The middle day of the basho was full of excellent matches, and I really am thankful that Aki 2022 has been a noticeable improvement from the quality of sumo earlier in the year. I can’t help but wonder if the brief jungyo may have had something to do with it. The regional tour allows the top rikishi who are on the tour a chance to train together daily, and compete in practice matches each day. For rikishi from big stables like Kokenoe, it may not make much difference, but top division men from smaller stables, it may have given them a better preparation for Aki. Whatever the cause, it is noticeable and it is welcome.
We had our first kachi-koshi today, as Hokutofuji dispatched Endo and is now 8-0. Frankly, this is the kind of sumo that Hokutofuji was meant to deliver each basho, and it’s a performance I have been waiting years to see. Hokutofuji was a eager, high threat up and comer when he suffered a concussion in May of 2018, and has not been quite the same since. A second head trauma took place in 2021, and I figured that was going to be limiting him for the rest of his career. But I am very happy for him, and for the world of sumo to see him fairly close to his original level of intensity this September. Even if he is never this genki again, I think its wonderful to see.
Mitoryu defeats Shimanoumi – At no time was Shimanoumi ever on offense. He generally tried to keep up the forward pressure against Mitoryu, and kept him busy. But Mitoryu has a bit more power and a lot more mass, and kept working to wear down Shimanoumi, which happened after a long enough time that some people in the front row started checking their watches. Mitoriyu improves to 4-4.
Yutakayama defeats Ichiyamamoto – Yutakayama has looked underpowered and off his sumo for the first week, but today he was closer to normal and expected form. He took the attack to Ichiyamamoto at the tachiai and never gave an inch. He really did need that win, and is now 3-5.
Okinoumi defeats Tsurugisho – At Maegashira 15 and now 1-7, its time for Tsurugisho to start thinking about moving back to Juryo. He gives Okinoumi a double inside grip, and then aligns his feet for maximum fail. I am in the camp that says he’s injured, so go get healed up sir. Okinoumi improves to 4-4.
Ryuden defeats Hiradoumi – Nice left hand ottsuke from Ryuden in today’s match. It shut down Hiradoumi’s favorite attack route, and kept him from setting up any kind of offense. The net result was that both men had more or less arm-barred each other, and they could neither attack nor disentangle themselves. Ryuden worked out a kotenage, and finished the match. Both men end the day at 4-4.
Chiyoshoma defeats Kotoshoho – A time honored sumo formula from Chiyoshoma today – stand them up and slap them down. The hatakikomi win elevates Chiyoshoma to 6-2, and he remains 2 wins behind the leader. Much as I am enjoying Chiyoshoma’s genki streak, I am not optimistic of his chances too much further up the banzuke in November.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu just cannot buy a win this September. It’s tough to see. He tried to resort to tsuki-zumo today to keep Terutsuyoshi at distance. But the moment that Terutsuyoshi was able to get hand placement and dial up the pressure, Chiyotairyu was forced to retreat and was pushed out from the rear. Terutsuyoshi up to 4-4.
Oho defeats Takanosho – Takanosho was on the attack at the tachiai, had Oho on his back foot, but Oho deftly stepped to his left. Suddenly off balance, Takanosho was an easy mark for the katasukashi that dropped him to the clay. Oho improves to 6-2.
Nishikifuji defeats Tochinoshin – Nishikifuji picks up his first ever win against Tochinoshin, and did it in glorious style. Surprisingly, Tochinoshin was not able to get a left hand outside mawashi grip, but instead had to try and defend against Nishikifuji’s double inside grip. With both arms around the former Ozeki’s body, Nishikifuji squeezed, lifted and took Tochinoshin across the bales, crushing him out of the ring with a yoritaoshi. Nishikifuji joins the group at 6-2, that was quite the performance.
Kotoeko defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama can’t hold his ground at all, so he is trying every reverse motion sumo move in the book. Today he tried to flip Kotoeko across the bales as he himself was being pushed out. But the timing was poor and Aoiyama was ruled out by oshidashi. Kotoeko improves to 4-4.
Wakamotoharu defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu goes for the denshamichi, and it nearly works. The gumbai goes to Wakamotoharu, and a monoii ensues. The shimpan rightly call for a rematch. The second match is a longer lasting, much more balanced fight, but surprisingly ends in largely the same way at more or less the same spot on the dohyo. Gumbai again goes to Wakamotoharu, but this time there is no question. He advances to 6-2.
