Thanks to some skill and a bit of luck, we have a 3 way tie going into the final weekend. In all likelihood, the yusho will come down to the final match on the final day of the tournament – a high stakes battle between the lone surviving Yokozuna. Although both of them are getting closer to the end of their careers on the dohyo, they have once again shown that nobody in the sport is even close to challenging them for dominance. Sure both of them have taken complete tournaments off, but there is not a soul right now that had the sumo to stand up to them in competition.
A hat tip to Takanosho, who took care of business today when Aoiyama made a huge mistake and fell into a bad habit, opening the door for Takanosho’s win, which Takanosho exploited with masterful effect. As a result, Big Dan picks up his second loss of Haru, and has allowed the Yokozuna to catch him, creating a 3 way tie for the lead. Barring some bizarre outcome of day 14, one of these 3 men will take home the hardware. But should calamity fall the leaders, former yusho winners Asanoyama and Mitakeumi are 1 loss behind, ready to engage in one last push for the cup. Exciting times to be a sumo fan!
Ikioi defeats Kotonowaka – Ikioi kept Kotonowaka in front of him, where his forward power could do the maximum good. Though youngster Kotonowaka put up a solid effort, Ikioi overpowered him and drove him out for the win, which was his 8th, giving him kahci-koshi in his home town basho. Sadly there was no crowd on hand to cheer him on. His kachi-koshi is all the more impressive given some of the physical problems that Ikioi has faced in the past year.
Shimanoumi defeats Ishiura – As I had expected, Ishiura is not quite at the same intensity that he had leading up to his 8th win. While this may disappoint some sumo fans, it’s really quite smart for Ishiura, who struggles quite a bit if he ranks much higher than this. Shimanoumi’s sumo was also spot on, reacting correctly to Ishiura’s hit and shift, and keeping the smaller more nimble rikishi from getting to the side. Shimanoumi improves to 7-6.
Meisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has now lost 3 in a row, and is on a perilous course toward a Darwin match on day 15. Chiyotairyu attempted a hit and shift as well, but his bulk means that the entire gambit unfolded in slow motion, and Meisei had time to go to combini, get a cup of Joe, maybe some onigiri, and come back in time to grab Chiyotairyu by the mawashi and toss him out. Meisei improves to 6-7, and is another fine candidate for a Darwin match.
Chiyomaru defeats Tochiozan – Watching Tochiozan is just misery now. Tochiozan was lethargic, slow, lacking power and fighting spirit. He’s hurt and going through the motions, but he’s there. At least Chiyomaru picked up his 7th win today, and has a reasonable chance at a kachi-koshi. He faces Terutsuyoshi on day 14.
Sadanoumi defeats Daiamami – Sadanoumi got his right hand inside position at the tachiai, and went to work. Daiamami advanced, but could not finish Sadanoumi at the edge. Sadanoumi rallied and rolled into an uwatenage. Picking up his 5 win and handing Daiamami his make-koshi.
Kotoshogiku defeats Tochinoshin – Probably should have been a matta, as Tochinoshin left the shikiri-sen much earlier than Kotoshogiku. But Tochinoshin could not really generate much forward pressure, and Kotoshogiku quickly had his inside grip, and was on to the hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku advances to 7-6, and Tochinoshin now make-koshi.
Takanosho defeats Aoiyama – Major consequences from this match. I fully expected Aoiyama to power up the V-Twin thrusting attack from the start, but instead he went into an attempt at a pull. Takanosho must have known this was coming, as he pushed into the pull the moment it started, driving Aoiyama back, shoving him over the west side tawara. Aoiyama’s loss drops him from sole ownership of the yusho lead, and Takanosho gets his 10th win.
Kiribayama defeats Kaisei – Kiribayama executes a nice hit and shift, getting to Kaisei’s right side. From here Kaisei has almost no avenue to attack or defend. Kiribayama pins him down, and prevents Kaisei from turning to face his opponent, and Kiribayama drives him out. Nice strategy today, Kiribayama! He improves to 7-6.
Tamawashi defeats Azumaryu – Tamawashi gets the inside position at the tachiai, with his hands on Azumaryu’s neck and face, and gets to work thrusting against Azumaryu’s chest. Unable to generate much response, he is forced to give up ground to try and recover, but Tamawashi has him beat. Azumaryu picks up his 8th loss, and joins Tamawashi in a losing record for Haru.
