Might he do it? Shodai explained before the basho that he suffers with what doctors have labeled “Long Covid”, lingering effects of the pandemic. It can sap a person’s energy, their strength and leave them with drastically reduced lung capacity and blood oxygenation. People I know who suffer from it continue to have problems, nearly a year after their initial Covid-19 diagnosis. This was going to be a brutal tournament for Shodai, who came to Osaka kadoban after a 6-9 finish at Hatsu. He needs 8 wins to maintain his rank. He 5 of his first 6 matches, and had no energy, no power in any of his fights.
But he has now won 3 in a row, and somehow seems to be gutting it out in most admirable style. Should he manage to get his 8 wins, I think it will be a testament to his fighting spirit and determination. He needs to win 4 of the next 6, which is a tall order at any rank, doubly so for an Ozeki with reduced stamina and energy. The key to a success, should he reach his 8, may be Yokozuna Terunofuji’s kyujo. The lack of a fight against the kaiju may be the difference between make and kachi koshi for him.
Nishikigi defeats Hidenoumi – Amazing to see the patience Nishikigi displayed today. He secured each element of his victory a piece at a time, and was in no rush to put them together. 6-3 for him at the end of day 9, while Juryo visitor Hidenoumi goes home with a loss.
Yutakayama defeats Ichiyamamoto – Yutakayama breaks his 4 match losing streak, and I am sure is feeling quite relieved. It was a risky move for Yutakayama, he backed Ichiyamamoto up and then pulled him forward. Luckily he caught him unprepared, and dropped him on third step to improve to 4-5.
Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshoho – Whatever knee problems were plaguing Tochinoshin when he started Haru seem to be contained at the moment. Tochinoshin is moving well enough to take apart Kotoshoho with a second pulling combo after his first one failed. While we would all rather see Tochinoshin win moving forward, it’s a win and it counts. Tochinoshin 6-3.
Kotokuzan defeats Chiyomaru – One of the great things about Chiyomaru, people can rightly exclaim, “how can a guy that big and round be that agile?” It’s one of the wonders of Chiyomaru. His feet are dialed in today, but his tsuppari attacks seem powerless. Points to Kotokuzan for sticking with Chiyomaru, and eventually pushing him out. Kotokuzan 5-4.
Chiyotairyu defeats Akua – I think Akua’s choice to start the match with a big heaping spoonful of lateral motion was a good idea. But Chiyotairyu was ready for it, and kept Akua centered. They locked up, and worked to wear each other down. After a fair amount of stamina check time, Chiyotairyu advances to employ his favored “stand them up, pull them down” combo, which takes Akua to the clay, and gives Chiyotairyu a 4-5 finish for day 9.
Kotoeko defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki on the attack early, but lets Kotoeko get a right hand inside position. Kagayaki counters with a left hand outside, lifting and moving forward. But he neglects his balance and leaves himself heavy on his right foot. In a flash, Kotoeko pivots into a sukuinage, dropping Kagayaki for a loss. Kotoeko advances to 6-3.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Sadanoumi – Terutsuyoshi is almost bent double at the tachiai, I immediately wonder; “Can he fight like that?” Sadanoumi reaches over Terutsuyoshi’s back, and grips the smaller man’s mawashi. But Terutsuyoshi has a hold of Sadanoumi’s left, and is pushing forward. Three steps later has Sadanoumi out of the ring. Ok then… Terutsuyoshi 5-4, they allocated the kimarite watashikomi for this match.
Shimanoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – My compliments to Chiyoshoma for the rapid fire offense. It had Shimanoumi unable to attack, and do much other than keep his feet and focus on staying in the match. As Chiyoshoma was attacking, bit by bit Shimanoumi was taking away territory, turning the tables at the end and forcing Chiyoshoma out. Shimanoumi improves to 5-4.
Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi solidly on offense to start, had good hand placement, good footwork, but as we have seen all March, he just can’t get the power up to winning levels. We he starts his finishing combo, Myogiryu converts his forward push into the power for a kotenage, brining him to the clay for his 8th loss of Haru, and make-koshi. Myogiryu improves to 4-5.
