Kyushu Day 1 Highlights

I think the headline today is that Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew prior to day 1 matches, leaving Hakuho as the lone Yokozuna for the tournament. Everyone hopes that he can survive all 15 days, but his recent history indicates that may not be a certain thing. Kakuryu went kyujo after injuring his lower back in practice. This is a part of his body that has given him a great deal of trouble in the past, and more or less would prevent a rikishi from doing much on the dohyo. We wish him a speedy recovery, though it is not incorrect to wonder if at 34 years of age the accumulated damage from years of high-intensity sumo have taken their toll. Asanoyama picks up a fusensho / freebie win on day 1.

But as is always the case with the first few days of any basho, there was a vast amount of ring-rust to be lost. Both from the rikishi (matta fest, Kyushu edition), the yobidashi and even the NHK commentators, who seemed at times to struggle a bit with the play by play. As Josh’s interview with Murray Johnson underscores – providing commentary for a sumo match is quite challenging, and even the pros at NHK World may need a day or two to tune up.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Daishoho – Azumaryu gets a deep right hand inside at the tachiai, and in spite of some excellent defensive footwork by Daishoho, Azumaryu keeps pressing the attack and walks Daishoho out. Both men looked fairly rusty, but Azumaryu’s better sumo may underscore some of the “toss up” nature of the promotion / demotion groups coming out of Aki.

Wakatakakage defeats Daishomaru – The bottom man on the banzuke (Wakatakakage) underscores his status as a rising star of sumo. He comes in fast, low and strong against Daishomaru, who suddenly finds himself without a plan B. Congratulations to Wakatakakage for winning your first match in the top division.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Nishikigi – First try was a matta, and it looked like the second try should have been too, but the Gyoji decided they would fight on, and Nishikigi was a full step slower than Terutsuyoshi, who was lower and strong than Nishikigi. Although Nishikigi tried to set up his favored arm-lock hold, it was too late and he was already over the tawara.

Chiyomaru defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki got the better of the tachiai, and tried to guide the fight into a yotsu battle, but Chiyomaru stayed mobile, stayed thrusting and stalemated Kagayaki. Eager to once again close the gap between them, Kagayaki pressed forward strongly against little resistance from Chiyomaru, and got his weight well forward of his toes. Chiyomaru obliges with a Hatakikomi for the win.

Takanosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu looks encrusted with ring-rust. Get that man some WD-40 and a Scotch-Brite pad! Chiyotairyu charged forward with less than normal power, and immediately tried a neck pull, but Takanosho was ready and made Chiyotairyu pay. Takanosho showed superior defensive foot placement, and superior balance today.

Shodai defeats Ishiura – Ishiura went into this match knowing Shodai would bring a weak tachiai, and threw himself forward with gusto. But Shodai actually responded well, and although he remained far too upright, he advanced into Ishiura’s attack and drove the smaller rikishi back. Once Shodai had momentum, there was little Ishura was able to do to shut down Shodai’s advance.

Yutakayama defeats Shimanoumi – I am very happy that Yutakayama did not move too far up the banzuke, I favor a slow rise coming off of his injury that saw him relegated to Juryo for 2 basho. At first blush it might look like at Maegashira 16 with a 10-5 record he was under promoted, and his sumo today would support that view. Yutakayama focused on gaining and then exploiting the inside position. Once on defensive, Shimanoumi could do nothing more than respond. I still view Yutakayama as Asanoyama’s peer, and I am hoping for a strong and durable rivalry between these two.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Home town favorite Kotoshogiku goes out far too easily as Sadanoumi gets morozashi and never gives an inch. Kotoshogiku’s knees continue to slowly degrade, and his ability to transmit power to ground suffers as a result.

Shohozan defeats Kotoeko – Another local hero, Shohozan ejects a somewhat surprised Kotoeko with all of the nuanced subtlety of a bouncer at closing time.

Tsurugisho defeats Enho – Enho has not found a way to overcome Tsurugisho, and today was no exception. The traditional Enho submarine “pop” opening gambit set him up in his favored stance and position. Tsurugisho stayed calm and waited for Enho’s expected attack. When it came, and Enho raised Tsurugisho up, Tsurugisho expertly pivoted, pulling Enho off balance and down. Nice sumo.

