Haru 2022: A 42 Man Review

Here’s something I wanted to do for a long time, a rundown of all 42 makuuchi rikishi and how they performed in this tournament. Then I did it and realised that unlike doing a recap where there are usually 20 things to talk about, I had to have twice as many things to talk about, and it was going to take forever. Those of you who have been following the site for a while now will you know that while you may not hear from me often, usually when you do you get quite a lot of content, and this promises to be no exception…

M17W Ichiyamamoto (8-7)

Junior Abi had an up and down tournament, and seems like he might be someone who rides the elevator for a while. In a more competitive division he’d probably be more of a Juryo mainstay, but in the current climate we can probably revise his ceiling to someone who bounces around before settling into a low Maegashira role, maybe running into the joi-jin once or twice in his career (kind of like a Chiyomaru). This tournament for me reflected that any growth from Ichiyamamoto in the future, will, at 28, likely be down more to exposure to top division action than any real talent development. Perhaps it’s a puzzle for his new shisho.

M17E Kagayaki (7-8)

He should be entering his prime, but it seems like the 27 year old is instead on a (very slow) downward spiral. His return to the top division only came courtesy of a fusen-sho, and having dropped two bouts to Juryo opponents in this tournament, it’s likely that he’s heading back to the second division. We always rave here about his fundamentals, but too often in this tournament as in recent history, he simply failed to show up. As he already qualifies for elder stock, it’s worth wondering whether he could actually be someone to take early retirement in a few years.

M16W Kotokuzan (7-8)

Even before this tournament, I had planned to write a piece about Arashio beya and I still plan to do that, and it’s a shame that the heya’s latest top division debutant was not able to score his kachi-koshi on day 15. I felt he gave a good account of himself in week 1 before the week 2 fade, but maybe the buoyant mood around the place will lead to some intense training. Still, it’s worth bearing in mind that he was languishing around the top of makushita for ages and his rise in the past year has been very fast, and I think what we’ve seen in this tournament is just a lack of high level experience catching up with him a bit. HIs oshi-zumo was fairly unspectacular, but it wouldn’t be a surprise for me to see a kachi-koshi next time especially from M17 if he sticks around. I think we need to see probably two more tournaments to understand what we can expect from him at this level.

M16E Nishikigi (9-6)

Very impressive return for Nishikigi, who hadn’t scored a kachi-koshi in the top division for what seemed like donkey’s years. After his 3-0 start I was convinced he would be the guy from the lower half of maegashira ranks to hang around the yusho race before getting absolutely pumped in week 2, but as it happened, he just settled into a consistent and competitive top division return. At 31, he’s at or around what will be his peak performance level, rank-wise.

M15W Tochinoshin (9-6)

The end of Tochinoshin has been postponed, and although he faded badly in the last 4 days to be denied a double digit winning record, these are the kinds of tournaments that can add 4-6 more months onto a veteran’s career, being that it might take him 2 more make-koshi to end up at M15W again, dependent on banzuke luck. One thing I noted from his performance this tournament was that it felt like there was an increasing desperation from the big man to land the left hand outside grip. This has always been his calling card, but it seems like these days he feels that’s the only option he has to win a match.

M15E Akua (4-11)

He’s an intriguing rikishi of a few curious techniques, but ultimately I’ve always found him a bit wanting at this level. He’ll be back down in Juryo, and after a pair of 11 loss tournaments it’ll be intriguing to see how he regroups or if he continues to free fall. Clearly he underperformed but even with a 4-11 there’s an argument to be made he didn’t underperform as much as…

M14W Yutakayama (7-8)

Yutakayama really should be hitting kachi-koshi at this level, and I know he took it to the death, but in the end you have to make it happen. Physically and talent-wise, he has all of the tools to be ranked consistently about 10 spots higher, but fitness and possibly mental reasons continue to keep him ranked quite low. He’s had a winning record in 8 of 23 top division tournaments, and it’s just not good enough for someone of his ability. He’s another who may well end up in a one-off appearance in the joi again some day, but I think it’s clear now with performances like this at this rank that his current career high rank will likely always be his career high rank and until he manages to find some consistency and power in his oshi-zumo game, he’ll struggle just to stay in the division.

M14E Kotoshoho (9-6)

This was a really good tournament for the youngster after a year (!!) out of the top division. I’d give it a solid B+, as he needed to consolidate his spot after regaining promotion after Hatsu. He’s become noticeably more comfortable on the mawashi. Despite being overtaken by his stablemate Kotonowaka, he has always been someone with the tools to make it at a high level, and at only 22 I still think that he can at least achieve Sekiwake in his career. Hopefully this basho can be the platform from which he can at least spend the next year consolidating his position in the upper half of the division.

M13W Chiyonokuni (5-6-4)

It’s an incomplete, as Chiyonokuni channeled peak hospital ward-era Ikioi with his countless bandages. I give him credit for coming back and trying to at least pick up the few wins that it might take to stay in the division – he got one which may or may not be good enough (lksumo says no). He displayed good enough sumo for the level when he was on, but he just physically wasn’t able to compete.

M13E Chiyomaru (5-10)

He started ok but lost 6 of the last 7, with the only win being against hapless Meisei, and there’s just no defence for that kind of performance at this rank. Sumo doesn’t work like this, but the argument could be made he deserves to be sent down in Chiyonokuni’s place (they both could, but of course if anyone will be spared it will be Maru on account of the half rank advantage). He’s put together a fine career riding the Juryo/Makuuchi elevator and using the limited tools at his disposal to put together a long career (over 50 basho now across the top two divisions). But I do think that his continued presence in Makuuchi despite not adding much is probably a symptom of the perceived slide in quality of the top tier.

M12W Chiyotairyu (7-8)

In May he’ll reach his 60th basho as a sekitori, a full 10 years at the salaried levels. It’s a remarkable achievement, and he continues to flummox fans and foes with his unbelievable inconsistency, sometimes perfectly executing his blast em out or pull em down strategy and sometimes being caught so wildly out of control that he “ole”s into the crowd or pushed down on his backside. He’s 33 now and we’ve seen for the last few years that the lower maegashira ranks are his level in this late phase of his career, so you can probably say this performance was about a C. Whether he’s 7-8 or 8-7 now it doesn’t really matter, he entertains and the performances are just about fine.

