Storyline #5: Injuries

“Sometimes…everybody’s hurt…sometimes…” – REM (paraphrased)

Screenshot (141)This is a rough sport. I wish everyone well in recovering from their injuries. The best tournament is when everyone’s healthy. When the greatest in the sport has to sit out, it’s just not the same. Well, before I start listening to Bette Midler or John Waite, I’ll just wish everyone to Get Well Soon!

Storyline # 4: Kotoshogiku On Fire

Kotoshogiku

Kotoshogiku was on fire this tournament. At 11-4, he tied with Kisenosato, Ikioi, and Yoshikaze – just behind Kakuryu and Terunofuji. He’s still very one dimensional, though. I really wish he’d learn to do something other than jack-rabbit yorikiri/oshidashi/oshitaoshi. He comes hard out of the gate and tries to blast the opponent out. Too many sanyaku and a growing number of maegashira are ready for this, or his knees seem to be giving him issues. If he’d develop some belt throw techniques, he’d be a more formidable opponent.

Story Line #1: Yusho Winner!

Tachiai
Championship Tachiai

So as not to spoil the winner for those who may be following on Twitter, I’m not going to give things away in the headlines. There are many big story lines to come out of today’s bouts and this month’s basho. The most important one to me is the yusho winner and I imagine not everyone had a chance to watch live or has seen the replays yet. To find out the yusho winner, click below:

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Fall Tournament 2015, Day 14: Yokozuna Henka x 2

Basically, this boils down to two men now. Yokozuna Kakuryu is now in the lead with two losses while the injured Terunofuji has three losses. Terunofuji would need to beat Kakuryu twice tomorrow to pick up the yusho. Unfortunately, that seems increasingly remote after the way his knee was unable to stave off Goeido. Further, Kakuryu attempted two henka against Kisenosato, demonstrating exactly how desperate he is to get his second yusho. Kisenosato recovered well from the likely utter shock that a yokozuna would do something that shameless. He was able to recover, barely, at the edge and drive Kakuryu to the other side of the dohyo. The joke-ozuna was able to plant, pivot, and let the ozeki’s own momentum carry him off the dohyo.

Kisenosato's (Remote) Yusho Hopes Dashed
Kisenosato’s (Remote) Yusho Hopes Dashed

Ikioi was also eliminated from contention today at the hands of Kotoshogiku. He clearly had a strategy that could have worked, letting Kotoshogiku belly flop on the edge, but he ran out of real estate before Giku flopped.

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Fall Tournament 2015, Day 13: Kakuryu Closes Gap

Our leadership field doubled overnight. Terunofuji’s loss to Kisenosato opens up the tournament, building drama for the climactic final weekend – if Terunofuji is not injured. His knee seemed to give way when he tried to tip Kisenosato over in a close, back-and-forth bout.

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He was able to get up quickly and walk away so I’m hopeful he’ll be close to 100% tomorrow when he faces a desperate Goeido, who needs a win to avoid going kadoban. Terunofuji still leads but shares that lead now with Kakuryu. Kakuryu obliterated an over-zealous Goeido today. Kakuryu will face Kisenosato tomorrow. Kisenosato has the edge in their rivalry, with three straight victories over the junior-zuna.

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Fall Tournament 2015, Day 12: Terunofuji Defeated

There will be no zensho yusho. Tochiozan defeated Terunofuji, and got to visit the interview room. Terunofuji tried for an early throw but Tochiozan was able to keep his balance and used his superior leverage and position to counter, backing the ozeki out of the dohyo. Terunofuji will have to regroup quickly as he’ll face Kisenosato tomorrow. It’s a great time for Tochiozan to get his first win over Terunofuji. This win improves his chances of a winning record immensely and helps prove he’s not just overpriced yuzu. He’ll face Aminishiki tomorrow with both going for their kachi-koshi. Hopefully he won’t let the geezer get him with the henka like Kakuryu yesterday.

