Probably one of the most consequential days of sumo I have seen in the last 10 years. Many questions were resolved, and many disappointments were realized. Firstly, we know that the yusho will be won with a 12-3 record. One of the three (or more) remaining leaders will have that score, and they will take home the hardware. To ensure that they only have one possible playoff match, Okinoumi will face Takakeisho. The chances are better than even that we will see a playoff between the winner of that match and Mitakeumi. This configuration is clouded with controversy, which we will cover below.
We also can now sadly realize that injured Ozeki Tochinoshin will lose his rank and occupy a Sekiwake position for November. He took his 8th loss not in a blaze of glory, but with a simple and frustrating mistake.
Elsewhere on the dohyo, it was henka-madness. I know there are legions of readers who are fine or even love the henka. I think it is normally a sign of weak sumo, and in the top division this kind of tactic should be seldom seen. Not today, as many rikishi in perilous positions resorted to the henka to try and save their record or keep in the hunt.
Last but not least, the gyoji and shimpan are once again a focus, and in crucial matches to boot. I think the NSK might need to think through how they want to handle sloppy calls and sloppy officiating, the fans do notice.
Wakatakakage defeats Ishiura – Ishiura had a whole bucket of nothing against the lead Onami brother, and his 7-7 record leaves him prime for a Darwin match. Enjoy.
Shohozan defeats Azumaryu – Shohozan opens strong, and Azumaryu finds himself in trouble, and moving in reverse. He tries a pull at the bales, but does not get Shohozan to drop before he himself steps out.
Onosho defeats Yutakayama – Onosho gets the inside position while Yutakayama goes for an armpit grip / attack. Onosho seems to not care, and is double-arm pushing against Yutakayama’s chest. Yutakayama is getting better thrusts, but Onosho is moves forward, absorbing the blows. Onosho kachi-koshi.
Enho defeats Tochiozan – Enho side steps to his left at the tachiai, disrupting any attack Tochiozan may have planned. Enho continues to try to drive inside and get to Tochiozan’s chest, and eventually finds his mark. Thought they fight for grip and hand placement for several seconds, Enho consolidates his position and drives Tochiozan out and to the clay. Enho kachi-koshi, and Tochiozan make-koshi. Another one for the barge to Juryo?
Takagenji defeats Terutsuyoshi – We finally get to see some strong sumo from Takagenji, and it’s against the injured and only partially functional Terutsuyoshi. Takagenji is headed back to the deeper ranks of Juryo, but I am glad he at least got to fight with vigor again today. If you want to see two rikishi battle it out with all they can muster, this is your match. Great effort by both men.
Kotoyuki defeats Tsurugisho – The fierce version of Kotoyuki was back again today, and his match today is a good study in body mechanics for oshi-zumo. Note how he focuses everything against the center of Tsurugisho’s chest, and drives forward with each blow. Tsurugisho has no time, and no means to respond. Kotoyuki kachi-koshi.
Kotoeko defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki got the better of the tachiai, and drove strongly forward. But Kotoeko deftly side-stepped at the tawara and send Kagayaki face first towards chikara-mizu bucket. Kotoeko improves to 7-7, another Darwin match candidate.
Sadanoumi defeats Shimanoumi – They stalemate at the tachiai, but Sadanoumi shifts and turns to get behind Shimanoumi and drive him out from behind. Experience and agility secure Sadanoumi his 8th win and a move up the banzuke for November.
Daishoho defeats Chiyotairyu – Annnnd. HENKA! You can see Chiyotairyu’s frustration at the end of this match, and you have to feel for the guy. He manages his big tachiai, but Daishoho is faster and inside before Chiyotairyu can impact, he moves to charge again and Daishoho steps to the side. Chiyotairyu now an alarming 2-12.
Shodai defeats Nishikigi – So, where has this version of Shodai been? That looked like real sumo, and even though Nishikigi beat him by a league at the tachiai, he kept his cool, wrapped up Nishikigi and kept moving forward. Nishikigi is now make-koshi.
Daieisho defeats Meisei – Excellent tachiai from Meisei, getting him an inside position and the start of a left hand inside grip. But Daieisho rallied and launched a pushing attack that Meisei could not endure. A last minute attempt to side-step at the tawara failed, and the one time yusho leader took his 5th defeat.
