We enter the final three days of the tournament, and the story threads at the front of everyone’s mind are still waiting to be resolved. With the win/loss combos on day 12, we once again have a tie for the yusho with two unlikely contestants. Furthermore, it is not mathematically out of the question that as many as 10 people are currently in position to eventually take the cup.
The three Ozeki hopefuls are still pushing for double digits, but as predicted last weekend, now that they are in the “tough” part of their schedule, at the end of their endurance, in the sweltering heat of Dolphins Arena, some are finding it difficult to continue the campaign. I know that most folks work by the “33 wins over 3 basho” metric, but it’s really up to the NSK who they promote and when. So we won’t know for sure if anyone gets the nod until after the tournament. For folks hoping for a new Ozeki, there are a few paths that lead to none of the 3 reaching promotion criteria.
Oh, what a difference day 12 made. We are back to having Nishikigi and Hokutofuji tied for the cup, with Hoshoryu and Hakuoho (??!!!) one win behind. So far the two leaders are the only rikishi to reach double digits. The Ozeki hopefuls are on thin ice right now, with Wakamotoharu unable to reach 33, and Daieisho and Hoshoryu needing to win all of their remaining matches – unlikely as we will see them to head to head before the final day.
Leader: Nishikigi, Hokutofuji
Chasers: Hoshoryu, Hakuoho
Hunt Group: Daieisho, Wakamotoharu, Kotonowaka, Shonannoumi, Ryuden, Endo
3 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 13
Aoiyama (6-6) vs Tohakuryu (6-6) – Aoiyama can still rescue himself from a near certain demotion to Juryo by winning 2 of his last 3 matches. Given how poorly he was fighting in the first week, it was easy to predict that him getting this far would be very difficult, and indeed he has struggled daily, but he’s fighting his way through. He faces Juryo visitor and fellow 6-6 score holder Tohakuryu today in the first match. It is their first ever meeting.
Chiyoshoma (6-6) vs Takarafuji (7-5) – All Takarafuji needs is one more win to rescue himself from a risk of demotion to Juryo for the first time in over a decade. But in this second week, his winning sumo seems to be unavailable. He has a 7-10 career deficit against Chiyoshoma, who is well below his henka quota for July.
Gonoyama (7-5) vs Tsurugisho (4-8) – A Gonoyama win today over already make-koshi Tsurugisho would be kachi-koshi for him, and a posting closer to mid-banzuke for September. But don’t count out Tsurugisho yet – that fight on day 12 against Onosho was quite a bit more sumo than I thought he was capable of in his current condition. Another first ever match.
Kotoeko (6-6) vs Bushozan (3-9) – Kotoeko needs 2 more wins over the final 3 to reach the safety of 8, and he’s a strong candidate for a day 15 Darwin match at this point. I would like to think they gave him Bushozan today to let him pick up a 7th win and possible avoid the Darwin fate on Sunday. This is yet another first ever match.
Kinbozan (6-6) vs Ryuden (8-4) – Likewise, Kinbozan needs 2 more wins out of the final 3 to reach kachi-koshi, and is a likely Darwin candidate for Sunday. He’s never fought against Ryuden, who is already kachi-koshi, and may want to run up the score to get him close to his normal rank near the middle of the banzuke.
Endo (8-4) vs Hokutofuji (10-2) – One of a series of consequential matches for day 13, we get co-leader Hokutofuji up against Endo, who has lost the 2 prior matches. Hokutofuji has faced Endo 22 times, and they have a career score of 11-11, with Hokutofuji winning 3 of the last 4. That Endo win was the most recent match, Day 3 of Osaka this year.
Shonannoumi (8-4) vs Nishikifuji (5-7) – With his first ever top division kachi-koshi, Shonannoumi comes up against a man he has not beaten in both prior attempts – Nishikifuji. A loss today would mark Nishikifuji as make-koshi, which I am sure he would rather avoid. His only hope is to win the remaining 3 matches, including a day 15 Darwin bout.
Sadanoumi (3-9) vs Daishoho (4-8) – Both are already at 8 losses or above, and are fighting now to determine how far down the banzuke they will fall for September. Their prior matches break 2-1 in favor of Daishoho, but with both of them fighting poorly, it may come down to who can get a lucky break in the first 10 seconds.
