It’s the start of act 3, let’s figure out who is going to take home the cup. There are 4 rikishi with a reasonable bid, and another 4 that might get in on the action if there is an odd turn of events.
I don’t fault Hokutofuji in his day 10 loss, he was a big generous with a step backward, but that slippiotoshi was all the opening that Takayasu needed. I do feel a bit robbed that we did not get to see them bash each other around for a couple of minutes, which was where I think this was headed.
Looking across the front 4, I have to give the edge to Tamawashi. He has won the yusho before, and he is actually ahead of his first yusho, in January of 2019, where at this point of the tournament he had 2 losses, vs the single loss he has now. I don’t think he will finish 14-1, but right now that is the maximum score he might achieve.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have 5 rikishi with 7 losses competing today, each of which might hit their make-koshi, with another 4 rikishi at 7 wins trying to find their 8th in competition on day 11.
The schedulers could leave the big head to head for the final weekend, or they could just whip it on today. Sure, why not? Sadly they did not make it a double header by scheduling a Nishikifuji vs Takayasu match right before it.
Leaders: Tamawashi, Hokutofuji
Chasers: Takayasu, Nishikifuji
Hunt Group: Wakatakakage, Tobizaru, Oho, Chiyoshoma
5 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Hiradoumi vs Oho – Oho (7-3) won their only prior match. A win today puts him at 8, and kachi-koshi for a second consecutive tournament. If so, I hope this means he is setting into his sumo and will be fighting his way up the banzuke for the next year or so. Hiradoumi (4-6) needs to win 4 of the last 5 to avoid returning to Juryo, a tall order.
Kotoshoho vs Terutsuyoshi – A pair of 5-5 rikishi work to see who is going to need take a step closer to kachi-koshi. I worry that if Terutsuyoshi does not find his 8th win, he could be at risk for demotion as well. So far the crew in the top ranks of Juryo are not making too strong of a case for promotion, so just maybe there may be more safety than I assume. Kotoshoho leads their career match score by a narrow 4-3.
Ichiyamamoto vs Takanosho – It would take, in my guess, 6 months (3 basho) for Takanosho (6-4) to get back up to the named ranks if he is past his injuries. He needs 2 more wins out of the remaining 5 days to hit his 8th win for September, and he holds a 2-0 career lead over Ichiyamamoto (5-5).
Nishikifuji vs Chiyoshoma – Perhaps someone in the scheduling committee shares my worry of a Chiyoshoma (7-3) yusho bid later this week, and they have sent Nishikifuji (8-2) to face him on day 11. He has an even 1-1 score against Chiyoshoma, so this might be a good match. A Chiyoshoma win today would be kachi-koshi for him.
Mitoryu vs Kotoeko – Both men are 4-6. both men need 4 out of the last 5 matches to exit Aki with a winning record. Kotoeko won their only prior bout, in January of 2018, when both were ranked in Juryo. Mitoryu, at Maegashira 16, would be in genuine risk for demotion if he should lose 8 or more matches when all is done on Sunday.
Tochinoshin vs Ryuden – A mirror image score match, we have 4-6 Tochinoshin against 6-4 Ryuden, who is doing well in his first match ranked in the top division following his suspension. He last fought Tochinoshin in March of 2021, and beat him by yorikiri. I am curious to know if the Tochinoshin of today is an easier opponent than the one from spring of 2021. Ryuden holds a 4-2 career advantage.
Tsurugisho vs Onosho – Tsurugisho (2-8) should be a fairly safe bet to be sent back to Juryo, with a make-koshi and an Maegashira 15 West ranking. I think he is probably hurt, but as long as he is not willing to go kyujo, he needs to fight someone. So why not Onosho (4-6). Onosho is at no risk for being sent to Juryo, but he is part of that large cohort that needs 4 wins over the last 5 days to evade make-koshi.
Aoiyama vs Okinoumi – Thirty One career matches between these two, with Okinoumi (4-6) holding the advantage at 18-13. Aoiyama’s (3-7) offense is paper thin, and I hope Okinoumi is able to evade being grabbed and slammed like Tsurugisho was on day 10. A loss today would be 8 for Aoiyama.
