Kyushu Storylines, Day 10

We’ve arrived at the end of Act II. Some storylines have reached a clear conclusion, while others remain muddled and will need to be resolved in Act III.

The yusho race

Yokozuna Hakuho remains the sole leader at 9-1. His only serious pursuer is Komusubi Asanoyama (8-2), who has been fighting at the level of an Ozeki and might get there as soon as January. On the outskirts of the race is Ozeki Takakeisho (7-3); I am not going to list the trio of double-digit maegashira with the same record as realistic contenders.

The Ozeki and aspiring Ozeki

An Ozeki run by Asanoyama would be most timely and welcome, as we are rapidly running out of Ozeki—we’ll be down to two in January, and could easily have only one in March. Tochinoshin (2-3-5) will be a mid-maegashira at Hatsu, while Takayasu (3-5-2) will take over his “Ozekiwake” slot. Mitakeumi (5-5) has failed to seize his promotion opportunity, just like he did after his first yusho in Nagoya last year, and needs to refocus on finishing with a winning record. Goeido will be kadoban in January, and must get 8 wins to remain Ozeki. Only Takakeisho is doing justice to the rank, even if he is less than 100% fit.

The San’yaku ranks

It’s hard to tell how this will play out, which makes for a fun final five days. All we know at the moment is that one Sekiwake slot will be occupied by Takayasu, and another san’yaku slot by Asanoyama. Of the other current occupants, Abi (6-4) is the best bet to join them, followed by Mitakeumi, Endo (4-6), and Hokutofuji (4-6). M1e Daieisho (5-5) has dropped two in a row but remains in pole position for promotion among the joi maegashira; others in striking distance include M2w Meisei (5-5), M1w Okinoumi (4-6), M2e Myogiryu (4-6), and M4e Tamawashi (5-5), although, as the records indicate, all of these contenders would need a strong finish.

The mediocre muddle in the middle

Much of the top division seems in no hurry to secure a winning (or losing) record this tournament: fully 25 of the remaining 35 rikishi have records of 4-6, 5-5, or 6-4. They might as well have been flipping coins for the outcomes of the first 10 bouts! If things continue like this, we’re going to witness a lot of “Darwin bouts” in the closing days.

Demotion danger

M15w Daishoho (2-8) is the first Makuuchi man to fall to make-koshi, and he would need to win his last 5 bouts and have good banzuke luck to escape demotion. M15e Daishomary (3-7) is in slightly better shape—he controls his fate if he can pick up 5 wins, and he might survive with 4. Others eyeing tickets for the Juryo barge are M14w Nishikigi (3-7) and M9e Kotoshogiku (2-8). Terutshuyoshi and Shimanoumi each need one more win for safety, and Ishiura‘s recent surge has probably been enough but another victory wouldn’t hurt.

The promotion queue in Juryo seems to get reshuffled every day. The current leaders are J2 Tochiozan (7-3), J1e Azumaryu (6-4), J3e Ikioi (7-3), J5e Kaisei (7-3), and J7w Kotonowaka (8-2).

9 thoughts on “Kyushu Storylines, Day 10

  1. I’d love to see Asanoyama post double digits this basho and then show up in January to secure an Ozeki position. He’s already doing Ozeki level sumo CONSISTENTLY for the last couple of basho baring his one 7-8 basho. I’m curious to see if they’ll open up to 3 Sekiwake slots: Takayasu, Asanoyama, and Abi (potentially) and drop back to 2 Komusubi slots.

    I love Kotoshogiku too much to see him relegate himself to Juryo. I know he will if it’s needed because the mans got enough fighting spirit and pride to hold up a nation, but still, it will be the end of a really great great era for him.

    Let’s hope January gives all the injured time to recover PROPERLY I’m looking at you Takayasu and Tochinoshin and Ichinojo and Kakuryu.

  2. There’s been a pretty clear standard of 11 wins at Komusubi to force an extra Sekiwake slot. We know one will be occupied by Takayasu. I’d still bet on Mitakeumi to get the 3 wins he needs to defend his. If that happens, Asanoyama is well-positioned to grab an extra slot with a finish of 3-2 or better, while Abi would have to win out to get to 11.

    Giku only needs two more wins to get to safety; he’s 14-2 against tomorrow’s opponent, Chiyotairyu, and the schedulers could still match him with the likes of Daishoho and Daishomaru, so I would’t count him out.

  3. Hakuho is my all-time favorite. He shows more ”personality” in a typical basho than all of the other rikishi combined. (Believe me, I know other guys may be just as interesting, but their rank and status prohibits them from manifesting such.) Anyway, what’s everyone think is going through Hakuho’s mind these days and which of these two schools of thought are, for the moment, holding serve inside his head:
    1. I’m bored, I’m tired I’m achy and wrestling guys like ”Big Dan” is a total and complete waste of my time.
    2. Hey, nice to have an easy basho for a change. Nice to have so many capable wrestlers nursing injuries, so it won’t be too much of a strain on my poor body to get another championship and get me 2 months closer to Tokyo 2020.

    • Everyone is saying The Boss is hurting and his injuries make him vulnerable and beatable, but I’m not seeing any signs of that. He’s dispatching his challengers in a matter of seconds. Sometimes, just for a work-out, he’ll grab the belt and give the fans their money’s worth.

      • The way he fought Aoiyama seemed tentative and careful relative to his heyday. It makes me think that he’s in as good shape as he’s ever going to be in again and his focus is on preserving his body. Actually winning his matches doesn’t seem to have (nor to require!) his attention — he can rely in a kind of mindless way on his superlative sumo sense and his diminished but still dai-yokozuna-rated strength (who else manages a throw when his opponent has a moro-zashi?!) to see him through to victory.

        • I suspect Hakuho is having problems with his feet – he’s not perching on the tawara after bouts this basho. Agree he is fighting careful, but glad to see him in the lead.


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