Hokutofuji defeats Endo – Endo was indeed “up” for this pivotal match, but Hotutofuji kept himself impossibly low again, kept Endo away from his belt, and pushed for all he was worth. Simple, effective, and relentless. Hokutofuji wins by yorikiri, and is the first rikishi to be kachi-koshi at 8-0.
Onosho defeats Takarafuji – We can sort Takarafuji in the scratch and dent bin with Aoiyama and Tsurugisho. He is down to 1-7 today, and continues to fade a bit more each day. Onosho seems aware that Takarafuji cannot push forward, and makes quick work of him today. Onosho needed that win, and he is 3-5.
Tamawashi defeats Sadanoumi – Wow, Konosuke had not even finished shouting “Hakkeoi!” when Sadanoumi was already crashing out of the ring and into the shimpan. There’s denshamichi, and then there shinkansen-denshamichi. Tamawashi stays on behind Hokutofuji at 7-1.
Kotonowaka defeats Meisei – Kotonowaka had to stronger opening attack, and prevented Meisei from moving forward but an inch here and there. That was quite impressive. But Meisei was relentless, and kept chipping away at Kotonowaka’s defenses, getting his hands in place. But Kotonowaka was doing the same, and once his hands were set, it was uwatenage time, and Meisei hit the clay. Kotonowaka improves to 5-3.
Tobizaru defeats Ichinojo – The match starts with Tobizaru’s expected frantic sumo, throwing combos at the boulder by the moment. It does seem to frustrate and annoy Ichinojo, but not much else. Quickly, Tobizaru recognizes that you can’t actually fight a geological formation in that way, and tries something closer to a grappling stance. He pacifies Ichinojo into settling into a leaning battle, and then in the blink of an eye rotates to his left, grabs him from behind and sends him packing. Razor-sharp gambit from Tobizaru, and he improves to 5-3.
Midorifuji defeats Kiribayama – I am not sure Kiribayama anticipated needed to protect his shoulder to the degree required to prevent Midorifuji’s attack. After an initial exchange of oshi-zumo formalities, Midorifuji went straight for the katasukashi, and delivered the win. Well now! Midorifuji up to 4-4.
Ura defeats Hoshoryu – Also in the “more than he bargained for” category is Hoshoryu. He gets a respectable oshi-zumo match started against the man in pink, but neglects to defend his chest to the degree required to keep Ura away. Hoshoryu probably assumed that Ura would try some grab and tug sumo today (not a bad guess), while not keeping in mind this guy can bench-press a Toyota. With the inside lane at his command, Ura opens up the thrusting attack, and it does not take more than two blasts of that much power to send Hoshoryu out of the ring. Solid, aggressive sumo from Ura today, and he is 5-3.
Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – I really have to compliment Takayasu on today’s match. Many times in this kind of fight, he will go “wild man” sumo, and is a complete chaos factory. Today he was controlled, focused and really had Takakeisho on the run. But Takayasu twice got too far forward attempting to reach for a retreating Takakeisho, and the second time Takakeisho deftly moved aside. Takayasu hits the clay as Takakeisho dances away. Both men are now 6-2.
Wakatakakage defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi could not finish his initial attack, and I knew there was trouble when Wakatakakage rallied and pushed him back to the center of the dohyo. They stalemated up for some time, with the break coming when Mitakeumi went to change his grip. Wakatakakage used this narrow window to march the Ozeki across the ring and out, scoring his 5th win to finish the day 5-3. Five straight wins after a 0-3 start.
Daieisho defeats Shodai – I am adding Shodai to the “to hurt to fight” list. There is crummy Shodai sumo, and there is hurt Shodai sumo. This is most certainly the latter. He has absolutely no forward power, and without that he can’t really find any way to win at this rank. Daieisho picks up a very welcome win to advance to 2-6.
Terunofuji defeats Nishikigi – No second kinboshi for Nishikifuji, but he did get to once again fight a Yokozuna. I do like that Terunofuji took this as a serious match, and wasted no time in delivering his best sumo today. Terunofuji’s solid right hand ottsuke kept Nishikigi from generating any kind of offense, and that left hand set up the uwatenage. Terunofuji no 5-3, and looking a bit better than he did a few days ago.