M12E Kotoeko (9-6)

Kotoeko always has such tenacity and I wouldn’t call this a breakout basho, but he did at least show a renewed ability to put opponents away. In previous tournaments he has often taken the upper hand against his opponent from the tachiai, but failed to actually find the technique to despatch them. This time he largely beat up on those ranked beneath him, dropping only 3 of his matches to lower ranked opponents. You don’t expect him to compete with Endo or Kiribayama on ability but for him to put away guys ranked M13-17 is what he needed to do, and by and large, he did.

M11W Terutsuyoshi (8-7)

While we all love to dream on the little guys, the harsh reality is that this score is a complete victory for a rikishi who’d been without kachi-koshi since last summer. What we can say about Terutsuyoshi’s performance is that he showed an awful lot of fighting spirit. While the sansho “fighting spirit prize” is almost awarded to a rikishi with a much more robust score, Terutsuyoshi reminds me more of the meaning of the term, and this part of the banzuke looks set to be his home.

M11E Myogiryu (7-8)

Look, there’s not much between his score and the man on the west side, and this also would have been a decent result for Terutsuyoshi all things considered, but the truth is that by and large, Myogiryu has been a mess since his improbable yusho challenge four tournaments ago. Partly it’s injury, but father time may also have zapped his energy, as the veteran looked lethargic in many Haru bouts.

M10W Aoiyama (7-8)

Contextually, this is a disappointing result for Big Dan. When you open with two wins against the guys ranked just in front of you, you have a bit of a stacked deck with a majority of your matches to come against lower rankers. But the newly Japanese-Bulgarian went on a 1-6 run that reversed his odds, and he looks set to cede the heyagashira role at Kasugano beya back to Tochinoshin. He still has his days, but more often than not he looks like he’s playing out the string and benefitting from a weak division. Some may say I’m being a little harsh and that he was unfortunate to be paired up with a Maegashira 1 for his “Darwin” match, but the reality is that if he had put away M16 Nishikigi, it would never have come to that. I think we’ve probably seen the last of him in the joi.

M10E Shimanoumi (8-7)

He’s a weird case and continues to confound me. He’s inconsistent, and may just be an average middle of the pack guy, which is a reasonable ceiling having arrived late to the top division and already approaching 33 years of age. The eye test tells me that he’s someone who really needs to be dialled into his technique on a given day, which is odd because he doesn’t have the appearance of a technical rikishi to me in the slightest. Still, decent result.

M9W Wakamotoharu (9-6)

His brother will take all the plaudits, of course he will, but this was another really solid tournament and you can see how the Onami brothers’ fundamentals just continue to improve. I think there will be an inevitable setback and adjustment when he reaches the joi but for the meantime he’s performed very admirably, and the real question is why the third brother, Wakatakamoto, continues to fail to challenge to reach Juryo in a stable that is really surging under the guidance of the former Sokokurai. I think Wakamotoharu won’t have nearly the ceiling of Wakatakakage, but it wouldn’t surprise me for him to eventually reach san’yaku once he adjusts to the top end of the division, even if just for a brief stint.

M9E Tobizaru (9-6)

I bracket this achievement alongside Terutsuyoshi’s kachi-koshi. Tobizaru just continues to give us thrilling sumo. It’s worth remembering he languished in Juryo for 2 1/2 years while we were marvelling at the rise of Enho, but the consistency of Tobizaru to entertain and keep himself in the mix and continue to find himself pitted against higher pedigree opponents – and win – is a real credit. His final flourish here to win 5 of 6 and make it look ultimately comfortable was positively Hokotofujian.

M8W Sadanoumi (5-10)

Here’s a guy who never seems to be anywhere near a good score and yet this was actually his first make-koshi since last May. No disrespect at all to the soon to be 35 year old, but the quality that has been lacking in Sadanoumi’s sumo to me is reflective of the division’s downturn. We’re seeing at best Juryo level sumo from a Maegashira 8 in the middle of the rank and file. I have nothing against him and he may well go on to be a good coach. The fact that two of his wins came against up-and-comers like Kotoshoho and Wakamotoharu, and not losing to anyone whose star could be considered to be on the rise (apart from, charitably, Takayasu again), means that sumo is just not ready to dispense with mediocrity and move to a new era.

M8E Chiyoshoma (5-10)

The Mongolian’s finish in this basho was horrendous. As with Aoiyama, he picked up a couple really nice wins against fumbling veterans to start the basho, but then was just completely overwhelmed for much of the tournament. We also didn’t see much in the flying henka department this time out, and maybe that explains a 1-2 win deficit from where we’d expect him to be. His future home is probably in the bottom half of the division though, and that’s where we’ll see him in Tokyo.

M7W Okinoumi (5-10)

He’s 36 and the interesting thing is, he’s really the example of someone who can keep themselves going for a year off the back of just one or two kachi-koshi. After another double digit loss basho he’ll be right back around where he started the May basho a year ago (M12). In some ways you’d say it was a shocking tournament in that he started the first week looking like anyone could beat him (except Sad Sadanoumi apparently), and the Day 9 make-koshi released some kind of inner gambarism that took him up to an almost respectable final scoreline after a handful of matches preying on losers. 

M7E Takayasu (12-3)

I’ve been dreading writing this, so it’s a good job I’ve already catalogued his previous history of misses. While some of those were tragic, this felt different. While the veteran conspired to throw away 3 of his final 5 regulation matches to bring others back into the title race, and 3 in a row counting the playoff after his spectacular final weekend collapse, this wasn’t like those previous blowups. Takayasu in week one was the picture of calm, perfect through ten days and cruising. Like last year’s invitation for Terunofuji to jumpstart his sensational promotion run, he threw this away by losing composure at key moments in the final week. But this time, going into the final day, it remained in his own hands even into a playoff after his rivals also lost. And the look of how desperate he was for his yusho was all over his face and visible into the first throes of the playoff match itself – rarely have I seen Takayasu hit an opponent harder or with more intensity. But it ended the way that one felt it was destined to end. Still, he’ll get another bite at the big time as he will end his exile from the joi-jin, and get another chance to do it all over again. But how many chances will he ever have again like this?

