It seems like for the past few years, we have faced a parade of non-durable Ozeki. I am sure that competing at the highest levels of sumo takes a heavy toll on thee athlete’s bodies, it’s been a shame to see the likes of Tochinoshin, Takayasu, now Mitakeumi and maybe soon Shodai fade out after what seems like far too short a time. One has to wonder, is this a failure in training? A side effect from whatever happened during COVID? Lack of cats in the heya?
I wish I knew, as I would love to see a set of 3-4 Ozeki show up and win 8 to 10 matches every basho for about 3 or 4 years. In my mind, that is what the Ozeki corps should be. The classical impenetrable barrier that all of the rest of the rikishi face every 2 months to test their mettle. May I live long enough to see this come to pass.
It’s an odd day of sumo, as we have a single leader without a clear path for anyone to challenge him other than the “on any given day” fluke of events. But I have high hopes that one gain the matches in the middle of the fight card are going to be the ones to watch. Let’s go!
Tamawashi alone atop the leaderboard, His only real competitor at this point might be Hokutofuji, but someone would have to beat Tamawashi and then hope for a playoff. Quite likely we will see a second Tamawashi yusho at this point. It’s still possible for him to finish 14-1, that’s Yokozuna grade sumo from a 37 year old man. Amazing.
Chasers: Hokutofuji, Nishikifuji
Hunt Group: Wakatakakage, Tobizaru, Takayasu
4 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Okinoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama (3-8) has reached make-koshi, but it still remains to be seen how many losses he will have when Aki is done. As a member of the bottom third of the rank and file, a deep enough losing record could nominate him for a unsightly return to Juryo. He has only beaten Okinoumi (5-6) once in 7 tries, so this may be loss number 9 for Yutakayama.
Kotoshoho vs Mitoryu – If 6-5 Kotoshoho can win today, it will give 4-7 Mitoryu his 8th loss, and make-koshi for September. Kotoshoho has won the last two in a row, and just maybe he has shaken off whatever caused his 0-3 start. He needs to win 2 out of the remaining 4 matches to reach his 8 and make a case for higher rank.
Chiyoshoma vs Takanosho – Sort of a “mini Darwin” today, with both rikishi at 7-4, and the winner getting not just the white start, but a glittering new kachi-koshi to boot. My challenge is that I want both of them to end with winning records this September, but frankly we need a renewed Takanosho back in the higher reaches of the banzuke. Given the Onigiri-kun prefers tsuki/oshi and Chiyoshoma yotsu, there is a lot of ways this match might go.
Myogiryu vs Oho – Oho (7-4) will try again today to get his 8th win, after losing day 11 to Hiradoumi in a match he probably should have won. He faced Myogiryu (6-5), who lost their only prior match, in May of this year.
Ryuden vs Kotoeko – Another match featuring a 7-4 (Ryuden) vs 5-6 (Kotoeko) match up. If Ryuden gets the win, he’s kachi-koshi and good to move higher up the ranks for November. These two last fought in March of 2021, and Kotoeko has won the last three matches, going back to Aki 2020. Ryuden will have his work cut out for him.
Tochinoshin vs Hiradoumi – A first time match for the long suffering veteran Tochinoshin (4-7) against top division debutante Hiradoumi (5-6). Tochinoshin is one loss away from make-koshi, where Hiradoumi needs to win 3 of the last 4 matches to reach 8 wins. As the last man on the banzuke, he would be the first in line to return to Juryo should he fail to get his 8th win.
Aoiyama vs Chiyotairyu – Both miserable mega-fauna men are at 3-8. Both are hurt, and both are fighting with a fraction of their normal intensity. So why not put them head to head. The 14=9 career record favors Aoiyama, but that won’t matter today, as they are both injured.
Terutsuyoshi vs Onosho – Long term sumo fans know that Onosho (4-7) has hot and cold streaks. After at 10-5 hot streak in Nagoya, he’s back to cold mode, and today a loss against Terutsuyoshi (5-6) would be his 8th, and render him make-koshi for September. Career record is 3-2 in favor of Onosho.
Ichiyamamoto vs Endo – Both men are 5-6, both need 3 wins out of the final 4 matches to reach 8, and both should be fighting with a lot of gusto today. Will Ichiyamamoto’s long arm thrusting attack or Endo’s down and under tachiai be the key today? Endo won their only prior match on day 9 of Aki last year (2021).
