Ready or not, it’s time to start act 3. The goal of act 3 is to sort the make from the kachi-koshi, and to crown the tournament champion. Starting day 11, the yusho picture is still rather murky, with M4 Takanosho and M15 Ichiyamamoto leading with 8 wins. I don’t expect to see their names at the top for too much longer, as the schedulers are going to throw them at harder opponents if possible to try and knock those scores down at least a bit. Ideally they would open the door for Yokozuna Terunofuji to attempt to take the cup in the final weekend. But that’s a bit of a tough proposition, as he’s not in the best of condition below the waist. Above the waist, he’s a one man army, and he just may be able to pull it off.
This won’t be a real race until Takanosho and Ichiyamamoto pick up their 3rd loss.
Leaders: Takanosho, Ichiyamamoto
Chasers: Terunofuji, Kiribayama, Ura, Aoiyama, Sadanoumi
Hunt Group: Too numerous to list
5 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Mitoryu vs Yutakayama – Mitoryu visits from Juryo, and he has a 3-0 career record against Yutakayama. If you think that spells trouble, you are right. At 4-6, Yutakayama needs to win 4 of his last 5 to reach kachi-koshi, and that likely would include a day 15 Darwin match at this point. On top of that, Yutakayama has not been fighting well, and I am going to guess, injured.
Kotokuzan vs Chiyoshoma – Kotokuzan has already punched his ticket to be the boatswain for the Juryo barge this May, so I have to wonder how much he’s going to bring to this first ever match up against Chiyoshoma. Like Yutakayama, Chiyoshoma is 2 losses away from make-koshi, and needs to win 4 out of the last 5 to reach his 8.
Meisei vs Nishikigi – A funnel track match, Meisei needs a win today just to stay on the path for day 15 Darwin. At 5-5 he’s just straddling the center of the funnel now, and his opponent Nishikigi, is on the low side of the funnel at 4-6. Meisei has a 3-1 career record against Nishikigi, so maybe he can use some of that mojo to pick up his 6th win today.
Okinoumi vs Midorifuji – Another funnel match – mostly because the funnel currently covers the bulk of the top division. We have Midorifuji at 6-4, who can exit the funnel today with a win, and Okinoumi who can exit the funnel onto the make-koshi track with a loss. Of course we might see Okinoumi rally today, and then both of them are back to the middle of the funnel.
Azumaryu vs Tochinoshin – The funnel theme continues. This is the first ever match between grizzled veteran Azumaryu (5-5), who would love to find 3 more wins out of the final 5 matches to get his first ever top division kachi-koshi, and former Ozeki Tochinoshin (6-4) who can escape the funnel today with a win.
Kotoshoho vs Chiyotairyu – Staying with the funnel theme, I am sort of surprised that Kotoshoho (5-5) got roped into the funnel, but here he is against 6-4 Chiyotairyu, who has won 6 out of his last 7. Kotoshoho won 2 of their 3 prior matches, so I am going to assume he knows to watch out for Chiyotairyu’s balance wrecking tachiai moves.
Myogiryu vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi is one loss away from securing a make-koshi. It’s still mathematically possible for him to get 8 wins, but he will need to win the rest of his matches to achieve that. He has a 4-2 career advantage over Myogiryu, who comes in at 5-5, and needs wins to stay in the funnel. Honestly, I have to think that Terutsuyoshi is just about due for another win.
Shimanoumi vs Ichiyamamoto – Shimanoumi gets a shot to put dirt on one of the co-leaders. Ranked at M8, he is quite a bit north of Ichiyamamoto’s Maegashira 15. Shimanoumi won their only prior match which was at Aki 2021, when they were both nearly the same rank as they are today. Shimanoumi has won his last 3, so I am going to assume he is in good fighting condition.
Oho vs Kotoeko – Still squarely in the bracket, we see if 4-6 Kotoeko can fight is way back to the center line and disrupt 5-5 Oho’s lack-luster second try to get a kachi-koshi in the top division. I recall a time when Oho (then called Naya) was supposed to be a “big deal”. Maybe he will be some day, but so far he has not distinguished himself.
