I think the big, double-wide story of this basho is going to be the enormous pile of rikishi who own demotion worthy scores at the end of this basho. If you take a look at the records vs banzuke position, I count at least 10 rikishi who might be worthy of a return to Juryo. That does not mean there will be 10 men dropping to the 2nd division, as Juryo has 3-5 rikishi who could be considered promotion worthy.
Before the basho, Team Tachiai remarked that all of the really great action might be in the bottom ⅓ of the banzuke, and for folks who enjoy the Darwinian nature of sumo, this basho has been a banquet of slaughter. There are 3 veterans below Maegashira 6 who have double digit wins, and a vast crater of make-koshi devastation around them that fed those double-digit win scores. Do we stop there? No indeed.
There are no fewer than 8 rikishi who will decide kachi/make koshi on the final day, including the man at the bottom edge of the banzuke, Chiyoshoma. The competition in the rank and file has been so brutal that even getting to 8 wins has been a struggle for most. While its tough to see so many great athletes come up short, this kind of tournament breeds excellence. Haru is somewhat unique, in that most of the rikishi have not had to do anything other than train and improve their bodies since Hatsu. The old veterans, who feel the pains and injuries of years of battle, have enough time to pull their sumo together for another hard climb to day 15, and that extended rest as let them once again use their experience and years of skill to edge out youthful vigor and health.
Takagenji defeats Ishiura – Ishiura suffered from not picking a strategy and enforcing it, as this match was very much a “try anything” affair. With the loss, Ishiura joins the growing pile of demotion worthy rikishi.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoeko – Sure, lets throw Kotoeko into the “return to Juryo” bin too! Terutsuyoshi gives us the “bounce” tachiai that works well when he uses it, and he gets a firm hold of Kotoeko, who can do little more than react. Both men are make-koshi and part of that pile of demotion capable rikishi.
Ryuden defeats Daishoho – Daishoho gets his 8th loss, and joins the incredibly crowded barge of rikishi who could find themselves in Juryo for May. Ryuden got a deep right hand inside grip and made it work, while Daishoho looked like he had nothing to give.
Tomokaze defeats Shohozan – While not in danger of heading to Juryo, Shohozan gets his make-koshi too. The fact that Tomokaze was able to out-slap him indicates that Shohozan is worn down from the lengthy competition.
Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – As the captain of the Juryo barge, Ikioi managed to take one from a horrifically demoralized Yutakayama, who seems to be capitulating for now.
Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Still no 8th win for Asanoyama. Kagayaki stays low and moving forward and just motors Asanoyama around the dohyo and finds him an exit.
Kotoshogiku defeats Yoshikaze – Kotoshogiku got the better of the tachiai, and never gave up the advantage.
Aoiyama defeats Meisei – Meisei somehow decided that taking on Aoiyama straight on was going to work for him, when in fact it threw away all of Meisei’s advantages. Aoiyama did not waste the gift, and slapped Meisei to the clay.
Shodai defeats Sadanoumi – Is that the second day in a row where Shodai came close to a proper tachiai? Sadly it looks like Sadanoumi may have hurt his good knee in this match.
Abi defeats Daieisho – Should Abi end with a kachi-koshi, it will simply delay the time when he diversifies his sumo. Sumo fans around the world are eager for that transition, and we hope it comes soon. Today’s win was a standard Abi-zumo attack that Daieisho did nothing to avoid.
Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – Myogiryu used superior strength to out muscle Okinoumi into a throw position. Okinoumi’s final day match will decide his winning or losing record for March.
Kaisei defeats Onosho – Two things for Onosho to focus on. 1) Improve your balance, it seems to have taken a big hit from your injury / surgery / recovery, and everyone knows it now. 2) Bring back that red mawashi. Some powerful kami inhabited that one, and when you wore it onto the dohyo, it gave you some kind of edge.
Endo defeats Nishikigi – It seems that this match is a bit of a controversy. There is a point where Endo steps aside of a charging Nishikigi where toes on Endo’s left foot would seem to hit the janome. But the gumbai went to Endo, and there was no monoii. Endo did show some solid sumo today.
Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi went flat out at the tachiai, attempting to overpower the mighty Chiyotairyu. Interestingly enough, today it worked. Mitakeumi got a double inside arm position, dropped his hips and marched forward.
Hokutofuji defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan joins Captain Ikioi in holding a dismal 2-12 record. Though not as visible beaten and broken as Ikioi, for Tochiozan to perform this poorly, he has to be having body problems.
Ichinojo defeats Takakeisho – Not sure what Takakeisho had in mind here. He seems to channel Abi, but lacks Abi’s height, his reach or his technique. Ichinojo looks puzzled for just a moment, and the all to familiar “hand of god” sweeps down and pulls Takakeisho to the clay. Ichinojo stays 1 behind Hakuho.
Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin keeps his hopes alive, overcoming Tamawashi in what was an odd hybrid between oshi and yotzu. At times chest to chest, at times pushing and shoving. Tochinoshin as throwing everything he could into this win (as well he should), and looks rather sore at the end. He needs 1 more win to clear kadoban, and it will be decided by his day 15 match with Ozeki hopeful Takakeisho.
Hakuho defeats Takayasu – A lot of posturing, dominance display and tension in the run up to this match. Hakuho wins the tachiai, and was faster off the shikiri-sen. Takayasu is immediately balanced too far on his heels, and Hakuho digs in. Try as he might, Takayasu cannot connect with that left hand, and his struggle to land a grip continues to put him high and balanced unevenly. Hakuho capitalizes on this, and gets moro-zashi, and moves to put the Ozeki away. Takayasu’s last ditch attempt at a throw collapses into abisetaoshi, and Hakuho takes the match to remain undefeated.
Goeido defeats Kakuryu – As we expected, Goeido’s approach to this match was an all or nothing opening salvo so fast and so powerful that either Kakuryu would not have time to react, or Goeido would have no recovery. Goeido’s plan payed off, and Kakuryu had no time to react.