M6W Kotonowaka (11-4)

Also dropping 3 of the last 5, this was still an inspired tournament from the youngster, who stayed around the yusho race until the death. A final day win that would have banished Hoshoryu to the rank and file might have just opened a san’yaku spot for himself and added spice to the playoff, but instead he’ll make do from surely a new career high rank. He’s long been tipped as a future ozeki, and I think it’s the next tournament that will tell us more about his ability to challenge the top rankers after his previous stint in the joi was blighted by injury. He has a real physical presence and, from the lower ranks, has started to show that he’s learning how to use it. He’s been one win off the pace heading into senshuraku now of consecutive basho. I don’t think we can expect a yusho next time out on his first real run through the gauntlet, but he’s starting to show that he may have what it takes to revise what currently looks like a ceiling of Sekiwake up at least one notch.

M6E Hokutofuji (9-6)

9-6 isn’t a bad score, and Hokutofuji always seems to finish strong, as he did again, winning 5 of the last 6, but this tournament feels extremely underwhelming by his standards. For several years now he’s been a fixture at the top end of the division and this rank felt way below his level, and so seeing him drop early matches without much punch (although admittedly two of those first four losses were to yusho candidates) was a real surprise. I expected a double digit score here. Many years ago, I thought he had ozeki written all over him, as if he could be this generation’s Chiyotaikai, but he’s just never really had consistency since Ryuden cleaned his clock a few years back. He seems like a real confidence rikishi who’s destined to be streaky, as his performance in Haru again showed.

M5W Ishiura (2-7-6)

I know the prevailing thought (certainly said by no less an authority than our friend Kintamayama himself!) is that Ishiura should have just stayed put at 1 win and kyujo, but I think we have to put these things in some perspective. If he’s 22, then sure, he has his whole career in front of him. Ishiura is 32, and the one extra win he picked up may likely be the difference between staying in makuuchi (almost certainly will with two wins) and not (demotable with 1). Some people may say, you still collect a salary in Juryo, and it’s true, but he’s someone with a family, at the back end of his career and who will presumably want to stay salaried as long as possible, and that means trying to do whatever you can to get back on the dohyo and find an extra couple of wins. So I don’t begrudge him that, but I was sad not to get more from him at a career high rank, because – even taking the injury into account – he looked pretty awful in the 8 matches we did get.

M5E Takarafuji (6-9)

Takarafuji turned 35 before the basho, and he’s another who ends up with a creditable enough score despite the eye test telling us he was just missing his mojo. Nothing different about his sumo, he just didn’t have enough power to defend and then extend. Natsu may tell us whether this was a one-off, or the sign of a decline.

M4W Endo (8-7)

Par for the course: all kinds of wacky technical hijinks, maddening inconsistency, a smattering of kimarite and a whole lot of fun. Endo, now that we’ve given up the hope of him becoming some great star, has really turned into a bit of a treat these days, win or lose.

M4E Kiribayama (10-5)

I’ve been high on him for a while, and make no mistake, this is a good result having had to fight everyone of note apart from Takayasu and the absent Terunofuji. Most impressively, he beat an awful lot of folks ranked higher than him, in what was his first double digit winning record since his debut in the top division over two years ago. Unlike others, given that he’s only 25 I do still think he has the ability to go on and reach Ozeki, but I don’t think it’s necessarily in the next 2 years. It would be good to see him get a kachi-koshi in the joi next time out and join the youth movement starting to apply upward pressure on the san’yaku veterans.

M3W Meisei (1-14)

A penny for Takanosho’s thoughts, having been the only one to suffer a loss to Meisei in what was a tournament to forget for the Tatsunami beya star. He will absolutely be back, but having finished the previous basho softly, the signs are worrying and can only be reversed by a return to fitness or opponents of lower quality. This score was so bad he’s guaranteed himself the latter next time out. Sometimes you’ll see a rikishi who throws everything at his matches and can’t buy a win, but there was nothing truly unlucky about this result. He just wasn’t there.

M3E Onosho (6-9)

Another disappointing basho for Onosho, who started okay enough and will continue to ride the elevator in and out of the joi. Not much to say that we don’t already know: powerful thrusting when he’s on, too much forward lean and he’s down. He’s been in the top division nearly 5 years, but at only 25 he can still improve. On current form however he doesn’t look likely to best his career high Komusubi rank.

M2W Tamawashi (7-8)

I would give Tamawashi a B+ for this basho. He was in with a shot at his kachi-koshi until the last day, added to his kinboshi collection for the second straight basho, and continues to be sumo’s Ironman, despite carrying some worrying knocks to his midsection. He continues to be the definition of gambarising, showing up every day, built well and will keep hanging around the top dogs next time out at 37. He can’t be killed.

M2E Ichinojo (9-6)

This is a really good result for an Ichinojo who seems to have realised there’s really nothing but himself keeping him away from san’yaku these days. Entering the final weekend 9-4, he could have punched that ticket but coughed it up in two admittedly tricky matches firstly against his direct opposition Daieisho, and then against the wily Tobizaru in an entertaining final day bout. Sumo is better for him being on form, and injuries aside, it doesn’t look like the boulder is meaningfully moving soon.

M1W Ura (4-11)

One more win and we’d be saying this was actually a decent basho from Ura, punching well above his weight at his career high rank. If that seems like a surprise it’s because through the second weekend he was an unstoppable loss machine, starting 1-10. If you go through his matches, there just weren’t too many of the usual surprises and he was easily squared off, his mobility not really much of a factor. Still, he racked up 3 from 4 in the final days from mid-table underachievers and that should still keep him middle of the pack himself when we see him in Tokyo.

M1E Daieisho (8-7)

The margins are so fine and the standards have been set so high by the man himself, that losing any one of the final three days would have felt like a disaster. Daieisho started by knocking off the top Ozeki and taking another kinboshi from the Yokozuna, but it was a big downhill from there as he needed a huge effort over the final weekend to claim his winning record. He’s having trouble sticking in san’yaku these days, but at 28 and conceivably in his prime, it’s possible he still has room to cement his place.

KW Hoshoryu (8-7)

Here’s another situation where whether a guy is perceived to have a successful tournament or not comes down to one win, and I often think that’s a little unfair. Hoshoryu is improving slowly but surely, but truth be told this is more of a mental victory than anything else, as a 7-8 result that dropped him to M1 wouldn’t have been a bad tournament either. The impressive thing for me is seeing the mental resolve to come from behind with a losing score deep into the second week, and turning it around against some good quality opponents where other san’yaku debutants have faltered.

