Act 1 is complete, and we are left with a single rikishi atop the leaderboard. In addition, both winless rikishi picked up their first white stars today, as the basho sets up for a tumultuous middle weekend. I think its time for sumo fans to take a moment to study Kiribayama. After a pair of consecutive 6-9 make-koshi dropping him out of the san’yaku, he seems to be in good form for Osaka. Although he can produce some solid sumo, he seems to lose the “big” matches against high ranking opponents. I believe that some component of that is mental, as in maybe he does not quite have the confidence yet of someone like Tamawashi or Yoshikaze, who sees every opponent as another piece of meat to bash into submission. But there is some evidence he is starting to set aside that habit and just fight with whatever he can. I am going to guess that he and Hoshoryu will be toe to toe in the san’yaku once they setting into their sumo, and could possibly become rivals. Some of the best sumotori honed their skills through rivalry, and those rivalry make for storied sumo history. ?Here’s to hoping for the future.
Oho defeats Ichiyamamoto – Where was this version of Oho in January. He looked poised, confident, and heavy. He barely lifts his feet, and just shoves Ichiyamamoto aside. Brilliant stuff. Oho advances to 4-1, and may have another shot at the top division soon.
Tochinoshin defeats Kotokuzan – Once again we see Tochinoshin trading blows with his opponent rather than working for a battle hug. As odd as it is to my eye, who is used to seeing him fighting yotsu all these years, its actually working for him. He keeps batting Kotokuzan about until Kotokuzan loses his footing and hits the clay. Tochinoshin advances to 3-2.
Kagayaki defeats Yutakayama – So I am going to proclaim that Kagayaki’s ring rust is no longer present, he’s up to 4-1, and just dispatched Yutakayama. Sharp tachiai, and he found his hands inside, but his body too close for a good thrust. Rather than back up, he just worked with it, put his hands around Yutakayama and enjoyed his double inside grip to quickly win by yorikiri.
Kotoshoho defeats Akua – A swift move by Kotoshoho re-routed Akua at the tachiai, and put Kotoshoho behind him. It was fast work to then push Akua out from behind, as Kotoshoho improves to 2-3, picking up a much needed win.
Chiyonokuni defeats Nishikigi – Chiyonokuni read that match perfectly. Knowing Nishikigi really needs to maintain contact with his opponent, Chiyonokuni kept close, and drew Nishikigi forward. With Nishikigi reaching for a belt hold, Chiyonokuni slapped him down for a quick win, to advance to 4-1.
Chiyomaru defeats Terutsuyoshi – Chiyomaru picks up his first win of Haru. Terutsuyoshi came in low at the tachiai, but pretty much bounced off his enormous belly. Chiyomaru turned this match into a chase, and as Terutsuyoshi circled away, slapped him down in traditional Chiyomaru style. Always best to mind your balance around Chiyomaru. He is now 1-4.
Aoiyama defeats Chiyotairyu – Aoiyama connects first at the tachiai, shutting down Chiyotairyu’s forward rush. From there it was outstanding hand placement that kept Chiyotairyu moving back, and three steps later, out. If you want to see a textbook oshi match, review this one. Aoiyama was about perfect today, and ends the match 3-2.
Kotoeko defeats Shimanoumi – Kotoeko continues his unexplainable dominance of Shimanoumi, now at 12-3. Shimanoumi put in about twice as much sumo action into this match as Kotoeko, but in a brief moment, allowed Kotoeko a left hand mawashi grip, and that was all he needed to put Shimanoumi away. Kotoeko improves to 3-2.
Wakamotoharu defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu did not keep at thrusting range at the tachiai, and allowed Wakamotoharu to get a belt grip and dictate the match to be yotsu. This really gave him a firm advantage, and the rest of the bout was Wakamotoharu showing great form, and walking Myogiryu out. Both men end the day 3-2.
Tobizaru defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma’s right foot was a bit too far back at the initial merge, and it cost him the ability to advance strongly at the second step. As a result, he did not move Tobizaru out of the center of the ring, and allowed monkey-boy a chance to rally and advance. Tobizaru gets a left hand grip, and tugs Chiyoshoma’s mawashi back and forth quite a bit, and for some reason Chiyoshoma goes soft and lets Tobizaru walk him out. Ok… Tobizaru now 3-2.
