With Daieisho’s win over Hakuho on day 11, the race for the Yusho has broadened quite a bit. I am not surprised to see Hakuho and Asanoyama now in a tie for the lead. But also in the 1 loss crowd is.. Terunofuji? Why yes, the former Ozeki is at 10-1, and appears to be ready to run up the score. Word from the scheduling team is that if he wins his day 12 match against M9e Tamawashi (a 8 rank banzuke gap), he will start to take on San’yaku opponents starting day 13. As exciting as it sounds to have the resurgent former Ozeki, and sometimes Kaiju, stomping through the upper ranks, we fear his sumo and his knees may benefit from a slower climb.
Elsewhere, it seems to my eye that an amazing block of rikishi are headed straight toward day 15 7-7 “Darwin” matches. Our mock Natsu basho was thick with them as well, and for newcomers to the world of sumo, they are a head to head match between two 7-7 rikishi, where the winner exits with a kachi-koshi, and the loser a make-koshi.
Tokyo July Leaderboard
Leaders (10-1) – Hakuho, Asanoyama, Terunofuji
Hunt Group (8-3) – Takakeisho, Shodai, Mitakeumi, Tamawashi, Kotoshogiku, Kotoeko
4 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Tobizaru vs Chiyomaru – I have been hoping for some time that Tobizaru would finally put together enough sumo to make a pay for the top division, and now from Juryo 2, he may finally have a shot. He comes it at 6-5 to face already make-koshi Chiyomaru. If the flying monkey (Tobizaru) can find 2 more wins, he stands a decent chance for making his top division debut in the next tournament.
Nishikigi vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage is looking for win #8 today, and I have to compliment his stamina and form during this, his top division debut. Nishikigi, at 5-6, is part of that crowd that I think are headed into Darwin territory for day 15.
Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Also in the Darwin lane is dear former Ozeki Tochinoshin. The time without contact practice, Jungyo or even test matches seems to have given some strength back to his damaged knee. Dare we hope that maybe he might be able to rally one more time? His opponent, Shohozan, is probably feeling every one of his 36 years, more than half of which has been spent getting bashed in the head, body and legs every day.
Kaisei vs Sadanoumi – Both of these guys are also clearly on the Darwin path. It’s going to be brutal if we end up with 4 or 5 head to head 7-7s, but it seems to be endemic now, as the field in lower to mid Makuuchi is very evenly balanced between new talent finding the next level of power in their sumo, an fading legends and mainstays working through the decline.
Kotoshogiku vs Myogiryu – Twenty Five (25 / 13-12) career matches between these two. Kotoshogiku already having his 8th win, and Myogiryu looking for his kachi-koshi today, I have a hunch that we may see the Kyushu Bulldozer suffer a loss. Like Tochinoshin, the time with light, or individual practice seems to have benefited Kotoshogiku’s damaged undercarriage, and he is fighting better this tournament than he has in about a year.
Tamawashi vs Terunofuji – The big question mark match. These two have 10 prior matches, and have split them 5-5. Both are kachi-koshi, and will be moving up the banzuke for September. I have faith that Tamawashi will be giving Terunofuji every ounce of fighting spirit today, so expect fireworks. I expect Tamawashi to “hit and shift” and Terunofuji to go for a mawashi grip. Who gets the first offensive move to connect will have advantage.
Takayasu vs Ikioi – Also in grave risk of a day 15 Darwin match is former Ozeki Takayasu. Given how many injuries and miseries Ikioi has endured, I am going to be curious to see if he attacks Takayasu’s left elbow like half of his opponents have this basho. Their career record of 13-6 means little today, as both of these rikishi are a fraction of their proper power and strength.
Ishiura vs Kotoyuki – While Ishiura is one loss away from make-koshi, Kotoyuki is part of that broad group of men who are headed into Darwin territory. Ishiura has not really been able to find his sumo, and he has only managed to win 2 of his last 5. I would love to see him get his edge back, and dominate with aggressive small-man sumo, leaving some of the stunts and henka aside.
