Haru Wrap-up and Predictions for Natsu

The Haru basho is in the books, and while the final day was filled with exciting bouts, the results did not make it easy on your humble prognosticator. Both the Sanyaku picture and the Makuuchi/Juryo exchange scenarios are quite muddy.

The Sanyaku

In the upper ranks, Kakuryu has solidified his standing as Yokozuna 1e with his fourth yusho. We hope that he is even more recovered from his injuries for Natsu, and that he is joined by at least one if not both of the other Yokozuna. Reports say that Hakuho is participating in the spring jungyo and that his toes are much improved. No word on Kisenosato. Both Ozeki got their kachi-koshi and so don’t have to worry about their rank in Natsu. There’s some talk about Takayasu being on a Yokozuna run with consecutive 12-3 jun-yusho, but I don’t buy it.

The Sekiwake ranks are also clear. After today’s bout between the two, Tochinoshin will move over to the S1e slot vacated by Mitakeumi, while Ichinojo will take over Tochinoshin’s current slot. With his 10-5 record following his 14-1 yusho at Hatsu, Tochinoshin is now on a legitimate Ozeki run, and will need at least ten wins at Natsu to claim sumo’s second-highest rank.

Komusubi is where things get complicated. There are four rikishi who each deserve to hold one of the two slots: Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-8), M1e Endo and M1w Tamawashi, both 9-6, and M6 Kaisei, 12-3. In recent years, a 7-8 record at Sekiwake has guaranteed a demotion to no lower than Komusubi. An M1e with a 9-6 record has never missed out on promotion, and neither has an M6 with a 12-3 record (although there are fewer instances of the latter). An M1w with a 9-6 record missed out once—none other than Tochinoshin after the 2015 Natsu basho, under similar circumstances. I think this will play out as Endo making his Sanyaku debut at K1e, Mitakeumi falling to K1w (although they could easily switch sides), Tamawashi getting a hard-luck minimal promotion to M1e, and Kaisei rising to M1w. Tamawashi can’t jump over Endo with the same record, and none of the records are strong enough to force the creation of an extra Komusubi slot. It’s possible, but seems highly unlikely, that Kaisei would get the Komusubi slot over Endo.

The New Joi

Apart from the two strong M1 performances, the upper maegashira ranks returned to being the meat grinder, with only Shohozan earning a winning record. This should elevate him to M2, where he will be joined by Abi, who more than held his own at M7 in his second ever top-division tournament. Beyond that, it’s hard to find worthy candidates for the M3-M5 ranks. Daieisho and Yutakayama will be making big moves up the banzuke into the joi-jin, with Daieisho likely equaling and Yutakayama far exceeding their previous highest ranks. Chiyoshoma and Ikioi are the other candidates to move up into this range, while Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Chiyotairyu, and Takarafuji have claims to having their demotions not drop them below M5.

The Bottom of the Banzuke

Hanging on to spots in the M13-M17 range, and fighting again for survival at Natsu: Ishiura, Tochiozan, Aoiyama. Definitely demoted to Juryo: Hidenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Nishikigi (whose luck has finally run out after 5 basho in Makuuchi, always ranked M13 or lower, and never performing better than 8-7). The spots vacated by this quartet will be taken by Sadanoumi, Takekaze, Kyokutaisei, and Aminishiki. Yes, Uncle Sumo is back, and joined by the other elder statesman, Takekaze, both returning after one-tournament visits to Juryo. Sadanoumi returns after 3 basho away, and does it in style as the Juryo champ, while Kyokutaisei makes his long-awaited Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing promotion last time.

There are two other rikishi whose records would normally get them demoted. One is Myogiryu, who struggled to a 6-9 record at M15w and lost to two Juryo rikishi, including Aminishiki on senshuraku. The other is Onosho, who was kyujo (0-0-15) at M5w, which has always resulted in demotion since the kosho seido system was abolished. However, there’s a dearth of additional promotion candidates in Juryo. With several contenders near the top of the Juryo banzuke dropping to 7-8 on the last day, you’d have to reach all the way down to J8 Kotoeko (10-5) or way over-promote J5 Gagamaru (8-7), so Myogiryu and Onosho might dodge the bullet.

