The three part finale to day 13 worked quite well, delivering the high stakes matches that area almost impossible to set up for day 15, when most records are decided, and frequently we already know who has the yusho. With the winner of the emperor’s cup still very much up for grabs, we went into day 13 looking for some big sumo, and we got our wish.
I think it’s important to point out just how much Mitakeumi has changed. A year ago, we would be wondering why after 8 wins he seemed to be coasting, or we would be cracking jokes about his week 2 fade. That guy really has put a huge amount of effort into improving his sumo, and becoming one of the strongest competitors. I am not sure what he changed, but sir, it worked a treat. Since your first yusho at Nagoya 2018, sumo fans knew you had potential, I salute you for finally putting it all together.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho seemed to be taken by surprise at the tachiai, and immediately Ichiyamamoto had the initiative. A couple of failed escape attempts and Tsurugisho was out on the East side. The touch down was too close to call, and they fight again. Second verse? Same as the first! Double arm thrust, Tsurugisho blasted backward, and out on the East side. Tsurugisho for some reason can’t win against Ichiyamamoto, his career record is now 0-4. Both finish the day 6-7, and they can but hope to win tomorrow.
Kotoeko defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama had the stronger tachiai, but he was putting all of his force high against Kotoeko’s head. Kotoeko endured the thrusting attack, and focused center mass. Stalemated, or even losing a step, Yutakayama tried a pull, and that was all Kotoeko needed to drive him from the ring. Finally, on his third attempt, Kotoeko gets his 8th win and is kachi-koshi for Haru.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotokuzan – Kotokuzan was rightly worried about what kind of opening move Terutsuyoshi was going to bring to the match. Terutsuyoshi hit first, opening with a blistering combo. Kotokuzan defended well, but Terutsuyoshi was fierce. A big shove from Kotokuzan broke contact, Terutsuyoshi lunged to re-engage and transmitted enough force to shove Kotokuzan out, improving to 7-6.
Nishikigi defeats Myogiryu – Nishikigi could not get an adequate grip on Myogiryu, and had to settle for a clumsy kotenage. A monoii reversed the gyoji’s gumbai, giving the win to Nishikigi. That’s the 8th win and he is kachi-koshi for Haru. Myogiryu picks up his 8th loss and is make-koshi in the same match.
Aoiyama defeats Chiyonokuni – Aoiyama connected like a wrecking ball. The first hit was enough to send Chiyonokuni out, but Aoiyama gave him another one for good measure. Chiyonokuni was once again holding that mummified shoulder oddly, and I wonder if he’s back to broken with 2 days to go, and needing another win to be safe. Aoiyama advances to 7-6.
Shimanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Shimanoumi tried to get his hazuoshi to work, but it was not moving Chiyomaru at all. He gave up and changed to a left hand outside grip. They locked up and waited. Chiyomaru advanced after a time, and Shimanoumi went back to hazuoshi, and this time it did work, driving Chiyomaru back for a win. Shimanoumi now 7-6.
Chiyotairyu defeats Wakamotoharu – Yes, Chiyotairyu did indeed henka.. again. Wakamotoharu came rocketing off the shikiri-sen, and into open air as Wakamotoharu leaps to his right. Chiyotairyu improves to 6-7.
Tobizaru defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho was hungry for his 8th win, and drove hard again and again against Tobizaru. But Tobizaru executed an amazing chain of deflections and lateral moves. Frustrated that he could not keep Tobizaru centered, Kotoshoho grabs a left hand outside on the mawashi and moves to put an end to the monkey shines. In his haste, he left himself open on his right, Tobizaru swings him past his body with a sukuinage for the win. Both end the day 7-6.
Kagayaki defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma worked hard to get a right hand mawashi grip, but achieved it just as Kagayaki pivoted and delivered a winning sukuinage. That’s Chiyoshoma’s 8th loss and he is make-koshi for Haru.
Okinoumi defeats Akua – Immediate left hand inside / hidariyotsu stance for both, and they dial up the pressure. Okinoumi is more upright but his hips are lower. Akua tries (no surprise) a kakenage, and Okinoumi flattens him to pick up his 4th win, now 4-9.
