Today was a big equalizer, as many rikishi who had spotless records hit the clay for the first time, and more than a couple who had no wins found their first white star. Sadly this was not true for Chiyonokuni, who withdrew from the tournament on day 4, having re-injured his knee on day 3 against Mitakeumi. In the process of exiting the dohyo in the final moments of that match, he struck his knee against the edge of the dohyo, and was clearly not just in pain, but having trouble walking once the match was done. He had a 0-3 record prior to day 4, and was clearly not 100%. In fact Josh and Andy both picked for him to be kyujo from day 1 given his condition. We hope he heals up and returns able to compete in July.
As we near the close of act 1, it looks like once again Terunofuji is going to be the man to beat. The only rikishi to maintain his perfect record at the end of day 4, he continues to look strong and powerful each day.
Last but not least, the fans are back in the Kokugikan! Only 5,000 per day, but it makes the matches less odd now that someone is there to react to the results.
Kaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu did not have even close to his usual blast radius at the tachiai, and against a hulk like Kaisei, it had little effect. Kaisei wisely took Chiyotairyu to his chest and got to work. Chiyotairyu found himself unable to reach around Kaisei’s massive frame to find any kind of hand hold, and had to resort to flopping and jiggling around to try and break Kaisei’s hold. From that it was a fast trip to yorikiri as Chiyotairyu takes his first loss and Kaisei improves to 2-2.
Ishiura defeats Akiseyama – Excellent defensive sumo from Akiseyama today. He was able to spread his feet, keep his hips low and shut down Ishiura’s attack from underneath. You can see the point where Ishiura swaps to plan “B”, and it includes a round-house slap to Akiseyama’s face. Plan “B”‘s shitatenage improves Ishiura to 2-2.
Daiamami defeats Akua – Akua tries a pull down as his opening move, and it goes poorly, handing Daiamami the initiative, which he takes up with gusto. Realizing he is trapped, Akua tries anything the can to break contact, but Daiamami marches forward and bodily crushes Akua over the edge. The gyoji gives the gumbai to Akua, and a monoii is called. It seems Daiamami stepped out before Akua finished falling, so a rematch is called. The second run features Daiamami getting his hands inside at the tachiai, and throwing Akua to the dohyo. Daiamami improves to 2-2.
Chiyomaru defeats Kotoeko – As is his custom, Chiyomaru was thrashing away like mad at Kotoeko’s neck and face from the first step. Points to Kotoeko for standing up to it for a time, but the withering rain of blows wore him down, and he could find no escape. Chiyomaru improves to 3-1.
Chiyoshoma defeats Okinoumi – Chiyoshoma went for an early inside grip, but found his right hand blocked and took that hand high to reach for Okiniumi’s neck. Finding Okinoumi’s head unprotected, Chiyoshoma went to work as Okinoumi continued to press forward. A step to the side and Newton did the rest. Chiyoshoma improves to 2-2 as Okinoumi picks up his first loss.
Kotonowaka defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi goes down to his first defeat as Kotonowaka blows through Tamawashi’s opening attack combo and takes the veteran to his chest. Tamawashi breaks contact, but is off balance, and Kotonowaka finishes him with a firm shove to send him down the hanamichi. Kotonowaka improves to 2-2.
Kagayaki defeats Terutsuyoshi – Kagayaki finally picks up his first win today, but it was rough. Kagayaki was too high for the entire match, but was able to cleverly exploit an off balance leg pick attempt from Terutsuyoshi that went wrong in a hurry. Both end the day at 1-3.
Shimanoumi defeats Tsurugisho – Shimanoumi’s deflecting tachiai sent Tsurugisho off balance and rolling to the clay at the first step. It was over before it really began, and Shimanoumi improves to 2-2.
Endo defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s defense was looking weak today, as Endo was able to keep Takarafuji from setting his feet. Endo employed a mid-range grapple and shove attack that kept Takarafuji closer to upright, and made it possible for Endo to control the match. Endo improves to 3-1.
Hidenoumi defeats Tochinoshin – The two go chest to chest at the tachiai, and Hidenoumi immediately begins to dial up the power on his left, placing strain against Tochinoshin’s injured right knee. He can’t really withstand much of that, and quickly gives ground. Hidenoumi keeps up the pressure and quickly drives Tochinoshin out, improving to 3-1.
Ichinojo defeats Onosho – Onosho launches in hard and starts his big push. Ichinojo seems prepare for that today, and Onosho quickly discovers just how much force is required to move “The Boulder”. Answer – its quite a lot. Ichinojo deftly takes one step back, putting Onosho off balance and over-extended, and slaps him down. Onosho picks up his first loss, and both end the day at 3-1.
Kiribayama defeats Hoshoryu – Kiribayama picks up his first win of the basho by showing excellent patience and balance as he chipped away at Hoshoryu’s defense. This match as a solid example of quality yotsu-zumo, but when Hoshoryu let Kiribayama change up his grip, you knew something was about to happen. Both end the day at 1-3.
Wakatakakage defeats Takayasu – My compliments to Wakatakakage. He clearly studied Takayasu’s prior match video, and decided to exploit something we have been talking about for some time – Takayasu’s wild, off balance sumo. Wakatakakage opened strong, driving inside and getting his hands in Takayasu’s armpits. Takayasu responded with a weight shift to break the grip, but Wakatakakage was ready and dialed up the pressure, sending Takayasu out. Both end the day at 3-1.
Takanosho defeats Myogiryu – I am really disappointed that today was not Myogiryu’s first win, as he put a lot of great sumo into this match, and controlled the majority of this match. But he let Takanosho tangle up his arms, and pause a moment to rest, allowing Takanosho to rally and drive Myogiryu from the ring. Takanosho improves to 3-1.
Shodai defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru tried to get low and shift to the side at the tachiai, but Shodai tracked his lateral move, and responded with power. Tobizaru found himself unprepared for defense in that position, and Shodai made quick work of what was left, improving to 3-1.
Takakeisho defeats Meisei – Rather than thrust and back from Takakeisho today, he made contact and left his hands in place, moving Meisei as a plow moves snow. It was a fast 5 steps to the tawara, sending Meisei went over the edge, giving Takakeisho his 3rd win.
Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji took charge of the match at the tachiai, and had the lead Ozeki in trouble for most of the bout. But Asanoyama stayed on his feet, and kept his defensive footwork steady while he worked to find a route to attack. That chance came when Asanoyama’s right hand finally made it past Hokutofuji’s ottsuke and finding a hold on Hokutofuji’s shoulder. Asanoyama picks up a much needed second win, and Hokutofuji drops to a disamal 0-4.
Terunofuji defeats Mitakeumi – Both men blasted into the tachiai, and bounced back to re-engage. It was Terunofuji’s left hand that found its mark on Mitakeumi’s belt, and he was in business. Moments later, Terunofuji’s right hand latched on as well, and it was a quick lift and toss to send Mitakeumi over the bales, as Terunofuji improves to 4-0, and is the only rikishi left without a loss going into the final day of act 1. I know his knees are on borrowed time, but right now Terumofuji is fighting at almost Yokozuna level against the field.