Haru Final Day Highlights

Kakuryu Yusho.Parade

You might not know it by watching the matches today, but it was the final day of the Haru basho. Across the torikumi, everyone was fighting with some of their best sumo of the tournament. It was one of those days where it will be a good idea to seek out Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama on YouTube to see all the bouts, and not just the highlights from NHK.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – It’s kind of magical to me that we may see Uncle Sumo back in the top division yet again for Natsu. This guy should be an inspiration to everyone to stick to their dreams and keep working. Good things happen for those who refuse to give up. The match starts with a henka-matta, so Uncle Sumo needs to re-set and goes for a simple hatakikomi.

Daiamami defeats Yutakayama – Daiamami gets to double digits, but Yutakayama really made him earn it. A close-quarters thrusting match in which both men stayed low and kept applying the pressure. Daiamami closed the deal when he finally got inside on Yutakayama and drove forward.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni reminds us that he is a real battle machine with his energetic win over Hidenoumi. He finishes make-koshi, and we have to wonder what it will take for him to get his sumo to the next level.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – Chiyoshoma’s leaping henka results in an airborne uwatenage. Go watch it! It’s amazingly acrobatic.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Ryuden secures kachi-koshi on the final day. Asanoyama took him to his chest out of the tachiai, and from there it was a struggle. Multiple times Asanoyama went to throw Ryuden, but Ryuden somehow found a way to block the uwatenage. Great, great sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – After a strong start to the basho, Aoiyama faded down the stretch. Part of this may have been from the fact that he started facing much higher ranked rikishi, and some of it may be some unreported injury or just plain exhaustion.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a straight ahead fight, and can’t find a way to blunt Kagayaki’s forward drive. Ishiura seems to have forgotten some of his sumo from a year or two ago, or maybe his opponents are just much bigger / tougher now.

Abi defeats Daishomaru – A leaping hatakikomi at the edge gives Abi the win after a monoii. Impressive ring sense there! For his second tournament in a row, Abi is able to rack up double digit wins.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Sadly Ikioi could not pick up the special prize, but he has nothing to apologize for this basho. Even with a bandaged head, he met Kaisei with vigor and strength. But there is a lot of Kaisei to move, and even for Ikioi, it was a tall order. Ikioi has been progressively more injured each day of the basho, so I hope he goes and heals up.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Even though he is make-koshi, Shodai seems to have found his sumo. Daieisho knew when to put him off balance and send him across the tawara. I do hope that Shodai can focus on returning in this form for the start of Natsu. He still has massive potential if he can get his sumo under control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are deeply make-koshi, but you would never know it from watching their bout. This was one of the better matches of an already awesome day. The two men were chest to chest for most of the match, but neither seemed to be able to employ their favorite sumo attacks for more than a moment. In the end, it was Kotoshogiku who set up his hip-pump attack and ended the match.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – Is anyone surprised? Kotoyuki ends the the basho with a single win.

Yoshikaze defeats Arawashi – Arawashi needs to go heal. Yoshikaze finishes 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Tamawashi is likely back in San’yaku for May, and will try again to muscle his way to his preferred Sekiwake position. Chiyomaru, meanwhile, is headed for the buffet table.

Shohozan defeats Endo – It takes a powerful tachiai from Shohozan and a couple of quick thrusts to put Endo the Golden back and out. Shohozan is kachi-koshi on the final day, after an alarming cold streak starting on day 6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This looked like a Tochiozan win, and the gyoji gave the gumbai to Tochiozan, but then the sideburns of Chiyotairyu called out to the spiritual world, and the shimpan rose to their feet in abeyance. The monoii did not so much give the match to Chiyotairyu, but more to his sideburns. What did we learn here? Chiyotairyu must never remove his sideburns again. Whispered legends say that the kami that inhabits them is the same that gave Takamiyama his might, and they will only live in the facial hair of one who is worthy. [What. –PinkMawashi]

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Two enormously powerful rikishi test each other’s strength. After Ichinojo decided to lift Tochinoshin, he decided he was done playing and dialed his muscles to “Hulk” mode, finishing the boulder. With his 10-5 record, Tochinoshin has started an Ozeki campaign. Protect that knee, sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Mitakeumi seems to have given Goeido 1.5.1 a solid match, and dropped the Osaka favorite on his backside in the middle of the ring. His sumo against both Ozeki has been great to watch. Maybe he is on the cusp of elevating his technique after all?

