Natsu Day 9 Highlights

The triumph of the under-card continues, as the leaders continue to be exclusively from the rank and file. I don’t expect any of them are going to face higher ranking opponents just yet, as I think the schedulers have decided to “let it ride” until day 11 and the start of act 3. There are 4 rikishi at 7-2 right now, and I don’t expect any of them is going to lift the cup on day 15. But if we look at the group that is at 6-3 at the end of today, the list of who might be the yusho winner is quite an interesting roster indeed.

Yesterday, fans were a bit outranged by Shodai’s win after the replay showed him out, but no monoii was called by the judges to review the call. I have accused the bulk of the rikishi of “just phoning it in” this basho, and maybe the judges are having a bit of that too. During a match between Kotonowaka and Hokutofuji, there was yet another call that should have been reviewed when the gyoji got it wrong. I recognize us Americans are used to slow motion instant replay and review of just about everything, but for sumo that is not yet the case. So over the years I have learned to just accept that mistakes are part of the process, and hope it does not happen in yusho deciding matches. But then, there was the matter of Wakatakakage’s hand hitting the clay in the middle of his match with Takakeisho…

Highlight Matches

Midorifuji defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni had control of this match, following a bit of an early start from Midorifuji. This control lasted up until they moment both were exiting the ring, where Chiyonokuni let go of Midorifuji to break his fall with his left arm. Midorifuji stayed airborne a fraction of a second longer, and picked up the win. He improves to 5-4.

Oho defeats Kotokuzan – Kotokuzan still does not have any sumo to share, and gets stood up at the tachiai by Oho, then rammed back again and again. The final shove ends the match by tsukidashi, and that loss number 8 for Kotokuzan, he is make-koshi for Natsu. Oho improves to 4-5.

Meisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Meisei knew that Chiyotairyu was going for the “stand him up, pull him down” combo, and reacted correctly to the pull from Chiyotairyu. Surging forward he put Chiyotairyu on the clay with a yoritaoshi, sending Chiyotairyu tumbling off the clay. Both end the day at 5-4.

Sadanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki has one moment of offense, a somewhat decent opening combo, but for some reason leaves his chest wide open, and Sadanoumi counters directly to center mass. From there is 3 quick steps to an oshidashi, as Sadanoumi maintains his share of the lead at 7-2.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Chiyoshoma – Ichiyamamoto connects his double arm thrust early, and Chiyoshoma never really had a chance to get started. Three steps later, Chiyoshoma is out and Ichiyamamoto maintains his share of the lead, also 7-2.

Azumaryu defeats Kotoshoho – I liked both men’s sumo today. A really well balanced match, with each finding and exploiting the other’s somewhat fractured offensive style. They started with an oshi-zumo exchange, and probed defenses, and eventually locked up chest to chest. Azumaryu set up a left hand grip, and held on with everything he could muster. Whent Kotoshoho did manage to break that grip, he was so off balance that he was an easy mark for an Azumaryu slap down. Both end the day 5-4.

Yutakayama defeats Terutsuyoshi – A clever move by Yutakayama got his left hand around the back of Terutsuyoshi, finding his mawashi knot. The rest of Yutakayama followed, and once behind Terutsuyoshi, he pushed him forward and out. Yutakayama claws his way back into the funnel at 4-5.

Shimanoumi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu prevented a straight up Shimanoumi attack, stalemating him and moving him to the center of the dohyo. A few separate tries to get some kind of pushing battle going failed, and the two resorted to aggressive leaning on each other. Unable to generate offense with his thrusting attack, eventually Shimanoumi surged forward, then immediately stepped back, unbalancing Myogiryu and slapping him down. He improves to 5-4.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoeko – Aoiyama latched on to Kotoeko at the tachiai, and proceeded to use his mighty bulk to slide Kotoeko around the ring. Kotoeko rallied once, with Aoiyama using Kotoeko’s forward motion to set up the kotenage that won the match. Aoiyama improves to 7-2 and maintains his share of the lead.

Takarafuji defeats Nishikigi – Finally, a Takarafuji win. A soft tachiai from both straight to a Takarafuji left hand inside grip. He moved forward carefully, and walked Nishikigi out. 1-8 for Takarafuji, and I hope he can pick up a few more wins to keep himself in the top division for July.

