I always love the middle weekend of a basho. With work on a 2 day pause, I get a chance to really watch the matches in detail, pausing on some frames, re-winding some battles, enjoying the slow motion / multiple angle footage. Today was a great day to savor, as there are some first class matches to enjoy. But the action was marred twice by gyoji. In two matches, the referee found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and disrupted the fight by being an obstacle. The gyoji have a devilishly tough job, and I don’t really fault them too much. But one wrong shift and they find themselves in the middle of the fight.
If today had a theme – don’t underestimate the littler guy. Both Hoshoryu and Tobizaru really ramped up the power today, and came away with hard fought and well earned wins. I would also say, never try to out-last Takayasu. We have seen this dozens of times over the years. The guy simply does not tire. I think that comes from thousands of practices matches with Kisenosato during that era. I am also now curious if we will see Shodai fight like he means it. There was an evolution in today’s final bout, and I am hoping it signals a return to good form.
Daiamami defeats Akua – For a brief moment following the tachiai, the two drove against each other, ramping up the pressure. Akua gave way first, and was granted no opportunity to stop Daiamami’s stampede to his 3rd win. Both end the day 3-4.
Yutakayama defeats Kaisei – Somehow Yutakayama rallied from his miserable March funk and overpowered Kaisei today. The look on Yutakayama’s face following the match, he looked miserable. I am glad he found a way to pick up a second win, but I have to wonder what is plaguing him.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Hidenoumi – Hidenoumi worked to overpower Terutsuyoshi at the tachiai. But while he was busy establishing a grip on Terutsuyoshi’s shoulders, Terutsuyoshi’s right and went deep and found Hidenoumi’s belt. In a moment, Hidenoumi was too high and balanced on one foot as he was taking a step forward. Terutsuyoshi rotated and took the match with a shitatenage. Both exited the dohyo at 4-3.
Chiyotairyu defeats Tsurugisho – Chiyotairyu loves to use the combo of “stand them up, slap them down”. Tsurugisho bought it hook, line and sinker today, and received a face full of Kokugikan clay as a reward. Chiyotairyu advances to 3-4.
Kotoeko defeats Ryuden – Ryuden drove hard for a left hand shallow grip at the tachiai, and missed by a centimeter. Kotoeko shifted left as he drove his left hand inside. Ryuden was forced to defense, finding himself with no way to grip Kotoeko. Kotoeko went on to establish an arm lock, and drove forward to pick up his 5th win.
Chiyoshoma defeats Midorifuji – Fast match today for these two. Chiyoshoma’s took the better half of the tachiai, and a step later Midorifuji lost traction as he attempted to break the hold. Both went crashing to the dohyo, but Midorifuji touched down a fraction of a second before Chiyoshoma, and Chiyoshoma picked up his 5th win.
Hoshoryu defeats Aoiyama – Honbasho days come and go where I think Hoshoryu has maxed out, and it will be some time, if ever, before we see him expand his range of sumo and his ability to win. But Hoshoryu are given hope by days like today, where he endures a punishing storm of hits from Aoiyama, and rallies to put the big man out. Aoiyama piled in everything: thrusts, throw attempts, yorikiri attempts, all of it came up just a bit short. That was some “grade A” sumo from Hoshoryu today.
Chiyonokuni defeats Akiseyama – Chiyonokuni seems to be trying to work without his injured right hand today, and I think he surprised Akiseyama (and myself) by going left hand dominant. It payed off, as Akiseyama was geared up to attack left at the tachiai, and found himself opening his right side into Chiyonokuni’s left arm attack. Chiyonokuni advances to 6-1, impressive flexibility from Chiyonokuni today.
Tobizaru defeats Ichinojo – Barn burner of a match! Ichinojo’s opening gambit was against Tobizaru’s head. This is always a big gamble, as it leaves your body wide open to your opponent. Tobizaru obliged and went for the armpits, and drove inside. Ichinojo found himself without a viable attack route, but enough mass to keep Tobizaru’s offense blunted. Ichinojo made the mistake of pulling, and Tobizaru responded with a round house face slap that set up the end of the match, with Ichinojo dropping his hands to the clay. Tobizaru improves to 5-2.
