The middle weekend is complete, and the breaks are off. We are rolling heavy to senshuraku and the awarding of the emperor’s cup. As noted in the day 8 highlights, the leader board was shredded when the entire chase group lost their day 8 matches. I don’t recall seeing anything like it. With the leader trio taking two losses, the board has narrowed considerably, and I think it’s going to be down to Terunofuji and Takayasu to lead the pack to the end of act 2 on Tuesday. Past that, the picture is murky. I personally doubt that Takayasu can finish March with 14 wins, and that means that there is a good chance for Terunofuji to still contend for the cup. Heck, maybe Chiyonokuni as well, but with that hyper-extended thumb, he may be a bit iffy.
Next up for our rikishi are the kachi/make-koshi cuts. We have Takayasu who can clear 8 wins today, and hapless Takarafuji who can hit the ignoble mark of 8 losses today as well. If we stick with the numbers, a 10 win finish for Terunofuji looks pretty likely, and if I were Isegehama, I would put in order in for the fish they are going to hoist after everyone gets on the floor and bows. Likewise, I think that a Takakeisho kachi-koshi should happen as long as he does not have some kind of injury in the next week. That leaves one fun numbers puzzle – Takayasu and a possible double-digit record for March. Josh and I joked about the NSK miniting new Ozeki every few months right now, and it looks like we may do it again in March with Terunofuji. What if.. dare I ponder, Takayasu can get 33 wins by the end of July?
It’s Takayasu in sole possession of the lead, with Terunofuji and Chiyonokuni just one win behind. They are followed by a broad and unruly herd at 5-3.
Chasers: Terunofuji, Chiyonokuni
Hunt Group: Asanoyama, Takakeisho, Takanosho, Hokutofuji, Meisei, Myogiryu, Tamawashi, Ichinojo, Tobizaru, Terutsuyoshi, Chiyoshoma, Kotoeko
7 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Daishomaru vs Hidenoumi – Daishomaru is back for more top division competition, this time against 4-4 Hidenoumi. A 4-4 record is hinting that Hidenoumi may be charting a dangerous course for the final weekend, and with his rank near the bottom of the banzuke, he has little cushion to employ.
Kotoeko vs Tsurugisho – I have to pick Kotoeko for this one. He still looks like he is very serious about getting to double digits this March. I do like that Tsurugisho seems to be trying to get his sumo in gear, and has won 3 of his last 5.
Terutsuyoshi vs Chiyoshoma – Ooh, nice match up here. Both are 5-3, and 2 wins behind Takayasu. Both of them are quite capable of highly mobile sumo, and I am going to look forward to some surprises. Will it be a Chiyoshoma henka? Will it be some thrilling oshidashi from Terutsuyoshi? I can’t wait to find out.
Akiseyama vs Aoiyama – Another “battle of the bigs”, I am hoping that with both of them at 4-4, they are going to put their back into it. Aoiyama has lost his last 3 in a row, and really needs to rally right now.
Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – There are some faint signs of life in Yutakayama’s sumo. I think he’s hurt, and not anywhere near full power, but it seems he is going to “Gamberize” for the final week and try to get as close to 8 wins has he can. He has a 3-5 career deficit against Chiyotairyu. so I am expecting a rough run.
Midorifuji vs Daiamami – Daiamami. the last name on the top division banzuke, is at 4-4, and needs to win 4 of his last 7 matches. He has never beaten Midorifuji in three attempts, so this is going to be a tall order for him today.
Kaisei vs Kagayaki – With just a 3-5 score going into day 9, Kagayaki needs to find some wins starting right now. He has the mechanics and technique needed to best Kaisei, but let’s see if he can execute.
Tochinoshin vs Ryuden – Both of these men are part of the troublesome 3-5 league. The bad news is that one of them is about to join the 3-6 league. Tochinoshin has lost his last 3 in a row, and is on a cold streak, so I nominate him to hit the clay today.
Hoshoryu vs Ichinojo – Sweet mercies, what have we here? I like Ichinojo’s chances today, as Hoshoryu has really been hit or miss as of late. I want to see the guy excel and be one of the top competitors in the sport. But right now he just can’t consistently muster that level of sumo for 15 days.
Tamawashi vs Chiyonokuni – A lot of folks really like Chiyonokuni, myself included. With both men preferring a hit-and-move style of sumo, this has the elements for a good fight. but with Chiyonokuni’s thumb doing poorly, I wonder if maybe he’s going to struggle to get his 8, and leave the yusho challenges to Terunofuji.
Tobizaru vs Okinoumi – Someone has to push Okinoumi closer to make-koshi, let’s have the flying monkey do it!
Endo vs Kotonowaka – I know I said I was hoping Kotonowaka would have a breakout basho this March, but readers may have noted I am becoming increasingly disappointed with “his brand of sumo” right now. He is capable of so much more, so I am guessing he is either hurt or distracted by something. In my book, you don’t try to fight Endo with anything less than 100% focus, or you are going to find it a quick trip to a loss.
Meisei vs Wakatakakage – First ever match between these two, and we have Wakatakakage coming in having won 3 of his last 4. Meisei looks the best he has in a while, but I think Wakatakakage may surprise him.
Takarafuji vs Hokutofuji – It probably has fallen to Hokutofuji to hand dear Takarafuji his make-koshi on day 9. An ignoble outcome, but one that has been plain since the start of the middle weekend. I don’t know why he is having a terrible tournament, I am just thankful he is high enough up the banzuke that he will have a few more tries to rack up a good score in the top division this year.
Takayasu vs Onosho – It would be much in tune with the current era of sumo if poorly performing Onosho could rally today to knock Takayasu out of the sole leader position. As a Takayasu fan, I don’t want that to happen. But given how sumo works right now, I am almost expecting it.
Kiribayama vs Takanosho – Takanosho holds a 5-1 career advantage over Kiribayama. In fact the only time that Kiribayama has won one from Takanosho was July of 2019 in Juryo. I am expecting onigiri-kun to dunk young Kiribayama in soy sauce finish him off in one gulp.
Terunofuji vs Myogiryu – Terunofuji holds an 11-3 career record over Myogiryu, and he’s on a mission to take back his Ozeki rank. I would say that its going to be another day closer to 8 for the kaiju.
Shimanoumi vs Asanoyama – This should be a dead easy Asanoyama win, but then again in the nadir of this transition era, everyone can lose to anyone on a given honbasho day. So I am hoping that Asanoyama shows up ready to fight and ready to win on day 9.
Shodai vs Daieisho – Daieisho seems to have regained his good form, and he holds a 7-4 career advantage. He has beaten Shodai every match since Shodai became on Ozeki. Hopefully the human daikon has some kind of strategy that we have not seen before to try and remedy this. No, standing upright at the tachiai and vague sumo is not quite what is needed here.
Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Let’s finish day 9 with a pair of rikishi who have a 9-9 career record! I am expecting Mitakeumi to try and get a belt hold, and Takakeisho to hit and move with high strength. Let the fireworks begin!