Natsu Day 11 Preview

Leonid covered the many storylines as we head in to Act 3. Here, I will focus on those matches tomorrow but a little overlap on a few topics is unavoidable.

All eyes will be on the fixture between Tochinoshin and Abi as the Georgian battles to regain his Ozeki rank. He has been a force this tournament, demolishing Mitakeumi last night, winning nearly all of his bouts by trademark yorikiri (all wins but the fusen). The one blemish so far comes from Endo, who has had a rather unimpressive outing so far.

The good news for Tochinoshin is that he’s got breathing room. Kotoshogiku lost three of his final five matches as he failed to regain his rank. While Terunofuji ultimately delivered the final nail in the coffin, Kotoshogiku needed to win three of his Act 3 bouts and quickly dropped the first two, meaning he had to win out on the final weekend.

Tochinoshin’s opponent for tomorrow, Abi, was quite aggressive against Yokozuna Kakuryu and at 6-3 is having a decent basho so far. Will he play spoiler? On paper, it seems unlikely as he has lost all three bouts to the Georgian. While his style can sometimes befuddle a one-dimensional belt-grappler, it really relies on hatakikomi pulling attacks, Tochinoshin seems rather impervious to that. According to the career visualizer, he has only lost to hatakikomi 13 times. It’s much more likely he’d lose to a superior grappler than a pull.

Kachi-Koshi

For the other wrestlers, Enho gets another chance at his kachi-koshi during this debut tournament. He’ll face Tomokaze, who lost his fourth bout in a row last night to Takarafuji in rather embarrassing fashion. The Ozekae tandem of Goeido and Takayasu are also in line to pick up that valuable eighth win, assuring they clear the kadoban hurdle with several lengths to spare. Takayasu will face Aoiyama and Goeido has drawn Ryuden. Both of those rank-and-filers are quite capable of the upset. Aoiyama leads in the head-to-head against Takayasu but this resurgent Ryuden is really an unknown quantity to Goeido. Both should be entertaining matches.

Other Matches to Watch Out For

Musubi-no-ichiban, the number one rice ball, features Kakuryu vs Myogiryu. The two have a rather even career rivalry but Kakuryu has won the last four meetings. With the yusho race on the line, we can expect Kakuryu to bring out all the stops, though it likely won’t be quite as easy as swatting away Abi.

Mitakeumi vs Endo will be a fan favorite. I’m expecting a lot of loud cheers for the victor. While Mitakeumi has had a solid basho, though not impressive, Endo is clearly in a slump. The Hokutofuji vs Kotoshogiku matchup is a great pairing to lead into the Mitakeumi/Endo bout. I’m already eating crow from my pre-tournament call for Kotoshogiku but both men need to turn the bus around this week. Hokutofuji’s in better position as the Geek is eyeing makekoshi.

Skipping down to Chiyotairyu and Tamawashi, Chiyotairyu will want to avoid going makekoshi but Tamawashi will be wanting to compete for the sanyaku slots that will be vacated this tournament. I expect fireworks.

The Sho- Sho- Showdown (excuse my stammer) is one of those that I have no idea how it will turn out. Shohozan‘s a brawler while Shodai somehow manages to cling on to his high-mid maegashira rank without much exciting sumo. Apologies, even I cringed at that pun but I can’t help myself sometimes.

Perhaps it’s the presence of other pixies but Ishiura is doing sumo again. And Meisei has been having a solid basho of his own so this should be another good bout. Skipping down to Terutsuyoshi as we already discussed Enho, his bout against Tochiozan will be an interesting one. Tochiozan is likely ranked a bit low here so I expect him to devour Terutsuyoshi.

Natsu Day 10 Highlights

Yesterday, our leadership pack of Kakuryu, Tochinoshin and Asanoyama picked up that all important kachi-koshi win. Herouth took us a bit deeper into the importance of this 8th win yesterday as this win, and each subsequent win, is literally money in the bank.

Before we start thinking yusho race, by hitting this mark so early in the tournament, Asanoyama will have his eye on another special prize to add to his two kanto-sho. And as we all know, Tochinoshin is hoping to reclaim his ozeki rank this week, as well. And Kakuryu, as lone Yokozuna, has his eyes on the first yusho of the new Reiwa era (and the first Trump Cup*). As Day 10 opens, Enho and Kotoeko have their own chances to boost their bimonthly income. Did either of them make it?