Sadanoumi defeats Ishiura – I have to wonder why Ishiura came back. Maybe Hakuho talking him into it? He’s got zero forward power right now, and seems to instantly go on defense at the tachiai. I am sure Sadanoumi appreciates having a cream-puff opponent today, he’s got a 4th win at 4-9.
Kiribayama defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin was too high at the tachiai, and surrendered his left side to Kiribayama deep right hand grip. Of course Tochinoshin was looking to land his left, but Kiribayama was never going to open that door. With Tochinoshin focused on improving his grip, he had no awareness of the sotogake leg trip, and hit the clay in a heap. Kiribayama improves to 9-4.
Hokutofuji defeats Tamawashi – Nice, off speed tachiai from Hokutofuji, he pulls up short of full contact. As a result, Tamawashi is slightly over-extended on the initial merge, and Hokutofuji immediately has his right hand on Tamawashi’s shoulder, slapping him down. Hokutofuji at 7-6 to end the day.
Ura defeats Meisei – I am not sure this tentative, defensive sumo is working for Ura. I mean, he has double digit losses, and it looks like he’s trying to avoid direct engagement. He does manage to slip away from Meisei today near the East side tawara, and pushes from behind. I guess a win is what you make of it, and Ura improves to 3-10.
Daieisho defeats Onosho – Mega thrust from Daieisho at the tachiai, stands Onosho up, and Daieisho immediately throws it into reverse and pulls Onosho down. Daieisho improves to 6-7, Onosho 5-8 and make-koshi.
Ichinojo defeats Hoshoryu – Ichinojo seems to have assembled all of the pieces into some sharp sumo for Osaka. I don’t know if he can keep this formula going through 2022, but he’s fairly unbeatable in this configuration. I am sure its all mental, and I am happy that he has his mental fight system in such great shape now. Hoshoryu comes in with plenty of energy, but quickly finds that Ichinojo is using his enormity to great effect. As if to make a point about just how big is big to Ichinojo, he finishes with an abisetaoshi, giving Hoshoryu a 206kg tune up against the West side salt basket. Ichinojo improves to 9-4. Sometimes, being enormous is a valid sumo strategy.
Takanosho defeats Takarafuji – Best defense from Takarafuji that I think he has been able to produce all basho. But he simply cant’t hold his ground. Injury? Lingering effects of COVID? No clue, but when being Mr. Defense is your brand of sumo, it more or less renders you ineffective. Takanosho picks up a welcome win to improve to 4-9.
Abi defeats Endo – Abi snaps a 4 match losing streak, catching Endo open after Endo’s opening gambit ran out of power. Driving him back with Abi-zumo, he sent Endo for a visit to the front row. Both end the day 7-6.
Mitakeumi defeats Wakatakakage – Big match to decide the fate of one of the leaders, Wakatakakage came off the shikiri-sen strong, grasping for a right hand outside grip, but his arm position was too wide, and his left side was open to Mitakeumi, who hugged, lifted and walked toward the bales. By the time Wakatakakage refocused on defense, his heels were on the tawara, and it was too late to fight back. Mitakeumi wins by yorikiri, and improves to 10-3.
Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – The second element of the tripartite finale, Takayasu out-lasts Takakeisho. Again we see Takayasu’s nearly inhuman endurance pay off, as he drains every gram of mojo that Takakeisho brought to the dohyo today, and then throws the exhausted remains of the Ozeki over the East side with an uwatenage. Takayasu back to the sole leader at 12-1. That was big sumo.
Kotonowaka defeats Shodai – We all wanted Shodai to clear kadoban today, but after his day 12 loss, Kotonowaka is back for another win. Shodai was high and slow at the tachiai, and Kotonowaka never gave him a chance to set his feet, escape his grasp or unleash any cartoon sumo. Kotonowaka improves to 10-3, Shodai will have to try again tomorrow, though I am going to guess he will take another loss against Takayasu on day 14. 7-7 kadoban Ozeki for day 15? Oh yes please!