Hatsu Day 13 Highlights

Today was anticipated to be a day of big sumo, and it was all of that and more. There were a host of good matches, from the brilliant opening win by Endo to the brutal tadpole brawl to end the day, some top flight performance from everyone, event hit or miss Chiyoshoma showed us good sumo today.

In Juryo, top division aspirant Asanoyama narrowly won against the hulking Kazakh Kinbozan. A tough match from start to finish, the win gives Asanoyama sole possession of the lead in the Juryo yusho race. The question on many fan’s mind – will he be posted back to the top division for March?

The crowning element of this excellent day of sumo was the final battle, the musubi-no-ichiban, we saw Onosho and Takakeisho beat each other bloody in a battle where the lone surviving Ozeki to clawed his way back into co-leading the yusho race. We ended the day with a 3 way tie for the lead between Takakeisho, Onosho, and Kotoshoho, who also won his day 13 match. We have 2 days of regulation remaining, and how this ends up is going to be a lot of fun figure out, as events unfold.

Highlight Matches

Enho defeats Mitoryu – It’s been a while since people who watch the NHK dailies got a chance to watch Enho, and some folks new to the sport may have never seen him before. It was fantastic that he brought his “A” game today, with some magnificent, well executed sumo. Mitoryu had the size, weight and maybe a few more advantages, but Enho had the technique. Once Enho was inside Mitoryu’s defenses, it was quick work to push his wide body out. Enho returns to Juryo 7-6, with my hopes he can be promoted for March.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Kagayaki – In a match where the winner would be kachi-koshi, and it’s not unexpected that Ichiyamamoto might win. But when he stoped his double arm thrusting attack, and grabbed Kagayaki’s mawashi, I think he had an element of surprise against his opponent. It sure surprised me. Nice work by Ichiyamamoto to claim his 8th win, with a yorikiri, now 8-5.

Azumaryu defeats Chiyoshoma – A fine example of tsuki/oshi work from Chiyoshoma today. With those kind of chops, I wish he could deliver about 15% more power, he would be winning matches left right and sideways. I love that he never stops attacking in this match, but Azumaryu seems to be incredibly patient today, wearing Chiyoshoma down. Eventually Azumaryu gets a throw in, taking Chiyoshoma out, he’s make-koshi now at 5-8, while Azumaryu improves to 9-4.

Aoiyama defeats Endo – Aoiyama fired up the V-Twin today, and ran that hog over Endo like he was a pothole. Endo missed his early attempts to get a belt grip, and decided he would just duke it out with Big Dan. “Bold move Cotton, let’s see how that works out…” Endo takes the oshitaoshi express into one of Sadanoumi’s salt baskets. Aoiyama now 8-5 and kachi-koshi.

Takanosho defeats Chiyomaru – Another example of Chiyomaru’s injury removing almost all forms of sumo from his fight menu. All he could try was a quick blow to stand Takanosho up and a pull back / down. Takanosho knew it was coming. The gyoji knew it was coming. The gal at the combini in Kinshicho who does not even like sumo knew it was coming. Takanosho motors ahead and drives Chiyomaru out, improving to 6-7.

Kotoeko defeats Ura – Ura had a significant advantage, but then decided a pull was in order to finish Kotoeko off. When those things fail, the do tend to fail in a big way. Kotoeko powered forward, blasting Ura out with a yoritaoshi into that same poor salt basket, improving to 7-6.

Tsurugisho defeats Myogiryu – I think Tsurugisho’s “stand up, put both arms out” tachiai surprised Myogiryu. I think while Myogiryu was trying to think of what to do next, he was not quite ready to defend against Tsurugisho’s hatakikomi, and hit the deck. Tsurugisho advances to 6-7, in a smart bit of match strategy there.

Nishikigi defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji has now lost 4 of the last 5, and I worry this could be it for him. He still just needs one more win to reach kachi-koshi and a life line to stay in the top division. But as we are aware, Nishikigi is greatly improved this basho, and when Nishikigi got hidariyotsu right at the tachiai, I knew it was going to be trouble for Takarafuji. Credit to Takarafuji, he tried a couple of throw attempts, but their failure left him with poor footing, and wide open to Nishikigi’s sukuinage, which dropped Takarafuji near the other salt basket this time. Nishikigi improves to 8-5 and is kachi-koshi.