On His Way Back To Ozeki?

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Daishoho with a quick oshidashi. Chiyomaru ends his losing streak as Daishoho put up only token resistance after the tachiai. A straight forward affair.

Ishiura defeats Sadanoumi. Ishiura borrowed Harumafuji’s hit-and-shift move on the initial charge, and quickly grabbed Sadanoumi’s arm, spinning him down for the kotenage throw. Hakuho’s deshi was quite spry today and that speed was far too much for Sadanoumi.

Shimanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi. After a matta, the two met head-on and tried to lock in for a good belt battle. Terutsuyoshi picked the wrong time to try a kick as he was too far away. Shimanoumi seized the opportunity to push Terutusyoshi out, yorikiri.

Yago defeats Chiyoshoma. Chiyoshoma starts with a henka attempt followed by a leg sweep. Yago maintained his balance and engaged with a belt grip. Once Chiyoshoma ran out of parlor tricks, Yago showed him the exit, yorikiri.

Tochiozan defeats Enho. Enho drove Tochiozan back to the tawara but the Kochi native was able to make use of the added leverage to take control of the bout and launch his quick counter attack. Hatakikomi. Kachi-koshi will need to wait for another day.

Tokushoryu defeats Kagayaki. Tokushoryu’s stalling draws Kagayaki into a matta. Then enraged, Kagayaki leaps out into the tachiai to be met with a sidestep. This was more-henka-than HNH, but there was a little bonk of the top knots. Maybe a 90% henka? Either way, Tokushoryu took Kagayaki by surprise, slipped in behind and guided the gold mawashioed rikishi out. Oshidashi.

Kotoeko defeats Onosho and picks up that kachi koshi. A well met tachiai, with a slap to Onosho’s face for good measure, Kotoeko got Onosho to commit to an all-in slapping oshi attack. As soon as Onosho committed fully, Kotoeko ducked to the side and let the tadpole’s momentum carry him out of the ring. Hikiotoshi.

Asanoyama defeats Shodai. The judges say yorikiri but this was an oshi-tsuki battle as Asanoyama landed several strong thrusts to Shodai’s face. Shodai tried to counter but golly-geez that proved hard with that fierce arm in your face. This forced Shodai’s body to stay high so Asanoyama got inside, and bullrushed him off the dohyo.

Meisei defeats Shohozan in a wild, twirling, charging bout. After a weird waiting game where both men were committed to not starting, Shohozan finally drew in Meisei for a matta. The second attempt was a great collision. Both men backed away and started slapping to and fro in a great street brawl that then morphed into a couple of billy-goats charging at each other. A slight shift of weight to the left was enough to get Shohozan off balance.

Takarafuji defeats Tomokaze. This was a weird one as Takarafuji’s token resistance won. Takarafuji absorbed the charge of Tomokaze and pulled. If Tomokaze had been able to stay on his feet, this would have been an easy oshidashi. However, as he was fully extended and trying to drive the blocking sled back, Tomokaze’s right foot lost purchase in the middle of the dohyo. As Takarafuji stepped off the dohyo, the gunbai initially went to Tomokaze. However, after a review, we see that Tomokaze slipped and his knee touched before Takarafuji stepped out. They call it a hikiotoshi but this is likely Kintamayama’s prototypical slippiotoshi.

Yoshikaze defeats Nishikigi. Yoshikaze’s face absorbed Nishikigi’s charge but he was able to secure a strong morozashi double-inside grip of the mawashi. Nishikigi wrapped his arms around Yoshikaze’s but ultimately couldn’t mount a counter-attack from that awkward position. Yoshikaze drove forward

Tamawashi defeats Myogiryu. The two met with a strong tachiai where Myogiryu perhaps getting poked in the eye. Tamawashi pushed Myogiryu’s head back and then forced him off balance to the side with a strong right arm thrust. Tsukiotoshi.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyotairyu. Why did Chiyotairyu pull? It was a pretty strong initial charge and he gained a slight advantage moving forward. However, rather than continue forward, Chiyotairyu tried for a slapdown. Hokutofuji was able to maintain his balance and drive through, forcing mutton chops off the dohyo. Oshidashi

Daieisho defeats Kotoshogiku by nodowa. Giku was off like a jackrabbit at the initial charge but Daieisho countered with a blast to the neck and sustained oshi pushing attack. This got the former ozeki moving backwards. One more solid nodowa, drawing Giku to put all of this weight forward in resistance, and then a quick shift to the left let Kotoshogiku fall to the dirt. Hikiotoshi.