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Ikioi (10-2) fell to Yoshikaze, who picked up kachi-koshi and likely a special prize. The two have a fairly even rivalry but today’s match was decidedly one-sided. Strong thrusts from Yoshikaze, including a really disruptive one to Ikioi’s throat, got Ikioi moving backwards. As he ran out of real estate, he seemed to lose where he was on the dohyo and stepped out. Tomorrow, Ikioi will face a surging Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin used the same strategy as Yoshikaze. He battered Tamawashi with aggressive thrusts, getting him to move backwards. But rather than step out, Tamawashi used the bales to get some purchase to resist. Tochinoshin’s raw strength proved decisive as he just picked Tamawashi up and plopped him over the bales. He can pick up Ichinojo’s dead weight. Ikioi will need to bring something more as Tochinoshin will also be up for his kachi-koshi.

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Fall Tournament 2015, Day 11: It’s Terunofuji (11-0) & Ikioi (10-1)

The Leaders: Terunofuji took down his first ozeki of the tournament. I almost felt bad for Kotoshogiku. He was jack-rabbitting as hard as he could but getting nowhere. The way Terunofuji rather nonchalantly weathered Giku’s thrusts, walked him backwards, and then knocked him to the dirt should send a strong sign to the faux-zeki that his time has passed. He is one dimensional and when his knees hurt (though they’ve seemed healthy this tournament), he doesn’t even have his only major weapon. He gave everything he had – let’s face it, the only thing he has – and got a face full of clay for it.

Ikioi’s match with Sokokurai was a weird one. They were both trying to keep the other at arms length but rather than aggressive slapping like we’re used to, Sokokurai just settled for pushing on Ikioi’s shoulders while Ikioi held on to Sokokurai’s elbows. It was like a middle school dance where the two kids are still afraid of cooties. After dancing like this for a while, Sokokurai got fed up and reached in for a belt grip but over-committed. Ikioi’s parry sent Sokokurai to the dirt. Ikioi’s title run may come to an end tomorrow at the hands of a blazing hot Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze will be hunting for his kachi-koshi and surely some special prizes.

The Rest:

Kakuryu should not have to pull a henka to stay in this tournament. Tochi-from-Kochi should also be better than to fall for it if he wants to be ozeki, though at this point it’s far from certain he’ll get his kachi-koshi. The good thing for Tochiozan is he can be assured he will not need to worry about a henka tomorrow. Terunofuji will let him “bring it” and then either toss him aside like overpriced yuzu, or they’ll have a good close match…but he definitely won’t pull – or fall for – this henka crap.

Kakuryu will face Kotoshogiku. I’m interested to see which Giku shows up. He’s in striking distance of respectable double-digit wins. He’s still mathematically in “the hunt”. But he’s got his kachi-koshi and is basically dependent on others to take down Terunofuji if he’s to have a real shot. Kakuryu will be more motivated, I think, because after that stunt today he’s in need of some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as well as the win.

Toyonoshima’s still mathematically in it with his easy win over the bubble…Chiy000tori. He will be punished for his success by having to weather the Great Sand Storm on the morrow. Osunaarashi is getting all of the critical wins he needs. After being put through the gauntlet the first week and escaping with two wins, he’s gone undefeated against 3 sanyaku opponents and M1 Yoshikaze. He’s faced all sanyaku opponents so he should be well placed at M1 next tournament. He probably won’t get Komusubi promotion since Yoshikaze will likely get Okinoumi’s slot if Okinoumi does go make-koshi.

As I alluded to above, Yoshikaze will be going for his eighth win tomorrow, having picked up his seventh against Okinoumi. He definitely ate his Wheaties this morning. Strong tachiai, moved consistently forward through his opponent by virtue of powerful thrusts and slaps, and as Okinoumi slid toward the edge of the dohyo where the straw bales could arrest his retreat…Yoshikaze goes for the throw. 5 seconds from tachiai to dirt. Beautiful.

Uncle Taka put up a good fight against Kisenosato (8-3) but when both went for the throw, I think Kisenosato’s position and leverage were the difference. Takarafuji falls to 4-7 and needs to win out to avoid make-koshi. He’ll have a rough time, though. He faces Goeido tomorrow and though he won’t battle Terunofuji, he’s still got both Komusubi (Tochinoshin & Okinoumi).

Tochinoshin owns Ichinojo. There’s nothing more to say about that. Tochinoshin faces make-koshi Tamawashi tomorrow. Goeido wrapped up Tamawashi with a textbook football tackle today, handing the maegashira a losing record with four bouts remaining. Ichinojo will face Tokushoryu who will be hoping to avoid make-koshi.

