Wow, here we are at the final day of act 2 of the Hatsu basho. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. Done and done. We have Mitakeumi vs Terunofuji for the cup. We have 4 rikishi with 7-2 scores that may get their kachi-koshi today, and a whole host about 18 rikishi currently in the grip of the torikumi mechanism I call “Darwin’s Funnel”.
With it being day 10, the goal for the funnel is to have as many rikishi as possible end the day with 5-5 scores. A few 6-4s and 4-6s will work too, but the sweet spot for the funnel will be 5-5. While us sumo fans can marvel at the machinery, for the rikishi I think it’s got to be very annoying, and maybe a bit demoralizing, too. Sumo life is never easy, and I think almost never gentle.
Hunt Group: Terunofuji
Chasers: Abi, Takarafuji, Kotonowaka, Kotoeko
6 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 10
Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Good old Shohozan, he’s back in the top division for a visit, but given his 3-6 score, the chances of him taking a promotion slot are slim. Worse yet, Tochinoshin tends to wipe the floor with him, holding a 16-9 career advantage. But that may not matter at all today with these two, as they are both well below their physical optimum, and will just do whatever their bodies can manage today.
Chiyomaru vs Kotoeko – The goal here is a Kotoeko win, security kachi-koshi and handing Chiyomaru his 5th loss at the same time to keep him squarely in the funnel. The obstacle to this outcome? Chiyomaru is adept at beating Kotoeko (8-5) and is fighting well this basho. Could be a rowdy fight.
Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – The winner stays in the middle of the funnel at 5-5, the loser edges closer to make-koshi. You can see the pain on both of their faces as they mount and dismount the dohyo each day, so its kind of brutal to see them carry on, but again – sumo is tough.
Ishiura vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka has never won a match against Ishiura, in 4 attempts. But if he can do it today, it will be kachi-koshi for him, and it will kick Ishiura into the middle of the funnel with a 5-5. Can Kotonowaka overcome the odds?
Oho vs Chiyotairyu – First time ever match, and I would love to see Chiyotairyu blast into Oho at full power, just to give him the experience of what it’s like to take that kind of hit. I don’t know if Chiyotairyu has any of those in him at this point. Looking at the stats, I am somewhat amazed that these guys are not too far apart in terms of height and weight.
Sadanoumi vs Wakamotoharu – Loser of this match gets shoved back into the funnel at 5-5, and the odds are that fate will befall Wakamotoharu. He has an 0-2 career record against Sadanoumi, who is fighting well enough to put up a credible fight today.
Kaisei vs Akua – Kaisei needs 3 more wins out of the next 6 matches to hit kachi-koshi. This should be possible for him, and I would hope he can pull it off. He has an easy one today, with Akua looking like a human shipwreck in terms of his sumo. The biggest risk is that Akua would get behind Kaisei, and hurry him out.
Chiyonokuni vs Tsurugisho – Could today, at long last, the THE day that Chiyonokuni wins his first match? Or is he destined to hit the rare zenpai (zero wins) and pick up one of the most ignoble marks in sumo? He has a 5-2 career advantage over Tsurugisho, who has lost the last 2 in a row. But we really don’t know how banged up Chiyonokuni is.
Terutsuyoshi vs Tobizaru – Oh good, after a series of fairly grim pairings, now we get these two high action, high agility rikishi head to head near the middle of the top division schedule. They are nearly tied at 6-5 over their career, and I think we could see some intense action from this match.
Ichiyamamoto vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji has won their only prior match, which was back in Nagoya last year. If he should pick up this match (which he should) it will be kachi-koshi for Takarafuji.
Hoshoryu vs Shimanoumi – I would favor Hoshoryu in this match, as his sumo is looking well rounded, and he’s fighting well in multiple forms this January. But Shimanoumi needs to win today in order to keep pace with any chance of pulling out a kachi-koshi this tournament.
Myogiryu vs Chiyoshoma – The winner gets to advance to 5-5, staying centered in the funnel. The loser goes to 4-6 and inches closer to make-koshi. Their career records is 3-3, so this is about as even as you can get.
Okinoumi vs Abi – An Abi win today would put him at 8 wins, and Okinoumi at 8 losses. The schedulers love these “resolution” matches, where they can clean up multiple records with a single fight. The kink in that plan is that Okinoumi is aware of at lest a few ways to defeat “Abi-Zumo”.
Tamawashi vs Ichinojo – After the day 9 late hit, I sort of want Ichinojo to get a face full of dirt today. Tamawashi is quite skilled at putting people in painful holds and then taking them down. But with the Boulder finally learning to be patient, enormous and stand his ground, it may be tougher than ever to get him to supply the force and momentum to throw such a big man around.
Wakatakakage vs Kiribayama – Maybe the goal here is for a Wakatakakage win, taking him to 5-5. Kiribayama is fairly close to a lost cause at 3-6, so maybe this is the match where we see if he can claw himself back to fight his way into the funnel, or if he is just going to coast to a make-koshi.
Meisei vs Endo – Endo leads the series 5-2, but he has been terrible this basho, and comes in with a 2-7 record. A loss today is make-koshi for him, and maybe that is the point. Get him decided early and get him out of the way of the funnel. A win would give Meisei the desired 5-5 score, as well….
Ura vs Daieisho – Mega thruster Daieisho is a great opponent for Ura’s grab-and-tug sumo. Daieisho will be sending arms and hands flying in Ura’s direction with great speed and high frequency. One of them will get caught, twisted and used to pull the rest of Daieisho into an uncomfortable position, followed by a quick excursion out or down. At least that’s what Ura has in mind. Daieisho just needs two big hits amidships to send Ura out. Who will run their attack plan better? I can’t wait to find out.
Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – A very even match with 12-10 over their career. I would really think that Hokutofuji can give the Original Tadpole the business today, but he has only been at about 80% genki, while Mitakeumi is in what may be his best form ever.
Takanosho vs Shodai – If Shodai should win today (8-3 career advantage) they would both head to day 11 with matching 5-5 records, and be the highest ranking people in the funnel. Given that neither of them has really fought well this basho, this is what I do hope happens.
Terunofuji vs Onosho – Surprise surprise! Onosho holds a 4-3 career record on Terunofuji. But I will also state that includes a spectacular Onosho loss on day 4 of Kyushu via kimedashi. Since returning to the top division, the record is 3-2 in favor of Terunofuji. Given that Onosho is fighting well this basho, I expect sparks to fly in the final match.