It was a brutal day at the Kokugikan, with two competitors in top divisions matches leaving the arena in a wheel chair. It was truly ugly to watch, and in the case of Kizakiumi, I am really worried he may have suffered some level of neurological damage.
Then there is the matter of the leaderboard. Now we normally don’t even talk about the leaderboard until day 8, but I should note that none other than Shodai is the sole leader of the Hatsu basho going into day 7, with a spotless 6-0 record. I have been critical of Shodai for his poor tachiai, but it’s clear that he has been continuing to improve his sumo. But I have always believed the biggest problem was squarely his mind – he was prone to losing confidence at all the wrong times, and failing to exploit advantages when they were presented. For whatever reason, right now Shodai is on fire. In all honesty, I am impressed with his sumo right now, and I would love to see him carry the cup out of the Kokugikan next weekend. Best of luck to him.
Tochiozan defeats Kiribayama – The master of high efficiency sumo shows how to make it pay. As the match extended, Kiribayama frantic efforts tired him before Tochiozan even broke a sweat. The match went quite long, and Tochiozan was able to stay with the much younger Kiribayama due to his relentless conservation of energy.
Ikioi defeats Kizakiumi – A fairly standard pushing / thrusting match with a terrible end. Kizakiumi fell head-first backward from the dohyo, and collapsed. He did not move for quite some time, and frankly I wondered if he had broken his neck, as he pivoted on his neck as he landed.
Tokushoryu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Sadly Terutsuyoshi did not get a win for his birthday, as Tokushoryu stood him up and slapped him down. With this loss, only a single spotless record remained – Shodai.
Azumaryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Following a pattern now, Azumaryu released forward pressure just after the tachiai, and transitioned into a smooth uwatedashinage to send Kotoshogiku to the clay.
Kaisei defeats Kotoeko – Although Kotoeko attempted to force Kaisei to turn to attack him (usually a good tactic), Kaisei seemed to track better than normal, and made quick work of Kotoeko.
Shimanoumi defeats Tsurugisho – Another wheelchair match, the fight ended when Tsurugisho’s left knee collapsed while Shimanoumi was trying to twist, possibly to load a throw. Down went Tsurugisho, and out came the wheel chair after far too long a delay.
Chiyomaru defeats Ishiura – This match was Chiyomaru from the start, and Ishiura was stumped what to do to counter Chiyomaru’s powerful forward rush.
Chiyotairyu defeats Takanosho – Annnnd.. HENKA!
Yutakayama defeats Kagayaki – We previewed this as a high interest match, and it did not disappoint! Undefeated Kagayaki takes his first loss, but he gave Yutakayama a grand battle. I can now say with confidence that Yutakayama is noticeably improved since November.
Sadanoumi defeats Ryuden – Sadanoumi latches a left hand frontal grip at the tachiai, and that immediately put Ryuden into a defensive mode. Try as he might, he could not shake Sadanoumi’s grip and they stayed locked together until both toppled over into the salt basket.
Aoiyama defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji employed his preferred defend and extend gambit, but Aoiyama was relentless. Big Dan tried everything, but could not get Takarafuji out. He finally seemed to give up and just apply an old “heave-ho” to Takarafuji’s armpits and out he went.
Shohozan defeats Meisei – Its amazing to watch that leap forward Shohozan put into his tachiai, leaving Meisei struggling to set up a defense as they went chest to chest. As Meisei began to work a grip, Shohozan swung him down for the win. Solid sumo, but I sense that Shohozan is still frustrated, not getting his daily requirement of hitting in yet again today.
Onosho defeats Enho – What a surprise this match was! Onosho suddenly found his balance and his sumo on the same day, and gave Enho no room to fight, locking him up and marching forward for a decisive win.
Shodai defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin got the better of the tachiai, but suddenly found himself tangled up and unable to even reach for a mawashi grip. At the moment he figured out he was trapped, it was one step from the tawara, and Shodai advanced to 6-0 to start Hatsu. Wow.
Abi defeats Hokutofuji – In a battle of the neck bruisers, whomever landed first was bound to win. As is so often the case, Abi had contact before Hokutofuji could even plant his feet to attack. And immediate neck pull and turn, and Hokutofuji was out.
Okinoumi defeats Daieisho – Okinoumi seems to finally have his body and his chronic injuries sorted out, and he is unleashing a textbook of versatile sumo every day. I love how heavy his sumo is right now. Look at how he moves his feet. Damn solid stuff.
Asanoyama defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu threw plan A, B ad C into the mix in just a few seconds before Asanoyama got control of the match and shut down any further attempts to attack. Asanoyama certainly does look like he’s headed to higher rank, but I am sure he has a lot of improvement left in him.
Endo defeats Takayasu – Endo hammers another nail in the casket of Takayasu’s Ozeki career, with a definitive win over the struggling Tagonoura rikishi. It seems that both of Tagonoura’s kanban rikishi will be lost to treatable injuries.
Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – The tadpole battle was all Mitakeumi at the open, but Takakeisho masterfully deflected Mitakeumi’s finishing move to send him tumbling to the clay. Wow, nice rescue. Ozeki!
Goeido defeats Tamawashi – Goeido stayed low, stayed moving forward strongly and completely paved Tamawashi. This is the kind of sumo Goeido does so well, and it was an enormous treat for my final match in Tokyo.