For those who may have missed it earlier, Yokozuna Terunofuji has withdrawn from competition, citing knee and foot problems. This explains his inability to maintain his defensive stance, and why he suddenly became fairly easy to move around the dohyo. We dearly hope that he can recover and return strong for May.
It my humble opinion as a sumo blogger, the Haru banzuke may be the sharpest joi-jin we have seen in some time. I think its a natural process following the sunset run of an overwhelmingly dominant, generation defining rikishi like Hakuho, that a short time later we would see strong young rikishi dramatically improve their sumo. For a few years, Team Tachiai have been on a theme that the competition plane was very flat, and that anyone could yusho in a given month. But I look at Abi, Wakatakakage, Hoshoryu, Kiribayama, and even Kotonowaka, I see strong competition for the next few years, and it’s glorious.
I find myself wondering, will any of them be called upon to put dirt on undefeated front runner Takayasu? As a former Ozeki, Takayasu’s sumo is technically capable of shutting down any of them. I hope the schedulers give us a weekend treat with a match between the early favorite, and one of these rising stars.
Tsurugisho defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki had a deep grip at the tachiai, but there is just too much Tsurugisho to push back when Tsurugisho is healthy and wants to move forward. Tsurugisho improves to 3-3.
Kotoshoho defeats Ichiyamamoto – Kotoshoho had his hands inside, and dialed up the forward pressure. Ichiyamamoto tried something at the tawara, but had already stepped out, then fell down as well. Ok… Kotoshoho improves to 3-3.
Nishikigi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama put a lot of his hopes on that right hand nodowa at the tachiai, which he could only maintain for a moment. Nishikigi went center-mass, found good hand placement, and moved Yutakayama first back, and then out. Nishikigi advances to 4-2.
Kotokuzan defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni has a nice opening volley, and then Kotokuzan just explodes with tsuppari. I have not seen him do that for most of this tournament, and Chiyonokuni can’t keep his feet under the torrent of blows raining down on him. Kotokuzan pick up win number 3 to finish 3-3.
Kotoeko defeats Akua – Akua resorted to pulling early, I am going to guess because he knows Kotoeko has his number. All that happened was Akua helped speed up the result with that move, as Kotoeko rapidly drives him back, then across the bales to advance to 4-2.
Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – I was surprised to see Chiyotairyu reach for Tochinoshin’s belt and take the match chest to chest. I think that Tochinoshin’s strike and smash combat sumo must be rather painful, as it does not take too much of it before opponents are looking for some way to make it stop. Chiyotairyu succeeds in his gambit, and the two lock up chest to chest for some time. After consolidating his grip, we get to see Tochinoshin use what he has left of the sky-crane to lift Chiyotairyu over the bales, improving to 4-2, which to me is a pleasant and welcome surprise.
Chiyomaru defeats Myogiryu – News flash, Osaka – Chiyomaru has won 2 in a row, he must of secured a steady supply of the correct kind of yakitori. As we have seen before, going chest to chest with Chiyomaru may seem like an accomplishment on the road to victory, but you quickly realize you are now attached to Chiyomaru, which comes with it’s own set of problems. So Chiyomaru seems comfortable wearing down Myogiryu standing in the middle of the ring, until Myogiryu and Chiyomaru drives him down to advance to 2-4.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Aoiyama – Terutsuyoshi continues his dominance over Aoiyama. Aoiyama starts with strong V-Twin rope-a-dope on Terutsuyoshi’s head, juggling it like a koosh-ball. As Aoiyama is busy discombobulating Terutsuyoshi, Terutsuyoshi gets his right hand inside, and finds Aoiyama’s belt. The match changes tone and tempo as Aoiyama puts everything into stopping multiple and repeated attempts by Terutsuyoshi to rotate and throw. He eventually gets far enough under Aoiyama to raise him up and turn, and Aoiyama hits the clay. Both men finish 3-3.
Sadanoumi defeats Tobizaru – As expected, a wild flailing match that showcased both Sadanoumi’s speed, but Tobizaru’s agility as well. It looked to end with a glorious mutual throw, but a monoii ensued. Truth be told, Tobizaru had touched down about half way through the match, but kept fighting on. That cheeky monkey! Win goes to Sadanoumi, who picks up a much needed second white star to finish 2-4.