Tochinoshin defeats Wakamotoharu – As expected, they immediately went chest to chest. A big yotsu battle of strength featured Tochinoshin apply the sky-crane, but unable to carry Wakamotoharu all the way out. With Wakamotoharu’s heels on the tawara, he held on with everything he could muster. Tochinoshin finished the match by falling forward, crushing Wakamotoharu under his 175kg body. Yeah, he felt that. Both end the day 5-4.

Ura defeats Okinoumi – No crazy antics from Ura today. He hits Okinoumi square in the chest, grabs a hold and pushes forward. Okinoumi can’t stop the slide, and finds Ura applying a lift and gentle push to step him out of the ring. Ura improves to 6-3.

Endo defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi got too far forward at the tachiai when Endo came up short. Endo was also able to grab and tug Tamawashi’s right arm, further putting him off balance. With Tamawashi’s chest wide open, Endo blasted him center mass with a 3 hit combo. Tamawashi could not stay in the ring and fell backward into the front row. Tamawashi falls out of the leader group, and Endo stays in the funnel by improving to 4-5.

Kotonowaka defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji gets his early nodowa, and uses it to move Kotonowaka back to the bales. Hokutofuji’s right hand joins in from underneath, and with both hands pushing, he sends Kotonowaka tumbling off the dohyo. The gyoji gives the gumbai to Kotonowaka. The replay showed Kotonowaka’s foot apparently hitting the janome outside the ring well before Hokutofuji touched down. But no review by the shimpan, and Konosuke’s decision was left to stand. This is now 2 days in a row where the judges would have been well advised to review a decision. Kotonowaka improves to 5-4.

Kiribayama defeats Daieisho – Daieisho opened strong, getting a set of good combos into Kiribayama’s chest. Kiribayama was able to rally, and return some offense back at Daieisho. Kiribayama managed a brief arm lock, which he used to turn Daieisho, and a final shove sent him out. Kiribayama improves to 6-3.

Hoshoryu defeats Takayasu – The first ever time that Hoshoryu has beaten Takayasu. Takayasu had the early advantage, with the inside line and good thrusting against Hoshoryu’s chest. At the end of Takayasu’s third combo, Hoshoryu grabs Takayasu’s left arm, and rapidly tugs down and forward in a tottari throw. Takayasu hits the clay, and Hoshoryu improves to 6-3. Nice move.

Shodai defeats Abi – Now in week two, is it once again time for Shodai to decide to get interested in sumo and fight like he is an Ozeki? Abi attacks strongly with his double arm thrust at the tachiai, and Shodai’s upper body is all over the place. But his lower body propels him forward, into Abi and keeps moving. Unable to maintain distance to attack again, Abi is run back by a someone flimsy version of Shodai’s “Wall of Daikon” and succumbs to a rampaging mountain of pasty flab thanks to Shodai’s lower body deciding it’s done being embarrassed by the rest of him and insisting on a win. Shodai improves to 3-6.

Takanosho defeats Mitakeumi – Not sure where Mitakeumi was today, but his sumo was miles away from the Kokugikan. A solid hit from Takanosho at the tachiai put Mitakeumi on his heels, and a rapid conversion to a hazu-oshi by Takanosho let him run the Ozeki out with no struggle or counter attack by Mitakeumi. Takanosho maintains his share of the lead with 7-2.

Wakatakakage defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho could not generate enough power to move Wakatakakage back to optimum thrusting range. So instead the two exchanged close range slaps and shoves, with Wakatakakage having a slight edge. Where the match fell apart was a Takakeisho pulling attempt that destroyed his balance, but it also seems to have triggered Wakatakakage to touch the clay with his right hand. Of course neither the gyoji nor the shimpan caught it. Wakatakakage then pulled in return, and Takakeisho did not have the stable footing to endure. Wakatakakage improves to 4-5.

Terunofuji defeats Tobizaru – Glad for the Terunofuji win, but Terunofuji looked surprisingly easy for Tobizaru to move. Terunofuji also found it very tough to maintain a hold on Tobizaru, giving him a lot more opportunity for offensive action than I had expected. But Terunofuji eventually gets a firm hold via his preferred twin arm bar, and it was kimedashi time. He lifted Tobizaru off of the clay, and walked him over the bales. Terunofuji improves to 6-3.

21 thoughts on “Natsu Day 9 Highlights

  1. Quite a stare-down from Hoshoryu.

    Someone with quick eyes noticed that Wakatakakage had actually swiped the dohyo with his fingers toward the end of that bout, so it was miscalled also.

    • Yes indeed, on my second watching I saw that too, and was in the process of adding it to the post. Thanks for pointing it out.

