a great belt battle. At one point Chiyoshoma tried to deadlift Daieisho, but realized he’s not Tochinoshin. Eventually he wore Daieisho out and guided him over the bales.
Ryuden’s been having a disappointing tournament and came in rather lethargic. Abi leaped out with a forceful, unrelenting oshi-attack, dropping Ryuden to 3-7 and in danger of make-koshi. In the next bout, Yoshikaze and Okinoumi engaged in a promising belt battle until The Berserker’s knee gave out from under him. Very disappointing end to the match but very telling as to why fortunate winds have not been filling Yoshikaze’s sails.
When Hokutofuji locked in with Takakeisho, I think he went for the balls but ended up with a handful of sagari…which he promptly sent express mail into the second deck of the arena. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Takakeisho seemed to immediately shut down realizing his precious tama could have been in outer space and backed out. I don’t blame him. It was weird. Fierce and weird.
Kotoshogiku’s career is on life support. Chest to chest, he couldn’t get Takarafuji to back up to the tawara. Takarafuji stood him up a good three feet from the bales. I think he was able to beat Endo because he had managed to get Endo’s arm up at an awkward position. In this case, a panicking Giku then started to try to roll him into a throw. The first one almost worked but as each subsequent attempt got weaker and weaker, Takarafuji went for his own throw. How will the former Ozeki do against guys like Abi, Kagayaki, and Yutakayama? We’ll find out in May. I don’t think he’s headed to Juryo as quickly as Terunofuji and he could hang around in the mid-rank-and-file for a while…but will he want to?
Arawashi is hurt and Endo took advantage by patiently riding out Arawashi’s attack, then steadily walking him toward, and over, the tawara. Kaisei and Ichinojo, on the other hand, are prime. Two giant dudes, in a great belt-battle. This was not as epic as we’ve seen from Ichinojo/Tochinoshin in the past but Ichinojo proved too powerful and handed Kaisei his first loss of the tournament.
Tamawashi is a powerful guy but fell asleep today. Chiyotairyu blasted him quickly straight back and into the first row of spectators. Speaking of power, Shohozan is a brawler, make no mistake. This man wanted Mitakeumi’s lunch money. Powerful thrusts and slaps got Mitakeumi upset (read: pissed). The angry Mitakeumi charged at a suddenly clever Shohozan, who sidestepped but didn’t quite have enough strength to get him out. Both settled into a grapple but Shohozan had morozashi while Mitakeumi was clinging on to his opponent’s shoulders for dear life. Like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack, he could only hold on for so long before sinking into the cold depths beneath the surface.
Takayasu had no time for Shodai’s weak tachiai. It wasn’t really a nodowa because it seemed he had Shodai by the jaw. Maybe an agowa? Regardless, it did the job and wrecked Shodai, picking up his kachi-koshi.
Goeido! Goeido! Home town hero! Henka? Wow… Gotta be prepared for that. Unfortunately, Tochinoshin wasn’t, got turned around and run out of town. Even the pro-eido crowd had a mixed reaction to Goeido’s deception. For Tochinoshin, that’s a certain end to any hopes of a repeat yusho. However, the case for Ozeki remains.
Lastly, in the musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu versus a bowling ball. Chiyomaru is way out of his depth. Goeido was his first ever sanyaku opponent. Today, a yokozuna in the showcase matchup? Kakuryu got both hands on Chiyomaru’s belt at the outset. He seemed to wait for a minute thinking it was too easy, then steadily walked Chiyomaru out. If I were Chiyomaru, I’d be like, “Well, I tried. And at least I didn’t henka. I’m not desperate.”