With nakabi behind us, it’s on to week 2 of the Nagoya tournament. This is where stamina and endurance can make the difference between winning and losing. In the heat of Dolphin’s Arena, the daily matches will get tougher, and the stakes will get higher as we progress. Sumo is, after all, a zero sum game. There are a static number of wins available across the 15 day tournament, and every win that goes to someone with a 10-5 final score, came from someone else. With the inter-san’yaku battles starting soon, we will probably see the Ozeki hopefuls be whittled down by this mathematical reality. Good luck to them all, I wonder if any of them will make it to 33.
My compliments to Nishikigi who is hanging in with the leaders, given what he was able to do in week 1, I would say he has the easiest path to the cup right now. Given that none of the current leaders have prior week 2 yusho experience, I expect all of them to falter or run out of drive some time in the next few days. I still like Tamawashi’s chances
Leadesr: Hoshoryu, Nishikigi, Hokutofuji
Chasesr: Daieisho, Wakamotoharu, Tamawashi, Takarafuji, Endo, Hakuoho
Hunt Group: Kotonowaka, Takayasu, Chiyoshoma, Gonoyama, Shonannoumi
7 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Bushozan (1-7) vs Takarafuji (6-2) – There are a series of matches today where someone on a clear kachi-koshi path is up against someone who is one or two losses away from make-koshi. This goes back to the zero sum nature of sumo. I can see the scheduling committee wanting to tidy things up early, and get some of these guys sorted into losing and winning records, in order to help shape the yusho race in act 3. This should be a Takarafuji win today, and make-koshi for Bushozan.
Daishoho (3-5) vs Hakuoho (6-2) – A first ever match up between these two, I expect Hakuoho to take the win today, and move a step closer to kachi-koshi. With just 4 wins out of the final 7, he would hit double digits and possibly a special prize. Can I just admit I love watching this guy fight? He’s so very good at sumo right now, and I am giddy to think what he is going to turn into over the next few years as long as he can avoid serious injury.
Gonoyama (5-3) vs Endo (6-2) – Another first time match, but this fight is no cream puff for Endo, who needs just 2 more wins to gain some breathing room between himself and the path to Juryo. Gonoyama has now lost 3 in a row, and we may have him ending up in the “Darwin” crew on the final day if he can’t re-connect with his sumo.
Chiyoshoma (5-3) vs Aoiyama (2-6) – Speaking of the route to Juryo, the man who I think may be the captain of the Juryo barge this time is none other than “Big Dan” Aoiyama. He seems to be bereft of his normal sumo tools, and struggles every day to simply put up a decent fight. At his age and level of chronic injury, this might be the sunset ride for him. Chiyoshoma holds a 10-7 career lead over Aoiyama, having won 3 of the last 4.
Ryuden (4-4) vs Tsurugisho (2-6) – I doubt we are going to see Tsurugisho make it to 8 wins, but given his Maegashira 11 rank, I don’t see him as a candidate for Juryo in September. Ryuden at 4-4 is on a path the a 7-7 “Darwin” score at the start of day 15, unless he can find some more power over the next 3-4 days. Given Ryuden’s chronic hip pain and motion problems, he has his work cut out for him. He holds a 9-2 career lead over Tsurugisho.
Kotoeko (4-4) vs Shonannoumi (5-3) – I really want to see Kotoeko rally this week. He has been a “Darwin” nominee far too many times in the last year, and I would rather he just secure his 8th win sometime before day 14. He has a first ever match against debutant Shonannoumi, who has proven over the past week that he is worthy of his top division rank.
Kotoshoho (3-5) vs Myogiryu (4-4) – Kotoshoho is just on the outside edge of the funnel at the moment, meaning a win today would keep him in the middle cluster of rikishi headed toward 7-7, and a loss would put him on the make-koshi path. He has only won once against Myogiryu in 5 attempts, so the odds are not in his favor to prevail today.
Kinbozan (4-4) vs Tamawashi (6-2) – Kinbozan won their only prior fight, which was day 6 of Natsu 2023. Tamawashi needs to prevail today to keep his position one win behind the leader group, which I think would amuse everyone quite a bit.