KE Takanosho (4-11)

Dreadful basho for Takanosho, who’s spent the last 18 months in and around the san’yaku ranks, holding his own at points. The big guns beat him up early but for him to fall to 11 losses without even facing the Yokozuna, and having the advantage of not having to face one of the Ozeki, is very poor. Like Meisei (to whom he granted the fellow ex-Sekiwake’s only victory), he just looked absolutely listless at points in the tournament, although hopefully he will take heart from beating up some easy prey in week 2.

SW Abi (8-7)

Another case of just one win, the final day victory, deciding the difference between a successful and unsuccessful tournament. Abi’s debut at the rank was yet more evidence of his ability to hold his own in the division’s upper echelons. He had a pretty brutal fade in the second week which was reminiscent of the old Mitakeumi, but put dirt on Takayasu on senshuraku in impressive fashion. The stakes will be raised next time, but having beaten everyone he was expected to and having held serve, you’d give his tournament a solid B+ or even A-.

SE Wakatakakage (12-3 Yusho) 🎉

Hard to imagine one’s debut at a new rank going better. The new star’s last three tournaments had hinted at a breakout, as he struggled against the top rankers from his position in the upper maegashira ranks in the first week, only to put it together comprehensively against rank and file opposition in week two (winning the last five matches, all against maegashira in each of the previous three basho). At the Sekiwake rank, he faced the rank and filers early and that momentum gave him the confidence to push on late in the basho, despite dropping a pair of the last three to Ozeki opponents. His two sensational victories over Takayasu ultimately opened the race and provided the silverware, but the entire body of work was remarkable, and reminiscent of the control and poise of a certain one of Takayasu’s former stablemates at their peak. Unlike that legend of the dohyo however, Wakatakakage’s maiden yusho came in his first title challenge, and just his 30th overall tournament – not a bad way to cap off a sensational rise over just 5 years in professional sumo.

O2W Mitakeumi (11-4)

Talking of debuts at a new rank, the man who’s been performing like an Ozeki for years finally is one, and having hung around the yusho race to the end, did exactly what was expected of him. I’d give his tournament an A-, because I felt like he got the results without really needing to get out of second gear, and coughed up a couple key bouts when it mattered. But all in all, he’ll be sumo’s second highest ranked rikishi in the next tournament, and that feels about right, because he’s probably sumo’s second best rikishi.

O1W Takakeisho (8-7)

After the opening week, I’m not sure anyone would have picked him as the Ozeki to finish with the worst overall score, but he cleared kadoban which was the most important thing. Still, 4 straight losses to finish against key opponents (in which I include Shodai, also fighting to clear kadoban) was a brutally disappointing way for the two-time champion to round out the basho. Much has been made of his endurance or lack of it, and he did lose some fiery bouts, so you can’t say he didn’t at least show up and give it his all. While questions will inevitably be asked about his fitness given that he’s been plagued by some frankly frightening looking injuries in the past, there’s also an open question about his ineffectiveness in bouts where opponents have looked to lengthen the match and deflect his attack. Has he simply just been figured out a bit? As Tochinoshin will attest, it’s easy to be a one trick Ozeki when your one trick is so good. And as Tochinoshin will attest, it’s very hard to be a one trick Ozeki when everyone knows the trick AND it’s not working at 100%.

O1E Shodai (9-6)

He just doesn’t make it easy, does he? After giving himself an 0-4 and then a 1-5 hole against not the toughest opposition he might face, one has to say it was a remarkable achievement by a rikishi not known for his mental toughness to pull himself out of an almighty jam with a thrilling winning streak into the second week. While he had a couple memorable wins, the icing on the cake for me will be the thrilling Day 14 win over Takayasu in which he literally threw the latter’s almighty collapse into full motion, removing the Ozeki himself from the danger zone.

Y Terunofuji (3-3-9)

It was pretty obvious that something wasn’t right with Terunofuji from the off, and someone with his health history who has to already very carefully manage his fitness will have potentially have been thrown a wrench by any covid-related complications. No one should be surprised that the Yokozuna is going to struggle from time to time to maintain his fitness, we knew this would come with the territory when we signed up for Yokozuna Terunofuji. But hopefully he can give us at least 4 fit basho a year while we scan the ranks for someone who might be able to be his rival and maintain the position for a bit longer. Fun fact: the five kinboshi he has conceded have come at the hands of only 3 rikishi, as Daieisho and Tamawashi each racked up their second gold star from the Yokozuna in this tournament.

Haru Day 15 Highlights

It came down to a playoff. The playoff was tremendous sumo, possibly the best match of the year so far. The right man won. The loser was clearly heart broken, and I feel for him, but his sumo was fantastic this month, and he has another try in May.

Highlight Matches

Ichiyamamoto defeats Hidenoumi – Ichiyamamoto abandoned pushing and thrusting fairly early on, and went chest to chest with Hidenoumi. They then proceeded to try and pull on each other’s heads back and forth a few times before they decided that it was not going to work at all. Hidenoumi was unhappy with grip, went to change it up, and reduced his forward pressure, letting Ichiyamamoto run him out to the West. Both finish the day 8-7, with Ichiyamamoto reaching kachi-koshi on the final day.

Kagayaki defeats Terutsuyoshi – Kagayaki finished well, he shut down Terutsuyoshi’s opening moves, kept his pushing focused center mass, and quickly moved Terutsuyoshi out. He finishes 7-8, and I will leave it to lksumo to guess if he’s going to be on the Juryo barge back to Tokyo.

Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – A bit of a leap tp the left at the tachiai by Myogiryu had what was probably the desired effect – keep Tochinoshin away from Myogiryu’s mawashi. Tochinoshin eventually closes the gap, but insists on repeated pulling atttempts. Myogiryu tosses him back, then tosses him out to finish Haru 7-8.

Shimanoumi defeats Kotokuzan – The first Darwin match goes to Shimanoumi, but the offense was nearly all from Kotokuzan. But all it takes it the right moment, and Shimanoumi finds his opening, gets a body hold and moves Kotokuzan out. Shimanoumi kachi-koshi at 8-7, Kotokuzan 7-8 and make-koshi.

