Haru Day 15 Highlights

The Haru basho is a wrap! Day 15 closed out the tournament with some decent matches, and a couple of worrisome developments. While there will be plenty of talk about promotions and demotions in the days to come, the real story to me is just how much of the Makuuchi division was make-koshi this time (25). Sumo is in fact a zero-sum sport, but to see so many rikishi underwater at once is quite the throwback to an earlier time, when the giants of sumo were all healthy and active.

Now that the spoiler buffer is out of the way, we bring you the news. Yokozuna Hakuho took the cup for his 42nd yusho, his 15th zensho yusho. In the process he injured his right arm, enough that he was not able to move it following his match with Kakuryu. How bad is it? I would say bad enough. From a wild guess, it could be a pectoral injury or a bicep injury. Hopefully unlike Kisenosato he will seek immediate attention. We may not see “The Boss” for a while.

Takakeisho was able to win against struggling Ozeki Tochinoshin, to pick up his 10th win. Ounomatsu Oyakata and Hakkaku Rijicho have confirmed that Takakeisho will be promoted to Ozeki this week, and I think the sumo world is quite happy about that. The stone-faced Takakeisho, who it seems had kept his emotions in check for this whole time, finally realized that he had reached a significant goal, and succumbed to the moment.

Tochinoshin will be demoted for May to a Sekiwake rank, or in this special case, we call it Ozekiwake. With 10 wins he will regain his Ozeki rank. We know that a healthy Tochinoshin can clear 10 wins, especially if Hakuho and some of the others are in less than stellar condition. But the question comes down to Tochinoshin’s injuries, and how much they limit him. Sadly, Tachiai took a look at Tochinoshin’s history when he was on the cusp of promotion, and forecasted this scenario with fairly good accuracy.

Highlight Matches

Shohozan defeats Chiyoshoma – I think Shohozan was certain that Chiyoshoma was going for a henka, and so Shohozan launched early (a clear matta) but took a moment to slap Chiyoshoma and launch him into the east side zabuton. When the match started, Chiyoshoma tried a leg sweep, but Shohozan was unphased. He cased Chiyoshoma down and personally welcomed him to make-koshi, and Juryo.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Ikioi – Ikioi had no business being on the dohyo after day 5, yet here he is doing “dead man sumo”. The good news is that maybe, just maybe, Terutsuyoshi with 6 wins can stay in Makuuchi. This is in part due to the wholesale make-koshi outbreak in the bottom ranks. 6-9 from Maegashira 14 should normally punt you back to the 2nd division, but there are so many bad records at lower ranks ahead of him, it’s possible that he stays.

Ryuden defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku’s special prize was contingent on a day 15 win, and he could not overpower Ryuden, who picked up win #10 to finish Haru with double digits. Sometime around day 12, Kotoshogiku’s stamina just seemed to fade out. 11 wins is his best finish since his yusho in 2016, and it was a great basho for both of these rikishi.

Kotoeko defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama loses the last 5 in a row to end with a make-koshi. Kind of an epic collapse on his part – injury? stamina? Bad batch of takoyaki?

Aoiyama defeats Tomokaze – The winner of this match took home the kanto-sho / fighting spirit prize. Tomokaze did well in his first top division basho, but Aoiyama was completely dialed into his sumo this March, Tomokaze attempted a pull down early, but Aoiyama rallied and showed Tomokaze what that salt basket looks like… up close.

Abi defeats Kagayaki – Abi gets win #8 on the final day, and we can assume that Abi-zumo will not evolve for a while longer.

Okinoumi defeats Yoshikaze – As expected, Okinoumi was able to pick up his kachi-koshi in his match against Yoshikaze today. Yoshikaze was very low at the tachiai, and Okinoumi did not give him a second chance.

Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – Some different sumo from Chiyotairyu today, and his choice of mawashi sumo at the open nearly cost him the match, but with his feet sliding back toward the bales, he changed course and poured on the oshi-yaki, which Myogiryu could not answer. Chiyotairyu gets his kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo defeats Daieisho – 14 wins in frequently more than sufficient to take a yusho, but for Ichinojo it was only good to take him to runner-up against a Hakuho zensho campaign. His sumo this basho has been formulaic, but oh so effective. Can he continue to make it work for him? Next chapter is written in May. This is his second Jun-Yusho, with his first being his 2014 debut tournament where he turned in an impressive 13-2. We expect him to join Tochinoshin at Sekiwake for May.

Mitakeumi defeats Nishikigi – Mitakeumi finishes with a minimal, 7 loss, make-koshi. He has a number of issues to address including his knee injury and his difficulty in carrying the “big” matches. Interestingly enough, its possible both both Komusubi (Hokutofuji also finished 7-8) may have an odd demotion path, as there are not that many rikishi who are making the case for joining the san’yaku.

Shodai defeats Tamawashi – Both men end the tournament with 5-10 records, and the Shodai’s rally is just as big a story as Tamawashi’s collapse. I do tend to rip on Shodai, mostly because he has really enormous potential that he just can’t seem to capitalize. Perhaps his rally in Osaka will give him new confidence that will show itself in Tokyo this May.

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – This match was won at the tachiai. Takakeisho delivered his first push, inside, at the moment of contact. You can see Tochinoshin impotently reach for that left hand mawashi purchase as his torso is propelled to the rear by the force of Takakeisho’s impact. Unable to deliver offense, he finds himself immediately under “wave action” attack. Tochinoshin allowed Takakeisho to dictate the form of the match, and lost. Takakeisho takes his Ozeki rank, and picks up the Gino-sho technique award. At just a pip over 22 years of age, we are looking at the future of sumo in this young man. His sumo is fairly one dimensional, and that is his biggest risk to maintaining the Ozeki rank. But we congratulate Takakeisho for persistence, hard work, and the courage to get it done.

Goeido defeats Takayasu – Some of the best Goeido sumo since Aki 2016, where he went undefeated and took the cup. When Goeido is healthy and focused, like he was in Osaka, he is a great example of a rikishi with absolute focus on offense. Again Takayasu went for the shoulder blast at the tachiai, so that is 2 attempts, 2 losses. I continue to think Takayasu is in a transitional state, and we are going to possibly see it result in a step change to his sumo that could see him bid for higher rank.

Hakuho defeats Kakuryu – Exceptional sumo from both men, this is the kind of match you would expect from two Yokozuna, one of them being the best that has stepped on clay in my lifetime. Three times Kakuryu forced an opening that gave him a shot to win, and three times Hakuho shut him down. The big worry is that the final shitatenage seems to have injured Hakuho’s arm. Both men fought well this March, and both of them are worthy to be considered the top men in sumo.

With that, we bring to a close our daily coverage of the Haru basho. What a great adventure it has been, and we have enjoyed sharing our love of sumo with you, our treasured readers. Join us in the coming weeks as we cover the promotion of Takakeisho to Ozeki, and events leading up to the Natsu basho in Tokyo. [but first, stay tuned for a post later today wrapping up the Haru storylines and making some predictions for Natsu -lksumo]

Haru Day 15 Preview

Once More…

It’s been a big crazy ride! Haru has been 14 days of the legends of sumo stomping with force through the rank and file, taking white starts wherever they go. Not a single kinboshi this tournament, let that sink in. Now that we are down to 2 Yokozuna, and they are both in fairly good health, the chances of a gold star are down. Looking at Kakuryu, there is a chance that his ankle is not quite right again, but with just one day left to go, I don’t think we will see him go kyujo.

