Are you ready to tear into the second half of this tournament? There is still quite a lot of sumo to be enjoyed, and we are not even close to resolving any of the story lines. Its time to start sorting out the kachi from the make-koshi, and start looking at who is going to play a role in the yusho race. But first, this public service announcement from Team Tachiai stalwart, Herouth:
I have been asked repeatedly on Twitter, so here to preempt the questions:
No, if Terunofuji wins the yusho he can’t become Yokozuna immediately, he needs two consecutive yusho (or equivalent) as an Ozeki to become Yokozuna.
But if he does, he will match Futabayama’s unique achievement of winning two consecutive yusho without being an Ozeki in the first.
Do take that to heart, dear readers. If Terunofuji should win his second consecutive yusho, there will be a wave of jubilation across the sumo world, but it’s only step 1 of a 2 step process. The Kaiju will have to win two in a row to make a bid for the rope. As we pointed out in week 1, he’s the only one consistently putting up Yokozuna scores right now, so it’s a matter of letting Terunofuji continue his work.
It’s time for us to start tracking the leader board, and it tells the story we all expected: Terunofuji in sole command of the lead, Takakeisho one win behind, and the 7 chaser waiting for someone to put dirt on Terunofuji. I don’t expect we will see Ozeki to Ozeki matches until later in week 2, but the Terunofuji and Takakeisho match up could be the one for all the hardware. If things follow the normal order, with a 4 Ozeki crew, this could be the second to last match on the final day. Hint, the 3-2 career record narrowly favors Takakeisho.
But do keep an eye on Mitakeumi. I know the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan smiles on him, and he is in the group 2 wins behind Terunofuji.
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Onosho, Ichinojo, Endo, Okinoumi ,Chiyotairyu
7 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Hakuyozan vs Chiyotairyu – Juryo 4 Hakuyozan comes up to fill a torikumi gap, and gets a chance to face Chiyotairyu for the first time. I am going to say Chiyotairyu is the favorite, but I am hoping we get to see him take the mawashi again today.
Kotoeko vs Akua – Akua is in a tight spot. He’s the bottom man on the banzuke, and he needs 6 wins out of the next 7 matches to avoid demotion. Suffice to say, he should book his ticket on the barge of the damned back to Juryo now, and avoid the rush. Kotoeko holds a 4-2 career record, and has been fighting quite well this May.
Ishiura vs Chiyoshoma – I believe in the magic of sumo, and it would be a magical day indeed if both of these evasive rikishi decided on a henka to start their 16th career match. It’s been a long time since we saw two largely unclad men leap away from each other as if they had simultaneously urinated on an electric fence. Please?
Tamawashi vs Chiyomaru – Alright, the dohyo is consecrated ground, and certainly would never be provisioned with an electric fence. But you could take a 5-3 Tamawashi and put him up against 5-3 Chiyomaru, and get a pretty good fight out of it. Now, it’s true that Chiyomaru has never won against Tamawashi. But maybe today can be the day.
Shimanoumi vs Daiamami – Oh dear, the schedulers are going for symmetry again. Now a pair of 4-4 rikishi face off, and there is a bit of a favor to Shimanoumi, who seems to have finally found his sumo. It’s always the last place you look, isn’t it?
Kaisei vs Endo – Why is this even happening? Oh yeah, Endo is significantly under-ranked this time out. But a M8 who normally is comfortable in the joi-jin up against a M15e lovable parade balloon might just be a bit much. Endo has a 9-6 advantage on the clay, so I am guessing Kaisei won’t get a rebound win after Ura gave him the business day 8.
Tsurugisho vs Terutsuyoshi – Symetery again with a pair of 2-6 rikishi, fighting it out like a pair of junk yard dogs trying to be the next guy to go make-koshi. Terutsuyoshi has been fighting hurt, and except for his day 8 mega-toss, this has been a forgettable basho for him. But he has a 5-8 career deficit against Tsurugisho.