Nishikigi defeats Myogiryu – Its kind of shocking to see Myogiryu with so little power right now. Nishikigi quickly got his favored arm bar hold, and it seems Myogiryu had no answer. A step back, and a roll to the left and Nishikigi had a win via sukuinage, handing Myogiryu his 10th loss.
Onosho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi attempts a hit and shift, which would normally be likely to end Onosho’s part of the match. But it seems he really has made great strides in his balance and foot work. Faster than Terutsuyoshi could react, Onosho pivots into Terutsuyoshi’s shift, getting to his side. At that point, Terutsuyoshi is more or less a pliable practice toy, and Onosho smacks and shoves him about with great effect before pushing him from the dohyo. Complete domination by Onosho today after a failed opening gambit by Terutsuyoshi. Onosho improves to 8-5, and picks up his kachi-koshi. He will be back in the joi-jin for the next basho, and frankly I think this is a very exciting development for sumo.
Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – This may have seemed to be a very pedestrian, low-energy match, but it is in fact littered with brilliant, small details. First the tachiai. Mitakeumi is so damn low for such a large bodied person, I am not sure how he stays upright, but he puts all of that force right on Takarafuji’s chest. Showing outstanding reflexes, Takarafuji responds with a right hand ottsuke, while Mitakeumi unfolds his arms at the elbows (blunting the ottsuke and continuing the force to Takarafuji’s chest. It all happens in less than half a second, but damn! But Takarafuji is a master of defense, and traps Mitakeumi low with his arms extended, the Original Tadpole has no leverage, and no path to attack. Takarafuji attempts something akin to a hikkake, and Mitakeumi uses that change of grip to break free and attack. A moment later, he has forced Takarafuji out, and picks up his 10th win. Very nice technique from both men today.
Shohozan defeats Tokushoryu – Glad to see Shohozan pick up a win, but now both he and Hatsu yusho winner Tokushoryu have 10 losses. It’s a grim basho for some of these beloved veterans.
Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – This match was 100% Okinoumi, as Yutakayama got tangled up and shut down early. Both men exit the match with 7-6 records, and possibly headed for Darwin matches on day 15.
Enho defeats Daieisho – The first match ended with both rikishi flying out of the ring, and the judges ruled a torinaoshi (rematch). In the second bout, Enho brought his best break dancing moves to the clay, and kept Daieisho batting at the empty Osaka air. In one step, Daieisho lost his balance, and Enho helped him fall out of the ring. Daieisho falls to 7-6 and is also probably headed for a Darwin match.
Endo defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki could not keep Endo away from his mawashi, and some great hard placement by Endo gave him a grip and put him in charge of the match. Once it was best to chest. It was Endo’s sumo that controlled the match, and Kagayaki could not really respond. If there is a spot for Kagayaki to improve, it would be his yotsu-zumo. His Oshi is fantastic, his foot work excellent, and he clearly gives it his all. Both are 7-6 at the end of this match, and again we seem to have a lot of rikishi headed for Darwin.
Ryuden defeats Hokutofuji – Both are in sad shape this March, and now Hokutofuji has double digit losses. To me this can only mean some kind of injury, and it’s quite disappointing to fans, as he seemed to have his sumo together in January.
Shodai defeats Abi – Shodai’s super power seems to be able to take a beating and stay in the match. I knew people like this in my younger days, they could take punch after punch (Marine Corps, you see..) but not give in or fall down. Eventually the attacker loses control or rhythm, and they are wide open, and maybe a bit tired. The counter-attack in these situations is frequently rapid, brutal and final. Abi picks up his 8th loss, while Shodai remains on a path toward kachi-koshi.
Kakuryu defeats Takakeisho – The only offense Takakeisho could generate was an early pull down attempt on the second step after the tachiai. It was quite useless, and opened himself up to the Yokozuna’s offense. Moments later, Kakuryu landed a right hand shallow grip on Takakeisho’s mawashi, and that was all he needed for the win. Takakeisho fans, just resign yourself to a make-koshi this tournament. Kakuryu picks up win #11 and remains in the yusho hunt.
Hakuho defeats Asanoyama – Hakuho wasted no time going on the attack, but seemed to have a moment of poor balance right at the moment he won. To my eye, that bandaged right foot gave way, and he fell forward. Thankfully for him, he converted most of that forward energy into shoving Asanoyama out of the ring. Hakuho improves to 11-2 and remains tied for the lead.