Mock Natsu Day 15 Highlights

Welcome, dear readers, to the final installment of our mock Natsu basho coverage. With Mitakeumi’s win over Tokushoryu, he claimed his 3rd yusho, matching his 13-2 run that marked his first yusho at Nagoya 2018. Although his highest rank is Sekiwake, he now has more yusho than anyone active in the sport, save the two Yokozuna. This is a testament to his challenges with producing constantly good results. When Mitakeumi is genki, he is tough to beat. Perhaps the ultimate expression of the “tadpole” form, he does not suffer from the short arms that makes Takakeisho’s sumo somewhat one-dimensional. Some fans (and he has many) may hope that this would be the start of a 3rd (or 4th?) attempt to reach the Ozeki rank, but his prior 10-5 result in March was from a Maegashira 3 rank, and may not be counted.

Congratulations to Mitakeumi for an excellent basho.

For those of you who have been following along for all or part of our coverage of this tournament, thank you for taking the time to read our write ups. Yes, they were complete fabrications, but given the lack of sumo for the next several weeks, it offers a glimpse into a basho that “could have been”. While this is not to say that the simulation software predicts what would have happened, it did make for some fairly interesting results. The final outcome was mostly plausible. That being said, I sincerely hope there is never again a reason for us to even consider simulating a sumo tournament. It was more work than I could have imagined.

Thank you again or sharing your love of sumo with us. We look forward to the next actual basho.

Day 15 Matches

Tochinoshin (4-11) defeats Tamawashi (6-9) Yorikiri – Injured former Ozeki Tochinoshin manages a 4th win on the final day. It may be enough to keep him on the bottom rung of the top division.

Chiyotairyu (11-4) defeats Wakatakakage (9-6) Yorikiri – Chiyotairyu managed to stay strong and vigorous through the entire 15 days this may, and finished with double digit wins for the first time since Nagoya 2017. A fantastic effort from the Kokenoe thunder-god. We are likely to see him in the joi-jin.

Nishikigi (11-4) defeats Ishiura (10-5) Tsukiotoshi – Also in the “nice score, zeki!” Category are both of these rikishi. This mock-basho marks Nishikigi’s best ever result from a top-division basho, beating out his Aki 2018 (10-5) by a win. Ishiura matched his debut basho (10-5, Kyushu 2016) score, and for a time was in sole possession of the yusho Arasoi lead.

Chiyomaru (5-10) defeats Terutsuyoshi (5-10) Hatakikomi – Chiyomaru got in a quick slap down to put Terutsuyoshi on the clay in his final match. With 10 losses at Maegashira 15, he is probably headed to Juryo once more. Terutsuyoshi’s matching score at Maegashira 7 will see him much further down the banzuke.

Ryuden (7-8) defeats Kotoyuki (6-9) Oshidashi – Kotoyuki was in lower and harder at the tachiai, forcing Ryuden to work outside and high – mostly on Kotoyuki’s face and neck. A solid right hand nodowa later, and Kotoyuki lost all offensive forward motion. Overcoming Kotoyuki’s continued thrusting attacks, Ryuden drove forward and forced Kotoyuki from the ring. Kotoyuki came into this mock basho as the last man on the banzuke, and his 6-9 result will see him further down the Juryo ranks.

Shimanoumi (7-8) defeats Enho (5-10) Oshitaoshi – Enho has a massive following in Japan and around the world, with good reason. When he’s healthy, he produces dynamic, exiting sumo that is full of surprises. But it’s clear Enho was hurt some time before the basho, possibly in the final few days before competition when they finally allowed rikishi full contact. The long period of light training during the height of the pandemic clearly de-conditioned him. At Maegashira 6, he is safe from Juryo demotion, and we hope that he can train up and return fighting fit for the next tournament.

Hokutofuji (9-6) defeats Kotoshoho (9-6) Yorikiri – Kotoshoho, marking his first tournament in the top division, manages a good kachi-koshi with 9-6, and gets a brutal final day against Hokutofuji. Kotoshoho tends to have a slow and gentle tachiai, which Hokutofuji used to land a right hand on Kotoshoho’s neck before he could even finish his initial charge. Hokutofuji tends to work a left hand forearm push to raise his opponent followed by an immediate right hand palm thrust to send them back. Three combos of that and Kotoshoho was done. Hokutofuji sometimes manages what I call “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”, but he did well this mock basho and finished kachi-koshi.

Aoiyama (9-6) defeats Myogiryu (6-9) Hatakikomi – This match was marked by a great deal of hissing. With no crowd noise, the sounds the rikishi make are sometimes very produced and distinct. Both competitors tend to breath with this hissing sound during a match, and with both of them on the dohyo, it was like a box of vipers. They both went for each other’s necks at the tachiai, and then traded volleys of over-arm blows. Aoiyama was able to move Myogiryu back, who pushed forward harder to counter Aoiyama’s force. Big Dan used this forward bias to unleash a Hatakikomi which put Myogiryu on all 4s. A solid kachi-koshi for Aoiyama.