The battle of day is, with no doubt, Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin. The landscape of the final day of the basho has been set up expertly by lksumo, as is his custom, but I wanted to examine this match. Tochinoshin is a mawashi rikishi, and he likes to use “lift and shift” sumo to remove his opponents bodily from the dohyo. When he is in good health, he can and does do it to anyone, including Ichinojo. Frequently this is accompanied by his opponent pedaling their legs furiously as the are lifted to height and carried to the janome like a crate of green bottles on Wednesday in Sumida. If Tochinoshin can get a hold of you, there is simply no way to stop it. It has even worked on Hakuho.

Takakeisho is a finely honed oshi-fighter, with the focus being primarily on thrusting / pushing attack and less on slapping his opponents around. He has perfected what we sometimes call a “wave action” attack, which features both arms working in tandem or near tandem to apply overwhelming force to his opponents body. This works best when he can get inside, and he can focus on center-mass. The day 14 match broke down when, for reasons we can’t explain, Takakeisho targeted Ichinojo’s neck, with absolutely zero effect. This double arm push is repeated in rapid succession, like a series of waves breaking against his opponent’s body. The result is that his opponents must constantly react and fight for stance and balance, all the while Takakeisho is moving them rapidly to the tawara.

The fight will hinge on if Takakeisho can move fast enough at the tachiai to land his first push before Tochinoshin can get a hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi. If Tochinoshin can grab a hold of this tadpole, it’s likely to Takakeisho’s doom. Tochinoshin’s sumo typically relies on him being able to set his feet and brace his shoulders and hips for his “sky crane” lift; this means if Takakeisho is landing wave after wave of heavy force thrusts against him, he won’t have a chance to use his lethal move.

A real clash of sumo styles and approaches, and on the line is who gets that 3rd Ozeki slot. The stakes could not be higher, and the rikishi nearly opposites.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Shohozan vs Chiyoshoma – The bottom man on the banzuke needs one more win to hold on to Makuuchi. Shohozan has lost 4 of the last 5, and seems out of gas. Should Chiyoshoma lose, he will join the platoon of rikishi that are eligible for return to Juryo.

Ryuden vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has had a great tournament, and this is his highest score since his January 2016 yusho (14-1), but it seems to me he has run out of stamina, and he may be picked off by Ryuden on day 15. Many fans, myself included, are a bit let down that the schedulers did not put Kotoshogiku against Toyonoshima for their final match. Some of these guys need to take nostalgia into account.

Asanoyama vs Kotoeko – Asanoyama has been fighting for that 8th win for the last 4 days, and his chances are good on day 15, as he holds a 4-0 career advantage over Kotoeko.

Ishiura vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji is also in the 7-7 category, and will need to keep Ishiura in front of him to pick up #8. Ishiura may as well henka this one, in my opinion. But do make it acrobatic!

Kagayaki vs Abi – Abi, old bean, I worry you won’t diversify unless you lose more matches. Won’t you give something else a try? Your double arm attack is solid, but is that all you can do? You have so much talent. Ok, go ahead and win day 15, and while you are at it, give Kagayaki some reason to look a bit more excited. The poor fellow looks a bit like the walking dead some days. Thanks, signed: your fans.

Okinoumi vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze at 10 wins, Okinoumi at 7 wins… Yeah, I think Okinoumi gets this one.

Chiyotairyu vs Myogiryu – Although Chiyotairyu needs a win to get to 8, I am going say that Myogiryu has an advantage here due to his shorter stature, and his strength. Chiyotairyu can and does hit like a wrecking ball, but he loses stamina in a hurry.

Daieisho vs Ichinojo – “Hulk Smash!”

Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – The big match, in my book. It may only last seconds, but it’s going to leave someone out in the cold.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Both Ozeki have 10 wins or better, so I see this as a “test match” of Takayasu’s tuned up sumo style. Goeido is going to blast in fast with everything he has. In the past that is sometimes enough to actually bowl the burly Takayasu over. But Takayasu has changed his “contact” stance a bit at the tachiai, and I think we may see this shift into a battle for grip in the first 4 seconds. If Takayasu can stalemate Goeido to the point his frustration leads Goeido into an attempt to pull, he will have his opening to strike.