Oho defeats Sadanoumi – Oho still has some sumo left in him, it seems. He gets Sadanoumi too far forward and slaps him down with a hearty hatakikomi, picking up his second win of January, now 2-11.

Kotoshoho defeats Abi – How remarkable is this basho for Kotoshoho? His best top division performance ever was at 10-5 result from Aki in 2020. He could lose every match from here on out and equal his best. The chances are more likely that he will get one or two more wins in the final days, and this will be his personal best. Abi gets a bit too wild after Kotoshoho does not yield to Abi’s double arm pounding, and Kotoshoh sets him up for the side step and tsukiotoshi that followed. I would love to think that this is Kotoshoho’s “new normal”, but that will best be judged in March. Kotoshoho stays on the leader board at 10-3

Daieisho defeats Hiradoumi – Who doesn’t love a mutual windmill thrusting battle? These two guys were full throttle from the tachiai, and had no restraint. Daieisho had a bit more power, and chipped away at Hiradoumi’s position, until he had him at the bales and thrust him out. Excellent sumo action, Daieisho now 9-4.

Tobizaru defeats Mitakeumi – Oh Mitakeumi, what the hell was that? You thought you would be cheeky and try to henka the flying monkey? No sir, not a working plan. Tobizaru captures Mitakeumi in mid flight and runs him to the exit. Mitakeumi now make-koshi at 5-8, Tobizaru improves to 6-7.

Wakamotoharu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was over eager to start the fight, and we had a series of matta. The fight itself saw Hokutofuji unable to exploit his narrow window of advantage to finish Wakamotoharu, instead leaving him with his heels on the tawara, and ready to rally. Wakamotoharu did rally, and drove forward without pause to force Hokutofuji from the ring. Both men end the day 7-6.

Nishikifuji defeats Meisei – A battle of the make-koshi, Meisei had the advantage early, and got his chance when Nishikifuji executed a poorly considered pulling attempt. Rather than drive it back down Nishikifuji’s throat, Meisei counters with his own pulling attempt, and finds himself defenseless to Nishikifuji attack. A quick sukuinage finishes Meisei off, and both me end the day 4-9.

Kotonowaka defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi may have had a bit too much focus on Kotonowaka’s head and face, and missed a big opportunity to apply force to Kotonowaka’s chest. This give Kotonowaka all of the room he needed to get his offense started, which turned out to be quite effective today. When Tamawashi moved to drive forward, Kotonowaka had the body position to back away and drop Tamawashi to the clay. Tough outcome for Tamawashi, but Kotonowaka picks up a most welcome win and is 6-7.

Kiribayama defeats Midorifuji – An impressive display from Midorifuji today. He attacked from underneath, and was able to confound and then stalemate Kiribayama’s attempt to draw him attacking his upper body (which would have raised him up). He was able too stalemate Kiribayama near the center of the ring for a time, but chose to break contact and attempt a throw. It was instantly shut down, and Kiribayama tossed him at (yes, it’s true), that same poor salt basket. Kiribayama now 9-4, the salt basket is in the ICU.

Wakatakakage defeats Hoshoryu – I get the impression that Hoshoryu’s ankle is degrading day to day, as each day he mounts the dohyo, he has a bit less power transmitted to ground. A prime example today is the moment before Wakatakakage crushes Hoshoryu to the clay, he has that left leg nearly straight, and is deflecting pressure that would normally put lateral stress on that ankle. This leaves him unable to react to Wakatakakage’s winning move. Both men end the day 7-6, and Wakatakakage may squeeze out a kachi-koshi yet.

Ryuden defeats Shodai – Brilliant match from Ryuden today. Shodai was all defense, as he could not find a way to get Ryuden raised up. Once Ryuden gets that right hand outside, he has control of the match. Three steps later he walks Shodai out, and earns kachi-koshi for January, at 8-5.

Takakeisho defeats Onosho – This is in fact what the fans all wanted to see. Two tadpoles beating each other senseless with everything on the line. Highlights for me? Onosho’s use of “wave action”, Takakeisho responding with a round house slap to the face. That slap set up the dive into Onosho’s chest from Takakeisho that blasted him out of the ring. Great oshi-zumo today from both men, brutal, fast effective, and potent. Both are now 10-3, creating a 3 way tie for the cup to start day 14.