Aoiyama defeats Endo. In a super quick one-two move, Aoiyama arrested Endo’s initial charge with those two big paws on Endo’s shoulders. With Endo’s head still down for the charge, Aoiyama worked his hands firmly to the back of Endo’s head and neck and pushed the ATM face first to the dohyo. Another fat stack of envelopes for a quick hatakikomi.  

Tochinoshin defeats Mitakeumi. We didn’t get sky-crane Tochinoshin today. We got the bulldozer. A shoulder blast to Mitakeumi’s face won the advantage at the tachai. Both men locked in for a belt battle but Tochinoshin drove Mitakeumi, still smarting from the initial smash, back and out for a yorikiri. One more win to reclaim ozeki status and he stays on course in the yusho race. Could the Georgian pick up number two?

Takayasu defeats Ryuden. They’re calling this oshidashi but this was a solid mawashi battle. Both Ryuden and Takayasu locked in on the belt after the initial charge. Takayasu won the initiative with his shoulder blast and worked Ryuden back to the edge…and I thought out, yorikiri…but an extra shove there at the end threw Ryuden off the dohyo, oshidashi.

Goeido defeats Okinoumi. It looked for a minute that Okinoumi was mimicking Goeido’s pre-bout routine. Goeido drawn off the line early for a matta. A solid tachiai and then a tussle for belt control as both men seemed rather evenly matched. Okinoumi made an ill-advised attempt to reach for Goeido’s mawashi with his right arm. That stretch was enough for Goeido to thrust Okinoumi off balance and into the dohyo. Tsukiotoshi.

Kakuryu defeats Abi. Kakuryu stumbled out of the gate in a weird, quick matta. The Yokozuna recovered to take the full force of Abi’s oshi attack. Abi sustained a right-handed grip of Kakuryu’s chin but he couldn’t get any drive. As he over committed, Kakuryu shifted, sweeping Abi out to the side. Hatakikomi.

An Aside

* There’s really little chance that this weekend’s visitor and extra trophy will escape politics and emotion and controversy. Let’s face it, we’re all sumo fans and we just went through the Harumafuji/Takanohana thing. I’m not looking for more distraction. We’re no strangers to controversy but we enjoy sumo. Just like over the holidays, when those of my relatives who’ve blocked each other on Facebook are able to come and enjoy each other’s company at dinner, we at Tachiai will stay above the politics. As Bruce has warned, we may elect to close comments on some posts.

As y’all likely know, I work in the Federal government and am independent politically. I work with Clinton people and Bush people and Obama people and Trump people and we don’t run around needing to lock each other up because we actually do real work together. So, I expect everyone to be civil, though it’s real hard to forget when we get lost in R vs D, Red vs Blue, lib vs con, Jedi vs Sith, Stark vs Lannister. (In this oshi vs yotsu world, everyone overlooks footwork!)

If we treat this like my family treats the holidays, we’ll enjoy it. I, for one, have been DYING to have an American prize offered. I even emailed the Chamber of Commerce and Embassy to prod people a while back. I just really can’t think of any one thing that would be sufficiently representative of the US, so I make jokes about corn. It would be cool to have something as iconic as Lord Stanley’s Cup, the claret jug, the Meisterschale, or the macaron awarded to the winner on behalf of fans from the USA.

Anyway, the latest news I heard is that Musashigawa oyakata may sit next to him to help translate. It must be a thrilling opportunity, like when Sir Paul attended and bought a whole bunch of kensho banners. For the wrestlers, especially those of Musashigawa-beya, I hope they enjoy the experience because it will be nice to have a news event which draws attention to the sport that isn’t a hazing or sexual harassment scandal. It will sure be an episode to remember.