Tamawashi defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka had a powerful offense up and running, and then inexplicably decided. “hey, let’s pull against Tamawashi!”. This has to be a youthful mistake, as Tamawashi may be on the downward slope of his sumo career, but he is an ace oshi-zumo practitioner, and his balance is impeccable. With forward pressure against him released, Tamawashi charged forward, sweeping up the completely disrupted Kotonowaka and depositing him over the edge of the dohyo. Expensive lesson there, Kotonowaka, please hold it dear.
Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Not sure you can get much more fundamental than this match. Sadly, my hoped for spectral possession by ancient legends of the sumo past did not take place, but Kagayaki did everything right, and never allowed Okinoumi to plant his feet and set up a defense.
Endo defeats Tochinoshin – Endo loaded up a step to the side at the tachiai, which left Tochinoshin literally on the wrong foot. As he pivoted on his bad knee to re-engage, Endo grabbed and pulled down for his 3rd win.
Wakatakakage defeats Myogiryu – This is the kind of match that really makes me love sumo. Myogiryu opened strong, but could not find enough advantage to win, as Wakatakakage answered him blow for blow. Both men came painfully close to losing the match as the initiative shifted multiple times, and the battle raged around the dohyo. I have to think that Wakatakakage’s youth and better endurance played a role here, and he simply outlasted Myogiryu to pick up his 3rd win of March. Bonus? the winning move was a nice tottari. I have not seen one of those in a while, thanks Wakatakakage!
Hokutofuji defeats Onosho – Onosho allowed Hokutofuji to box him in, and was dreadfully short of real estate to set up an effective offense. With only inches to work with, Onosho pushed back against Hokutofuji with everything he could muster. But Onosho’s offensive style requires a fair amount of mobility, and it was Hokutofuji’s match to win. He picks up his 5th to advance to 5-2.
Takayasu defeats Takarafuji – It’s always great to see these two fight, as Takarafuji’s brand of sumo is to put up a frustrating defense and encourage his opponent to dump his energy into ultimately fruitless offense, get tired and then be picked off when he is worn down. This works brilliantly most days, but then there is Takayasu. As I have stated before, Takayasu possesses in-human endurance. He’s always had it, but his training has greatly amplified this facet of his life. Long ago, in a happier age when people crowded sumo tournaments and yelled their hearts out, there were exhibition tournaments in addition to honbasho. One of them featured an air conditioner as part of the prize package to the last man standing, which was frequently Kisenosato. What does a guy who lives in a heya do with like 6 air conditioners? Well, I suspect at least one of them went to Takayasu, who probably took his post lunch naps holding one aloft, and slept comfortably that way. … THIS MATCH WENT ON FOR THREE MINUTES! It was Takarafuji who lost stamina, and Takayasu tossed him down, completely spent.
Daieisho defeats Takanosho – We have not seen the explosive power that is the hallmark of Daieisho’s sumo much this March, but here it was today. I swear that match may have knocked lose any fillings Takanosho may have had in his teeth. That’s only the second win for Daieisho, and maybe it signals a return to his yusho winning form from January.
Terunofuji defeats Mitakeumi – I had high hopes for a grand battle from these two, but Terunofuji quickly set up a front grip on Mitakeumi, and gave him gave him a solid “bushel basket” finish. Terunofuji remains in the leader gorup at 6-1.
Meisei defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho let Meisei get in the driver’s seat on this match, and never recovered. Yes, he rallied for 3 whole steps, but that just set up his loss. Tactical mistake at the tachiai, and is so frequently the case in a pushing match, there are few ways to take back control if your opponent is on their game. Both end the day 4-3.
Kiribayama defeats Asanoyama – Kiribayama has not shown us this aspect of his sumo in a while: brutal, fast and effective. He put a hit and shift in at the tachiai, leaving Asanoyama needing to turn to engage. He never got a chance, as Kiribayama latched his left hand on the Ozeki’s black mawashi and ran him across the tawara for an okuridashi. He improves to 3-4.
Shodai defeats Shimanoumi – Shodai looked well on his way to losing his 5th match. He found his heels on the tawara, his body position soft, his hips high. Then something engaged, and you could see his entire body shift into an attack mode we have not seen since January. His hands shifted inside, that big right foot stepped forward and the fight was joined. It was all power sumo from there, and Shodai punctuated the win with a saucy uwatenage to finish Shimanoumi off. Is this the point where Shodai wakes up and fights? I do hope so.