Hatsu Day 13 Preview

There are days when it’s tough to write for the blog, I will be honest. The time footprint can be between 3 to 5 hours each day during honbasho. With the responsibilities of work, and being the father of a rowdy 5 year old, it is (at times) tough to get it all buttoned up and ready to publish on schedule.

Then there are days like today, where the preview for day 13 is so loaded with goodness, I could not wait for the time slot set aside to type up the preview.

The schedulers have set up a culmination point for the tournament, with the high stakes battles stacked into the Friday before senshuraku. Fine with me! A culmination point attempts to bring the threads together, and possibly finish many of them off, while leaving the door open for a resolution in the final two days, should things go “just right”. If you are going to stay up all night to watch sumo, this would be the night to do it.

In Juryo, we have both 11-1 rikishi, former Ozeki Asanoyama and hot shot colleague champion Kinbozan going head to head, knocking one of them out of the lead for the Juryo yusho and a shot at the top division for Osaka. At the start of the top division fight card, Enho comes up to face Mitoryu. He’s 6-6, and not too likely to qualify for promotion back to Makuuchi, but the guy is an absolute crowd favorite, and I anticipate he will be roundly cheered today.

To finish the day, yusho race leader Onosho must defend his position against Ozeki Takakeisho, who has inexplicably lost the last two matches in a row, scuttling his bid to be promoted to Yokozuna. He has a shot to claw back some measure of redemption today with a win against fellow tadpole Onosho, which would bring the race for the cup back to a tie.

Call the neighbors, wake the kids. Put the sake in the refrigerator, and order up a big plate of katsu curry, it’s going to be a brawl.

Hatsu Leaderboard

As stated just above, Onosho has to defend his lead today. He is not known for being able to beat Takakeisho, so he has his work cut out for him. But these two have been fighting since they were children, competing in youth and school sumo tournaments since an early age.

Leader: Onosho
Chasers: Takakeisho, Kotoshoho

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Enho vs Mitoryu – Enho is 6-6. He needs 2 more wins in the last 3 days to hit kachi-koshi, and at least retain rank. He’s ranked Juryo 4E, so not sure about his promotion chances right now, but it would be good to see him in the promotion zone for March. He has a 5-3 career advantage against 5-7 Mitoryu. I loss today by Mitoryu would be make-koshi, and he may join that heavily loaded Juryo barge of the damed. Enho has won all of their matches since 2020, so I am looking for him to have an edge here.

Kagayaki vs Ichiyamamoto – Same drill as yesterday, Ichiyamamoto. Both are 7-5, and if you win, you get kachi-koshi. Loser gets to try again tomorrow. Prior matches are an even 1-1 split. I think right now Kagayaki is fighting somewhat stronger than Ichiyamamoto, in part because of how disoriented Ichiyamamoto looked in his day 12 loss to Endo.

Chiyoshoma vs Azumaryu – If I were Azumaryu (8-4), I would henka this clown today. Who cares if you lose this one, you are kachi-koshi. Also, it would be fitting if Chiyoshoma (5-7) took his 8th loss by such a move. Instead I think that both of them are going to engage in a straight ahead match, and that we will once against see Chiyoshoma struggle to generate any kind of forward pressure for more than 5 seconds. Azumaryu has a 6-1 career record against him, and I expect him to continue to dominate.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Aoiyama (7-5) looking for his 8th win today, against already kachi-koshi Endo at 8-4. At Maegashira 9W, Endo is at a comfortable rank right now, and he can usually go 8-7 or 7-8 from here. So I will be interested to see if he decides he wants to try and run up the score and land in the joi-jin for March. Aoiyama holds a 7-5 career advantage, and the split their two matches last year 1-1.

Takanosho vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru (3-9) is already the bosun’s mate for the Juryo barge this time around, so I look at this match and wonder if the point is to get Takanosho (5-7) a “mercy” win, or to give Chiyomaru a chance to share the make-koshi love. Chiyomaru has a slight 3-2 edge, but that won’t matter much today, as Chiyomaru is still trying to overcome an ankle injury.

Kotoeko vs Ura – This match is all about setting the stage for Darwin on day 15. Both are 6-6, both are not fighting as well as they should be, and both need 2 out of the last 3 matches to be wins for them to reach kachi-koshi. Frankly, I think Ura should own a make-koshi record, and end up a bit further south on the banzuke for his home town of Osaka. I would love to see him do well in front of the fans.