USA Sumo Trophy: Donut?

The US will present an award to the winner of this month’s tournament. There are many wonderful trophies and prizes, likely none as iconic as the macaron. There’s the air conditioner, beer, tequila, rice, beef, mushrooms, gas, etc. This month, on senshuraku, the US will enter the fray. Thanks to @KodamaCanada on Twitter, for sharing the link from the Japan Times.

What will it be? A “YUGE” cup? A giant chocolate golf ball? Na, too Scottish (sorry Bruce). Oscar Meyer wieners? Too German. A new car? Aside from the fact that the winner won’t be able to drive it, the Japanese already do that pretty well (except the airbags). It’s got to be something distinctively American. Corn? POPCORN?? FRITOS??? BUGLES??? I don’t think they’ll fit on Kotoshogiku’s fingers after he wins, though. (They actually have something similar in Japan, I think.) My wife thinks bacon. I’m very curious to hear what y’all think. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

Takayasu, the Grinder

An Unsteady Start

Unlike many Makuuchi mainstays, Takayasu did not take the express elevator from Jonokuchi to sekitori status. Some men have such physical prowess or talent that after starting from the bottom, they can make it to Juryo in under two years. Goeido climbed to Makushita 2 West in time for his sixth tournament, in January 2006, and joined the salaried ranks by November of that year. Others who had an established and successful college career, like Endo and Ichinojo, get a head start and begin their careers as high as mid-Makushita.

Takayasu’s Career, Visualized

Takayasu, on the other hand, started at the bottom and did not shoot straight up. The graph on the right side of the image above shows how Takayasu was grinding it out in Jonidan for a year and a half, spent another year in Sandanme, and then three in Makushita before earning his silk mawashi. How did he do it? What helped drive him those years, while guys like Aoiyama are in the Makushita joi within a year of their debut?

In July 2005, Takayasu broke out of Jonokuchi, ranked Jonidan 129w. Unlike Shunba, who worked on an oshi-style sumo that year, Takayasu chose a yotsu-style sumo. Neither of them were particularly dominant in their style, however. Shunba won as many bouts to oshidashi as he won, while Takayasu actually lost more to yorikiri than he won. However, of his 38 wins in that division, Takayasu employed 18 different kimarite while continuing to improve his yotsu skills through 2006 and into 2007. He was clearly testing out various throws and trips but was clearly developing his grappling acumen.

Something “Clicks”

In the fall of 2006, it seemed to finally click and he began to win more frequently with yotsu-techniques, especially yorikiri, but with hatakikomi, throws and trips sprinkled in. 2007 was a year of steady improvement in Sandanme with one tournament with a losing record. An interesting thing happened after that setback, though. He began to use oshi techniques and in November he went 5-2 with three wins by oshidashi.

This success brought him to the cusp of makushita but it would be another three years before his Juryo debut in November of 2010. In makushita he further honed his oshi-skills but really the most effective tool ended up being hatakikomi. However, it is very striking to see just how, aside from these old reliable kimarite, he also established a reliable throwing repertoire.

With that impressive bag of tricks, during the tumultuous Spring of 2011, Juryo was a breeze and by July Takayasu made his debut in Makuuchi. Eight years later, and the addition of the third pillar of tsuki- style sumo, Takayasu has become a complete package. If he can stay healthy, he has the skills to beat almost anyone on the dohyo. Will this finally be his basho?

If you want to play around with the Visualizer tool, I’ve finally added the career view on the right-hand side. I tried to make it as helpful as possible so almost all of the charts can act as filters. If you click on a slice of the pie, like for Juryo, the rest of the visualization filters to just Juryo. If you choose a particular tournament, or a few tournaments, you can see the kimarite for just that tournament. Have fun.

夏場所番付

I created an updated banzuke in Tableau. This time the map shows where the heya are, which I thought was pretty cool. It’s interesting to see just how many of them are pretty far out from Ryogoku, into Chiba and Saitama prefectures. So if you’re staying in Tokyo, but not near Ryogoku, there may still be a stable nearby that you can visit.