  2. I think an even worse call was actually during the Takakeisho – Waka bout. Waka’s hand clearly touches the dohyo before he slaps Takakeisho down – was astonished no mono’oi was called. Agree the judges have been uncharacteristically sloppy this basho.

    • The photo in the article shows the Gyoji perfectly positioned for a view of Waka’s hand touch-down. The only thing I can think of is that he was looking for a hair-pull rather than watching the hand? I cannot come up with any other explanation.

  3. They called mattas on everything but the most blatant of the offenses: the first match of the day. Gyoji are having a rough few days… Don’t even get me started on that joke of a Kotonowaka/Hokutofuki match…

    Other quick takes:
    -Ura looking like a football player against a blocking sled
    -Takarafuji finally won!
    -Tochinoshin teaching Wakamotoharu a lesson he won’t soon forget
    -Takayasu tried channeling his past self but couldn’t sustain it long, a shame for the king of stamina battles
    -Shodai won because Abi messed up, plain and simple
    -Mitakeumi looking done with life today, he was so irritated with himself
    -Takakeisho really needs to take some serious time off to address his health. I worry he’s gonna stop breathing mid-match one of these days.
    -Tobizaru was lucky his arms weren’t ripped from their sockets, so powerful was Terunofuji’s efforts to first arm bar throw, then lift him by them.

  4. I’m not seeing the “mailing it in” which implies they aren’t really trying. There has been inconsistent sumo by a fair number of rikishi, but nagging or serious (and hidden) injuries can be the cause of that. It’s also been said that some may be having long covid and the thing with that is it can go over twelve months, and that it can be inconsistent. You may be going really good for a day or three and then all of a sudden you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck for a period and then you are back to normal or better and it varies by individual. I think that could be some of it. Also, there are some periods where you just don’t have it; I’ve been an athlete and those stretches are the worst. You don’t know what’s wrong but you just can’t get into a flow state and sometimes it goes on for awhile. Takarafuji may fall into this category.

    For me, by and large, the sumo has been entertaining which is really the point of the exercise. I don’t get how not having a few dominant fighters at the top being a bad thing. There is new blood near the top and it might be a bit before it shakes out. I don’t discount the cultural aspects that I may be missing for only watching sumo for five years or so, it may be viewed that the top ranks “have to” be dominant and I don’t understand that. I’ve enjoyed the tournament so far, with upsets, near upsets and a host of fighters still in it and also some really good fights. Sure there are one-sided bouts but that happens every basho.

  5. After the final bout, Tobizaru was about to jump off the Dohyo, for his usual fan engagement rounds. But Terunofuji caught his hand and told not today kid, I am in a hurry :)

  6. One thing that has struck me recently about the discussion of the quality of sumo we’re seeing recently is that we’ve been spoiled in many ways by the talent of recent rikishi who have retired. For example, we complained about Goeido’s consistency and his continually going kadoban, but he maintained his Ozeki rank for 5 years! I’m at the point now where not only do I believe that Hakuho has screwed up our expectations for the current rikishi, but he also has overshadowed a large group of talented rikishi who will eventually get their due respect as we look back on their careers from a historical perspective.

    Also, it is important to remember that it’s not just the rikishi on the dohyo who are changing. A number of stables have had leadership changes and it’s possible we’ll have a few more happen in the coming years. Those changes will also affect what happens on the dohyo in different ways for various reasons.

    I do think that the rikishi we are currently seeing are talented, but the problem we have is that they’re not as dominant or skilled as Hakuho. It’s really that simple. We’re grumbling about parity (which happens a lot when there’s a small talent pool to pull from and, let’s be honest, people aren’t flocking to join sumo in large numbers) and we’re used to having more than one skilled, dominant rikishi on the dohyo. We’ve had 2 or 3 Yokozuna for a number of years, so “only having one” seems like something’s missing to a lot of fans right now. Ditto for a seasoned, stable Ozeki corps. Takakeisho is the Ozeki with the longest tenure at his rank and he’s only been there since May, 2019.

    • This

      But also I think Hakuho is maybe not the barometer – I think you made a really good point about Goeido

      Consider that for many years, all the way up to and maybe even after his Yokozuna promotion, Kisenosato was the 4th best rikishi in the sport after Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kakuryu. The 4th best rikishi in the sport right now wouldn’t be fit to tie his mawashi. I actually don’t even know who it is. Maybe it’s Wakatakakage, or even Hoshoryu.

