First off, Chiyonokuni withdrew from the March tournament on day 13, finally kachi-koshi, he’s going to address his dislocated thumb, and from what I read, a cracked rib? Good grief man! Not sure how you kept with it to get your 8 wins, but wow!
Two of our story lines evolved, one resolved, the other complicated. Triumph first then.
We congratulate Terunofuji for getting to 34 wins, including 10 wins this tournament, and likely completing his quest to return to Ozeki after falling to professional sumo’s second lowest division. Likely one of the greatest comeback stories in the history of sports. No matter what you may feel about Terunofuji, this is a monument to human spirit and courage. I am going to be so happy to see him hoist at least one giant red fish in the next few days.
But before we could shout for joy at Terunofuji carried Shodai out like bag of rice, we saw Takayasu falter on campaign to win his first yusho. In spite of multiple opportunities to finish Wakatakakage, he was unable to finish him. To my eye, he looked to be moving poorly, and I have to wonder if either that knee that imploded last March or that elbow that received a Tamawashi “arm-breaker” kotenage are starting to bother him. He and Terunofuji are tied for the lead with 10 wins each, thought I think Takayasu still has the inside edge for the cup, we now know the winning score will be no higher than 12-3.
Kotoeko defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru goes down and surrenders sole lead in Juryo via a brutal slippiotoshi. He got the better of the tachiai, and had the upper hand for most of the match. Kotoeko fought well, and improves to 7-6. The result is a 3 way tie in the Juryo yusho race going into the final weekend.
Akiseyama defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama came out of the tachiai strong, and attacked center mass. Akiseyama knew he had trouble with that formula, and expertly times a reverse at the bales. With his back now to the center of the ring, Akiseyama got a belt hold, and bushel-basket carried Yutakayama out for his 7th win. Yutakayama drops to 4-9.
Hidenoumi defeats Kotoshoho – Freshly returned Kotoshoho could not make it two wins in a row. Hidenoumi shows no intention of letting up on winning sumo has he throws Kotoshoho to the clay for his 9th win of March. He will probably be mid-Maegashira in May.
Daiamami defeats Chiyotairyu – Daiamami sends the thunder-god to make-koshi with a surprisingly straight forward yorikiri. I am not sure what Chiyotairyu had in mind, but it probably was not that. Daiamami improves to 7-6.
Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – This was an odd looking fight, as they neither closed to go chest to chest, nor stayed in effective oshi-range. Instead they kept some distance apart and swatted at each other for a good 30 second. Chiyoshoma endup up attempting and getting a belt grip, and brining Ryuden out. Both end the day at 6-7.
Kaisei defeats Midorifuji – Yeah Midorifuji is in tough shape. He can’t offer much against Kaisei, who sends Midorifuji out with a fairly gentle shove. Kaisei improves to 7-6.
Aoiyama defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru went for a double inside grip, and Aoiyama pinned him there, eliminating Tobizaru’s sole advantage – mobility. With his opponent captured, the green giant Aoiyama marched forward, carrying the smaller Tobizaru pinned to his enormous belly like a hapless bug splattered on the enormous chrome grill of a truck rolling down the road. Aoiyama improves to 9-4.
Kotonowaka defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi could not produce much forward power against Kotonowaka, and seemed to not quite know what to try next. When he did make a coherent aggressive play, Kotonowaka grabbed an arm and brought him off balance. It took 3 tries from Kotonowaka, but he got Terutsuyoshi out and improved to 5-8.
Hoshoryu defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki opened strong, but Hoshoryu got both hands inside. Kagayaki brought his hands inside, locking Hoshoryu’s arms in place. Many times, this would mean Hoshoryu was in a tight spot, but Hoshoryu consolidated his position, shifted his weight and thrust his right leg forward, setting the trip as he pushed Kagayaki forward. Nice move, and the win gave Hoshoryu his kachi-koshi. Sadly, Kagayaki is make koshi with that same beautiful move.
Tochinoshin defeats Kiribayama – Tochinoshin dodged the tachiai by slipping to his left, sort of a mini-henka, and was rewarded with a left hand outside grip. From there, as we all guessed, he set up the sky-crane, and hoisted Kiribayama off the clay, and placed him outside the ring to improve to 6-7, and send Kiribayama into make-koshi land.
Shimanoumi defeats Okinoumi – A surprisingly good see-saw battle from two men that started the day with 3-9 records. It ended with Shimanoumi breaking contact, slipping to the side and pushing Okinoumi out from behind. Shimanoumi improves to 4-9.
Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – Hokutofuji stayed low, and did a good job of stalemating Ichinojo. We all know that some days Ichinojo does not deal well with stalemates. The entire time, Hokutofuji is working to improve his hand placement, and when he gets his right hand against the front of Ichinojo’s chest, he turns on the forward power and moves the Mongolian giant out for his 8th win. A well earned kachi-koshi for Hokutofuji.
Onosho defeats Takarafuji – In a terrible contest of “Whose sumo is worse?”, Onosho does his best pengo impersonation, moving the block that is Takarafuji smartly forward and out of the ring. This is only Onosho’s third win of March.
Daieisho defeats Meisei – Points to Meisei, he gave it a good effort, but this newly re-energized Daieisho is a tough man to beat. Once Daieisho gets his sumo in forward gear, he escorts Meisei across the bales to improve to 7-6.
Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi took the inside lane at the tachiai, and kept up the forward pressure. Tamawashi has no opportunity to really take back the initiative, and found himself pushed out to drop to 5-8 and make-koshi for March. Mitakeumi improves to 6-7.
Wakatakakage defeats Takayasu – A heartbreaker of a match, there were at least half a dozen times when Takayasu could have put Wakatakakage out or down, but could not capitalize on them. Takayasu drops to 10-3, Wakatakakage improves to 9-4.
Myogiryu defeats Takanosho – Their mutual shoving match was going no where, but it did give Myogiryu an opportunity to slap down Takanosho near the bales. Both end the day at 6-7, joining the group of candidates for Darwin on da 15.
Takakeisho defeats Asanoyama – Our first Ozeki fight of the tournament goes to Takakeisho. This match really underscores how quickly Asanoyama’s sumo is taken down a few notches if he can’t get his belt grip. He did manage to stay in the match long enough for Takakeisho to get tired and start making wild moves. One of the wild moves slapped Asanoyama to the clay, as Takakeisho improves to 9-4.
Terunofuji defeats Shodai – Fast, sharp and powerful – Terunofuji got a frontal grip at the tachiai as Shodai came in soft and vague. Terunofuji gave him no time or space to regroup, and powered forward to take Shodai over the tawara. 10 wins for Terunofuji, he completes the goal set for his return to Ozeki, and is now co-leader with Takayasu.