Takarafuji vs Tsurugisho – Both are 3-8, both are make-koshi, and both are probably injured. Tsurugisho is almost certainly headed back to Juryo, and Takarafuji is getting to the age where these sports injuries are becoming much slower to heal. Takarafuji has a 3-1 career record, with their last match being day 3 in Nagoya.
Tamawashi vs Wakamotoharu – Yusho race leader Tamawashi (10-1) gets Wakamotoharu (6-5) for a first ever match up, pitting super genki tsuki/oshi vs yotsu styles. Even if Wakamotoharu can manage to get any kind of hand hold on Tamawashi or his belt, I am not sure it would make matters better for him. Likely to be in number 11 for sumo’s iron man.
Tobizaru vs Nishikifuji – While the prior match seems somewhat obligatory (Tamawashi has to fight somebody), this one seems quite inspirited. Take the man 1 win behind the leader in Nishikifuji (9-2), and put him up against a very unpredictable Tobizaru (8-3) for their first ever match on the dohyo. This will be very instructive for Nishikifuji, as you can never tell what kind of hybrid sumo Tobizaru is going to throw into any given day.
Ura vs Midorifuji – In a similar theme, we are going to see highly innovated Ura (6-5) battle struggling Maegashira 1 (Midorifuji) in a first ever match to see who has a better chance of making it to 8 wins this September. Ura needs 2 wins, Midorifuji 3 wins out of the remaining 4 matches.
Meisei vs Ichinojo – Another mini-Darwin, with both rikishi having 4-7 scores to start the day. The loser ends the tournament with a make-koshi for their troubles. Seems odd that July yusho winner Ichinojo is in this situation, but it underscores why people like myself were aghast that he was able to take the cup in Nagoya. Meisei has a 7-4 career lead over the Mongolian Behemoth.
Kotonowaka vs Kiribayama – These two both should reach 8 wins at a minimum this month, thought I expect 7-4 Kotonowaka to possibly reach double digits. He’s got a fair chance of besting 6-5 Kiribayama today, who as surprisingly lost the last 2 in a row, and 3 out of the last 4.
Wakatakakage vs Takayasu – Both rikishi are 8-3 to start the day, though the trend tells the difference. Wakatakakage has had 8 straight wins, and Takayasu dropped an all important match against Myogiryu on day 11 to stumble out of the yusho race. A real shame for him, but as a long suffering Takayasu fan, he’s more or less the Chicago Cubs of sumo at the moment. Wakatakakage holds a 6-2 career advantage in competition, so this may be kind of ugly.
Daieisho vs Sadanoumi – I think I will start to call these matches “Newton Matches” as an adjunct to “Darwin Matches”. We have 4-7 Daieisho up against 7-4 Sadanoumi. A Sadanoumi win would make him kachi-koshi while at the same time making Daieisho make-koshi. So an equal and opposite reaction. There is a 6-4 career record that favors Daieisho, but right now I can’t help notice that Daieisho is not fighting well, and Sadanoumi is possibly at peak performance.
Hoshoryu vs Shodai – I refuse to try and consider what is or is not going on with Shodai (2-9). I do know what Hoshoryu (5-6) needs to win 3 out of the last 4 matches to keep his Sekiwake rank, So I consider him well motivated today. He typically gives Shodai a strong fight, but the last three matches in a row have all gone to Shodai. Maybe he can muster enough daikon to win again today.
Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – An advantage that Tamawashi has in the yusho run – he has already faced the Ozeki corps. Not that the Ozeki are much of a barrier this tournament. But Hokutofuji (9-2) may have some trouble with them, and might be expected to pick up a couple more losses. He has a 22 match history against Takakeisho (7-4), with a 10-12 record. Takakeisho still needs one more win for kachi-koshi, which would make him the only Ozeki to reach 8 wins this September.
Nishikigi vs Mitakeumi – Future Sekiwake Mitakeumi (3-8) (how dreadful that is) provides Nishikigi (5-6) his next stop on the “Magical Mystery Tour”. Oddly enough, he has a better chance of reaching kachi-koshi for September (needs 3 wins) than Mitakeumi does (not possible, already make-koshi). What is the sumo world coming to?