Wakamotoharu defeats Nishikigi – I love that Nishikigi decided to give Wakamotoharu an endurance check. They set up left hand inside at the tachiai, and there they stood, waiting the other out. Wakamotoharu whats the right hand outside grip, and eventually finds it, then gets to down to business. He moves Nishikigi to the edge of the ring and throws him down with an uwatenage. Both men finish with 9-6.

Kotoshoho defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma hits first, but Kotoshoho gets his hands inside. Chiyoshoma could have made a fight of it, but was pulling Kotoshoho instead. Without an resistance to his forward motion, Kotoshoho made fast work of getting Chiyoshoma out. He finishes Haru 9-6.

Hokutofuji defeats Yutakayama – I liked this match because it’s been a while since we saw Hokutofuji’s lower body decide it was winning a match, no matter what. Outstanding offensive footwork form Hokutofuji, and I just have to wonder where is this sumo the other days of this basho. Yes, he smoked Mitakeumi on day 10 to knock him out of the yusho, but this should be his every-day sumo. Yutakayama takes his 8th loss, his third consecutive make-koshi.

Akua defeats Ishiura – Well, that was dumb. Not sure Ishiura wanted to even compete today. Go home and heal up. Akua improves to 4-11.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyonokuni – Also in the “no condition to fight” category, Chiyonokuni has little offensive power, and finds himself unable to move Takarafuji. Takarafuji takes control and drives Chiyonokuni from the ring to finish Haru 6-9.

Kiribayama defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko still can’t find a formula to beat Kiribayama, it seems. He starts strong, but Kiribayama wraps him up, then gets him to all fours with what they labeled a kotenage. Kiribayama finishes Haru strong at 10-5.

Chiyotairyu defeats Meisei – At this point, Meisei is little more than a loss sponge. Meisei did manage one win, but maybe he should have gone for a spotless 0-15 instead. Chiyotairyu hit large at the tachiai, hit again to stand Meisei up, then pulled him down. Chiyotairyu’s final score: 7-8.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – Onosho locked on target center-mass at the tachiai, and all Chiyomaru could do was try to pull into his powerful advance. This sped up the process of sending Chiyomaru into the front row, giving Onosho has 6th win to finish Haru 6-9.

Endo defeats Tamawashi – Ah, time for the next Darwin match. Tamawashi opened strong, lost his footing, and that was all Endo needed. He kept Tamawashi off balance, and drove him around the ring before sending him past the waiting Okinoumi and into a conclave of brown-coats. Endo kachi-koshi at 8-7, Tamawashi make-koshi at 7-8.

Tobizaru defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo stayed strong, patient and nearly immobile against Tobizaru’s high mobility antics. He had total dominance over Tobizaru, until he tried an arm lock throw, and Tobizaru used the weight shift to get him moving, then moved him out. Both end the day with worthy 9-6 records for March.

Ura defeats Okinoumi – Ura finds the inside lane ofter Okinoumi bats Ura’s head around a few times. Ura rushes forward, sending Okinoumi out, Ura finishes 4-11, and needs to regroup from a lower spot on the banzuke.

Daieisho defeats Aoiyama – Next Darwin match! Aoiyama got one partially effective thrust in, his chest was open and the inside route was Daieisho’s for the taking. Three steps later, Daieisho had Big Dan out, handing him a losing record for Haru, and taking home a 8-7 kachi-koshi.

Hoshoryu defeats Kotonowaka – Hoshoryu had a tall order to finish with a winning record, but he made it work. Kotonowaka opened well, but he gave Hoshoryu an opening, which Hoshoryu filled with a hearty shitatedashinage. This knocks Kotonowaka out of yusho contention, as Hoshoryu finishes 8-7.

Sadanoumi defeats Takanosho – Both men took a turn at dominating this match, with both having a left hand outside mawashi grip. Neither could find a way to finish the other. The match ended when Takanosho tried an off balance throw as Sadanoumi was backing away, and both men went out. A monoii took place to try to sort the mess out. Review showed that Takanosho hit first, and Sadanoumi picks up his 5th win of March to finish 5-10.

The final three, it’s time for Big Sumo

Abi defeats Takayasu – Abi opened strong, had full impact on Takayasu’s face and neck, and Takayasu could not hold his ground. Abi got him turned, and then pushed him out quickly from behind. Sad news for Takayasu fans as he picks up his 3rd loss, but Abi manages to put the finishing win into his kachi-koshi to end Haru 8-7. The yusho is Wakatakakage’s if he can beat Shodai.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – The Ozeki battle was quite anti-climatic. Takakeisho hits hard, Mitakeumi steps to the side, and Takakeisho hits the deck. Mitakeumi finishes Haru 11-4. Kind of a dud match.

Shodai defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage opens strong, and has Shodai defensive. But Shodai summons the Wall of Daikon, and Wakatakakage’s offense crumbles as Shodai uses his big body to plow the dohyo clear of any trace of Wakatakakage. Shodai found his sumo at least, finishing 9-6 for Haru, and sending the yusho to a playoff.

Playoff Match

Wakatakakage defeats Takayasu – Dear lord what a battle! Takayasu saved his sumo for this brawl to end it all, and he was attacking very well against Wakatakakage. I give Wakatakakage high marks for staying on his feet and staying in the match under Takayasu’s withering barrage. Too many times Wakatakakage tried to pull Takayasu, and points to Takayasu, he remained patient, worked to keep his balance centered, and did not advance too rapidly into the pull. His footwork was poor and his balance all over the place. Takayasu found Wakatakakage’s feet on the tawara, and gave him a mighty one arm shove to send him out. But a lingering Wakatakakage hold on Takayasu’s left wrist pulled him forward and down, hitting the clay a moment before Wakatakakage stepped out. Wakatakakage wins the Haru yusho in glorious style. Well done to both competitors.

This ends Tachiai’s daily coverage of the Haru basho. What a great tournament this has been. Thank you all for sharing your time with Team Tachiai, and stopping by to read our write ups. It’s been a lot of fun, and I look forward to sharing my love of sumo with all of you again soon.

Haru Day 15 Preview

We come to it at last, senshuraku. We had no way of knowing it would play out in this manner back on day 1, as we started off the Osaka tournament. What a great run it has been, and what a fine closing day for this tournament. With Yokozuna Terunofuji out of action with leg problems, it was an open call for the yusho, and a fantastic cast of rikishi responded.