Hakuho vs Kakuryu – The Boss goes up against Big K for the final match. Should Hakuho go down for some reason and Ichinojo prevail, we will get one more tasty sumo morsel before the long break leading up to Natsu. Wise money is on Hakuho to contain, constrain and then maintain his perfect record. But it will be fun to watch.

Haru Day 14 Preview

The Miyazaki Prefecture Trophy – A Delicious Cow Held Aloft By Strong Men

It’s all come down to the final weekend. With everyone but Ichinojo mathematically eliminated now, it’s up to Takayasu or Kakuryu to put dirt on Hakuho, or watch him go home with his 42nd cow, lifetime of gasoline, and giant trophy full of mushrooms. In fact, I would wager that Hakuho’s house is made of vitrified beef steaks, stacked high and painted to look like wood. Seriously, what does this guy do with all of these prizes? What does he do with all of that money?

The answer is, of course, a whole lot of good. American sumo fans don’t get a full media diet about sumo, and so we don’t see some of the amazing charity that the kanban rikishi undertake. Most of them have personal community enrichment projects, and the ones from Mongolia (I am looking at you, Harumafuji) work hard to improve life in that poor and isolated country. Some of my favorite photos of Harumafuji include him visiting children, some of them critically ill, in his yellow and black “hornet stripe” yukata. Hakuho has a laundry list of good deeds and causes he attends to and funds. In general these guys really do live up to a higher standard than what most western star athletes do.

Again lksumo takes on and explains how the final weekend will decide several important story lines for Haru, and I encourage everyone to read it. Part of that story are the 12 rikishi who can still mathematically reach kachi-koshi, who will be increasingly fighting for rank. This portends a great weekend of sumo ahead. For myself, I am going to be once again cooking a pot of chanko for Sunday, and taking it all in.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Takagenji – Loser is make-koshi, and the list of rikishi in the bottom third of the banzuke who have 8 or more losses will be most impressive. There will be a veritable train-wreck of rikishi who could mathematically be demoted, if only there were stronger rikishi with winning records in upper Juryo.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko could join that group with a loss today. Terutsuyoshi seems to have found his sumo again, and his over the top mobility and agility might be more than Kotoeko’s strength can overcome.

Ryuden vs Daishoho – Daishoho is also in a must-win situation, or join the herd that will be frustrating the banzuke committee.

Shohozan vs Tomokaze – Shohozan is safe from joining the Juryo candidate dog-pile, but he still needs to win both of his last 2 to end with a kachi-koshi. This first time match against Tomokaze will feature some energy.

Chiyoshoma vs Yago – Chiyoshoma’s match today could have him reach safety, if only he can overcome Yago’s giant head tempting him to just give it a tug… pull it down. Just a little hatakikomi… GIANT HEAD! G I A N T H E A D ….. There, I said it. The guy reminds me of Juggernaut from the X Men.

Asanoyama vs Kagayaki – Asanoyama has lost 3 straight looking for that 8th win. Kagayaki seems to be very calmly going about his sumo, and I have to wonder if Asanoyama has run out of steam now 2 weeks into this tournament.

Yoshikaze vs Kotoshogiku – In the battle of genki veterans, we will see what happens when you let seasoned rikishi go almost 4 months without a jungyo. You get sumo masters who have regained their strength and stamina, beating the tar out of the younger crowd. Now they face each other, both with 10 wins, both of them facing a huge leap higher on the banzuke for May. Kotoshogiku holds a 24-7 career lead.

Aoiyama vs Meisei – Another battle of the mega-genki, Meisei is quick enough that he does not have to let Aoiyama hit him if it’s not in his plan. Aoiyama has trouble with quick, busy guys like Meisei (see the day 13 match with Yoshikaze), they can duck and dive and get behind the man-mountain, and send him to the zabuton zone.

