I am both impressed and delighted at the rate at which the scheduling crew is busy throwing matches in that have daily impact to the story lines. I know what’s what they are supposed to be doing, but I have seen more than once that this gets saved up for the last 3 days. This is also the time when the numerologists in the schedule crew start to have fun, play games or make number jokes with the matches and the schedules. It’s subtle, it’s dumb, it’s nerdy, and so very Japanese.
On deck for a try at kachi-koshi today: Kiribayama, Kotonowaka, Ryuden, Onosho and Hiradoumi.
I am eager to see how matters with Wakatakakage play out. His performance has not been Ozeki level this November, but as documented elsewhere on Tachiai, the NSK may be in dire need of another Ozeki before too long, and he is the only option they have at hand. But it’s all for naught if he can’t consistently win 2 matches out of every 3. The last thing we need is a repeat of Shodai or worse yet poor Mitakeumi.
I have no misconceptions. Sumo is going to be just fine. But sumo fandom is harder now than it was 5 years ago. Welcome to the post Hakuho era.
Significant changes since day 11’s preview – we now have a single leader for the cup. He’s not had prior yusho experience, so for the final 4 matches, it’s mostly a mental battle between his ears. Can Hoshoryu calm his inner self and continue to excel? We will know more at the end of day 12…
Chasers: Takayasu, Oho
Hunt Group: Takakeisho, Nishikifuji, Abi, Kagayaki
4 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Onosho vs Kotoshoho – A win today, and Onosho has a kachi-koshi for November. He’s not fought that well, and frankly I would not be surprised to see him struggle to cross the finish line to get a winning record. Kotoshoho has been unimpressive at 6-5, and has been struggling to fight above the broad average for the entire year. Onosho holds a 3-1 career advantage.
Aoiyama vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi (0-11) is running out of chances to avoid the dreaded zenpai. Maybe his best last opportunity is a match against 4-7 Aoiyama today. Terutsuyoshi holds an 8-5 career lead, but I don’t have high hopes that Terutsuyoshi will be able to muster the lower body fortitude to keep him in the match more than a few seconds.
Atamifuji vs Chiyoshoma – Atamifuji (3-8) is already make-koshi, and likely headed back to Juryo to regroup. Isegahama has had a real dud of a tournament in Fukuoka this year, I wonder what happened for so many of their top performers to all be in terrible fighting form all at the same time. He has a first time match against Chiyoshoma, who is one loss away from make-koshi (4-7).
Okinoumi vs Tochinoshin – A pair of 5-6 rikishi who share a 22 match career record, favoring Okinoumi narrowly at 10-12. During 2022, both of these grizzled veterans get into pretty sore and depleted condition around about this time of a basho, so this match may be who has enough fuel left to fight stronger today.
Ichiyamamoto vs Myogiryu – On to a pair of 6-5 rikishi, both of whom have a worrisome 3 losses in the last 4 matches. Looks like today will be to see who gets to make that 4 losses out of 5. Ouch!
Nishikigi vs Azumaryu – At this point, I am really pulling for 35 year old Azumaryu (6-5) to finally get his first ever top division kachi-koshi. If that means 5-6 Nishikigi needs to eat some clay, that’s a price I am willing to pay.
Hokutofuji vs Hiradoumi – Oh goodie, the first high interest match crops up before half time. They have never fought, and I have been impressed by how well, and how strongly 7-4 Hiradoumi has fought this November. He’s got ol’Stompy 6-5 Hokutofuji, who on any given day, unleash some impressive sumo. But as he has aged, Hokutofuji’s range of when he can unleash that wonderful stuff seems to grow more narrow, which is a shame. A Hiradoumi win today would be kachi-koshi.
Ura vs Takanosho – Two high interest matches in a row! Sure, both of them are fighting poorly, but I like both of their sumo styles, and maybe we can get a good match from them today. Its already make-koshi Ura at 2-9 against about to be make-koshi Takanosho at 4-7. May the best man lose!