Takayasu defeats Shimanoumi – Takayasu goes directly for the arm pits (hazu-oshi) and shuts down anything Shimanoumi might have thought he wanted to try. Three steps later, Shimanoumi is off of the dohyo, and Takayasu has win number 6 to be 6-0, and the sole leader for Haru going into the middle weekend.
Wakamotoharu defeats Okinoumi – We could see this yatsu battle from yesterday, and they did not disappoint. Okinoumi defended well, but could not maintain his defensive foot placement. I think this comes down to Okinoumi’s accumulated career damage. Wakamotoharu kept control with his left hand inside grip, and worked Okinoumi out a piece at a time. Solid work. Wakamotoharu now 4-2.
Kotonowaka defeats Chiyoshoma – It was surprised to see Kotonowaka on defense, and allowing Chiyoshoma to control the starting stages of this match. Chiyoshoma put himself chest to chest with Kotonowaka, and found the Sadogatake man’s higher mass a bit of a challenge to shift. He tried a leg pick and a couple of rapid shifts, but Kotonowaka was set on defense, and grew roots into the clay. Chiyoshoma tried to finish with a throw, but he hit the clay a moment before Kotonowaka, giving him the win. Kotonowaka improves to 5-1.
Endo defeats Hokutofuji – I had some hope for this match, but Hokutofuji lost his nerve and tried to pull Endo down on his second step. Huge mistake and it would never have payed out. Instead he had no defense against Endo’s charge, and he was out of the match by the 3rd step. Endo now 4-2.
Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji certainly is having one of his bad tournaments. I am sure there is an injury in there somewhere, but right now he can’t do much with his trademark defensive sumo. Today Daieisho dialed up the pressure center mass while Takarafuji tried to set his feet, but could not hold. Daieisho improves to 4-2.
Ichinojo defeats Ura – Compliments to Ichinojo, who played the considerable size difference with Ura with great effect. Ura has a single win so far, and I think he’s going to have to consider what changes he might make to his sumo to actually win matches in the joi-jin. For Ichinojo, now 4-2, thank you for the reminder that being enormous is sometimes a valid sumo strategy.
Wakatakakage defeats Takanosho – Takanosho opened strong and was on the attack for the bulk of this match. I think we got to see Wakatakakage use some very nice reactive sumo today, on defense, staying in the match and in the ring, in spite of Takanosho’s sharp offense. Wakatakakage waited him out, and when the chance presented itself, slammed Takanosho to the clay. Wakatakakage now 5-1.
Hoshoryu defeats Abi – Abi attacked strongly with his traditional double arm style, and had the match a heartbeat away from victory. But man, Hoshoryu decided he had had enough of this stuff, found center mass and connected to Abi’s torso with both hands. Now in control, he ran forward, pushing Abi out at speed and into the crowd. The loss knocks Abi out of the group 1 win behind Takayasu, and increases his own record to 3-3 for March.
Takakeisho defeats Kiribayama – I think Takakeisho is done screwing around, and is focused on maintaining his rank. This comes as a relief as his first few matches of Haru were pretty rough by most standards. Today he took Kiribayama out with some fine wave action tsuppari, and like most rikishi, Kiribayama really had no idea what to do after the first wave it. Takakeisho 4-2, 4 more wins to clear kadoban.
Tamawashi defeats Shodai – No, Shodai will most likely not clear kadoban. He just does not have the strength to fight right now, at least not at Ozeki level. Shodai took a big hit at the tachiai from Tamawashi, and was immediately out. Just sad to watch. Tamawashi picks up a much needed win to improve to 3-3.
Mitakeumi defeats Meisei – Mitakeumi back to quality sumo today, he keeps Meisei in front of him, and well bracketed. Meisei tries a couple of escape moves, but can’t break contact. Mitakeumi keeps his feet heavy and keeps moving forward, working Meisei out for a win. Mitakeumi stays 1 behind Takayasu at 5-1.