Kotonowaka vs Takarafuji – First time match, and I urge you Kotonowaka, attack center mass, and don’t let him grab you and stalemate your sumo. Of course because Kotonowaka does not really know any better, that’s exactly what I expect to happen. The good news is that would allow Takarafuji to pick up his 4th win.
Okinoumi vs Ichinojo – Are you tired of the symmetry? Better not be, because here are a pair from that 6-2 chase group working to narrow the field. The ponderous bulk of Ichinojo presents problems for Okinoumi, as there is quite a lot of Ichinojo to try to move about. He has only beaten the Mongolian Boulder twice in 7 career matches.
Hidenoumi vs Kagayaki – Every time in the past week I have begun to hope that Kagayaki had broken through what must be an encrusting shell of ring rust or sumo atrophy, he just can’t seem to get it together. Maybe Kagayaki should just own up and ditch that black mawashi, and go back to his traditional bronze. Maybe he sent it to the cleaners, and it shrank. Imagine the difficulties that could impose…
Tochinoshin vs Myogiryu – Symmetry returns, and we are back to thrashing the poor crowd at 2-6, desperately trying to avoid make-koshi like plate of curry trying to escape Chiyomaru. Let’s face it, there is no escape at this point. But we get to see a hapless Tochinoshin limp around, and Myogiryu fight to his left side, putting maximum strain on Tochinoshin’s banged up right knee.
Aoiyama vs Kiribayama – Welcome back to Big Dan! I actually consider this match to be a bit of a long shot, as Kiribayama was in sad condition following his day 8 loss to Takayasu. But if he manages to get that toe re-attached, he gets the pleasure of facing a fresh and feisty Aoiyama, who may have a lot of pent up sumo to express on his first day back in competition.
Meisei vs Tobizaru – This could be make-koshi day for Tobizaru today, he comes in with just 1 win and seven losses. Should Meisei continue his 5-1 career winning record, it’s demotion zone for Tobizaru. As Team Tachiai commented in our pre-basho podcasts, Tobizaru is well above his skill level right now, and will need a couple of tournaments to re-group. But I expect him to be part of the top ranks of sumo in a year or two. Exit question – how far into the stands will he get today?
Mitakeumi vs Wakatakakage – To stay in range to play spoiler, Mitakeumi is going to need to put the “best of his career so far” Wakatakakage onto the clay. Wakatakakage has not taken a win in any of their 3 prior matches, and I think that he struggles with Mitakeumi’s combination of speed and girth.
Hokutofuji vs Takanosho – Both of these guys are on the make-koshi path right now, and both of them are in possession of solidly losing records in spite of them both fighting with energy and vigor. Hokutofuji continue to puzzle me by being just a bit less than what is needed to be a dominant rikishi. Should Takanosho fail to win 5 of the 7 remaining matches, he would likely vacate a Sekiwake slot, a rank he has held since November of 2020.
Takayasu vs Terunofuji – Hello high interest match! This one is a real challenge for Terunofuji, who has dropped 9 of the last 10 matches against Takayasu. If we find him with a white star at the end of today, it may be a bell weather that the Kaiju is going to sweep the upper ranks.
Shodai vs Hoshoryu – First ever match, and I think everyone will admit, we are hoping that Hoshoryu can surprise yet another Ozeki. Somehow, Shodai has reverted to his older, sloppy sumo mechanics. It’s to the point that his former senpai called him out on NHK during the day 8 broadcast. I think we have seen little of Shodai’s amazing recovery moves at the edge this basho, so maybe he is saving them for week 2.
Daieisho vs Takakeisho – The career record reads 8-5 in Takakeisho’s favor, but the real story is that Takakeisho seems to have a working, repeatable formula for putting Daieisho on the clay. The exception being Daieisho’s January march to the yusho, where he was able to get a hatakikomi against the grand tadpole. I am looking for Takakeisho to reach kachi-koshi today.
Asanoyama vs Onosho – I give up on Asanoyama for now. I think that ankle was iffy to start, and got no better after Hoshoryu used it to win his day 8 match. I just hope he can find 4 more wins and reach the safety of 8. That being said, I am curious what he is going to do about Onosho’s mega-thrust attack.