Ryuden defeats Onosho – Onosho, too far forward and off balance? Why, yes! That is what happened today. I note this is the first match that Ryuden has won over Onosho in 4 attempts, so well done. I can’t help but think this match was lost when Onosho, at the tachiai, attacked Ryuden’s face and thereby gave up the center lane he would normally exploit for a thrusting attack. At least Onosho has the red mawashi on today.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki had the better tachiai, but there is just too much Aoiyama to be moved by normal means if his feet are set and his stance is stable. Kotoyuki found two meaty hands on the back of his neck pulling him forward, and that was the match.

Tamawashi defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze still seems to be willing to roll the dice on a strategy of always pulling, but pros like Tamawashi will stuff this back up your nose 9 times out of 10. Bring some better sumo, or learn to like the taste of Kyushu clay.

Takarafuji defeats Abi – Abi this he has this won, and maybe he mostly did. But up against Takarafuji, you can’t assume he actually stepped out. His ring sense is amazing, and his footwork is what you would expect from a master technician. Abi takes a defeat at the cusp of nearly certain victory. Watch this one in slow motion.. Abi’s footwork is wild and chaotic, Takarafuji controlled and efficient. Textbook lesson in defensive sumo.

Meisei defeats Tochinoshin – I have to say this is not a good sign for the Ozekiwake to make it to 10. Tochinoshin landed his preferred grip, and had control of the match, but could not convert it into a win. Part of the problem was Tochinoshin’s single minded focus on getting the left hand outside grip yielded morozashi to Meisei, and Meisei converted that to a smooth and effective shitatehineri.

Mitakeumi defeats Myogiryu – Good opening bout for Mitakeumi, he took the inside position against Myogiryu, and kept Myogiryu reacting rather than attacking. Mitakeumi stood him up, and then brought him down.

Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – Sloppy match from both men, but it was clear that Okinoumi was set up to absorb and deflect any wave-action attack that might come along. Takakeisho, instead of his normal double arm thrust, kept Okinoumi at an optimum distance with an armpit grip, and pushed with his lower body. Quite effective and somewhat unexpected. There was no apparent weakness on Takakeisho’s left side, which is great news.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Speaking of left-side worries, we can score none for Takayasu’s day 1 match where he dominated Daieisho. Takayasu looked strong, confident and committed to his attacks. Very good to see.

Endo defeats Goeido – In tradition Goeido style, he tried to win the match in the first 3 seconds, but Endo was able to absorb his opening gambit. From there it was a battle that increasingly favored Endo as the clock ran on. The biggest concern for me was the twisting fall Goeido took at the end, and appears to land on the ankle that was painstakingly rebuilt with surgery 2 years ago. We hope the Ozeki is ok. Oh yes, and the ultra-mega painful interview with Endo following the final match. If this guy ever gets a yusho, that interview will be one for the ages.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Hakuho gets his revenge for day 1 of Aki, as “The Boss” completely disrupts any offense the Koumsubi was hoping to bring. With Hokutofuji hideously off balance, Hakuho applies the hatakikomi and Hokutofuji gets a face full of clay.

26 thoughts on “Kyushu Day 1 Highlights

  1. Re: Yutakayama, how is a 7-rank jump from M16 to M9 after a 10-5 record an under-promotion? You’d expect a 5-rank promotion normally, which turns into 6 ranks with the two extra komusubi slots, so 7 is good banzuke luck either way.

    Abi looked like he fell victim to Newtonian physics. His action—pushing against Takarafuji’s stable bulk—triggered an equal and opposite reaction, which took him out of the ring.

    It looked to me like Takayasu largely applied the pushing power with his good arm. And who would have predicted that the one Ozeki to go down on day 1 would be the one everyone thought was in the best shape of the three coming in to the basho?

    • Ah, you brilliant fellow! I know in your mind, it’s the math. I respect and acknowledge that, and you are, as always, most sound in your reasoning.

      I, however, speak that his skill and ability have him a bit under ranked right now, but let’s re-assess following senshuraku.

    • I thought that too, about Takayasu’s left arm! On the slo-mo replays, you can tell it’s not the side doing the hard work, and yet everyone seems to be commenting how he looks like he’s unhampered by the injury. But until I see him applying strong force from that side, I can’t quite buy that he’s really in the condition we’d all like to see. In fact, I’m rather betting he’s going to falter as the tournament wears on, and the elbow is re-aggravated.

