With the middle day behind us, it’s time to launch into the second week. Week 2 is fraught with peril. For starters, its where current yusho race leader Mitakeumi tends to fade out, and long term fans of the sport know not to pin any yusho or Ozeki hopes on that guy just yet. While we all hope that he can elevate his sumo and remain strong all the way to day 15, we understand how draining the fight schedule can be.
But to me, the big news is the 15-18 people who are now caught in Darwin’s funnel. This is a good sized cohort, and I look forward to the scheduling committee’s efforts to deliver as many of them as possible to a score of 7-7 at the end of day 14. If they decide to do this, you will see 3 match groups, a “loser track” where everyone is headed for make-koshi. A “winner track” where everyone is headed for kachi-koshi, and the “funnel”. Funnel members fight each other except if they get a score high enough to escape, then they fight someone from the “Winner track” to push them back in. It’s become a bit of a hobby for the folks who draw up the torikumi, and after initially being annoyed by it, I can now see how it’s another subtle layer of brutality woven into sumo. So Japanese, I love it.
Kotoshoho defeats Tsurugisho – Chest to chest at the tachiai, and then a battle of strength. Tsurugisho seems to be moving a bit better, and can actually return power when fighting yotsu, so that may be why we see him prefer fighting chest to chest now. He tries to rotate Kotoshoho out a couple of times, but can’t quite get the timing right, and Kotoshoho lines up a big push center-mass when they are at the bales, taking the match and improving to 7-1. I would guess he’s back in the top division in Osaka.
Kotonowaka defeats Aoiyama – Another high-mass thruster relegated to yotsu due to what we suspect is an injury. Aoiyama kept trying to find a way to execute a pull forward / down, and Kotonowaka was having none of it. I think Aoiyama got frustrated, and tried a leg trip, which only took him perilously off balance and gave Kotonowaka the match. Kotonowaka now 6-2.
Oho defeats Ichiyamamoto – Oho wisely did not let Ichiyamamoto get any kind of thrusting attack going. Rather Oho simply blasted ahead with full power, with his hands in direct contact with Ichiyamamoto’s chest. It’s denshamichi time, and Oho is the Yamanote line, improving to 5-2.
Yutakayama defeats Kaisei – Glad to know Yutakayama has studied this month’s prior matches. He sets up to attack Kaisei from the side, which seems to work every time it’s tried. Yutakayama drives Kaisei out with a yorikiri, and both end the day at 4-4, squarely in the funnel.
Wakamotoharu defeats Ishiura – Ishiura found himself in a tough spot after his opening combo did not quite connect. He was able to set up a right side ottsuke to keep Wakamotoharu from getting a left hand grip, but then it was stalemate at the center of the dohyo. Not really able to evolve his position from there, it was up to Wakamotoharu to make the next move, which was an hitakaikomi, winning the match. Both finish at 4-4 and join the growing crowd in the middle of the funnel.
Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Where has this version of Kotoeko been? This is the one I really like, he’s fast, tenacious and wins more than he loses. Sadanoumi launched out of the tachiai slower than is his custom, and I think he was suspecting something like what happened. Kotoeko pulled Sadanoumi forward, stepped to the side and thrust him down to advance to 6-2, leaving Sadanoumi at 4-4 to join the funnel group.
Tochinoshin defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi immediately latches on to Tochinoshin’s left arm, in a bit to keep Tochinoshin’s primary weapon out of the match. But Terutsuyoshi can’t maintain the hold, and Tochinoshin gets his left hand outside grip. Three steps later Terutsuyoshi is out, and Tochinoshin has improved to 4-4, and joins the funnel.
Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – Off speed tachiai from Chiyotairyu, as I think he suspected some mischief from Myogiryu at the tachiai. Rather than his normal “Win in the first 5 seconds” match plan, Chiyotairyu works to center Myogiryu and takes his time. When he is ready, he drives Myogiryu out for his 3rd win to improve to 3-5. Myogiryu is 4-4, and his ticket is punched to enter the funnel.
Chiyomaru defeats Akua – Chiyomaru with a standup tachiai, he caught Akua and went directly into a thrusting attack combo. The two then proceeded to dial up the power on their blows, with Akua trying for a round-house right hand slap at one point. Not content with bashing each other’s face, these two then took to running each other back and forth across the dohyo. Both kept their footing well enough, but with that much mass in motion, the energy drain was enormous. But Chiyomaru caught a lucky break as Akua attempted to break contact. Finding himself behind Akua, Chiyomaru took him down from behind, picking up the win. He’s now 5-3.