Daieisho vs Abi – We have Daieisho one win away from kachi-koshi, and Abi one loss away from make-koshi. If Abi were to pull out an 8th win this tournament, it would be amazing. But I think he might just do it. Thus it would postpone the day he figures out what more he can do in sumo now that everyone figured out his “one weird trick”.

Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – Okinoumi needs one more win for his 8, and the chances are good he will get it today. He tends to win against Myogiryu when his health is good, and he has been “well enough” for Haru.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu needs one more for kachi-koshi, and possible big bounce up the banzuke for May. Mitakeumi will be vacating his Komusubi slot, and we know he will be back in the named ranks once he can get his undercarriage repaired.

Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – The records state that Takakeisho holds a 7-2 career advantage, but statistics cannot tell the story of this match in this basho. Ichinojo has uncovered a seemingly endless well of fighting spirit, and is using it to flatten every opponent save one. Takakeisho knows how to beat Ichinojo, but can he beat this version of Ichinojo? A win today would give Takakeisho his 10th, and punch his ticket, validating his bid to be considered for Ozeki.

Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – Tochinoshin needs two wins, and his day 14 match against Tamawashi is probably his easier match. He has a 16-10 career advantage, and Tamawashi looks only about 80% of his normal self. Of course Tochinoshin has been less than the awesome rikishi he was a year ago.

Hakuho vs Takayasu – This is going to be fun to watch, for the reason that Takayasu seems to once again be under Kisenosato’s active tutorage. Kisenosato had a specific ability to confound and dismantle Hakuho’s sumo, and many times when no one else could stop the dai-Yokozuna’s winning streaks, up would step Kisenosato and drop the boss. Can Takayasu deploy some of that knowledge on day 14, and bring one last surge of excitement to a throughly enjoyable Haru Basho?

Goeido vs Kakuryu – Rapid attack vs rapid react. I am going to guess Goeido will go for a massive opening attack that either works before Kakuryu can counter, or will leave Goeido in such an indefensible position that it’s a quick loss.

Haru Day 13 Highlights

What? Commentary? No! On to the good stuff….

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – As anticipated, Kotoyuki ends the match half way to the shitaku-beya, and with a make-koshi to boot. Terutsuyoshi’s high mobility was the deciding factor in the win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Ryuden looked downright lethargic in this match. Chiyoshoma’s failed pull down led to a rather nice deep right hand grip near the knot on Ryuden’s mawashi. Much as all of the little old ladies across Japan thrilled at the chance of a wardrobe malfunction, Chiyoshoma is a consummate professional, and the mawashi stayed firmly in place.

Shohozan defeats Yutakayama – This match really showed where Yutakayama’s problem lies. He could produce no forward pressure against Shohozan, and it’s going to be that knee and that foot acting up. Until he can get them in better condition, Yutakayama is going to continue to slide down the banzuke, which is a real shame as he has solid sumo skills.

Meisei defeats Kotoshogiku – Fantastic showcase for Meisei’s speed and lighting quick reactions. Kotoshogiku gets the hug-n-chug started, but Meisei kept fighting to get his right hand on Kotoshogiku’s mawashi. Meisei’s patience and staying calm once the bumpity-bumps get cranking pays off, and that right hand not only takes Kotoshogiku out of attack mode, but provides the leverage for the uwatedashinage that wins the match.

Tomokaze defeats Asanoyama – One sided match that favored Tomokaze all the way. Tomokaze picks up his 8th, and Asanoyama is still shopping. [Tomokaze has still never had a losing record since entering professional sumo! He likely needs two more wins for a special prize, and is the only top-division debutant who can feel good about his chances of staying there. -lksumo]

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – What makes this one interesting is that Kagayaki is so methodical, and that comes up against Takarafuji’s approach of being patient and waiting for his opening. The result is a fairly slow moving match that showed a lot of thinking and calculation from both.