      (Not that I wish ill on Takayasu; quite the opposite. I’m just not so sanguine about his recovery as the majority appear to be.)

  2. It’s interesting that they shifted the Day 2 torikumi because of Kakuryu’s late absence. He had originally been scheduled to face Okinoumi on Day 2, I believe. Now, Okinoumi will face Goeido. I think this shifts the math for our Ozeki’s kadoban likelihood. (Maybe I just invented a new metric?)

    • This is standard practice for when a rikishi goes kyujo after the torikumi is compiled but before the bout takes place. There is not much they can do about Day 1, but they don’t want the rikishi to give away two fusenshos so they modify the Day 2 torikumi.

  3. That torsion that Goeido’s leg and ankle went under didn’t look good. I hope he gets that assessed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him go Kyojo.

  4. The standout today, for me, was Takayasu. He looked great and I couldn’t see him favoring his previously injured arm.

    I agree with your ring-rust analysis. Mitakeumi, Takakeisho…I thought we’re rather ho-hum. It was enough, but I spotted rust.

    Unfortunately, NHK World didn’t show the Aoiyama bout so I have no comment on that one. (Am hoping he does well).

    Ichinojo being out was a surprise and disappointing.

    • In case you want a quick way to see all the Makuuchi bouts but didn’t know how, there are free daily digests on youtube by Kintamayama (though he might miss a few days on vacation) and by NattoSumo.

  5. Nishikigi pulled his left ankle up at the tawara. That ankle is also heavily taped. I suspect he is injured and won’t do well this basho, which is unfortunate.

    Shodai is going to get to showcase his skills this basho because he is so far down the banzuke. We’re used to being critical of him because he’s usually fighting at the top of the banzuke, but he definitely deserves his higher rank on the banzuke.

    Aoyiama must have watched Ichinojo’s strategy when he achieved 14 wins. Don’t move much, grab the head, and yank down. Easy peasy.

    This may be Meisei’s “I have arrived” basho. What a throw! I am also worried about Tochinoshin’s chances. Both his and Kotoshogiku’s knees are barely held together at this point.

    Takayasu was strong, but was also higher than his opponent for the entire match. If he keeps doing that, he’s going to start losing.

    Fantastic work by Endo! Here’s hoping that he continues to fulfill his potential this basho. I do also hope that Goeido isn’t injured. Oof.

    Poor Hokotofuji. He keeps putting up decent results at the top of the banzuke and the committee keeps giving him really rough basho schedules. He really doesn’t get enough credit for staying in the meat grinder for as long as he has, honestly.

      • The Komusubi and M1 always catch the worst of it. Only one way to fix that: keep winning and become sekiwake :)

        Unfortunately not only has he got to pull that off this tournament but hope for 3 other guys above him to pick up makekoshi

        • I mean, the schedule is pretty much 100% determined by the rank; the committee has very limited discretion, and only late in the tournament.

  6. I didn’t realize that the ankle Goeido twisted was also the one that was reconstructed. What poor luck! I’ve never really been a Goeido fan (too inconsistent), but I never want to see a talented rikishi go down due to injury. Here’s hoping it was a minor discomfort, and that he’ll be feeling better tomorrow!

  7. My favorite rikishi went down today. But I am happy that sumo is back.

    I couldn’t tell and want to know, did takayasu do his shoulder blast? And then Chris Gould, or Chris Sumo now, highlighted Hakuho and his elbow blast. Why can’t Takayasu learn it?!?

    his left looks really shaky, comparing to Takakeisho’s injured left side.

  8. I enjoyed it, and the disappointments for me were not unexpected. I knew Goeido was going to lose when I saw the look on his face. Sometimes he has that determined look and he’s loaded for bear. Today, he looked worried. After watching the NHK preview show, I would like to offer some insight (for what it’s worth) into some of what might be bothering him. He said something to the effect of “I’m not smart or good looking, but I’m big so I did sumo.” Not a lot of confidence, and not just in sumo. It’s him. He needs to work on that.

  9. Good job, Bruce, thanks! Endo impressed me today; he was very solid and tactical, even fighting through what appeared to be Goeido yanking his hair.


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