With the preview of day 11, we start the third and final act of the Haru basho. Act 3 is to crown the yusho winner, and sort everyone into make and kachi-koshi. This is also about the time we can start thinking about which rikishi might be demoted back to Juryo, and which Juryo rikishi might appear in the top division for the Natsu basho in Tokyo.
Ishiura is back in action, the banzuke is balanced once more, and we will stop seeing folks from Juryo in the top division for the first match each day. I am hoping his pinched nerve is good enough for him to fight, it looks like he was in quite a lot of pain.
With Mitakeumi taking a 2nd loss, the yusho race gets a bit more chaotic. Up until that point, Mitakeumi had been favored as the challenger as soon as Takayasu picks up his first loss. That is still possible, but quite a bit more unlikely now that he is 2 losses behind. This leaves Wakatakakage and Kotonowaka to be first in line to challenge, should the opportunity present itself.
One last note, though it is late in starting, it does seem that the schedulers are going to try some level of “Darwin’s Funnel” now in act 3. There is a preponderance of matches between rikishi with middling records, and maybe they are going to see if they can herd a bunch of them to 7-7 records to start day 15.
Everyone is waiting to see if someone can put dirt on Takayasu – I am sure it will happen before long, but who will be the one?
Hunt Group: Wakatakakage, Kotonowaka
5 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Chiyomaru vs Ichiyamamoto – This will be a tough match, if Ichiyamamoto loses, he is make-koshi, and basically automatically demoted to Juryo except for some kind of miracle. I can’t say that he has really shown much in the way of effective sumo this month, and maybe he needs to re-group in the lower division. Chiyomaru is not doing well either, but may be safe at this rank and score from any speculation of demotion.
Nishikigi vs Chiyotairyu – A win today, and Nishikigi will have his first top division kachi-koshi since 2018. I kind of want him to do it. It will come down to him getting his hands on Chiyotairyu’s belt and shutting down the thunder-god’s oshi-zumo. Chiyotairyu has a 5-3 career lead.
Tochinoshin vs Terutsuyoshi – The second in the “win and in” series, Tochinoshin could pick up kachi-koshi today with a win over Terutsuyoshi. Terutsuyoshi still seems to be having wrist problems since that match earlier in the basho that saw him flexing his hands after a win. He will need to get inside on Tochinoshin and avoid the “sky-crane” effect.
Myogiryu vs Kagayaki – Both of these guys are 4-6, and are setting a pretty solid course for make-koshi right now. In the case of Kagayaki, it’s back to Juryo for him along side Ichiyamamoto unless he can take 3 wins from his final 5 matches. AT M11, Myogiryu should be safe from demotion, so I think Kagayaki is going to have much stronger motivation today. Both are good candidates for Darwin matches, if they can get that far.
Kotokuzan vs Aoiyama – Two more that are headed into Darwin territory, if they are lucky. This is their first ever match, and the sheer bulk of Aoiyama may be somewhat of a surprise to Kotokuzan. Kotokuzan is no dainty dumpling himself, but I must imagine being confronted with a wall of pasty flesh might unsettle even the strongest constitution.
Tobizaru vs Akua – Tobizaru at an even 5-5 to start today, and Akua already make-koshi. He has a number of folks below him on the banzuke in tough shape, but if he loses several more, he may find himself nominated to return to Juryo on the barge of the damned. Tobizaru has a 6-3 career lead, and there are rumors afoot that he is now able to levitate….
Kotoshoho vs Sadanoumi – Kotoshoho seems to have a good shot of reaching his 8, and cementing his spot in the top division for May. Sadanoumi is already a disimal 2-8, but at this rank unlikely to be considered for a demotion. This may, however, be a bit of an “exchange” match it see how Kotoshoho might fight against someone around mid level.
Chiyoshoma vs Yutakayama – Another match that just screams “Darwin” are these two. Both of them are fighting ok, but not great. Chiyoshoma is 4-6, Yutakayama 5-5. Both are susceptible to lose on any given day for any reason or no reason at all. In terms of the funnel, the ideal result here would be a Chiyoshoma win, leaving both with 5-6 records.