Kiribayama (6-9) defeats Kotoeko (5-10) Oshidashi – With both men deeply make-koshi, this match was all about how large of a drop down the banzuke Kotoeko would suffer. Although marginally better than his disastrous 2-13 result from Hatsu 2020, we may see him return to mid-rank Juryo for the next tournament. Points to Kotoeko for putting a huge effort into this final match. He was able to dictate the form at the tachiai by securing a left hand inside grip and locking Kiribayama into a mostly yotsu zumo fight. But Kiribayama was able to break contact, and switch to thrusting attacks, putting Kotoeko out and handing him his 10th loss.

Shohozan (8-7) defeats Takarafuji (7-8) Uwatenage – The first of our Darwin matches, where both rikishi are 7-7 to start the match. The winner gets a kachi-koshi, and the loser a make-koshi. Takarafuji had a great tournament, including 2 kinboshi, but managed to still end senshuraku with a losing record.

Kotoshogiku (10-5) defeats Onosho (8-7) Yorikiri – The last time Kotoshogiku was able to turn in double digit wins for a tournament was Osaka of 2019. While I am sure his knees are still little more than tangles of gristle and undigested bits of tonkatsu, they managed to carry him to an impressive 10-5 result, including a delightful hug-n-chug parade to today against Onosho.

Takanosho (8-7) defeats Kotonowaka (8-7) Oshidashi – Takanosho had a 5-2 start, but faded into week 2 after scoring a kinboshi against Yokozuna Kakuryu. This battle for Takanosho’s kachi-koshi featured Kotonowaka going for an early hitakekomi against Takanosho, but Takanosho keeping his feet and moving smartly forward. From the second step, Kotonowaka struggled to regain position that the hitakekomi attempt cost him, and he had little position to resist Takanosho aggressive charge.

Yutakayama (8-7) defeats Kagayaki (7-8) Oshidashi – The second of our Darwin matches of the day saw two of my up and coming favorites toe to toe in a hybrid thrusting and grappling bout. Kagayaki started with a strong ottsuke, shutting Yutakayama out from an inside position. With Kagayaki’s hands against Yutakayama’s pectorals, Yutakayama could only press forward and try to reduce Kagayaki’s attack force. Kagayaki was slowly accumulating enough advantage to finish the match, and I think moved for a finishing move too early. Yutakayama deflected him, and swapped from right hand lead to left hand lead, confounding Kagayaki’s normally impeccable balance. With his defense in tatters, Yutakayama drove him over the bales to claim his kachi-koshi.

Endo (4-11) defeats Kaisei (3-12) Uwatenage – A battle of utter sadness. Two solid rikishi who terrible, deep make-koshi records. There was no crowd in the Kokugikan to see this throw, but everyone would have been either sorry for both men, or too loaded on beer and yakitori to care.

Ikioi (5-10) defeats Okinoumi (5-10) Yorikiri – A second battle of beloved veterans fighting it out to double digit losses each. For both of these rikishi, things were not just bad this tournament, they were horrible. Both have chronic injuries that likely played a part in their final score, so we hope they can recover and return to fight in better for for the next basho.

Daieisho (8-7) defeats Abi (6-9) Hikiotoshi – Fairly impressed that Daieisho could overcome Abi-zumo to claim his 8th win today. Abi had him by the neck at the tachiai, and although Daieisho was able to break contact, Abi was able to resume a heartbeat later, with his left hand covering Daieisho’s face. Daieisho returned the choke hold, his left palm lifting Abi’s chin and forcing his neck back. This headache inducing dance broke apart after a few seconds, and Abi found himself forced to retreat under Daieisho’s withering thrusting attack.

Mitakeumi (13-2) defeats Tokushoryu (10-5) Oshidashi – Mitakeumi took no chances with Tokushoryu’s trademark move. The veteran and Hatsu yusho winner never had a moment to set up any real offense. Mitakeumi had hands of Tokushoryu shoulders at the tachiai, and every attempt that Tokushoryu made to land any hand hold failed to find its mark. Mitakeumi maintained contact and forward force in spite of 2 attempt to deflect by Tokushoryu. Excellent sumo across the 15 days from Mitakeumi. Congratulations on your 3rd yusho.

Shodai (8-7) defeats Sadanoumi (11-4) Yoritaoshi – The question for this match – would Shodai remain in the Sekiwake slot? Coming into today 7-7, he managed to find a way to overpower Sadanoumi, who turned in his best ever top division score. But when he needs to win, Shodai seems to be able to produce these chaotic, unexpected little bursts of sumo that seem to cause his opponents to defeat themselves. This was the case today, when an odd shrug and double arm sweep to the right by Shodai sent Sadanoumi to the clay in a heap.