      The best of eras will always be impossibly compared but I think the drop off is best measured by what’s happening below the surface

      • There is an argument to be made that Kisenosato was the 3rd or even 2nd best, but only the 4th most successfull. In wins per calendar year:
        year Kisenosato Kakuryu Harumafuji
        2012 61 60 69
        2013 68 54 69
        2014 58 (1) 71 44 (26)
        2015 62 43 (30) 46 (29)
        2016 69 57 (12) 67

        In brackets are the kyujou bouts. Harumafuji turned Yokozuna for the Fukuoka basho in 2012, Kakuryu for the Natsu basho 2014.
        Kisenosato hat 11 Jun-Yusho over that 5 year period, Kakuryu hat 4 Jun-Yusho, but also 3 Yusho, while Harumafuji hd 6 Yusho and 4 Jun-Yusho in that 5 year span.
        I think that just proves the kind of stellar Ozeki career that Kisenosato had. Only once did he drop below the 10wins/basho threshold over those 5 years and that was because of his only makemoshi during that time at hatsu 2014, where he alsoi gave up his only fusen.

  7. Hoshoryu’s choice of staring down Takayasu is fascinating, as I wasn’t sure if they had previous or what. At first I thought it was funny because Takayasu is probably the one rikishi who couldn’t look less bothered. On the other hand it’s possible that Hoshoryu thinks because of all of his yusho misses that he’s easily to disrupt mentally. And Hoshoryu won. I just thought it was a really interesting choice of opponent for that kind of behaviour. I’m not sure he’d try that against, for example, Tamawashi or the Yokozuna.

    I think there are plenty of guys at 5-4 still in this yusho race and a half-crocked Terunofuji at 6-3 who looks very beatable still could be the favourite. Tamawashi and Hoshoryu for me are still in this too.

  8. I think the gyoji who officiated Taka-Waka match is way past his prime. I have seen him make several atrocious calls, get in the way of rikishi several times – the altering the course of those matches, entirely fall off the dohyo a few times, forget which rikishi stood where and name a wrong winner. Why does he still have a job – especially the one involving officiating matches of the two senior most rikishi?

    • That would be the tate-gyoji, Shikimori Inosuke, and yes, he is a hazard to the proper execution of a basho. The only thing worse is his understudy, Kimura Tamajiro. But hey, even the sainted Konosuke blew a call this week.

        • Isn’t there a way to send both Inosuke and Tamajiro to retirements? After all, the then Onomatsu Oyakata developed a “health condition” right after he made that controversial call in the infamous Asanoyama-Tochinoshin match, He first disappeared from judging duties – and then we found out that he “retired” several years before the mandatory retirement age.

          Can something like that not be arranged for these two?

  9. Americans are used to instant replay but also terrible botched calls in just about every football game. Missed (or BS) pass interference and holding calls abound. In basketball, don’t get me started on how many charging calls get missed. And in Europe, any EPL or La Liga fan must be sick of VAR. Seems the Germans are the only ones who get it right. And sadly, VAR has yet to appear in any of my kids’ games. Parents are terrible referees. Anyway, unless there’s something mind boggling, like the Patriots and the Tuck Rule, I don’t even bat an eye.

  10. I think the Hokotufuji bout should have had a mono ii just because it was really close. I’m not sure if Kotonowakas foot actually touched ground outside the tawara, but exactly that’s what a mono ii should have clarified. The Wakatakakage one is a completely different dimension, as that one is blatantly obvious, however in defense of the Kyoji, it was super quick and not a situation were you would expect any contact with the ground … thats what you have those guys outside there to be attentive and call a mono ii. Not to mention that they had the way better perspective as well.

    My dsrk horse is still Takanosho. He still has Hoshoryu and Kiribayama on his fight card, but otherwise has cleared the named ranks, he might actually get matched with some of the lower ranks from the yusho group, so the schedule could actually work out quite beneficial for him. Of course he has to beat Endo first today and you never know which days Endo decides to show up ;)

  11. A late thought about Wakatakakage’s hand touch-down in the middle of the dohyo. Obviously he would’ve known he did it – it’s not like someone not knowing which side of the tawara their foot landed on. Is there any expectation or way for a rikishi to fess up, or do you accept your good luck in not getting caught (til someone analyzes the videos later), just like you have to accept bad calls against you? Would his opponent have any grounds for being annoyed with him (and not just the judges)? I would guess you just have to accept it either way.


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