Takayasu (5-3) vs Sadanoumi (1-7) – Takayasu has never lost to Sadanoumi in 8 tries. I know Takayasu has lost 3 in a row now, and I am not sure what happened to his sumo. Maybe this is a chance for him to bounce back. A loss today for Sadanoumi would be his 8th, and make-koshi for him.
Hokutofuji (7-1) vs Oho (3-5) – First of the leader group to see action, Hokutofuji has his 3rd career match against Oho, having won both of the prior two fights. Both of them ended by yorikiri, so I expect Oho to grapple early, Hokutofuji to land a nodowa, and his lower body to keep him balanced and attacking no matter what.
Hokuseiho (4-4) vs Takanosho (3-5) – Another match of rikishi on the middle path toward a 7-7 score to start the final day. Their only prior match was day 7 in Osaka, where Takanosho won by oshidashi. Since then, I think Hokuseiho has gained confidence and balance, and Takanosho may find himself gripped by the enormous right arm, and hurled out of the ring. Both could really use the win.
Nishikifuji (4-4) vs Onosho (3-5) – Yet another match of rikishi on the middle path, this time we have a 2-0 career record favoring Onosho over Nishikifuji. Onosho has shown persistent bad balance this tournament, and I am certain we will see Nishikifuji exploit Onosho’s aggressive forward lean as much as possible today.
Shodai (2-6) vs Midorifuji (2-6) – Both are on the make-koshi path, both are 2-6, and both are fighting poorly. I would be delighted for any form of the old Shodai, even the one that used “cartoon physics” to randomly beat opponents 3 or 4 years ago. It’s terrible watching the guy just sort of blob about the ring, not really putting up much of a contest.
Nishikigi (7-1) vs Mitakeumi (1-7) – The next member of the leader group to see action, this fight comes down to the question of if Mitakeumi is in a fighting mood today. He could seriously play spoiler to the grandest of Nishikigi’s “Magical Mystery Tour” scenarios, if he can muster his mojo in spite of his injuries and distractions in his personal life. He holds a 6-2 career lead against Niskikgi.
Kotonowaka (5-3) vs Tobizaru (4-4) – These two are on the middle path as well, with Tobizaru fighting well but not really winning matches for yet another tournament. I wonder if that is training? Stamina? Injury? They have 10 career matches, with Kotonowaka winning 6 of them, and I think that he has the stronger case today.
Abi (4-4) vs Daieisho (6-2) – Daieisho needs 4 wins over the final 7 days to hit double digits, and slightly more than that for his Ozeki target. Today is a good challenge for him, in that Abi will respond to Daieisho’s huge forward power with huge forward power of his own. They have a near even 8-9 career record, and I am eager to see if Abi can put a dent in Daieisho’s hopes for a promotion.
Hoshoryu (7-1) vs Hiradoumi (3-5) – In contrast, this one looks like an outright creampuff gimmie for Hoshoryu. Hiradoumi has not been fighting well, and has never beaten Hoshoryu. A win today for H would be kachi-koshi, and another step forward toward his bid to be promoted to Ozeki.
Ura (4-4) vs Wakamotoharu (6-2) – For the 4th time in the past 6 tournaments, Ura is on the path to be 7-7 on the final day. Maybe he enjoys the thrill of the Darwin matches, I know I do. He has only won once in the 5 previous matches against Ozeki hopeful Wakamotoharu, so clearly advantage to the Onami brother today. With luck we will get to see some Ura magic to spice up the tail end of day nine – I hope.
Meisei (4-4) vs Kirishima (2-4-2) – It really looks like Kirishima is still at least partially injured. He is not fighting at his normal intensity, and he is 2 losses away from kadoban – which would have been his outcome if he had just stayed kyujo. But I think that if he can get his sumo together, he has an important role to play soon – giving the Ozeki hopefuls a tough match to see if they can dominate in the face of their toughest opponents. Meisei holds a surprising 6-4 career lead.