Chiyotairyu vs Endo – Also in the group of “lose today and you are make-koshi” is Chiyotairyu, who comes in at 3-7. Endo has been struggling for most of this tournament, and in fact he has lost the last 3 matches out of 4. Given that we all know what Chiyotairyu is going to try, I can hope that Endo has prepared his defenses.
Takarafuji vs Yutakayama – Maybe its for Takarafuji (2-8) to hand Yutakayama (3-7) his 8th loss. They are both fighting poorly, and Yutakayama seems to have almost no forward power. If weak, poor quality sumo was contagious, I would almost say he caught whatever has infected his stablemate Shodai, but thus far science has yet to identify any such pathogen. When they do, maybe they will name it Staphylococcus Shodai.
Myogiryu vs Takayasu – Twenty Eight career matches between these two, and I expect Takayasu (8-2) to overcome the 10-14 career deficit today against Myogiryu (5-5). At least for this September, Takayasu is fighting at his best since before COIVD, and could compete for the cup this week. Takayasu is one behind the co-leaders, and needs to stay genking for the remaining 5 days, and hope for his chance.
Tamawashi vs Hokutofuji – As mentioned above, it’s the big match of the day. Maybe the big match of the tournament. The two leaders, with matching 9-1 scores going head to head. Both are big body, high energy pusher-thruster rikishi. Both are able to tear your head off of its foundations, and use it to open coconuts. Tamawashi leads the career series 9-7, but Hokutofuji is fighting his best sumo ever. I can’t wait to see this match.
Tobizaru vs Ura – Of course the schedulers then have to wonder – “What do you put after that?”, sure, lets put the two highly unpredictable guys on the dohyo together for their 5th ever match, and see what happens. It’s 7-3 Tobizaru looking for his kachi-koshi against 6-4 Ura, who can surprise anyone given the right conditions. Their 3-1 career record favors Tobizaru, and this joins the prior match as “must watch”.
Meisei vs Kiribayama – On the line today for 3-7 Meisei is make-koshi. He’s not been fighting well, and he’s not likely to upset 6-4 Kiribayama today. In fact, Kiribayama has won all of their matches thus far in 2022, and I expect that trend to continue today.
Kotonowaka vs Ichinojo – 6-4 Kotonowaka has a healthy 4-1 career record over Ichinojo, who seems to have exited his sumo torpor and won the last two matches. But I note that one of Ichinojo’s losses on the way to his 12-3 yusho in Nagoya was to Kotonowaka.
Daieisho vs Midorifuji – Both rikishi start the day 4-6, and this is their first ever match. Daieisho had yesterday off, as his opponent for day 10 was the now kyujo Terunofuji. I expect him to be rested and ready, and maybe a bit less banged up than he has been so far this September.
Wakatakakage vs Hoshoryu – The match I know I have wanted to see since the last time they fought, day 5 in Nagoya. These two are more or less destined to be arch competitors for year to come, and their scores may not figure too much into any of their contests. Wakatakakage at 7-3 started the basho losing 3 in a row, and has now won 7 in a row. Hoshoryu broke a 4 match losing streak on day 10 by dropping Ozeki Takakeisho like a sack of potatoes. Wakatakakage has won 6 of their 9 prior matches.
Takakeisho vs Nishikigi – Takakeisho (6-4) only needs 2 wins over the final 5 matches to be kachi-koshi. Should be an easy mark for an Ozeki, right? But Takakeisho has lost 3 of his last 5, and the past two days has looked far off of this sumo. Nishikigi (5-5) fights exclusively yotsu-zumo style. So I predict that he will be “belt grab, body grab, or bust” today.
Sadanoumi vs Mitakeumi – Sadanoumi (6-4) has faced Mitakeumi twice, and never won. He will bring his break-neck speed to the dohyo in hopes of dispensing a make-koshi to Mitakeumi (3-7) today. This would render him a Ozekiwake for November, a hybrid Sekiwake that can return to Ozeki with 10 wins. Mitakeumi has a lot to lose here, so I am looking for maximum tadpole power.
Wakamotoharu vs Shodai – Shodai, 1-9. Wakamotoharu, 6-4. This should be an Ozeki curb stomping an upstart Maegashira 5. But I think we all know this will not go that way. In addition, Wakamotoharu won their only prior match, day 5 of Nagoya this year.