Tsurugisho vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu is already make-koshi at 4-8, and one more loss for 5-7 Tsurugisho would make him make-koshi too. At this point its all about sorting these people out into winning and losing records, and having them face people near their rank that they have not already fought this basho.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Takarafuji has lost 3 of the last 4, and I want him to somehow find that 8th win. I am not sure which of these two 7-5 rikishi I would give the edge to today, Takarafuji who has won more head to head, or Nishikigi who has overall fought better this tournament. Nishikigi won 2 of their three matches in 2022.

Oho vs Sadanoumi – This match take step “sure, why not” slot. We have M6 Oho at 1-11, and M4 Sadanoumi at 4-8. Both are already make-koshi, and neither one of them is likely to drop to Juryo. So it’s really just to further sort these fellows out, and try to see if somehow Oho can pick up more than one win this January.

Abi vs Kotoshoho – A high interest match, we have last basho’s yusho winner, Abi, at 7-5 up against Kotoshoho (9-3), who still finds himself 1 win behind the current yusho leader, Onosho. He has never won against Abi, in 2 prior attempts. I think this may be an effort to know Kotoshoho out of contention, and reduce the yusho race to 2 people. But Kotoshoho may have other ideas. He’s already beaten other rikishi this January that he tends to lose to, and he’s stayed very strong through the second week. I personally think this one has acres of potential.

Hiradoumi vs Daieisho – First ever match between these two, it features 7-5 Hiradoumi trying to pull out his 8th win against already kachi-koshi (8-4) Daieisho. Daieisho has won the last two in a row, after losing 3 straight just before that. I think he has his sumo well in hand, and will give Hiradoumi a sharp, short battle.

Tobizaru vs Mitakeumi – A battle of great sadness, the loser of these two 5-7 men will be make-koshi today. I really don’t want to see Mitakeumi eat yet another losing record. But to me, that looks like a very real possibility today. He does have a 4-1 career advantage over Tobizaru, but his sumo has been day to day for the last several tournaments.

Hokutofuji vs Wakamotoharu – Now look what they have done. If Hokutofuji wins today, which I think he will, he will have his 8th win and cannot achieve “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”. He has a 7-5 score to start the day against Wakamotoharu’s 6-6. Hokutofuji won 3 of their four matches last year.

Meisei vs Nishikifuji – Another make-koshi bracket match, this time is 4-8 Meisei vs 3-9 Nishikifuji. Both of them are going to have a few months to sort their bodies and their sumo out, and hopefully come back healthy and ready to fight in March. In the mean time, they may just fight among the other make-koshi rikishi to keep any of the healthy ones from reaping an easy win against them.

Tamawashi vs Kotonowaka – I would guess this match is to sort 5-7 Kotonowaka into the make-koshi bin, as I don’t really see how he can put up too much of a fight against 8-4 Tamawashi right now. The numbers would say that he has a 5-3 career lead, but that won’t matter right now, as Tamawashi is in good fighting form, and Kotonowaka is not.

Kiribayama vs Midorifuji – Kachi-koshi Kiribayama at 8-4 gets to fight 6-6 Midorifuji. They split their matches in 2022, each winning one. In spite of Midorifuji’s lack luster record, dare we hope for a katasukashi today?

Wakatakakage vs Hoshoryu – Two Ozeki aspirants, neither one of them really have the chops right now to make a bid. Hoshoryu would need to win all of the last 3 to get to 10 wins, and Wakatakakage needs to win 2 of the last 3 just to get to kachi-koshi. It’s just as likely he will continue to ride the center line, and end up in a Darwin match on Sunday. Wakatakakage has a 7-3 career advantage against Hoshoryu, so I hope that means a good match today.

Ryuden vs Shodai – If 6-6 Shodai wins 2 of the last 3, he’s kachi-koshi for Hatsu. As odd as it may seem, given that I have been quite critical of him in the past, I would like to see him make his 8. If for no other reason that I think that he has some health problem that has sapped his sumo, and hope that once he can resolve that, we might again seem him dominate matches in the future. Ryuden (7-5) can reach kachi-koshi today with a win, but has a 1-6 career record against the human daikon.

