I have to admit, the schedulers are doing a great job of making this tournament as fun to follow as they can. After a day 12 that saw both men who were one loss behind pick up their third loss at the hands of both leaders, we get the leaders fighting the kachi-koshi Ozeki. It’s a 3 way shuffle at the top that sees both 11-1 and both 9-3 rikishi face a fierce challenge to fight their way toward the Emperor’s Cup.
In today’s match card, we have 6 rikishi tee’d up for possible kachi-koshi today: Shodai, Endo, Kotoeko, Kotoshoho, Yutakayama, and Nishikigi. Of course the bonus for Shodai is that if he can beat Kotonowaka today, he also can clear kadoban, an achievement that I was certain to not happen this month.
We also have a growing list of rikishi that are being herded toward a 7-7 score at the end of tomorrow, ripe candidates for the most zero-sumo of all sumo contests, the “Darwin Match”, where one rikishi exits with a winning record, and one with a losing record. I am not sure how many they will get, but I am guessing they will get a few.
The two leaders take on the two kachi-koshi Ozeki, and the other member of the chasers takes on Shodai. Oh my..
Leaders: Takayasu, Wakatakakage
Chasers (2 behind): Mitakeumi, Kotonowaka
5 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 13
Tsurugisho vs Ichiyamamoto – Tsurugisho up from Juryo to fill the empty slot in the banzuke left by Terunofuji. This is an interesting match, in that Tsurugisho has never won in 3 attempts against Ichiyamamoto. Tsurugisho comes to the top division with a 6-6 score, and Ichiyamamoto needs to win the remaining 3 matches to avoid make-koshi and a certain demotion back to Juryo in May.
Kotoeko vs Yutakayama – The good news, one of these guys will get their kachi-koshi today. The bad news is, one of them will have one more day to avoid being relegated to a Darwin match on Sunday. My sumo brain says Yutakayama gets the win, but my heart says that Kotoeko deserves it.
Kotokuzan vs Terutsuyoshi – Ah funnel match. Both are 6-6, both need to win 2 or lose 2 now to escape the funnel. This is their first ever match, and I am sure that Kotokuzan is going to have to do something better than his obligatory push/push/pull routine if he wants to get the win.
Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – This will be Nishikigi’s 3rd consecutive day where he will attempt to pick up his 8th win. Now we see why he’s not had a top division kachi-koshi in several years. Can 5-7 Myogiryu prevail and stave off make-koshi?
Chiyonokuni vs Aoiyama – It’s still possible for Chiyonokuni to reach kachi-koshi, but it would require him to win all.3 matches. Given he is ranked M13e, he just needs a couple to ensure that he remains in the Makuuchi side of the banzuke come May. At the same time, Aoiyama needs 2 wins or two losses to avoid a day 15 Darwin match, as he is part of the 6-6 crew.
Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru – (Cheesy TV announcer voice.) “Chiyomaru is already make-koshi, Shimanoumi is part of the 6-6 Darwin candidate list. When they get together on a clay platform… sumo ensues!” I would really like to see Chiyomaru win enough to keep in the top division, even if its the bottom of the banzuke.
Chiyotairyu vs Wakamotoharu – Given how Wakamotoharu is fighting right now, I don’t like Chiyotairyu’s chances one bit. Chiyotairyu is always compressing all of his energy into the first 5 seconds of a match. All Wakamotoharu has to do is find a defensive spot and make it work.
Tobizaru vs Kotoshoho – These two have an even 3-3 record across their careers, and it’s kachi-koshi today if he can overcome Tobizaru’s frantic hit and move sumo. Tobizaru has lost 3 of his last 5, so he’s beatable today. A loss would more or less consign him to the Darwin fest on day 15.
Chiyoshoma vs Kagayaki – One of these guys is leaving the dohyo with a make-koshi. Given how poorly Kagayaki has been fighting this month, I really think it should be him. Not that Chiyoshoma has done that well, but I would rather see him added to the Darwin crew on day 15, for a special senshuraku flying henka Darwin match celebration.