Takarafuji defeats Shimanoumi – I have to say it again, I love how efficient Takarafuji’s sumo is. He keep his body movements to an absolute minimum to reduce opportunities for counter attack. Most days it works. Today, it worked very well indeed. He let Shimanoumi do most of the work, and at one point Shimanoumi rallies and nearly takes the match, but Takarafuji recovers, consolidates his stance, and then slaps Shimanoumi to the clay. Takarafuji improves to 6-2, Shimanoumi joins the funnel.
Hoshoryu defeats Abi – Wow, I guess that’s one way to beat Abi-sumo. Abi opens with his traditional double-arm attack, and Hoshoryu absorbs it, and delivers maximum force center mass. Done with the right timing (as it was today) there is a narrow window where Abi resets his arms to attack again. That attack never came as Hoshoryu already had him tumbling back and one step later he’s in the front row visiting Dr Takasu and the posture princess. Hoshoryu improves to 5-3, and Abi gets blown out of the yusho race for now.
Onosho defeats Chiyonokuni – No, this wasn’t the day that Chiyonokuni won his first match. But he did open quite well, and took control of the match. He threw it out the window with a clumsy pulling attempt that gave Onosho the initiative. At that point it was all Onosho, who ran Chiyonokuni down, got behind him and pancaked him on the east side tawara. Onosho improves to 6-2.
Tobizaru defeats Chiyoshoma – Alas, the double flying henka did not materialize. But we did get a Tobizaru hit and shift, which netted Tobizaru a strong right hand outside grip. Tobizaru rode that right hand grip all the way to the win, putting Chiyoshoma on the “spin” cycle and then muscling him over the bales. Tobizaru improves to 4-4 and adds his name to the funnel.
Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi took the early advantage, and kept Hokutofuji from getting either a mawashi grip or a nodowa. With both of his opening gambits blown, Hokutofuji rode the thrust, hoping for a chance to break contact. It came, but Tamawashi immediately re-engaged, though this time Hokutofuji had better lower body configuration. As Tamawashi ran Hokutofuji out, Hokutofuji delivered a massive thrust down, slamming Tamawashi to the clay with a reverberating thud as he had the win knocked out of him. Hokutofuji was already out, so the match went to Tamawashi who improves to 6-2. That mark on the janome where Tamawashi landed was epic.
Wakatakakage defeats Ichinojo – Wakatakakage decided to let Ichinojo use his “Boulder” technique, which was a gutsy move. There they stood, with Ichinojo holding Wakatakakage’s arm in a double arm bar. Where this went wrong for Ichinojo is he did not wait Wakatakakage out nearly long enough. When Ichinojo advanced, Wakatakakage had plenty of stamina left, and he brought Ichinojo down with a step to the side followed by a tsukiotoshi. Wakatakakage improves to 3-5, and Ichinojo joins the funnel with 4-4.
Kiribayama defeats Meisei – Meisei had a fair opening combo, and neither man wanted to take up defensive sumo, so attack vs attack it was. Kiribayama generated slightly more forward pressure, but he was able to catch Meisei off balance, and bring him down with an oshitaoshi. Kiribayama picks up his second win of the basho improving to 2-6.
Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – Daieisho attacks first, and takes control of the match at the tachiai. He’s hitting well, but Mitakeumi is not moving back even a half step. After adapting to Daieisho’s thrusting rhythm, Mitakeumi picks just the right moment to step back, and re-engage. He lands a right hand grip, and at that point Daieisho’s match has ended. Mitakeumi runs him about for a moment, and then ejects what’s left over the east side bales. Mitakeumi remains perfect at 8=0, is kachi-koshi, and in sole lead for the cup awarded 1 week from today.
Ura defeats Takanosho – Well, thank you for trying Takanosho. As sometimes happen in first ever matches against Ura, the opponent is not quite sure what to do. Ura has a plan, he takes a half step to the side, grabs Takanosho’s right leg and walks Onigiri-kun out for a quick win. Both end the day at 4-4, and muscle their way into the growing crowd in the funnel.
Shodai defeats Endo – Ok, feeling a bit better now, as we got a half assed “wall of daikon” today, which is better than none. Endo took early advantage and had Shodai struggling to respond. Thankfully he remembered his spirit vegetable and invoked the holy radish. The best news? Shodai is now 4-4 and lumbers into that over-sized funnel group.
Terunofuji defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi did a fair job with this match, he attempted some well considered hand placements at the tachiai, but was shut down by Terunofuji’s double outside grip. Rather than try to out sumo Okinoumi, Terunofuji opted to “lift and carry”, which did the trick and secure his 7th win, now 7-1.