Takayasu fans have been waiting a long time to see their hairy beast hoist the cup. His performance on day 14 gave all of them (myself included) fits. On the cusp of triumph, we saw him break out his bad habits from his Ozeki days, and lose the match to Shodai. He let Wakatakakage have a chance to take the cup from him, and he just may do it.

Wakatakakage has been working hard for years to get to this point. He has many things going for him. He’s young enough at 27 to still have several years of peak performance. He put in his time in Juryo honing his body and his skills. He’s probably ready for higher rank, and what a blazing way to start an Ozeki run from the East Sekiwake slot. Even if he does not take the yusho on Sunday, we won’t have to wait long to see him hold the banner.

Kotonowaka at 24, he’s early in his career. This ties with his best performance ever, at his highest rank ever. Is this the new normal for Kotonowaka? Or is he just having one hell of a basho. He should be in the joi-jin for May, so we will get to see how he handles the big leagues soon enough.

Mitakeumi fell out of the yusho race on day 14 with a bit of a poor move, but with at least 10 wins, he has nothing to apologize for. Some fans may forget, that even as a shin-Ozeki, he already has 3 yusho to his name. This has been one of his best second weeks ever, and we hope this is his new normal too.

The final three matches, for the third day in a row, hold the key to how the yusho will be decided. The contenders are Takayasu and Wakatakakage, with Kotonowaka waiting in the wings should things go poorly for them both.

Should one man lose and the other win the winner will take the cup. Should both men win, they will fight again after the final match (Wakatakakage faces Shodai). Should both men lose, we could have a 3 way playoff if Kotonowaka also wins. I know which one I want – a grand brawl to end it all, with everyone who can be, involved to fight it out to the end.

Don’t get me started on the Darwin matches, this final day of sumo is wall to wall.

I am laying in and extra supply of fine distillates for tonights action. I apologize in advance if the write up tomorrow is a bit kooky.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Hidenoumi vs Ichiyamamoto – For reasons no one can explain, Hidenoumi is in the top division as a visitor for the second day in a row. Not that I mind him putting the challenge to 7-7 Ichiyamamoto. Hidenoumi is already kachi-koshi, and it’s a shame that we could not arrange for Ichiyamamoto to face a proper 7-7 opponent to give him a real do-or-die battle.

Kagayaki vs Terutsuyoshi – We probably say farewell to Kagayaki who, with a make-koshi, is eligible to ride the Juryo barge of the damned. Even thought he has a 6-3 advantage over Terutsuyoshi, his sumo has been fairly crummy this March, and I frankly want to see Terutsuyoshi use another katasukashi.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin tries for double digits against 6-8 Myogiryu, who holds a marginal 16-13 career lead. I am not certain what magic gave Tochinoshin some knee power back, but at this low of a rank, an even slightly healthy former Ozeki is big trouble.

Shimanoumi vs Kotokuzan – Our first real Darwin match of the day, and I am going to drink a toast to both of these knuckleheads. Kotokuzan, its his first time in the top division, no harm having some troubles. Shimanoumi, you should be good enough to make this work, sir. It’s their first ever match, so lord knows who has any sort of advantage.

Nishikigi vs Wakamotoharu – This match pleases me greatly. Two kachi-koshi yotsu guys having a fight to see who gets the bigger boost up the banzuke. Wakamotoharu has a 3-1 career leader over Nishikigi, who is fighting like his 2018 self right now. Much as I have enjoyed Wakamotoharu’s sumo, the sentimentalist in me wants to see Nishikigi hit double digits.

Chiyoshoma vs Kotoshoho – Well, 8-6 Kotoshoho had to fight someone. Maybe we can get a flying henka out of 5-9 Chiyoshoma today. I am keen to see Kotoshoho work his way up the ranks, but a slow and steady grind higher is probably the best path for him now.

Hokutofuji vs Yutakayama – They should have had Ichiyamamoto fighting Yutakayama, except they already fought day 9. Bugger, robbed of a perfectly good Darwin match. Yutakayama has a 3-0 career advantage over already kachi-koshi Hokutofuji. But their last match was 2 years ago. On the other hand, Hokutofuji may be feeling a bit out of sorts not currently owning the “Most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”. Maybe he an cough up a final loss to just to let us all know his heart is in the right place, even if he accidentally hit his 8th win.

Akua vs Ishiura – Two guys who should just skip the venue, get drunk and sing karaoke on Abema instead. Seriously, it might be more entertaining. Ishiura was wincing again after his day 14 win, so I am guessing his neck is still boogered up. Both have double digit losses, and Akua may be the bosun of the Juryo barge with those kind of numbers.

Takarafuji vs Chiyonokuni – Matching 5-9 scores, this one is to see who gets to finish with a double digit losing record. Chiyonokuni is still hurt, Takarafuji seems to be less that genki, and I think that it’s anyones guess which one is going to be more hurt when they mount the dohyo today. But it is worth noting, Takarafuji has won the last 10 matches against Chiyonokuni.

Kiribayama vs Kotoeko – Another double digit decider match. Both come in 9-4, and the winner gets a double digit winning record to plug into the wild and wacky banzuke machine. What? you have never heard of the banzuke machine? Its the magical bit or Edo era tech that they use to decide the new banzuke. Its never been photographed, and is only discussed in hush tones among an exclusive handful or oyakata. It seems it’s actually operated by a 103 year old guy from Kyoto, who also maintains it. He is the 14th generation from his family to have this job, and when he is gone, his son will take over. Rumor has it that lksumo got a glimpse of it once, and given his high IQ, was able to re-create some of it in software. This explains why his forecasts are known the world over as accurate and dependable.

Chiyotairyu vs Meisei – This is the match I have highlighted with yellow for tonight. Not because I think it’s going to be a raucous battle, but it’s when I forecast I will need to use the toilet.

Onosho vs Chiyomaru – I should be back in time for this one, if I am not too lit up by then. I think I may have over-done it at Mitsuwa today. I have a rule in my house, sake may only be enjoyed during honbasho. So by the time somebody lifts the cup, it all has to be gone. I think that I would like to see Onosho dial his forward power up to maximum, and discover that Chiyomaru is powered by the miniature black hole that impacted Russia in the early 1900s near Tunguska. They both come in with 5-9 records, and the loser will be sporting a fine double digit loss for that Edo period thing I was rambling on about a bit ago.

