Welcome to the penultimate day of this basho, we enter the final weekend with a lot of great sumo to watch, and much to consider about the future of the sport. In terms of great sumo, there will be a pair of lower division playoffs on day 15, and I am still not quite sold on the idea that Chiyonoo will manage to seal the deal on the Juryo championship. There could be some high stakes matches ahead.
In the top division, it’s still Terunofuji’s cup until someone puts dirt on him for the first time. A win today against Endo would finalize the matter, and we would get to see the Kaiju take 3 yusho in the past year, with 2 jun-yusho in between those. Now I am sure the NSK is going to stick to the back to back yusho theme, but if his performance since returning to the top division in July of 2020 is not Yokozuna grade sumo, then what is.
We see it again today – the drive of the scheduling committee to bring as many rikishi as the can manage to 7-7 at the end of today. I have taken to calling this “Darwin’s funnel”, and it has been working with remarkable results for the past 3 days. How many Darwin matches (7-7) will there be on the final day? We can only guess right now, but it could be as high as 7. A banzuke blood-bath of the first order, and a true testament to the brutality of sumo’s zero sum game.
Two more wins for Terunofuji, and its fish time…
Chasers (2 wins behind): Takakeisho , Endo
2 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 14
Daiamami vs Chiyoshoma – Funnel match, one of them is going make-koshi, the other survives to be Darwin fodder.
Kaisei vs Terutsuyoshi – This could be another funnel match, but Kaisei is at 7-6 with Terutsuyoshi at 6-7. A Kaisei win would break them both out of the funnel with Kaisei hitting 8 wins and Terutsuyoshi hitting 8 losses. Of course, I am pulling for Terutsuyoshi.
Shimanoumi vs Kotoeko – A variation on the first match, the winner is kachi-koshi, and breaks out of Darwin’s funnel, the loser heads to a 7-7 doom match on day 15. I would be delighted to see Kotoeko (9-2 career lead) take the white star today and reach the safety of 8.
Tsurugisho vs Ishiura – Both are make-koshi, so the schedulers keep them out of the way of everyone they are trying to squeeze through the funnel. I would like to see Ishiura cushion his fall down the banzuke as much as possible, so I am hoping he can win-out starting today against Tsurugisho. But with the damage to his hand and lord knows what else, he faces long odds.
Tochinoshin vs Chiyomaru – A make / kachi koshi pair, they face off and stay out of the way of everyone caught in the funnel. Tochinoshin holds a 4-1 career lead over sumo’s personal flotation device, so maybe he can pick up another win and put the breaks on his slide down the banzuke for July.
Kiribayama vs Chiyotairyu – Another make / kachi koshi pair, this time it’s sumo’s thunder-demon up against Kiribayama. They have split their 2 prior matches, so there may be some good sumo here today. Personally I think Kiribayama is only at about 80% of his normal sumo, so he may take a fast trip across the bales.
Kotonowaka vs Myogiryu – This may not look like a funnel match, but when you consider Myogiryu at M4w is taking on M11e Kotonowaka, there is a solid chance this one is designed to hand Kotonowaka his 7th loss and give Myogiryu some make-koshi padding.
Aoiyama vs Akua – Both have big make-koshi scores, maybe this one is a chance for Aoiyama and Akua to finish at 4-10 together at the end of their match. The scheduling crew seem to love their numerology and score symmetry.
Meisei vs Tamawashi – Back to the funnel! If Tamawashi wins this one, they both go 7-7, but if Meisei can overcome Tamawashi’s thrusting attacks, they will both exit the funnel as a kachi / make koshi pair.
Kagayaki vs Tobizaru – They really want Kagayaki (3-0 career advantage) to win this one over Tobizaru (4-9) and end up joining the 7-7 crew.
Wakatakakage vs Okinoumi – Both are kachi-koshi, and so this is all about the score. There is an 11 rank difference between the two, so I think this is just to try out Wakatakakage against a seasoned veteran.
Hidenoumi vs Hokutofuji – Like above, but both arae make-koshi. There are only 5 ranks difference between the two, but it could be a decent match. But Hidenoumi has lost 7 of the last 8. Ouch! Both of them will be back in July, and hopefully they will be in better condition.
Mitakeumi vs Takarafuji – Mitakeumi holds an 8-3 career advantage, and if he wins against Takarafuji today, he will send him make-koshi with his 8th loss, and kick him out of the funnel. I almost want to see Mitakeumi lose this one, just so we have another 7-7 rikishi.
Onosho vs Daieisho – Onosho needs to overcome his 5 match losing streak and beat Daieisho today if he wants to stay in the funnel and take his chances on day 15. At 6-7, the more likely outcome is make-koshi at the end of day 14.
Takayasu vs Hoshoryu – A first time, high interest match. Young Hoshoryu is at 6-7, and I think will likely lose this one against the former Ozeki, giving him his 8th loss and sending him to make-koshi. But I am having a tough time trying to decide which I would want more, Takayasu at 10 wins, or Hoshoryu in a day 15 Darwin match.
Ichinojo vs Takanosho – Possibly some kind of san’yaku try-out match for Ichinojo. He is already kachi-koshi, and Takanosho is already headed out of the named ranks. A win today would place him at no fewer than 9 wins, and it might give him an edge for the final Komusubi slot.
Endo vs Terunofuji – The big match, if Terunofuji wins this one, which I think he will, it will be the yusho. But I do hope that the Kaiju is ready for Endo’s schemes and clever sumo. If there is one man in sumo this tournament who can devise a way to dismantle Terunofuji’s monstrous sumo, it may be Endo. they have a 4-4 career record, but Terunofuji is 2-0 against Endo since his return to the top division.
Shodai vs Takakeisho – Finally, we get an Ozeki match. Shodai can (and maybe will) relax a bit having hit his 8 wins, and cleared kadoban. I am not sure where the sumo that took him to Ozeki has gone, but I think everyone agrees its time for it to come back. Takakeisho holds a 8-5 career record.