Yoshikaze defeats Aoiyama – Both men are now 10-3, which is really impressive given the devastation in the lower ranks this basho. Aoiyama lands a couple of big hits, but Yoshikaze lights him up and takes him down.

Abi defeats Ikioi – Ikioi has the right idea, attack Abi’s arms from underneath, but no strength to do it. Sad times.

Shodai defeats Okinoumi – Shodai surprised Okinoumi, and frankly surprised me. The pounding he took in the opening days of the basho seems to have not caused him to just give up. Good stuff!

Nishikigi defeats Tochiozan – Nishikigi’s “sumo style” is starting to become distinctive. He locks his opponents arms, and then uses his good leg strength to take control. Today’s match is one of the better examples of it in action, and while simple and not flashy, it really does seem to work.

Daieisho defeats Onosho – Onosho opened strong, but lost contact when Daieisho side-stepped his advance. Daieisho rallied, stuck Onosho with a potent nodowa and tossed him out. Onosho is still regrouping following his surgery, but is now make-koshi and will work from lower on the banzuke.

Endo defeats Kaisei – After the first match resulted in both rikishi stepping out together, the second was all Endo, who showed much better sumo the second time around.

Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Hokutofuji, when he is healthy, can generate so much forward pressure that any loss of traction is more or less an instant loss for his opponent. Myogiryu could not maintain his footing and hit the clay.

Ichinojo defeats Mitakeumi – For most of this basho, Ichinojo has just been swatting down everyone. In hindsight it makes total sense, he is already higher than all of his opponents, with plenty of strength and leverage. So he may as well drop them in place. He made Mitakeumi look like a bag of potatoes. He faces Takakeisho on day 14, and I am going to be very curious to see what happens then.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tamawashi – Chiyotairyu exceeds expectations, and stays in the fight past the tachiai, and survives Tamawashi’s pull down attempt. Chiyotairyu rallies and drives Tamawashi from the dohyo, giving him his 8th loss.

Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Like so many great moments in sports, this all came down to a split second. If you watch the match in slow motion, you can see Takayasu roll that left shoulder forward, while he reaches for the mawashi with his right. Takakeisho is lower and faster, and is inside and underneath that shoulder with his first push before that right hand can find its mark. That was, in fact, the match. Once Takakeisho launched the wave action attack, Takayasu could not recover his footing, and could not generate any offense. As mentioned in the preview, the outcome of this match was likely the decider on Takakeisho’s Ozeki bid.

Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin – Masterful sumo from the Yokozuna today, as Kakuryu successfully prevents Tochinoshin from ever getting his working grip set up. The fact that Tochinoshin is always going for the “one thing” makes it easy for a reactive sumo master like Kakuryu to confound, frustrate and distract Tochinoshin, all the while moving him steadily towards defeat. Tochinoshin must win the remainder of his matches to preserve his rank.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Team Goeido was out in force, and the EDION arena was rocking as Goeido mounted the dohyo to face off against the undefeated Hakuho. Excellent tachiai, and Goeido’s opening gambit was to go for mae-mitsu, and his hand could not maintain contact. Goeido stays with Hakuho, and they trade blows, and settle down chest to chest. Goeido held the center of the dohyo, but Hakuho’s superior body position drove Goeido back and won the match. Great sumo from both. As with Takayasu, the whole match hinged on that opening move that failed.

Haru Day 13 Preview

With lksumo doing a fantastic job of spelling out exactly what is at stake for the remainder of the tournament, let’s talk a bit about the continuing transition period. As we saw at Aki 2018, the transition from the old warriors to a newer generation will not be a straight line. Many of these rikishi are some of the highest skill the sport has seen in some time. In fact the current dominant cohort has had an impressively long and stable tenure. Many of these rikishi have been fixtures of the top division for several years, some of them more than a decade.