Endo vs Tamawashi – Is there anyone that deserves a Darwin match more than Endo right now? Maybe Shodai, but Takayasu saw to that on day 14, the big hairy goon. These two have 27 matches between them, and there is no shortage of big hits, powerful throws and outright sumo brilliance between the two of them. Winner gets kachi-koshi, loser gets to peel potatoes for Wakanohana’s curry supper.

Ichinojo vs Tobizaru – Word to Ichinojo, I call you the Boulder as a suggestion. Be big, be stationary, be stable. Let the flying monkey dance, and just make sure you keep your weight centered, and your arms under your control. Do that, and you may repeat your 10-5 final score from July of last year.

Okinoumi vs Ura – Well, someone had to fight Ura. I am just glad that Ura is not headed back to the hospital this basho. He has been fighting so poorly that he seems to really be over promoted, hurt or some of each. this may not be much of a contest for Okinoumi, who won their only prior bout. Maybe if we ask nicely, lksumo can forecast just how far down the banzuke a 3-12 from Maegashira 1 tends to fall.

Daieisho vs Aoiyama – The last of our Darwin matches, it’s “Big Dan” Aoiyama against plucky Daieisho. Both want to get a lot of forward attack power, though Aoiyama can probably bench press a house at this point, while Daieisho would max out on a Daihatsu utility truck. Even if Daieisho can connect center mass today, Aoiyama has built in crumple zones around his chest that make it kind of weird to attack. What’s a rikishi to do?

Kotonowaka vs Hoshoryu – Sometimes the Great Sumo Cat giveth, and some times he buries things in the litter box. As it happens, many of the 7-7 rikishi had already fought each other, and so to get all possible 7-7 together in a parade of zero-sum Darwin matches really could not happen, much to my profound disappointment, and to the great relief of my liver. So 7-7 Hoshoryu got the litter box today, as he has to beat Kotonowaka if he wants a kachi-koshi. Nothing big, just the guy in the #2 slot in the yusho race. You take care of that, please.

Takanosho vs Sadanoumi – Wow, one more steamer from the cat box before the big finish. Fine, we get a pair of 4-10 guys to see which one can eek out a 5th win. I may highlight this one in yellow as well, because the timing seems about correct.

Back from the loo, it’s time for BIG SUMO

Takayasu vs Abi – 7-7 Abi gets to try his luck against Takayasu. If week 1 Takayasu shows up, Abi will be lucky to have any bones left at the end of the match. If we get day 14 Takayasu, well, its going to be up to Wakatakakage to decide if he wants the cup or not. I know the temptation against Abi is to be quick to overcome his frantic thrusting attacks, But slow down, drain his energy, and then battle hug him like you would Kisenosato. Don’t let him escape, just stand him up and lean him back, give him a close look at Takayasu. Goal is a 6 minute match where Abi is begging to be allowed to fall down. You can do it.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – I have been looking forward to this once since day 1. Yeah, I know that Takakeisho is not really at 100%, but these two always whip it on. Its going to be who gets the first combo to connect. Takakeisho is going to blast center mass, and Mitakeumi is going to want to get his arms around Takakeisho. This probably will be a quick match, so do be ready for fast action.

Shodai vs Wakatakakage – Oh yes, Wakatakakage tries out for the big time. Traditionally the final match on senshuraku are the two top ranked athletes in the sport, which would be Shodai and Takakeisho. But Wakatakakage gets the nod for a chance at enough kensho to build a diorama of Howl’s Moving Castle. Will we see the “Wall of Daikon” today? Will we get cartoon sumo? Or will Wakatakakage channel his inner Yokozuna that is slowly working its way to the surface and give Shodai an Osaka clay facial and take the cup?

Haru Day 14 Highlights

Did you want Big Sumo and maximum competition? The Great Sumo Cat hears your wishes, and has granted your request.

We have 8 rikishi with 7-7 records at the end of the day. Not the most there could have been, but a healthy number of tomorrows matches will be deciders between rikishi balanced between make and kachi koshi. I call these matches “Darwin Matches” as the strong survive, and move up the banzuke.

But in the final 3 fanale, the wins and losses aligned just right so that Wakatakakage and Takayasu are tied for the lead once more, with Kotonowaka just one behind. We won’t know who will take the yusho until the final match of the final day, and even then there might require a 3 man playoff. Nice!

Highlight Matches

Hidenoumi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s poor form showed up again today. You can see him keeping his head down rather than looking at and studying his opponents grip and stance. His hips get high, his upper body bent over while his legs are straight, man what a mess. Hidenoumi pushes him out to win his 8th while handing Kagayaki his 8th loss. Kachi-koshi for Hidenoumi, make-koshi for Kagayaki. I would guess lower back problems for Kagayaki.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Chiyonokuni – immediate pull at the tachiai completely disrupts Chiyonokuni, and Ichiyamamoto shoves him out from behind. Ichiyamamoto 7-7 and headed for a Darwin match.

Kotokuzan defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu opened big, and quickly had Kotokuzan’s heels on the bales. What did he do then? Pulled Kotokuzan forward, and five steps later found himself out. Crappy sumo from Chiyotairyu nets him a make-koshi today, while Kotokuzan improves to 7-7 and is headed for Darwin.

Myogiryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama got in trouble early, when Myogiryu found himself with a deep right hand grip, and Yutakayama turned at an angle. At that moment, Yutakayama was off balance and nearly upright. Myogiryu made fast work to get him to the bales, and finished with a throw attempt that collapsed into a yoritaoshi. Myogiryu improves to 6-8, Yutakayama now 7-7 and headed for a Darwin match.

Nishikigi defeats Shimanoumi – Unable to get his preferred grip on Shimanoumi, Nishikigi had to settle for shoving him out of the ring. Shimanoumi had little in terms of offense, and could not counter Nishikigi’s greater forward pressure. Shimanoumi now 7-7, Nishikigi 9-5.

Kotoshoho defeats Aoiyama – I was quite surprised that Aoiyama surrendered the inside pushing lane to Kotoshoho, but that happened. Once Kotoshoho was moving him back, Aoiyama tried a pull at a very poorly timed moment, and we get our second yoritaoshi in 3 matches as Aoiyama hits the clay. Kotoshoho pick up his 8th win and is kachi-koshi. Aoiyama 7-7 and joins the Darwin crew.