Takayasu defeats Aoiyama – Takayasu remains the undefeated leader of the Haru yusho race. He took the fight to Aoiyama early. Both tried ill-advised pulls that had not positive effect. They pause a minute head to head to regroup, and Takayasu resumes on offense. Aoiyama put some effort into counter attack, but a Takayasu thrusting combo finished him off. 9-0 for Takayasu.
Kotonowaka defeats Tobizaru – Nice evasive maneuvers from Tobizaru, including a near escape at the bales that Kotonowaka responded to with the winning oshidashi. Kotonowaka’s sumo today was very calm and efficient, and I think that made all the difference in this match, a bit reminiscent of Kisenosato. That’s win number 8 for Kotonowaka, and kachi-koshi for Haru at 8-1.
Wakamotoharu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji had a great start to this match, and looked to be setting up a winning yorikiri. But at the moment of his final advance to send Wakamotoharu, Wakamotoharu was able to turn to the side and thrust him down. Great recovery from Wakamotoharu to improve to 6-3. It’s not easy to get Hokutofuji off balance, but you found your moment and made it work.
Kiribayama defeats Meisei – Kiribayama put good energy into the opening moments of this match, and I am sure Meisei had a solid plan to win. But he succumbed to a nefarious slippiotoshi following a Kiribayama pull that saw Meisei’s hands touch clay. That’s his 8th loss of March, and he is make-koshi for Haru. Kiribayama improves to 6-3.
Onosho defeats Ura – Ura today, large on energy, small on balance and footwork. Onosho gives him a bit of a lifting toss in passing, and Ura blasts out of the ring belly first. Ura will need to do some reconfiguration for his next attempt at the Joi, he has 8 losses and is make-koshi. Onosho advances to 4-5.
Daieisho defeats Takanosho – This was all Daieisho, he had a strong early combo, and kept Takanosho on the move. Takanosho did try to circle away, but Daieisho tracked him well. Takanosho is also make-koshi as of today, taking his 8th loss of the basho, while Daieisho advances to 5-4.
Takarafuji defeats Abi – After Takarafuji has had a really crummy tournament, its nice to see him win one. Abi’s initial double arm attack has limited effect given Takarafuji’s unusual head / shoulder configuration, allowing Takarafuji to counter. He gets close enough to set his hands well against Abi’s chest, and proceeds to muscle him out of the ring. Takarafuji picks up his 3rd win to finish the day 3-6.
Wakatakakage defeats Ichinojo – Wakatakakage shifts to the side, but impressively, Ichinojo is not phased one bit. Ichinojo closes in and takes the fight to Wakatakakage, who quickly finds his right arm locked up against the Boulder. Wakatakakage finds himself unable to do much in this position, and Ichinojo decides to give him a stamina check. Wakatakakage knows he’s running down his energy levels, and do we see a bit of gaburi-yori there? This match fell apart when Ichinojo moved to change his grip, and Wakatakakage exploited the change in pressure to push Ichinojo out. He’s now 8-1, and kachi-koshi at Haru. Nicely done sir!
Endo defeats Takakeisho – It was all down to Endo biding his time, and finding a belt grip. As long as Endo was able to keep his feet under Takakeisho’s attack, it was just a matter of time. The time did come, Endo took his grip, and blasted Takakeisho out by yoritaoshi. Both end the day at 6-3.
Shodai defeats Hoshoryu – This is the first time ever that Shodai has beaten Hoshoryu, in 5 attempts. It was rough, it was chaotic, it was Hoshoryu’s match for a time. But did you see it? With his heels on the tawara, Shodai somehow summoned the “Wall of Daikon”. Hoshoryu tried twice to unleash the uwate, but Shodai had him bracketed, and Hoshoryu could not rotate into the throw. Now side on to Shodai, Shodai bodily drove Hoshoryu from the ring to pick up a much needed 4th win. Both are 4-5 at the end of the day.
Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Much respect to Tamawashi, who put a lot of power and energy into this match, and had the shin-Ozeki in the back seat for the opening moves of this match. But once Mitakeumi got that right hand on the front of Tamawashi’s belt, he rallied and attacked. It was 5 steps to the bales, and Tamawashi was going to take a trip to the front row. 8th win for Mitakeumi, and kachi-koshi. He stays 1 behind Takayasu.