Hokutofuji vs Shimanoumi – After giving Mitakeumi the business, Hokutofuji is here to join the crowd trying out for Darwin’s Funnel. This time it’s Hokutofuji with 5-5, and Shimanoumi with 6-4. They have an even 2-2 record, so I would give Shimanoumi a fair chance of getting his 7th win and avoiding the funnel all together.
Okinoumi vs Ishiura – Oh man, Okinoumi at 2-8 facing a returning Ishiura, who has a composite score of 1-9. In addition, Okinoumi has a 6-2 career record. As is frequently the case, returning rikishi are skewered lengthwise and roasted over a crackling fire for their first day back./ It could be a lot worse, but it’s bad enough.
Kotoeko vs Endo – I really want to see Kotoeko pick up his 8th win today. He’s been showing a lot of drive and determination, and I think that kind of rikishi must prevail. Endo has not managed a win in either of their prior matches, and in fact a loss today might push him into the funnel.
Kiribayama vs Wakamotoharu – As with the match above, we have Kiribayama at 7-3 against 6-4 Wakamotoharu. I would be delighted to see Wakamotoharu win this one and surprise Kiribayama. Both top division Oname brothers seem to have having a banner tournament, and I hope it will motivate them to solid gains in their sumo.
Ichinojo vs Meisei – I am calling this a gimme for Ichinojo. He seems to have come to terms with his own immensity, and if he is clam, huge, patient and immobile today, the much smaller Meisei (who is only 1-9) will be less fun to toss than your average pony.
Tamawashi vs Ura – Also firmly in the 1-9 camp is Ura. May not matter much, everyone loves him anyhow. So I wonder how low his score is going to go. Hopefully not too far into double digits. Tamawashi has a 3-1 career win over Ura, so Ura is more or less oshidashi bait today.
Daieisho vs Hoshoryu – Daieisho has a 2-0 record over Hoshoryu, and in general both rikishi are finding the going a bit tough in the second half of Haru. This might be considered another funnel match, except I don’t really think they will end up 7-7 on the final day. I give a bit of an edge to Daieisho today as I think Hoshoryu is running low on mojo.
Takanosho vs Onosho – Takanosho at 2-8 is already out of the named ranks. I think he has a chance to cushion the fall but putting up as many white stars as he can in the last 5 matches, starting with today’s slap and push fest with Onosho. Takanosho holds a 7-3 career advantage in their match ups, and Onosho continues to have balance problems.
Wakatakakage vs Takayasu – I consider this to be the big match of the day, maybe the biggest match of the next couple of days. Takayasu needs to win this one, and it will be tough. Wakatakakage has a 5-2 career advantage, and has been fighting at or near his best ever form. I won’t even hazard a guess on what form the match will take. I am not certain that even if Takayasu locks Wakatakakage into a giant hairy battle-hug that he would be able to prevail in a stamina contest, as the lighter and smaller Wakatakakage has shown himself capable of escaping that trap.
Shodai vs Takarafuji – Shodai needs to win 3 of the last 5 matches, and sets up an ugly possibility. A final day contest where he is 7-7 and must win to preserve his rank. There have been a few Ozeki Darwin matches in the past, and they are usually heartbreakers. He has a 15-3 career record against Takarafuji, who is having one of his “bad” basho. So maybe a win for him again today?
Abi vs Mitakeumi – Both of Mitakeumi’s losses this basho came directly from him underestimating his opponent in the early moments of a match. Allowing Hokutofuji to surprise him with a solid yotsu match leaves no one but himself to blame. For him to have any chance at the yusho, he needs Takayasu to win against Wakatakakage, and then someone to take down Kotonowaka while Takayasu fades out with 2 losses. Yeah, not quite likely at this point. But at least he can run up the score and try for Ozeki 1 East in May.
Kotonowaka vs Takakeisho – On the subject of Kotonowaka, here he is against Takakeisho who needs just one more win to clear kadoban. Kotonowaka would be at less risk standing between Ichinojo and an ice cream truck. I am quite impressed with Kotonowaka’s sumo this March, I think they sent him up here to “face the music” and start collecting a few losses. Note – wins today from both Takakeisho and Takayasu would leave Takayasu 2 wins or more ahead of everyone.