Tochinoshin defeats Wakamotoharu – Tochinoshin had a big opening combo against Wakamotoharu, and Wakamotoharu struggled to get his sumo started. Wakamotoharu found Tochinoshin’s mawashi just as the former Ozeki established his lethal left hand outside grip. To his credit, Wakamotoharu defended well against Tochinoshin’s preferred attack, and kept his feet all the way to the edge of the ring, here he attempted a throw. But Wakamotoharu had already stepped out. Tochinoshin picks up the win to improve to 9-5.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyoshoma – Terutsuyoshi with the mini-henka at the start, takes up a right hand outside grip. He does not hold Chiyoshoma long, as the hand comes down, grabs Chiyoshoma’s left leg, and drops Chiyoshoma with a komatasukui. That’s kachi-koshi for Terutsuyoshi at 8-6.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Once Kotoeko had that right hand inside mawashi grip, he was in charge of this match. Points to Sadanoumi for widening his stance, excellent defensive move. But it prevented him executing the uwatenage he was trying for, and instead he was thrown for his 10th loss. Kotoeko improves to 9-5.

Takarafuji defeats Akua – Akua had both traction and balance problems today. He did fairly well keeping Takarafuji’s right hand from finding his mawashi, but we know Takarafuji is patient and relentless. What does Akua do when he is stuck? Tries a kakenage, of course. Takarafuji was ready, and threw him to the clay. Takarafuji improves to 5-9.

Tobizaru defeats Kiribayama – The tachiai wrapped an intense battle for hand placement, that resulted with Tobizaru getting a deep left hand on Kiribayama’s mawashi knot. I counted three chained throw attempts, but Kiribayama had the counter move ready each time. But with Kiribayama on one foot, he was easy to move about, and Tobizaru shoved him into the East side front row. That’s win number 8 for Tobizaru, and he is kachi-koshi for the first time in a year.

Chiyomaru defeats Meisei – Meisei still can’t find his second win. After beating Takanosho on opening day, its’ been 13 straight black stars for him. It was an odd match, with an equally odd finish. They called it an oshitaoshi, and that’s good enough for me. Sadly there is no kimarite for “complete discombobulation”, but there should be. Chiyomaru picks up his fifth win to finish 5-9.

Tamawashi defeats Onosho – Tamawashi’s opening combo stood Onosho up, and he immediately pulled Onosho forward, rolling him to the clay. Balance, Onosho’s weak spot. Tamawashi finishes the day at 7-7, adding his name to the Darwin list.

Daieisho defeats Ichinojo – Color me surprised, Ichinojo blew his two attempts to find Daieisho’s mawashi, and failed to set his feet defensively. Daieisho’s big thrusts connected well, and got Ichinojo on the move. A final big push finished him, and Daieisho improves to 7-7, joining the Darwin crew.

Ishiura defeats Ura – Ishiura was able to find his second win in the battle of the Uras. Today he looked strong, focused and quite aggressive. He gave Ura quite a rough ride, and none of Ura’s escape moves worked well enough to stave off the Ishiura’s oshi-zumo. Ishiura improves to 2-12.
Ura: 3-11

Okinoumi defeats Takanosho – Nice combo attack from Okinoumi today. Hazu-oshi arm pit attack, lighting fast change up on the right hand straight into a katasukashi. He dropped Takanosho like a sack of cat food to find his 5th win of Haru, ending the day 5-9. I love Okinoumi’s technical sumo, when he is feeling healthy enough to execute it, its a thing of beauty.

Hoshoryu defeats Endo – Both rikishi succeeded in blocking the other’s opening gambit, and neither had working hand placement at the tachiai. They re-engaged, with Endo lunging in just as Hoshoryu stepped to the side and guided Endo’s body out. It was a bit of a long shot, but indeed it payed off as both end the day 7-7, joining the Darwin group.

Hokutofuji defeats Abi – Abi has now lost 5 of the last 6, and I am worried he may be injured. He had the better of the initial phase of this match, but lost contact with Hokutofuji, and gave Hokutofuji his back. It was easy for Hokutofuji to push him out of the ring and into the front row to visit Dr Takasu and the posture princess. Hokutofuji pick up his 8th win and is kachi-koshi.

Once again, the climatic final three matches are stacked with big sumo.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – I struggle to interpret the final moments of this match, and I have re-watched it at least a dozen times. Takayasu presses forward, and for a moment has both feet airborne, I think he is doing some kind of flying gaburi-yori. It was a poor choice as it leaves his feet even, his balance of center and his body ripe for a throw. Shodai, in dire need of a win, takes Takayasu to the clay with a sukuinage for his 8th win, reaching kachi-koshi and clearing kadoban. What was that, Takayasu? I think this is his biggest issue, he wins when he stays calm, strong and a little bit slow moving. When he lets out his “wild man sumo” he’s easier to pick off. Opinions of this match in the comments, if you would please.

Kotonowaka defeats Mitakeumi – With the leader down, its time for these two to decide who will be a challenger for day 15, as Takayasu left the door open for someone else to take the cup. Mitakeumi’s opening combo fell apart, and Kotonowaka was ready to make him pay. Following his blown opening, Mitakeumi failed to set up defensive foot placement, allowing Kotonowaka to move him to the edge of the ring and walk him out. Kotonowaka now 11-3. These mid-maegashira guys with their double digit scores are going to force additional slots in the named ranks if they keep this up.

Wakatakakage defeats Takakeisho – With Takayasu down, it’s Wakatakakage’s chance to even the score. Excellent opening hit from Takakeisho blasts Wakatakakage back, but Wakatakakage bets everything on getting his right hand inside on the Ozeki’s belt. The third attack finds the mark, and Wakatakakage sets up shop. Takakeisho knows he’s in trouble, and fights back, but Wakatakakage somehow manages to keep his feet, while his left hand finds the inside lane. Now with a double inside grip, Takakeisho is ballast, and Wakatakakage moves him across the bales for his 12th win, evening up with Takayasu.

The rollercoaster tale of the 2022 Haru basho will conclude tomorrow. We are looking forward to one hell of a final day.