Asanoyama defeats Tomokaze – Take a look at the tachiai in this match, it’s a great example of where Asanoyama is headed over the next few years, if he can stay healthy. You can see him a half-step faster than Tomokaze, who is caught hazardously far forward, with poor body position. What does Tomokaze do? Why try to pull Asanoyama down, of course. How’s that working out for you? Oh? Not at all? Well, good job, now you have Asanoyama at your chest, and your weight is still too far forward. As Asanoyama loads up the throw, Tomokaze amazingly thinks he can try another pull. The shift in weight unceremoniously drops him onto his back in front of the time keeper, earning him his first ever make-koshi. I think Tomokaze has a great future, but he needs to fight in a forward gear as his standard mechanic. Asanoyama is headed higher next year, his sumo mechanics are very good, and he keeps getting stronger.
Hokutofuji defeats Tamawashi – Hokutofuji beats Tamawashi off the line, and gets his nodowa, raising Tamawashi up. Hokutofuji knows what’s coming and widens his stance as Tamawashi attacks in force. But that odd Hokutofuji upper / lower body action comes into play again, he starts moving forward almost independently of the force his upper body is enduring. But Hokutofuji finds his opening and attacks center-mass, and its more than Tamawashi can withstand. Great effort by Hokutofuji to get his 8th win and a come-from-behind kachi-koshi, winning 7 in a row, along with his kinboshi on day 1.
Aoiyama defeats Kotoshogiku – Annnnd. HENKA!
Abi defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji wants to set up some kind of sumo, but once Abi-zumo starts, most people’s plans go out the window and all you want to do is get the guy to knock it off. Sorry! It only stops when you hit the clay or go visit the fans in the front row. Abi improves to 9-5, and I must say he is surprising me by enduring in San’yaku.
Okinoumi defeats Endo – The rikishi executed a masterful bout, but the shimpan and the gyoji blew this one to hell. If Okinoumi should prevail and take the cup, what would be a marvelous cinderella story will be forever marred by this nonsense. Okinoumi got the better of the tachiai, and started driving Endo to the SouthWest corner, and Kimura is in the way, ok – this crap happens. The two lock up on the mawashi and are really fighting it out, again Kimura gets in the way in the SouthWest corner. Endo steps on the bales, and his fighting back with everything he has as Okinoumi goes for the yorikiri. The shimpan’s hand goes up, the gyoji points the gumbo to the east, but the contestants are fighting on. They both move for a throw, but what the hell is happening? Alright, Endo fell last, but according to the referee and the judges, the match was over long before. Replays showed Endo’s heel never getting close to the janome, and there was no mark. WHAT THE HELL. So, sure – call a monoii, review the tape and figure out what is what. Well, not going to work well because the gyoji sorta interfered with the rikishi after the shimpan’s hand went up. This one is screwed up beyond repair, so it looks like they just do the “yeah, we meant to do that” routine and move on. Even Okinoumi does not think he won. Horrific own-goal for the NSK.
Takakeisho defeats Ryuden – Any thoughts that the Grand Tadpole would throttle back were completely wrong, as we see Takakeisho deliver a blast wave out of the tachiai, the first time I think he has done that this basho. Ryuden is generating considerable forward pressure, and has his usual excellent foot placement, but is pushed back by the force of it. He never has a chance to recover or even try to mount any offense as Takakeisho picks up win 11, and punches his ticket to the yusho party. Ryuden is make-koshi, picking up his 8th loss.
Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Annnnd. HENKA!
Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – A heartbreaking match, as Tochinoshin secures his make-koshi and demotion to Ozekiwake for November. Sadly it did not come as a result of a flat-out, sacrifice everything battle, but rather an inadvertent step out by the Ozeki. The two were fighting strongly, with Myogiryu taking the initiative while Tochinoshin struggled to set up his grip. But as Tochinoshin consolidated his hold and shifted to attack, his foot slipped on the tawara and struck the janome, the match was over, and the gyoji stopped the fight. Sorry to see it end this way. Tochinoshin’s injuries are not something that can be addressed in the next few weeks before Kyushu, and I am not optimistic about his options at this point.