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – The initial call by the gyoji went to Kakuryu, and it looked like Takayasu may have injured his right leg and maybe even re-damaged his right thigh. But just before they hand Kakuryu the kensho diorama of Osaka-jo, the shimpan decide it’s time to review it. The replays show Kakuryu’s heel touching out, so it’s torinaoshi time, with Takayasu limping. This time, Takayasu centers the Yokozuna and drives forward with his considerable strength. Kakuryu can’t plant his feet to defend, bringing the match and the basho to an exciting end as it’s Takayasu who hoists the kensho fort from the gyoji’s gumbai.

2018 Haru Special Prizes Announced

Kaisei

With the 2018 Haru Basho set to wrap up in a few short hours, the sansho selection committee has convened and announced the recipients of the special prizes this March.

Following another impressive showing this Basho, Tochinoshin has received his second consecutive Shuken-sho for Outstanding performance. Fellow Gaijin rikishi Kaisei will take home the fighting spirit Kanto-sho for his remarkable tournament, that saw him go undefeated until Day 9. Kaisei’s Day 15 opponent, Ikioi, will also receive the Kanto-sho if he can defeat the Brazillian tomorrow.

Finally, Endo, who with 9 wins coming into Senshuraku looks poised to join the San’yaku for the first time in his career come May, is the recipient of the Gino-sho technique prize.

Update: With his loss today, Ikioi has failed to qualify for his Kanto-sho special prize.

Haru Day 15 Preview

Macaroon
Time To Hoist The Giant Macaron of Victory And Call It a Basho!

And so we come to the close of a most enjoyable tournament. It ends with a satisfying result, and with the Sekitori corps advancing well along the path. The Tadpole league took a body blow, with Onosho not starting, Takakeisho going kyujo, and Mitakeumi ending up make-koshi. The veterans had much to celebrate, with Ikioi and Kaisei racking up double digit wins, Endo clearly on the mend, and Tochinoshin still potent. The Freshmen are finding their footing now, and I expect some great challenges by the time we get to kyushu, with the first of that cohort looking to enter san’yaku for their introductory make-koshi.

The match preview is brief on this final day, as most questions have already been settled, but I am sure there will be some good sumo for all the fans.

Haru Leaderboard

Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins the Haru Yusho!

What We Are Watching Day 15

Aminishiki vs Myogiryu – The mind boggles! Uncle Sumo, who if he wins is kachi-koshi, and possibly headed back to Makuuchi for Natsu, faces off against Myogiryu, who is already make-koshi and probably headed to Juryo. Go Uncle Sumo!

Daiamami vs Yutakayama – I think it would be fun if Daiamami ended up with 10 wins, but he’s going up against a very genki Yutakayama. It’s a tough climb, but I think Daiamami has a good chance.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – You would think that the Maegashira 9 Ryuden would be favored to pick up his final win, and his kachi-koshi, over a Maegashira 13 opponent. But Ryuden has never won against Asanoyama.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – Can Ishiura henka another win? He just needs one. Kagayaki, can you spare a white star for a brother rikishi?

Abi vs Daishomaru – This battle of the 9-5 Freshmen has a lot of potential for good sumo. Its a challenge for Daishomaru to get inside Abi’s enormous reach, but it will be easiest at the tachiai.

Kaisei vs Ikioi – Both men 11-3, both of them must be genuinely proud of their performance this tournament. This match will probably decide a special prize, and a slice of the jun-yusho. Well deserved, both!

Daieisho vs Shodai – Tough to think that with all of the energetic beatings Shodai has suffered this basho that he still has a chance at kachi-koshi. I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy, and I do hope he picks up his win here.

Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – Both men in the 10+ loss club. Maybe they should just spread out a checkered square of cloth between the shikiri-sen, and enjoy rice-balls and sake instead.

Endo vs Shohozan – Shohozan wants that 8th win, and he’s going to really have to work for it. Endo is kachi-koshi, but he’s keen for 10 wins at his highest ever rank, giving him a firm launch into San’yaku. Endo leads the series 5-2.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – This has a lot of potential. As we say from Hatsu, Tochinoshin can actually lift Ichinojo, so what will the Boulder do? Who would not love to see an Ichinojo henka? It would be like seeing Mt. St.Helens sing opera.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – History favors Goeido, but Mitakeumi showed some real painful sumo to Takayasu on Saturday. Hopefully Mitakeumi knows that Goeido is going to come out hard, fast and low.

Kakuryu vs Takayasu – Both of these guys are very chaotic in their sumo. I would expect Kakuryu to allow Takayasu to take the lead until he over-comits, and then it’s time for an Osaka clay norimaki.