It’s day 12 and the yusho race has suddenly become interesting
With there being two men tied for the lead, there are many more options. My favorite being that both Takakeisho and Onosho lose one more before day 15, while Tamawashi and Kotoshoho continue to win. Readers know that I am enamored with big multi-way final day scenarios where we don’t know the winner until late in the second half of action. I am sure that is a long shot at this point, but a fellow can dream.
I note that Takakeisho and Onosho have been bashing each other on the clay for many years, and competed head to head as children. They have 14 career matches, with Takakeisho holding a 11-3 advantage. Not good odds for Onosho at all. Their last match was in May of 2022, where was an oshidashi that put Onosho out of the ring on day 5.
Leader: Takakeisho, Onosho
Chasers: Tamawashi, Kotoshoho
4 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Tohakuryu vs Chiyomaru – This could be a good day for Tohakuryu, who is 7-4 and visiting from Juryo. He’s going up against ailing Chiyomaru, who has a losing record at 3-8, and a 2-1 career deficit against Tohakuryu. With so few at J5 and up with winning records, and a host of spots due to open, a kachi-koshi might be enough for him to make his top division debut in March.
Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Kagayaki, if you try to henka Takarfuji today, I am going to lose all hope for him. Kagayaki is 6-5, and needs 2 more wins for kachi-koshi, where as a Takarafuji win (7-4) would be kachi-koshi for him today. Takarafuji holds a 12-5 career advantage, so I hope that he can make it work today and pick up his 8th.
Aoiyama vs Kotoeko – Both are 6-5 to start the day, the loser will course correct to better aim to join the Darwin cohort. I am foolishly holding out hope that crap sumo like what Aoiyama gave us on day 11 are now a thing of the past. If there is any real oyakata left, Kasugano hopefully give him something to think about. Kotoeko has a narrow 7-5 career record lead, and took 4 of the 5 matches they fought in 2022. Hopefully the two of them will actually have a straight ahead fight today.
Azumaryu vs Hiradoumi – Good news everyone! One of these fine fellows will get their 8th win in this match, as both are 7-4. You may have guess that I am hoping that it will be Azumaryu, who has won both prior matches against Hiradoumi. Oddly enough, this is the first time the two have fought outside of a November tournament.
Takanosho vs Tsurugisho – I am sure the schedulers had both Takanosho and Tsurugisho left over after they had the pairings they wanted, and so they went head to head. Tsurugisho is at 4-7 to start the day, Takanosho 5-6. They have split their prior two matches. A Tsurugisho loss today would be make-koshi for him, and both of them have a strong chance of finishing Hatsu with a losing record.
Ichiyamamoto vs Endo – Another “winner kachi-koshi” match, this time it’s Endo and Ichiyamamoto. This seems to be a cream-puff “gimmie” for Endo, as he has won both of their prior matches. In an strange repetition of a prior theme, this is the first time the two of them have had a match outside of a September tournament.
Mitoryu vs Oho – At 1-10, Oho is now a donor or blood-bag for the rest of the rikishi they want to throw lifelines too. Maegashira 15W Mitoryu has a 4-7 record, and if he were to “lose out” would be punted far down the banzuke into the jungly dark depths of the Juryo bog. So pair him with Oho, who has lost to him all of their 5 prior matches. Grim.
Hokutofuji vs Chiyoshoma – With a middling 6-5 score, its still quite possible that Hokutofuji may end Hatsu with “the most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”, as is his custom. He has a 6-1 career lead over 5-6 Chiyoshoma, who is likely headed for a day 15 Darwin match. I did really enjoy his win over Tsurugisho on day 11, so maybe he is going to finish Hatsu strong.
Kotoshoho vs Nishikigi – Displaced from the leader group, 8-3 Kotoshoho gets to have a match with surprisingly genki 7-4 Nishikigi. I hope we continue to see strong sumo from him, as he could take the place of Kotoshogiku as the rikishi you can count on to just square up against an opponent, grab a hold and run them out of the ring. A Nishikigi win is kachi-koshi for him.
Abi vs Ura – Both rikishi are 6-5, and the loser gets pushed back to the middle of the narrow road to Darwin town. Personally I think it’s going to be Ura, who while he’s not terrible this January, is not really able to consistently generate solid offense. I have not seen a lot of tug and pull going on, and he’s too bulky now for some of his early plastic-man tricks. I still have Abi pegged for a likely kachi-koshi.
Onosho vs Tamawashi – Now that Onosho (9-2) is a co-leader, you know they are going to make him work quite hard to keep that position, possibly trying to get him into a head to head against Takakeisho in the next few days. He’s had some success against 8-3 Tamawashi, taking 5 out of 11 matches. But every match since 2021 has gone to Tamawashi. Both are big-power pushers, so I expect fireworks today.
Tobizaru vs Myogiryu – The flip side of some early matches, both are 4-7, and the loser will end the day make-koshi. Both have some problems with their sumo this January, so it would not surprise me if both of them are 9 or 10 losses at the end of day 15. I hope we can get Tobizaru back together and tuned up for Osaka. The upper rank matches are more entertaining when he’s around to cause trouble.
Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – A 24 match history between these two, and Mitakeumi leads it 14-10. But Mitakeumi is not his normal self, and his not fighting anywhere near where he should. At just 5-6, he is another likely candidate for a Darwin match on Sunday, if he can get that far. A win today for 7-4 Daieisho would be kachi-koshi for him.
Meisei vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi has only had one match in the past two years against Meisei, which he lost. He is already make-koshi at 3-8 and just maybe if he can squeeze out a win today, he can share the losing record love with 4-7 Meisei, too. I mostly want Sadanoumi to keep his feet, and stay away from the salt baskets.
Midorifuji vs Wakamotoharu – First of a series of “Darwin tune up” matches featuring an Onomi brother. Its 6-5 Wakamotoharu against 5-6 Midorifuji, with the optimum outcome (for Darwin purposes) being a Midorifuji win to push them both to 6-6. They have had one match per year for the last three years, with Midorifuji winning the 2020 one, and Wakamotoharu the most recent two.
Wakatakakage vs Kotonowaka – Another Darwin tune up, with both at 5-6. The winner gets to join the crowd at 6-6. The loser is one loss away from make-koshi. They fought five matches in 2022, with Kotonowaka taking 4 of them.
Nishikifuji vs Shodai – First ever match, for them. We have 5-6 Shodai, who still has a chance at kachi-koshi if he want win 3 of the last 4, against already make-koshi Nishikifuji. We know Shodai has the sumo to win those last matches to reach the safety of 8, but his fighting spirit seems all but quenched.
Ryuden vs Hoshoryu – A win for 7-4 Hoshoryu would be kachi-koshi for him, and I would assume an immediate return to kyujo status. He has won the only prior bout against 6-5 Ryuden, which was in March of 2021. Hoshoryu is still looking hurt, so I hope this gamble pays off for him.
Kiribayama vs Takakeisho – I think after winning with a throw on day 10, 9-2 Takakeisho was “Feeling his oats” a bit too much, and may have left room for Kotonowaka to fight him on his own terms. I would expect he will not make that mistake today against Kiribayama, who has a 4-8 record against him on the clay. Now that he is not in sole possession of the lead, Takakeisho needs to revert to daily wins and wait for someone (possibly even himself) to pick of Onosho.