Meisei vs Kotoeko – Both are 6-5, both still have a strong chance to end the year with a winning record, and both of them are just as likely to end up in a day 15 Darwin match. You didn’t think I forgot about that, did you? Oh heavens no. Sure Kotoeko is dashingly handsome and has a 10-6 career lead over Meisei, But I think this one is going to be a brawl.
Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – Just about half way through the torikumi, we get this dud of a fight. Both are already make-koshi, both are having a poor tournament, and both will struggle to do any sumo today. But whose sumo will stink worse? 1-10 Takarafuji, or 2-9 Ichinojo. Before you answer that, Ichinojo is slightly less banged up, and holds a 17-3 career lead.
Takayasu vs Ryuden – But now they schedulers make up for that stink burger, with this gem. I think a lot of sumo fans want to see Takayasu (9-2) take the cup once before he retires. He’s one win behind Hoshoryu, and needs to keep winning and hope that someone can put dirt on the yusho race front man. To reach that admirable goal, he’s got to best 7-4 Ryuden today. Not out of the question, but I do hope that Takayasu’s sumo is a bit more balanced and under control today.
Kagayaki vs Kotonowaka – Let this one sink in – Kagayaki is kachi-koshi (8-3), and on the leader board. Not that his performance is amazing right now, just that’s how weak the leader board is. If rising star Kotonowaka (7-4) can’t beat him up and take his lunch money, I will be surprised. A Kotonowaka win today would be kachi-koshi for him.
Tobizaru vs Wakamotoharu – Oh, just when my interest was starting to wane, here we have a fine example of scheduling. Tobizaru (5-6) has lost 3 of the last 4, and needs to win three out of the last 4 to reach kachi-koshi (see what they did there?) He’s up against Wakamotoharu (6-5) who is the polar opposite of Tobizaru’s wild, frantic sumo. Can’t wait.
Tamawashi vs Endo – Big match of people who we all wish were fighting better. Perennial favorite Endo (5-6) has only had one kachi-koshi this year, a 8-7 at Osaka. He’s up against September yusho winner Tamawashi (3-8), who I can only image is hurt and just can’t fight at his normal level of power. They have a 30 match history between them – wow.
Midorifuji vs Daieisho – Back to a pair of middle of the road fighters, we have 6-5 Midorifuji, and 5-6 Daieisho. I am still impressed that Midorifuji is able to be competitive at this rank in only his 4th top division basho, he only won their only prior match.
Oho vs Hoshoryu – You might say, hey, what’s this match? An M13 fighting off against a Sekiwake? Well, the Maegashira 13 is Oho, and one behind the leader, 10-1 Hoshoryu, who is his opponent today. Oho (9-2) is kind of a surprise this basho, and if he manages a win today, would throw the yusho race into chaos, by drawing even with Hoshoryu, and should Takayasu also win, turn this into a 3 way fight to the end. Surprisingly, they have had three prior matches, which Oho won 2 of them. Welcome to the big leagues, Oho.
Wakatakakage vs Abi – We just had a key match to shape the yusho race, what can we do next? Oh yeah! Lets try to take Wakatakakage’s Ozeki bid and see if we can run it aground! Abi is already kachi-koshi at 8-3, against 6-5 Wakatakakage, who I expected to be in the yusho race at this time. Wakatakakage has a narrow 2-1 career edge.
Sadanoumi vs Mitakeumi – Now that we had our fight, we can have our wake. Mitakeumi’s Ozeki career is done, will he also end this tournament make-koshi? At 4-7, he’s one loss away from that outcome, and I will be a bit surprised if Sadanoumi is the one who delivers the kill shot.
Takakeisho vs Nishikifuji – Both men are 8-3, so they are both securely kachi-koshi. This battle is to see which one of them will stay in the hunt for the cup, though the winner is going to hope that Oho can accomplish the unlikely.
Kiribayama vs Shodai – Just when you think it’s all done, along comes this nugget. Kiribayama at 7-4 can secure a winning record by defeating kadoban Ozeki Shodai (5-6). The problem is, I think we have Yokozuna Shodai from the parallel universe around, at least he was on day 11. If that guy hangs around, it’s wins every day until senshuraku. But if it’s normal Shodai, we may get to see him make-koshi, and follow Mitakeumi rank down the drain.