Takarafuji vs Kagayaki – This match outrages me. They know by now that Takarafuji is hurt, maybe his lower back, but he’s a walking medical case. So they give Kagayaki a chance to pick up a freebee win. I volunteer to loan my spine to Takarafuji for the period of time needed to toss Kagayaki on his ear, then kick dirt over the remains. Ah well, Takarafuji had to fight someone.
Sadanoumi vs Wakamotoharu – I think that this is Wakamotoharu’s chance to pull himself out of the high end of the funnel, and take a big step closer to a kachi-koshi at his highest ever rank. His sumo has been very good for his first time this far up the banzuke, and I look forward to him being part of the future of sumo. He has a 0-4 career deficit against Sadanoumi, who may pick up his kachi-koshi today with a win.
Ura vs Aoiyama – Both men start the day at 7-3, and the winner will get a bright shiny kachi-koshi to end day 11. Although Ura has a 2-1 narrow advantage, I give an edge to “Big Dan” Aoiyama who is fighting very well right now. But an Ura win would play into my hunch that he might be in the hunt for the cup in the final 3 days.
Kiribayama vs Tobizaru – Kiribayama needs a win today to reach kachi-koshi, but he has to overcome the 7-3 career disadvantage he has against Tobizaru. In fact Tobizaru has won 4 of their last 5 matches. A Tobizaru win would keep him in the funnel, and marching to a day 15 Darwin contest. In spite of the career advantage, I want to see Kiribayama pick up his 8th today.
Takayasu vs Hokutofuji – We all know Hokutofuji is headed for make-koshi, and I think its quite fitting that Takayasu be the one to let him secure that outcome today. Takayasu has really struggled this May after a fairly robust run in Osaka that saw him competing for the yusho into week 2. As a Takayasu fan, I am a bit down that he’s too hurt to live up to his potential. But he can certainly take out his frustrations on Hokutofuji today.
Kotonowaka vs Daieisho – These two have matching 6-4 scores, which technically make them part of the funnel group. But the winner will elevate outside of the funnel, and the looser will scrap agains the other rikishi being herded toward a 7-7 day 14 score. Kotonowaka has a 2-0 career lead over Daieisho, so he will have a distinct edge in today’s contest.
Hoshoryu vs Takanosho – Hoshoryu, whose attitude may have out-paced his sumo, gets a chance to back up some of that swagger with a chance to knock one of the leaders off the board. He has a 3-1 career margin against Takanosho, but he’s fighting at least one notch below his typical level of genki. Much as I want to see Takanosho pick up a 3rd loss and draw Terunofuji into the yusho race, I would very much like to see him give Hoshoryu an atomic wedgie and a quick toss into the zabuton to help Asashoryu’s nephew find a little humility.
Mitakeumi vs Wakatakakage – Man, I dread this match. Mitakeumi has a 7-2 career advantage over Wakatakakage, but I don’t think that matters. I would guess that Mitakeumi is, like the rest of the Ozeki corpse, hurt in some non visible way. There is a real risk that all of them may be kadoban for July, and if that is the case, I would put the odds at very long that all of them can recover and make their 8 in the heat of Nagoya. Both start the day at 5-5, and win or lose, neither escapes the funnel today.
Endo vs Takakeisho – We know Endo is going to grab for a left hand shallow front mawashi hold at the tachiai. With Takakeisho’s right arm at less than good status, this leaves him especially open to this kind of attack. At 4-6, Endo is looking for wins to keep himself out of the make-koshi lane, though he is edging ever closer.
Tamawashi vs Shodai – Tamawashi comes in with an 11-8 career advantage, and a win by him will send Shodai make-koshi and kadoban. We can be fairly certain Shodai will have 8 losses this May, but will today be the day?
Terunofuji vs Abi – They have only met twice, and each has a single win against the other. Much as I love me some Abi-zumo, I would rather see Terunofuji stay in the hunt for the Emperor’s cup, in spite of his battered and only partially functional battle readiness report. A win today is kachi-koshi for the Yokozuna.