Like Aki, we have a point in the transition where the old guard can muster a strong basho, and compete like the “old days”. Frankly I love it, and I am sure the fans love it too. It’s great to see the named ranks laying waste to the upper Maegashira, and fierce action at the bottom of Makuuchi as the staple for each day of the tournament. As much as folks like to gripe about Hakuho, his reign as the king of the ring has been very stable, but it is fading. We don’t need to look back too many years to find Hakuho taking 4-6 yusho a year. Now we see him taking 2, or maybe 1. He has taken to (wisely) sitting out any tournament where he is not strong and healthy. As a result, if Hakuho shows up, he is the man to beat for the cup.

As the old guard comes out the dominate again, we see the tadpoles taking it in the shorts, we see the Freshmen faltering, and we see at least 2 more waves of fresh faces forming up to attack the top division. But make no mistake, we are in the twilight of this era, and setbacks for rikishi like Mitakeumi, Takakeisho and Hokutofuji are part of the evolution of sumo. This will be a big year for the tadpoles, the freshmen, and we are going to see the pixies start to elbow their way into Makuuchi too. I think this year we lose at least one Ozeki, and maybe two. I think we may also gain a Yokozuna if you-know-who can take advantage of the next time Hakuho rests up in his sumo-life-extension project.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chaser: Ichinojo
Hunt Group: Goeido, Aoiyama, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Ishiura vs Daishoho – A whole lot ‘o make-koshi out for offer in the lower matches. Daishoho is one loss away, and if Ishiura can deliver the goods, it adds another rikishi to the hopper of demote-able guys with lots of pomade in their hair. What are they going to do with this mess – especially if (as lksumo points out) there are not a whole lot of Juryo guys who are making the case for promotion.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoyuki – Once again Mr 5×5 comes to town, ready to crowd surf his way through another match. Terutsuyoshi won their only prior match, and winning again today would push Kotoyuki to make-koshi, further hashing the group of the top Juryo men into an even smaller promotable pile.

Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – It’s shin-Ikioi’s time to beat on the ever elusive Chiyoshoma. He’s in a tight spot with wins, so I am going to look for every move, trick or gambit he can think of. And he can think of a lot. Fortunately Ryuden is already kachi-koshi.

Kotoeko vs Yago – Will Kotoeko be able to save his muscular hinder from joining the demote-able, pomade covered dog-pile? Somehow I think the lure of that much hair-grease, and that many mawashi clad fellows might be more than a small town boy from Miyazaki can resist. Aim for the rafters, Yago!

Shohozan vs Yutakayama – Shohozan’s happiness is proportional to the number of times he hits somebody. And lately he’s been losing matches, and he just seems… Well, a little blue. As Yutakayama is close to the squishy center of that pile of demote-able folks right now, he may as well do something benevolent, and help cheer Shohozan up.

Sadanoumi vs Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima did not muster quite the victory lap in the top division that Uncle Sumo managed. It was less of a “here comes awesome” and more “oh, you again? I had no idea you were still doing sumo”. As a bonafied old person, I can relate. Sadanoumi is no spring chicken, but maybe the two of them can yell at Onosho and Takakeisho to get he hell off their dohyo, then go to the Izakaya and pound a few cold ones while singing 90s tunes.

Meisei vs Kotoshogiku – We can think of Kotoshogiku as some kind of “old guard” barometer. When he’s a mess, it seems many of the other vets are just limping by. Right now Kotoshogiku is really racking up the score, and I think that he may not stop at 10. Meisei has the speed and the high-adhesion feet to make some wild maneuvers in a match. But Kotoshogiku is a master of bracketing these kind of rikishi.

Asanoyama vs Tomokaze – The schedulers love these matches. The winner gets their kachi-koshi. The other one gets a face full of dirt. Asanoyama has kept his spirits up and his outlook positive, so I think he can make it happen. This is their first ever match.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s sumo is defined by patience. But sometimes we wish he would just throw down like someone had dented his wife’s Toyota Harrier in the Aeon parking lot. We can be sure that Kagayaki will do his utmost to make this match as colorless and basic as possible, but will execute with absolute form.