Onosho vs Takakeisho – The big taco, the ofutomaki of the basho, the double wide, wheels on fire, run away beer truck rolling down the I-70 grade into Denver with no breaks and no driver, this is the match that will settle a very important score. Can tournament leader Onosho (10-2) overcome his 3-11 career disadvantage over Ozeki Takakeisho (9-3), and all but win the yusho today. The last time Onosho (Red Tadpole) beat Takakeisho (Grand Tadpole) was 2 years ago, at Hatsu 2021. Since that day, Takakeisho has taken 6 in a row from Onosho. I am certain he starts today with absolute determination to dispatch Onosho within the first 10 seconds. Such an outcome would even the score at 10-3, possibly setting the stage for a final playoff at the end of regulation on day 15. Frankly, I can’t wait.

Hatsu Day 12 Highlights

I would label today “pull day”, as so many matches were decided by one man pulling on another man’s neck. Most of the ones doing the pulling went on to lose their matches, but a couple actually made it work. I think much of the top division are growing tired after 12 days of non stop battles against the best in the world, and we are starting to see some sloppy sumo.

The leader board has shifted, as the Junior Tadpole, Onosho, has his moment in the sun. Onosho won his day 12 match against Tamawashi, when (you guessed it) Tamawashi decided to pull, and found that Onosho was ready to run him out in response. In the final match of the day, Takakeisho failed to keep a working distance between himself and Kiribayama, found himself in a shoulder hold, and quickly tossed to the deck. That leave Onosho all alone at 10-2, leading the yusho race for Hatsu with just 3 days to go.

Highlight Matches

Tohakuryu defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru goes for his favored “stand them up then pull them down” technique, while backing away quickly, and gets Tohakuryu face down in a hurry. But a mono-ii is called, and Chiyomaru is disqualified for a top knot pull. Tohakuryu returns to Juryu with a kachi-koshi, and is now 8-4.

Kagayaki defeats Takarafuji – Well, at least there was no henka. Takarafuji does an artful job of keeping Kagayaki’s hands away from his chest for a time, but is unable to have enough defensive power through his feet to the ground to stand fast. Kagayaki pushes him back, and out by oshidashi. Both end the day 7-5, and Takarafuji will have to try again tomorrow to come up with that 8th win.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoeko – Aoiyama was off to a good start, firing up the V-Twin and pushing Kotoeko back. But Kotoeko managed to capture Aoiyama, and it quickly transitioned into a mawashi battle. Both men attempted a throw, but Aoiyama had mass and leverage on his side, and dropped both himself and Kotoeko with that kotenage. Aoiyama up to 7-5.

Azumaryu defeats Hiradoumi – A glorious day at Tamanoi heya, Azumaryu, after several attempts, finally has a kachi-koshi in the top division. It was a fast grab and throw match against Hiradoumi, who ate the uwatenage at the bales. Azumaryu 8-4.

Tsurugisho defeats Takanosho – Well, it was too much to hope for, wasn’t it? Tsurugisho steps to the side, gets behind Takanosho and pushes him out from the rear. Now, at about 200kg, I am not sure you could call what Tsurugisho did a henka, but it was crap sumo no matter what its name. Both end the day at 5-7.

Endo defeats Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto never really got his offense coordinated, so I am not surprised that Endo took him apart and shoved him out as rapidly as he did. Congrats on your kachi-koshi Endo, please practice not using a henka now. He is 8-4. Yes I am still annoyed at all the henka.

Mitoryu defeats Oho – The sadness that is Oho’s record just keeps going on and on. Today Mitoryu spun Oho around, and pushed him out from behind. We are at the point of a tournament where a handful or rikishi have so many losses, I wonder daily what has happened. The Hatsu winner of that race has to be Oho. Mitoryu now 5-7, and avoids make-koshi.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Well, at least there was not a henka. Chiyoshoma was not quite as potent at Hokutofuji at the start, and he gave up early and tried to pull. It almost worked, but Hokutofuji was able to keep his feet thanks to that independently operating lower body assembly. Chiyoshoma hits the deck before Hokutofuji is out, and Hokutofuji moves to 7-5, one win away from kachi-koshi.

Kotoshoho defeats Nishikigi – He may have gotten knocked out of his share of the lead, but Kotoshoho is headed for double digits, and nothing is going to stop him. With one more win he will tie his best ever result in the top division, and there 3 days to go. Today he showed some impressive agility in pushing Nishikigi to the side and out, just as Nishikigi was pressing forward to finish Kotoshoho off, Kotoshoho now 9-3.