Kotonowaka defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi count not overcome Kotonowaka’s solid, well-placed grip. Sure, Okinoumi is fighting at what looks like reduced power, but Kotonowaka’s sumo really seems to get better each week. He’s now 4-1.
Hokutofuji defeats Sadanoumi – Man, look at how low Hokutofuji stays during this match. For a man his size both in height and girth, that is quite impressive. In fact, Sadanoumi sets up in great form, but just can’t contend with that much mass at that height. Solid performance for Hokutofuji, and he improves to 3-2.
Takayasu defeats Takarafuji – Takayasu, for the first time this basho, showed a hint of his “wild man sumo” that was probably the cause for him losing Ozeki. But he does settle down and takes a chest to chest fight to Takarafuji. He keeps up the pressure, never letting Takarafuji plant his feet and lower his hips to defend. He remains unbeaten at 5-0.
Ichinojo defeats Endo – My 5 year old son sometimes refers to Ichinojo as “Big Sumo”, and on days like today, that moniker fits nicely. He breaks Endo’s grip and renders him little more than ballast as “Big Sumo” walks forward to place a clearly disappointed Endo on the back side of the bales. Both end the day 3-2. Sometimes, being enormous is a valid sumo strategy.
Daieisho defeats Ura – Big change in tachiai from Daieisho today, and it was well warranted. Whatever Ura had in mind at the tachiai was discarded, and it left him poorly balanced for the rest of the match. Although we got to see Ura try a couple of energetic combos, he never did quite have his feet stable, and Daieisho waited for his moment to blast Ura off the dohyo with a forceful tsukidashi. Daieisho improves to 3-2.
Abi defeats Takanosho – Ok, that’s two days in a row. Abi is up to something, and I like it. Today he augmented his double arm thrust combo with a grab and tug against Takanosho to finish the match. Takanosho was completely unprepared for that one, as was I. They assigned the kimarate as hikkake, or “arm-grabbing force out”. Abi is 4-1, and growing more inventive by the day. Oh yes, and for the second match in a row, Hoshoryu gets a rikishi deposited in his lap. Quite the popular fellow.
Wakatakakage defeats Hoshoryu – Perhaps it was all of the effort Hoshoryu had to put into dodging Ura and Takanosho. But Hoshoryu really did not have much offense today, and it was a rapid butsugari style grab and push for Wakatakakage. He joins Abi as a member of the Sekiwake 4-1 club.
Shodai defeats Onosho – Well, it was rough, it almost didn’t happen, but Shodai did in fact win his first match today. Onosho charged in with a lot of power, and controlled the match until Shodai landed a right hand inside. At that moment Onosho could have escaped, but then Shodai’s right hand found Onosho’s mawashi, and the Ozeki had a chance to win. He wasted no time, rotating into a most welcome uwatenage, sending Onosho to the clay. Shodai finally puts his first white star on the board at 1-4.
Kiribayama defeats Mitakeumi – Firstly, Kiribayama is starting to take on almost Yoshikaze levels of “on any given day, this guy can beat you” sort of feel. He was in the back seat for the first ¾ of this match, but for some reason Mitakeumi decided he was going to pause and try to consolidate his controlling position. I am going to guess because he had Kiribayama left hand outside, Mitakeumi assumed that Kiribayama was not much of a threat. Bad choice, shin-Ozeki. Kiribayama worked with what he had, and marched a surprised Mitakeumi out. That’s Mitakeumi’s first loss of Haru, and both end the day 4-1.
Takakeisho defeats Meisei – Takakeisho continues to put himself in sub-optimal positions for “his brand of sumo”. Today he stayed closer to Meisei than is typical for a Takakeisho match, but he made it work. Meisei had a few good returns in the first few steps from the tachiai, but Takakeisho found his mark and kept the pressure going, sending Meisei out. Takakeisho now 3-2.
Tamawashi defeats Terunofuji – We saw it again today. In Terunofuji’s run to Yokozuna, and even in January, his match style was to absorb the tachiai, set up a strong and stable defense, and wait his opponent out. Something has him unable to do that. I have heard some reports of a foot injury troubling the Yokozuna, and if true he should just go kyujo now. It manifested itself today in Terunofuji not being able to maintain his position in the face of Tamawashi’s thrusting attack, which sent the Yokozuna over the side of the dohyo to land with an oversize resounding thud inches away from the yobidashi’s pedestal. That’s a kinboshi for Tamawashi, his 5th, as he advances to 2-3.