Aoiyama vs Yoshikaze – I love me some giant Aoiyama slap-happy sumo. Which will carry the day – a couple of big hits from the heavy guns, or a stream of burning hell from the berserker? They have an 11-11 career record, so give thanks you are not in the front row of the arena, as I suspect that we will see blood.

Ikioi vs AbiEt Tu Abi?

Okinoumi vs Shodai – At this point I think Shodai is so demoralized, he would be happy to have this end. I am guessing this may be his worst spanking since his disastrous 5-10 at Nagoya in 2017 (which included a fusensho), and he may even exceed that basho’s terrible performance.

Nishikigi vs Tochiozan – Both of these guys join Shodai and Kaisei in the “broken toy” box. All of them have had a terrible tournament and are probably going to be happy for Sunday night parties and the start of the spring jungyo. All 4 of them are worthy members of the top division, but this tournament they were little more than target practice for the more genki elements higher up the banzuke.

Daieisho vs Onosho – Onosho has his back on the make-koshi line again today, and he has to take a win from the speedy Daieisho to stay out of the losing column for Haru. Daieisho has a 2-6 record against Onosho, but as we have seen from this tournament, Onosho is having balance and foot placement issues.

Kaisei vs Endo – Both in the make-koshi bracket with the rest, both of them capable rikishi who were strip mined for shiroboshi for the past 12 days, and are in no mood to continue. But the show must go on, and we will see size vs agility on display.

Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – Actually, this match has a lot of potential. Myogiryu has been a tough competitor in a really brutal joi-jin, and he still holds on to a chance to win out and be promoted. Hokutofuji has bounced off his first trip to San’yaku, and will have to regroup for a couple of tournaments before we see him test his mettle again. It’s going to come down to that handshake tachiai and nodowa, I think. Land it – and you have control Hokutofuji. Miss and Myogiryu is going to make you dance, and then eat dirt.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Should we start by saying that Mitakeumi has a 6-3 career advantage over Ichinojo? Maybe we should point out that Mitakeumi is hurt, and Ichinojo seems to have adopted Terunofuji’s kaiju form – at once both dazzling and terrifying to behold. I think this one is Ichinojo’s to lose, but I am also going to assume that Mitakeumi is going to work to make sure he does not drop out of the san’yaku.

Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – The time for Tamawashi to rally is now. He has trouble with Chiyotairyu’s big hit tachiai, but I am certain that the Hatsu yusho winner can take the cannonball and push for a win.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – Sumo fans, we can see this one coming from over the horizon. Takakeisho is going to attack with the wave-action, and Takayasu is going to use the smooth tachiai he has shown for most of the basho. If he can land even one hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi, it’s likely the end of an Ozeki bid. I am looking for Takayasu to finish with at least 11 wins, and to me it looks like his next will likely come day 13 if he boxes up Takakeisho.

Tochinoshin vs Kakuryu – This is not a good match for Tochinoshin. He is 3-22 against Kakuryu, who is one of the few rikishi (along with Hakuho) who can escape the “Skycrane”. But we are to the point now where he must win to defend his rank. As I said at the beginning, Tochinoshin is not beyond sacrificing his body to protect his rank. He might do something that leads to worsening his condition, knowing that he might have a few months to try to overcome it, if he can just clear kadoban. A desperate man might unleash some wild sumo power. I am going to watch for it, as he is nearly out of options.

Hakuho vs Goeido – The rikishi with the best chance of putting dirt on the sole leader of the yusho race will face Hakuho today. Goeido in his genki GoeiDOS 2.2 form has been a damn fine rikishi, and he has delivered wins with speed and brutality that match some of his best sumo from Aki 2016. I predict no matter what way this goes, it may only last single-digit seconds.