Myogiryu (6-6) vs Tamawashi (7-5) – Tamawashi needs one more win for kachi-koshi, and I think today he has a good chance of getting that 8th win. He has a 10-7 career record against Myogiryu, but Myogiryu has won 3 of the last 4 matches against him, going back to September of 2020. The last two went to Myogiryu by hikiotoshi, so allow me to encourage Tamawashi to keep the nodowa going, and don’t lean into the thrusting attack.
Hokuseiho (5-7) vs Kotoshoho (4-8) – Hokuseiho id on the cusp of his career first make-koshi. He can still make it to kachi-koshi by winning all 3 of his remaining matches, and facing down a Darwin match on Sunday. Not impossible, but unlikely. I think we had more or less reached a point where his sumo has been deciphered, and most rikishi now have something they can try to overcome his size advantage. Time for more skill, young Hokuseiho! This is his first ever match against the already make-koshi Kotoshoho.
Takanosho (6-6) vs Onosho (6-6) – It’s the battle of the “noshos”! They are both 6-6, they have an even 7-7 career match record, and this match is right in the middle of the torikumi for day 13. Are the numbers nerds in the scheduling crew having fun with us again? You bet they are, and I love it.
Oho (5-7) vs Meisei (5-7) – A bit of a “mini-Darwin” here as the loser of this match will pick up their 8th win and be make-koshi at the end of the day. Both of their prior matches went to Meisei, and I think there is a good chance he will prevail today, as Oho continues to be hit-or-miss.
Midorifuji (3-9) vs Takayasu (5-7) – Takayasu is too hurt to fight properly right now, so lets just get him make-koshi today and wish him a speedy recovery, the poor hairy moose. Midorifuji is already make-koshi, but has a nominal 2-1 career advantage over the former Ozeki.
Hiradoumi (4-8) vs Mitakeumi (2-10) – Normally, this would be a chance to watch Mitakeumi completely mangle a smaller, less capable rikishi who somehow managed to stray onto his fight card. But given how poorly Mitakeumi’s been fighting, there is a fair chance that Hiradoumi might win their first ever match. Both are already make-koshi, but Mitakeumi seems to not have much fight in him right now.
Shodai (5-7) vs Asanoyama (5-4-3) – A glorious old rivalry, that favors Asanoyama 7-4. Both are nowhere near the expected rank we would want to see in competition, but I expect them to have a pretty spicy match regardless. Asanoyama needs to win the remaining 3, including a day 15 Darwin match, to manage 8 wins. A loss today for Shodai would be make-koshi for him.
Ura (6-6) vs Tobizaru (6-6) – Two high energy, high mobility rikishi going head to head. There is an even chance that one of them opens a portal to a parallel universe to swap back our version of Shodai for the good one, and that would be acres of fun. Both come into today 6-6, with Tobizaru having a 5-2 career lead.
Nishikigi (10-2) vs Hakuoho (9-3) – For the bottom man on the banzuke, they are giving Hakuoho some of the toughest jobs of the tournament. His shoulder was not good at the start, and after taking the brunt of a fall on day 12 against Abi, I would wonder wether he is fit to fight. Its a first ever match, with a real chance that he may forcibly tear Nishikigi out of the leader spot and drop him in the front row.
Kotonowaka (8-4) vs Abi (4-8) – Kotonowaka hit 8 wins on day 12, and Abi reached 8 losses moments later. They have a 5 match history, that probably does not matter much, as Abi is not even close to full offensive power. I predict this will help boost Kotonowaka’s score, further biasing him toward a Sekiwake rank should one of the Ozeki hopefuls get the nod.
Wakamotoharu (8-4) vs Daieisho (8-4) – Time for Wakamotoharu to play spoiler and set the stage for his next Ozeki attempt in September. He can blow a hole in Daieisho’s hopes with a win today. They share an even 3-3 score, and I think this match will come down to who sets the form on the second step. If Daieisho can keep distance and start his thrusting attacks, he holds a clear advantage over Wakamotoharu’s yotsu-zumo style.
Hoshoryu (9-3) vs Kirishima (6-4-2) – Kirishima’s chance to scuttle Hoshoryu’s Ozeki dreams, a win here today would make it impossible for him to reach 33 wins. Hoshoryu holds a 7-5 advantage on the clay, but with each winning one match so far this year. This one will be big, brutal and possibly quick.