Shimanoumi vs Chiyotairyu – Shimanoumi already make-koshi, Chiyotairyu on a clear course for a 7-7 day 14 score and a lovely slot in a brutal match with only one survivor. Is it me, or has Chiyotairyu seemed to have dropped some of his belly-mass?
Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoshoho – Newcomer Kotoshoho looks to be on track to score at least 8 wins in his first top division tournament. He has shown some great sumo, and tons of energy this July. Hopefully if he can stay healthy and focused, he can be a mainstay of the next generation of rikishi. Terutsuyoshi – yeah, another likely Darwin candidate.
Kotoeko vs Tokushoryu – I am genuinely pleased that Kotoeko has 8 wins with time and sumo to spare. This will likely be his best finish since last July when he turned in a respectable 9-6 in the sweat stadium of Nagoya. I am also enjoying the fact that we see Tokushoryu going to his tsukiotoshi trademark move quite a lot this basho. I know everyone expects it, but he does it with such flair.
Takanosho vs Ryuden – If ever there were two rikishi who seemed to be “Darwin Match” poster boys, it would be these two. Takanosho is really struggling at this rank, which is good. He is strong enough, and his sumo is good enough, that he was able to work up to the rank where he is truly challenged now. He’s young, personable and hard working, so I expect we will be enjoying his sumo quite a bit for years to come.
Aoiyama vs Onosho – As a shameless Onosho booster, its a shame to look at his 0-11 record, and realize that it has the possibility of wrecking his mental sumo for a long time to come. I hope he at least has some kind of injury or problem that gives him a reason to get himself over this dread terrible record. He’s going against Aoiyama today, and while I would love for him to have his first win (Shonichi!), it’s tough to win against Aoiyama unless your balance is perfect, and it’s clear that for this July, Onosho’s is not.
Endo vs Takarafuji – Our mock basho in May had Endo with a 7-7 heading into day 15, and it looks like the simulation may have gotten that one right. Endo and Takarafuji have an even 8-8 career record, and both seem to be suffering from the lack of full power training matches with rikishi from other heya in the days leading up to the start of the tournament.
Kiribayama vs Yutakayama – Only slightly less grim that Onosho’s 0-11 is Yutakayama’s 1-10, with that lonely white star being against hapless Onosho. Kiribayama has won their 2 prior matches, and needs to do what he can to stave off make-koshi for another day.
Kagayaki vs Okinoumi – Another one of my “up and coming” rikishi, Kagayaki, has run out of genki power early and stayed less than awesome for the past 11 days. This is an odd basho in so many ways, and its tough to know if the problem is lack of training, or just too many distractions for some of these athletes. Okinoumi at 6-5 as been fighting a bit better than normal, and given that he is 35 and has to contend with a chronic lower abdominal injury, he is doing quite well. They are tied 4-4 over their career, but I would give the edge to Okinoumi for day 12.
Shodai vs Enho – Shodai takes no crazy stuff from Enho. The power pixie of Miyagino has yet to find a winning formula to overcome Shodai and his uncanny cartoon sumo. I have faith that there is a way to apply the same kind of technique that worked so well on day 11 against Takanosho to Shodai as well.
Takakeisho vs Daieisho – I breathed a sign of relief when Takakeisho hit his 8th win. I know many sumo fans were less than happy with the ruling coming from the mono-ii, but he has cleared kadoban. Daieisho is fresh from beating Hakuho, and one win from his own kachi-koshi. So I am expecting full throttle Daieisho today.
Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama holds a 5-2 career advantage, but I watch for Hokutofuji to do the unexpected. He seems to have finally gotten back in touch with his sumo, and has won 3 of the last 4. In spite of his prior yusho experience (from Maegashira 8..), the pressure of waiting for that match against Hakuho may be eating away at his focus. Much of sumo is mental, and it will be interesting to watch Asanoyama in the final 4 days of this basho.
Hakuho vs Mitakeumi – The Boss is bound to be disappointed in his day 11 loss, which put him in a 3 way tie for the cup. He gets to try and take out his frustration on Mitakeumi, who has suffered a bit of his traditional week 2 fade. If Mitakeumi wants to start any kind of Ozeki bid, he doing to go have to win 2 of his last 4 match. Good luck, original tadpole!