Several new recruits, and a few recruited earlier this year, are still plugging away in Jonokuchi, hoping to secure promotion to Jonidan. There’s also a troupe of veterans mixed in, some of whom suffered from recent injury setbacks, while others are semi-permanent fixtures in the division.
I’m starting things off today with a glimpse at the winner of the Jonokuchi yusho in September. Chiyotaiyo is a difficult draw in the lower divisions. One day, his skill will move him up. Gotta have the faith. He’s a serious grappler whose main weakness is when he has to go up against a big pusher-thruster. Setonoumi likes oshizumo but he lacks the size to really overwhelm the string bean.
This is a great bout! Enjoy! The video also contains the highlights from Jonokuchi Match Day 1. I wrapped them all together because, as with a lot of early Jonokuchi battles, the action is quick and rather one-sided. However, we can see some clear favorites emerge already and the action will heat up later this week.
The era of Gaia, Byakuen’s 15-year-old brother, started off his career with an impressive, aggressive oshidashi against Masutani, an 18-year-old recruit. Both saw their first action with this bout, where Gaia drove Masutani back to the bales with the routine and confidence of the keikoba.
Raiho had his first tournament delayed by the Miyagino-beya Covid kyujo but stormed Wakaonehara, an 18-year-old from Nishiiwa-beya. Raiho is not only 6-years-older but much more muscular than his opponent. This man does not really belong among the “youngsters” of Jonokuchi and will climb rapidly up the banzuke. It was funny to watch the moment when the two faced each other and spread their arms in the ancient ritual manner of displaying that they bear no weapons…except those guns.
Credit is due to Wakaonehara for taking it straight to Raiho with a forceful tachiai. But while Wakaonehara was concerned with moving forward, Raiho shifted laterally and snuck his left arm behind his prey. Then, he used those guns to heft Wakaonehara up off the dohyo and slam him to the dohyo. Abisetaoishi. Yes, I think he’s clearly my leading candidate for the yusho.
Another Miyagino-beya recruit from earlier this year, Takabaho, took on Goseiryu from Sakaigawa-beya. Goseiryu was primed to go at the word, “jump”. He had cleared Jonokuchi and was headed for Sandanme but a sudden kyujo in September has brought him back to the top of Jonokuchi. After charging into Takabaho, one quick shift-and-shove was enough for Goseiryu to walk away with the win.
Daitenshin and Kato both started their careers earlier this year. These two have met before and Kato is Kato, extremely wary of a strong tachiai. He wanted to make this tachiai go by quickly, so he brushed the dohyo. Apparently he didn’t touch so the head shimpan called a matta (not the gyoji, as is usual) and they did it again. Take two was more of the same, a brush of a tachiai and a quick slapdown win for Daitenshin.
Tamanotora and Yoshinofuji know each other well as they have fought in each basho of their short careers. Tamanotora who won’t celebrate his 16th birthday until late December but already has a chonmage. Yoshinofuji, on the other hand, is 20 years old and still sports zambara, long hair. Yoshinofuji successfully got inside to force a grapple as Tamanotora’s wins come from pusher/thrusting sumo and has yet to mark a win by yorikiri. With Tamanotora wrapped up and too high to mount an effective counter-attack, Yoshinofuji drove forward, launching both into the shimpan below. Yoshinofuji by yorikiri.
Teens vs Veterans
Daitensho, not to be confused with Daitenshin, is another 15-year-old recruit from earlier this year. He took on a former Makushita regular, Inoue, whose injury dropped him to the bottom division. After four consecutive kyujo, Inoue still needed three more one-and-done tournaments to reach this point where he’s ready for a full tournament. Inoue’s power was just too much for Daitensho, who ended up in a heap at the base of the dohyo.
Next up, Moriurara faced Wakayahara. Wakayahara steamrolled Moriurara, shoving him around the ring until he collapsed over the straw bales. Sonojun manhandled Sawanofuji in similar fashion, driving the veteran straight back. While Moriurara pivoted, Sawanofuji just ended things by walking back and out.
Byakuen was charged up for this bout with Azumayama, a Jonidan regular, but, “Gah!,” he lost his balance at the tachiai and his knee touched. I think he would have had a chance at the win and am optimistic about his chances for promotion.
Chiyoshishi had just started his sumo career this year but got injured and fell off the banzuke and had to redo his maezumo last basho. With only four bouts on his resume, and that injury, it’s tough to gage how big of a factor he’ll play in the Jonokuchi yusho race. His first opponent was Tsuyasato, who also redid maezumo…for the second time in two years. When Tsuyasato does compete, he’s a hatakikomi-prone pusher/thruster. He’s got a 24-12 record in bouts decided by oshidashi, but he’s lost nine to hatakikomi. Make that an even ten as Chiyoshishi took quick advantage of that weakness and joined the others in the winners’ bracket.
Matsuzawa, like Byakuen, is a fresh-faced teenager who began his sumo career this year and has slowly been moving up the Jonokuchi ladder. Today, he faced Wakayutaka and certainly gave it his all. I thought he might be able to pull off some trickery there on the edge but the larger Wakayutaka was able to force him out as they both tumbled into a heap.
Kirinohana began his sumo career last year, just before this COVID nightmare took hold. He’s been trying to escape Jonokuchi and with more valiant effort like today, he might make it out. However, Daishojo is a longtime veteran who has taken much more forceful tsuppari during his 20+ years on the dohyo. Daishojo managed to get his arm around Kirinohana’s shoulder and pulled him down for the katasukashi win.
Itakozakura began his sumo career when Nirvana taped that infamous Unplugged session and has spent most of the past few decades in Jonidan — not quite cracking into Sandanme. His opponent, Kawamura, of Naruto-beya, had been steadily improving and reached Sandanme before injury made him to fall back to the lower division. Kawamura came back today with a little wrap on his ankle and some forceful shoves as he made quick work of Itakozakura.
Kawamura and Chiyoshishi can certainly be a couple of dark horses in this Jonokuchi yusho race. They both seem fit and more than capable of beating most of the Jonokuchi regulars.
Nakaishi came back today from a long kyujo. He is a seven-year veteran who had spent a decent spell in Sandanme before the recent injury dropped him to the bottom of the banzuke. He had the obligatory 1-bout basho in September (a loss) to keep from having to do maezumo again. In his first match back to regular action, he faced Shonanzakura’s replacement, Higohikari, and for a few seconds led the field with one win.
Hokutosato and Ishihara were next up, neither particularly interested in a tachiai, as they eased into a careful belt battle. Ishihara was the stronger of the two, leaning enough to force Hokutosato over the tawara.
Sawaisamu met Kyonosato at the center of the dohyo but provided zero offensive capability, instead appearing to look for the exit. Kyonosato obliged by guiding his opponent to the back of the dohyo.
Who we’re watching
Raiho is a clear standout from this group and my favorite for the yusho. He’s got experience and six more years of strength-training than many of the young recruits. However, he is not banged up like many of the veterans. That said, there are a number of strong, young men standing in his way. Maybe Goseiryu, Daitenshin, or Yoshinofuji, on a very good day?