(more later)

Fall Tournament 2015, Day 10: Terunfuji Shows He’s Vulnerable…But Still Wins

The difference between ozeki Terunofuji and ozeki-wannabe Tochiozan has been Terunofuji’s (so far) consistent ability to beat maegashira. Tamawashi (3-7) gave him quite the challenge today and for the first part of the match appeared to have the upper hand. He wouldn’t let the ozeki get in to get a belt grip or an arm bar. He kept fending off, fending off, and even got Terunofuji to wobble a bit off balance. An extra shove when they were on the edge could have pulled off the upset. But once tired, Terunofuji got his belt grip and it was effectively over. He’ll face a real challenge tomorrow in an effective Kotoshogiku (8-2).

Tochiozan, on the other hand, has three losses to maegashira. He finally picked up a 6th win against Uncle Takarafuji (4-6) by going back to basics. He cut off the ring, and worked him out backwards for a yorikiri win. Takarafuji’s been in the same predicament: strong start, winless the last 4 days before today. However, this 4 day stretch was fought against Sekiwake, Ozeki, and Yokozuna – one loss to a maegashira. So Takarafuji will still have a decent chance of a strong finish after his bout versus Kisenosato tomorrow. Tochiozan, meanwhile, will face Kakuryu tomorrow and still has two ozeki, a sekiwake and komusubi. Let’s say Tochiozan’s kachi-koshi will be a huge challenge, nevermind the ozeki run.

Ikioi got Endo (5-5) to slip. Not exactly powerful sumo but a win’s a win. He’s got Sokokurai (7-3) tomorrow.

(more to come)

Fall Tournament 2015, Day 9: Ikioi Still in the Hunt! Wait, what?

Ikioi picked up a great, exciting win against crafty Aminishiki. Aminishiki repeated the henka he tried yesterday with Endo. However, Ikioi recovered quickly so Aminishiki charged at Ikioi from the side. Ikioi instinctively grabbed Aminishiki’s arm and threw the geezer out of ring while staying upright himself, showing some poise and skill that’s frankly been lacking from his sumo lately. Importantly, he stays firmly in the yusho race with his next bout scheduled against Endo, tomorrow.

Terunofuji showed everyone that Ichi the Hutt was a flash in the pan while the ozeki is the real deal. Terunofuji remains undefeated by virtue of his utter dominance. He just dragged the maegashira backwards and plumped the porker off the dohyo. Kakuryu is still one back, tied with Ikioi, as Takarafuji displayed 0 resistance. I have a feeling there will be little resistance shown against the yokozuna until a Day 15 yusho-showdown. Okinoumi destroyed Kisenosato’s yusho hopes with a clever pirouette on the edge. The big ozeki falls to 7-2 by allowing the nimble komusubi to twist at the edge, leaving the ozeki to fall to off the dohyo first.

Yoshikaze’s not in the hunt but he’s producing some great sumo and putting himself in line for a special prize. Today he notched another upset against sekiwake Myogiryu. He was plainly the more powerful wrestler today. He stayed balanced as Myogiryu tried several throws, and worked the sanyaku veteran to the edge and off the dohyo. Great bout. Osunaarashi also picked up a great upset against Tochiozan, who’s officially in a funk after four straight losses. This was the first meeting of these two wrestlers. Osunaarashi started beating on Tochi-from-Kochi but won by grabbing the belt, and flinging Tochiozan out on his butt.

Amuru advances to 5-4, dropping Kaisei to 3-6. Amuru absorbed Kaisei’s initial charge and used the elevated bales to control Kaisei’s momentum. Then, with skill and considerable strength for someone at such a weight disadvantage, he worked his way to control the center of the ring and forced Kaisei out. However, I’m still upset that at this level and in a sold out tournament, there’s no kensho-kin.

How is Sadanofuji still in this? I figured for sure he’d pull out yesterday as he went make-koshi. But he showed up and Aoiyama bulled through to a quick win. I still think Sadanofuji’s left leg is injured though the way he withstood Tochinoshin’s kicks yesterday did make me think he can support more weight than I thought. I just don’t see any power in that leg but I could be imagining things.

In the least anticipated faux-zeki “battle”, Kotoshogiku powered Goeido into the front row. Goeido falls to 4-5, Kotoshogiku climbs to 7-2, still with an extremely outside chance at the yusho.