Akua vs Okinoumi – Wow, how bad can it get? Well, both of these guys are 3-9 to start today, and one of them will be 3-10 soon enough. The guys in this tournament who are doing poorly are doing quite poorly indeed. Enough of them that the schedulers can pair them off and see who can lose their way to the bottom first.
Sadanoumi vs Ishiura – Why is this match happening? Ishiura is in no condition to fight. He is now 1-11, and he may give Ura a run for the bottom rikishi in this competition. At least Sadanoumi is likely get a 4th win out of this one.
Kiribayama vs Tochinoshin – Now this is a match with some interest. They are tied 3-3 over their careers, and both are coming in with 8-4 kachi-koshi. So on one hand, there is no need to kill yourself to get your 8 wins. On the other hand, it’s sumo and time to basho the other guy until you are tired of it. And at this rank, they never get tired of it.
Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – A pair of 6-6 Darwin candidates, and the winner will have a final chance tomorrow to escape the funnel. I honestly like Tamawashi for this fight quite a bit better, He has a distinct size and strength advantage. He will need to shut down Hokutofuji’s superior mobility, which he should use to get Tochinoshin on his bum leg as early as he can manage.
Meisei vs Ura – Speaking of the worst record in all of sumo, Meisei is tied with Ishiura, and just 1 behind Ura. Not sure what is wrong with these two, but both are at double digit losses right now, and both are going to need recuperation before Natsu in May.
Daieisho vs Onosho – A battle of the big thrusters, both come in 5-7, so the loser today is make-koshi, the winner gets to try to make it to 7-7 at the end of day 14, with an opportunity to hit kachi-koshi in a Darwin match. Brutal stuff. I think Onosho with a slight 11-8 career advantage has the edge here today.
Ichinojo vs Hoshoryu – Shikona still needs 2 more wins to reach the safety of 8, and his 6-6 score puts him on a clear Darwin path. He has drawn Ichinojo today, and he will need some potent sumo to overcome “The Boulder”‘s enormity, which Ichinojo seems to be a lot more comfortable with now.
Takanosho vs Takarafuji – This is a chance for Takanosho to get a 4th win, and for both of them to end the day 4-9. Takanosho has a 6-2 career advantage, and he can play off of the fact that Takarafuji seems to be at least somewhat injured, and is fighting poorly.
Endo vs Abi – I am not sure what happened to Abi, he has lost 4 in a row, and can’t seem to keep his balance. Maybe he was hurt day 8 against Daieisho? He tends to dominate Endo (8-2), but all of that is meaningless if Abi is hurt. If Endo wants to pick up his kachi-koshi today, he will need to evade Abi’s double arm thrusts, get under neath and attack yotsu-style.
And now the final trio, a marvelous piece of scheduling that has the potential to shuffle the leaderboard nicely.
Wakatakakage vs Mitakeumi – A front runner vs a man 2 losses behind. The man behind is an Ozeki, fighting some of the best sumo of his life, and has a 6-2 career advantage over the front runner. The front runner seems to be fighting far beyond what we have seen of him prior to this, and if he can do this consistently must be considered a Yokozuna candidate for next year. Mitakeumi might be able to fight his way back toward a chance at the cup with a win today, and some favorable scheduling tomorrow and Sunday.
Takayasu vs Takakeisho – The other front runner, a former Ozeki, coming off of COVID-kyujo in January, needs to win against an Ozeki. This Ozeki is not in the best of condition, but did manage to clear kadoban two days ago. If Takayasu can get a hold of Takakeisho’s belt, he can certainly have his way with him. But just how strongly will Takakeisho defend?
Shodai vs Kotonowaka – One more spicy pancake for our pudding. Shodai can clear kadoban today if he can take a win from Kotonowaka. Kotonowaka is fighting quite well, and should be be able to finish out with 10 or 11 wins, will signal that he is ready for his first trip to the named ranks. Kotonowaka is tied with Mitakeumi, two wins behind Takayasu and Wakatakakage. A win here would allow him to keep pace should Mitakeumi prevail.