With just three days left of what has been an exceptional tournament, things really ramp up on Day 13 of the 2018 Aki Basho. Our Yusho race has widdled down to one name at the top: Hakuho. The Boss’ record goes into Friday unblemished, with the trio of Kakuryu, Goeido, and Takayasu trailing him with two losses each. However, Day 13 will bring this group down to at least two men as Kakuryu and Goeido will go toe to toe in what should be the match of the day.
Yago vs. Chiyomaru
Most readers of Tachiai should at least be familiar with the name Yago, as he is the very talented young rikishi highlighted several times by Herouth in her Jungyo tour articles. With his kachi-koshi in hand, and several men at the bottom of Makuuchi with losing records, Yago is looking extremly likely to be making his Makuuchi debut come November. He’ll get his first taste of the top division on Day 13 when he faces Chiyomaru, who is right on the edge of demotion with seven losses.
Aoiyama vs. Takanosho
Top division newcomer Takanosho is just one win away from securing his spot in the Kyushu Makuuchi division, and he can punch his ticket with a win over the man mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama, who took care Ishiura today despite falling for his henka, is already make koshi and is in need of some wins to slow his fall down the banzuke. Takanosho has demonstrated some excellent skill this Basho, and could become a top division mainstay should he continue to hone his skills. Tomorrow marks the first time these two meet.
Hokutofuji vs. Nishikigi
after an excellent first week that saw Hokutofuji collect seven straight wins, the young up-and-comer has only eeked out one victory in the last four days. Luckily, that one win earned him that all-important kachi koshi, but Hokutofuji seems to have hit a wall and may not be able to replicate the fantastic numbers he put up at Nagoya. His Day 13 opponent, Nishikigi, is also looking for his kachi koshi. While tomorrow is the first time these two rikishi have met on the dohyo, Nishikigi holds a fusen win over Hokutofuji.
Kagayaki vs. Takanoiwa
Takanoiwa has been on one hell of a run since taking the Nagoya Juryo Yusho and returning to Makuuchi, and could improve his record to 10-3 tomorrow with a vicotry over the man in the golden mawashi, Kagayaki. Sitting with a 6-6 record, Kagayaki is at a crossroad and is just two wins away from a promotion in November. But on the flip side of that coin, he’s also two losses away from make koshi and will need to rely on his sound fundamental skills to avoid a drop down the banzuke. Neither men are strangers to one another, and their career rivalry sits at 7-4 in Takanoiwa’s favor.
Daieisho vs. Asanoyama
Daieisho has always been something of an enigma to me. He’s very talented, as shown by his long tenure in the top division, but with the exception of his 10-5 Makuuchi debut back in 2016, Daieisho has yet to do anything to really distinguish himself. Aki doesn’t seem to be bucking this trend, and while his solid sumo is enough to earn him a regular paycheck, I feel like he’s not living up to his full potential. Hopefully, he’ll show some of that potential tomorrow when he takes on Asanoyama, who is having another good tournament and is looking for his eighth win. These two young stars of the sport have a very interesting rivalry going, and Daieisho has dominated Asanoyama 3-1.
Onosho vs. Endo
This one may truly be the battle of the disappointments. Prior to Aki, I pegged Onosho as someone who could really shake things up this Basho, and I have to admit that I was wrong. Rather than making a big splash, Onosho has barely made a ripple and enters Friday with an abysmal 3-9 record. Luckily for him, he’s taking on a fellow rikishi whose underperformed this Basho in Endo, who only has one win to his name. While it appears that Onosho is still not fully rehabilitated from his knee injury, what’s afflicting Endo is something of a mystery. Regardless of how tomorrow goes, both men have a hefty demotion waiting for them come November.
Tamawashi vs. Takakeisho
Day 13 brings us the Komusubi clash, yet only one of these rikishi has a chance of retaining their rank for Nagoya. After twelve days, Tamawashi is 3-9 and will be a Maegashira once more in November, while Takakeisho could be one step closer to getting his kachi koshi if he wins tomorrow. Expect Tamawashi to go in swinging, and for Takakeisho charge in face first.
Chiyotairyu vs. Ichinojo
Seems that extra shove from Hakuho has awoken the sleeping giant Ichinojo, who recorded his first back to back win yesterday. It may be too little too late for the boulder, who is one loss away from losing his Sekiwake rank. Chiyotairyu, while already make koshi, has a chance to play spoiler FRiday, and hand Ichinojo his losing record unless the man from Mongolia gets into a pony spanking mood. Their rivalry is tied 3-3.
Mitakeumi vs. Myogiryu
Mitakeumi, what happened? A week ago it looked like you were well on your way to that Ozeki rank. Oh, gods of sumo, you giveth and you taketh away. After losing five straight matches, Mitakeumi comes into Day 13 with a record of 6-6 and his promotion hopes going up in smoke. He desperately needs to win his last three games to keep his Ozeki hopes alive, and gets a bit of a reprieve from the rest of the San’yaku on Day 13 when he takes on Myogiryu.
Shodai vs. Tochinoshin
Tochinoshin can remove his kadoban status with a win over Shodai on Day 13. However, he shouldn’t take the man in blue too lightly. Shodai is afflicted with very unpredictable bouts of excellent sumo, and already has one Ozeki scalp this basho. If he goes super saiyan Shodai on Friday, he could give the Georgian a run for his money. Their career rivalry is tied at five wins apiece.
Abi vs. Takayasu
Following his climatic Day 12 victory over Kakuryu, Takayasu gets rubber band man himself, Abi. With Endo proving to be about as harmless as a kitten this September, Abi has been getting his fair share of play time with the top members of the San’yaku. While this hasn’t done wonders for his record, the experience he’s receiving from taking on the best of the best will no doubt help his skill set grow. Plus you never know, it wasn’t that long ago the rubber band man beat Kakuryu, he may just surprise us all again tomorrow.
Kisenosato vs. Hakuho
This is it, the long-awaited, first ever Kisenosato-Hakuho Yokozuna showdown!!! Though how I wish the circumstances surrounding it were better. For someone who missed the dramatic events that led to his Yokozuna promotion, I never really got the whole Kisenosato craze. That being said, watching his redemption story unfold has been exhilarating and he’s made a true fan out of me. While there’s still three more days of sumo to go, I believe that Aki has been a tremendous success for Kise and I’m happy to see him back. Tomorrow, he faces his toughest competition: the Dai-Yokozuna and Yusho race leader, Hakuho. The Boss comes into Day 13 with Twelve wins and looks nearly unstoppable. While the deck is definitely stacked against Kise, I expect that with his Yokozuna pride on the line, he will bring his A-game when he meets Hakuho on the dohyo. Hakuho leads their rivalry 44-16.
Kakuryu vs. Goeido
As stated above, the Musubi no Ichiban for Day 13 has tremendous yusho implications. Both Kakuryu and Goeido find themselves tied for second place in the Yusho race, but one of them will leave the Kokukigan with their championship hopes potentially dashed, while the other will be hoping Hakuho slips up enough to force a Day 15 playoff. There is so much on the line for both men in this match. Kakuryu has dominated the series with Goeido 28-16.
Aki continues to be an all-time great basho, and now that we are reaching its end the dial is getting turned up to 11. The next three days of sumo are looking to be some of the best yet, and I’m so jealous that Bruce gets to be there to see it all live. Cheer extra loud for all of us!!!