Abi defeats Ura – Well, at least.. oh damn. Abi 7-5.

Onosho defeats Tamawashi – Impressive fight, Tamawashi delivered some power in his thrusting volleys, and Onosho returned in kind. For the first few exchanges, they were dead even. It all went wrong when Tamawashi made the mistake we know everyone else learned in week one. Don’t pull Onosho right now, it’s not going to work and you will lose. Onosho 10-2.

Tobizaru defeats Myogiryu – It looked like Myogiryu was not really sure what to do with Tobizaru’s sumo today. So he settled for keeping him at distance, and just batting his hands back every time Tobizaru tried to reach in. Myogiryu got bored with this quickly, and tried a pull. Of course this gave the match to Tobizaru who pushed him out in response, improving to 5-7.

Daieisho defeats Mitakeumi – I, for one, am weary of these stalemate matches where the rikishi that should be trying doubly hard to win gives up and pulls their opponent. So far all of those “pullers” have lost. Here it was Mitakeumi, who was losing ground to Daieisho, and lost his nerve. Daieisho gladly accepted the gift, and is now 8-4.

Sadanoumi defeats Meisei – Sadanoumi decides to share the make-koshi joy by (oh yes, I know) pulling down Meisei. A mono-ii is called, and we all assumed it was another hansoku (top knot pull), but they decided everything was close enough, Sadanoumi at 4-8 now, as is Meisei. With his make-koshi, he will be vacating on of the numerous san’yaku ranks for March.

Midorifuji defeats Wakamotoharu – After so many of these matches failed to push their competitors to a 6-6 outcome, it was a good sign that this one turned out right for getting at least a few rikishi ready for a Darwin finish on day 15. Wakamotoharu had all he could manage trying to contain Midorifuji, and keep his balance at the same time. Really an impressive ottsuke from Wakamotoharu, and I hope he uses that all the time from here on out. Reminds me of Kisenosato with that move. But Midorifuji never fought Kisenosato, and once being shut out by that marvelous ottsuke, goes “kitchen sink” and tries about 3 things in the space of two seconds, ranging from a shoulder grab to a leg pick. This leaves Wakamotoharu completely bamboozled, and an easy mark for the oshidashi. Both are now 6-6.

Wakatakakage defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka blew the tachiai, giving Wakatakakage a good position attacking from below, with both hands inside. Not many routes you can come back from that one, Kotonowaka. Wakatakakage battle hugs and stomps ahead, placing Kotonowaka out by yorikiri, and improving to 6-6.

Shodai defeats Nishikifuji – Ok, well – maybe Shodai kachi-koshi? It’s so frustrating with this guy, as he has the sumo chops to be a winner, but somehow can’t always put it together. Nishikifuji starts out the aggressor, but again today we get to see a half hearted use of Shodai’s “Wall of Daikon” sumo style. As flaccid as his signature move is right now, it’s still enough to hustle Nishikifuji out for his fourth consecutive win. Shodai is now 6-6.

Ryuden defeats Hoshoryu – Both of Hoshoryu’s opening gambits failed, and he settled for a right hand inside mawashi grip. This is not what he was looking for, as that left hand was pretty deep, and he could not really use it to move Ryuden around with it. Ryuden countered with a much more shallow left hand outside grip, that did seem to give him some leverage. The result was a see-saw battle with Ryuden the aggressor, and Hoshoryu trying to stay stable on that damaged ankle. Excellent work by Ryuden, forcing Hoshoryu to defend from the left, putting increasing pressure on that ankle, until Hoshoryu could not hold ground any longer. Brutal and effective, both are now 7-5.

Kiribayama defeats Takakeisho – There was a time, a few days ago, when sumo fans were hoping for a 14-1 Takakeisho yusho, and a Yokozuna dohyo-iri at the Meiji shrine later this month. But 2023 in sumo is starting a lot like 2022 in sumo, with no real champions, and no consistent performers. Takakeisho gets one good volley in just after the tachiai, but is too close to Kiribayama. Kiribayama captures him and immediately spins up a sukuinage, which puts the Ozeki face down on the clay. Takakeisho vacates his share of the leader group, and is now 9-4. Kiribayama is 8-4 and kachi-koshi for Hatsu.

Hatsu Day 12 Preview

It’s day 12 and the yusho race has suddenly become interesting

Hatsu Leaderboard

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.