Asanoyama (12-3) defeats Hakuho (11-4) Yorikiri – Was this a kind of passing of the torch? I know myself and some of team tachiai have been looking for someone from the “new guard” to really overpower Hakuho in the final days of a basho as another sign that the Yokozuna’s time is drawing to a close. As an Ozeki, Asanoyama is meant to be able to give the Yokozuna a tough match, and today he showed that he is worthy of his rank. Asanoyama was able to get a left hand inside grip, and Hakuho never was able to break that grip. I have to wonder what role that bandaged left elbow of Hakuho played in his performance this tournament. It’s been getting a little weaker each basho, and may be the deciding factor on when the greatest Yokozuna of our age hangs up his mawashi.

21 thoughts on “Mock Natsu Day 15 Highlights

  1. Thank you Bruce. I was deeply skeptical of the whole enterprise before it started, but found myself drawn to reading your reports, which were so convincing and engaging, to the point that I could even visualize some of the bouts! Thanks also to Iksumo for his storyline pieces.
    It was a superb effort! As you say, let’s fervently hope it’s never needed again.

    • I was a bit skeptical myself, and to be honest as things got started, a bit overwhelmed by what this was going to entail. I will do a separate write up on the Tachiai side of the mock basho effort, but it was a lot more effort per day than I had imagined.

      I hope we never have to try and simulate a basho again, but both myself and the GSB folks agree that there are a lot of ways to improve the results.

      • By the real one, I mean after the July basho. It was interesting to see which wrestlers seemed injured and it will be cool to see if someone like Kakuryu or Takaysu really benefits from the extra time off.

  2. It was a slightly anticlimactic end to the basho, but that was always likely when Mitakeumi drew Tokushoryu on the final day. Anyway, Mitakeumi was definitely the best man over the fifteen days and a double digit performance in Nagoya should see him reach the rank he deserves. It was interesting to see his almost Takakeisho-esque demeanour in the champions interview: no jokes or goofiness, all business. You always want to say, “Mita, don’t ever change” but maybe he had to…

    Rotten basho for my faves Tochinoshin and Terunofuji. And not much better for my next gen hopes Kagayaki and Kiribayama although they didn’t embarrass themselves at career high ranks.

    What can you say about Kotoshogiku? He has sumo under his fingernails and between his teeth. He’s like Monty Python’s Black Knight except that he wins… mostly.

    • There were a couple of ways it could have gone prior to coming up with the day 15 results. i asked the GSB folks – “Do you want to rig this for maximum drama, or let the dice decide?” They answered, “The dice made, it, the dice will conclude it”. Personally i was hoping for a multi way playoff, but Mitakeumi was more than a match for Tokushoryu on day 15.

    • Hear, hear! I started watching sumo just before Kotoshogiku gave up his backbends in the dohyo, and he’s always been a favorite of mine.

  3. Congratulations on a superb job in making an imaginary tournament come to life. I hope you save “his knees are still little more than tangles of gristle and undigested bits of tonkatsu” and use it again when describing a real bout.

    • Yeah, the amount of playful metaphors was greatly reduced this time due to what it took to create the match descriptions. I will try to remember that one for the future.

  4. Thank you Bruce and team! I am expecting to see a statistical analysis of how the results compare with the next real basho.

  5. To Bruce and everyone else who worked so hard on the Mock Basho – Amazing Job! Thank you all!
    I too, am looking forward to see how these results compare with the next real basho – I REALLY enjoyed the match ups and looking forward to see if those come about as well! Thanks again guys!

  6. Thank you for this notso basho. Amazing posts that conveyed, shock, surprise, made me laugh, feel relief, disappointment, and so much more. Such fun eh! (from my Canadian husb)

  7. How well-executed was this project? I was literally getting up from my chair to make sure I had the DVR set to record that Asanoyama-Hakuho bout during the NHK replay. Huge kudos, Bruce and team. This was great work. Thank you!

  8. Thank you so much for this great basho! Because I couldn’t watch the bouts live this time, I had to rely on your descriptions, and you really delivered. I often felt I could “see” a little replay in my head based on what you wrote. If I could ask for anything more, it would be a retrospective podcast on what covering this basho was like for you.
    While I’m not personally a fan of Mitakeumi, he won deservedly (three yusho already!). I’m very happy with Asanoyama, Nishikigi and Tokushoryu’s records (and Kotoshogiku – that one seems too good to be true, sadly!). Hopefully the rikishi can recover, train well and give us an amazing next basho when it’s safe.

  9. Thank you so much for all the hard work. It was very unique and certainly entertaining! Kudos to all involved. Sure, we would rather have the real basho, but this was believable and satisfying in its own way.

  10. Thank you Tachiai for all the effort that must have gone into making this work – time and again I found myself believing the reports! Last month I had to cancel a holiday to Tokyo and this has gone a long way to soften the blow.

  11. Signing up to post my first comment just to say thank you Tachiai and Bruce for this, a real highlight of lockdown for me.

    Just great stuff all round!

    Also, I guess these results mean Giku is back as heyagashira at Sadogatake :D

  12. Thanks so much for all the time, effort, and creative writing put into the posts for the last fifteen days. They’ve been so much fun to read and envision what the matches would have been like.

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