Fall Tournament 2015, Day 8: Tochiozan Promotion Hopes Dashed

I’ve come to expect no promotions coming anytime soon. In fact, I think we’ll see a retirement/demotion before we get an ozeki or yokozuna promotion. Frankly, I think Kakuryu lucked into the yokozuna ranks with one yusho. If Terunofuji wins, I do not think he can possibly become yokozuna, even after next tournament. Harumafuji had several championships, and so did Hakuho. Maybe we’ve just gotten a bit promotion happy as we’ve just been desperate to see some real competition for Hakuho. The way things have been going, Goeido will be praying for an 8th win next weekend and my faith in the fairness of this sport will be shaken again.

Tochiozan Promotion Hopes Bite the Dust
Tochiozan Promotion Hopes Bite the Dust

Terunofuji clinched his kachi-koshi today with a powerful win over Myogiryu. He will face Ichinojo tomorrow. Since his wunderkind debut, Ichinojo has not exactly demonstrated any mastery of technique, losing to Kakuryu with a straight forward yorikiri. Kakuryu is keeping the pressure on along with Kisenosato (and Ikioi) for the yusho chase. Kisenosato continues to dominate Sadanoumi. The ozeki remains undefeated against the maegashira. He’ll face Okinoumi tomorrow, another rikishi whom he’s dominated.

Tochiozan’s promotion hopes may have been dashed with today’s quick, sloppy loss to Goeido. He’s in for a tough week this week so the belly flop loss to the poor performing Goeido does him no favors. A few solid tournaments with kachi-koshi 8 win records should be his main concern right now. Keep in mind this is only his second sekiwake tournament in a rowSpending a year or so at sekiwake is no mean feat and will prepare him for an eventual promotion. He faces Osunaarashi tomorrow. Osunaarashi beat the crap out of Yoshikaze in a one-sided brawl. Well, maybe a one sided brawl is more like an assault?

Ikioi keeps up his winning ways at the bottom of the banzuke. He’ll face his first real challenge in my “bout-to-watch” versus Aminishiki tomorrow. The sly geezer slipped out of the way of Endo today and picked up his 6th win. (No, the faux-zeki matchup is not a “bout-to-watch” but Tochiozan/Osunaarashi could be great.) Sokokurai met his match against “Happy Feet” Tokitenku in a great, long bout.

Fall Tournament 2015, Day 7: Terunofuji On Yokozuna Charge

Terunofuji is not going to be getting any technique prizes, that’s for sure. All he’s needed is yorikiri. 7 days, 7 yorikiri. He had his hands full today with one-legged Sadanofuji, though. This was my surprise bout of the day. Sadanofuji cannot plant with his left leg. He’s basically using his right exclusively for any drive and power. He’ll likely go makekoshi tomorrow against Tochinoshin and pull out of the tournament. Terunofuji has yet to face any ozeki but has a challenge with a solid Myogiryu tomorrow.

If he wins a second yusho, I don’t see how he can be denied yokozuna rank since Kakuryu only has one title. But it’s a bit weird since Wakanohana won 5 before yokozuna promotion and his brother Takanohana won 7 before promotion. With four yokozuna and four ozeki, the makuuchi would be a bit top-heavy but champion-lite. Harumafuji has not won since November 2013. Kakuryu’s lone title was in March 2014. Other than Terunofuji, none of the ozeki (or anyone else below yokozuna) has a title.

Hakuho’s domination has been utterly nuts so this tournament without him in the hunt just has me befuddled. The last time he didn’t have a yusho or jun-yusho was in 2012 when KYOKUTENHO won. Before that, we’re talking 2007, his first tournament as yokozuna. Basically, no one but Harumafuji’s been able to get in there for so long. I almost think they need to make Terunofuji wait, especially since Hakuho and Harumafuji are absent this tournament. It’s an interesting dilemma but also such a change from just a few years ago when the sport was mired in scandal. Good times.

OK, back to the tournament. Kakuryu and Kisenosato are hoping to keep this interesting. Kakuryu, on the other hand, has a tough one against Ichinojo tomorrow. At M4, Ichinojo is dangerous and probably gunning for a kinboshi. Kisenosato should be able to take care of Sadanoumi who was absolutely destroyed by Kakuryu today with a quick yorikiri.

If I had a poll for who would be tied for second one week into the tournament, how many people would have chosen Ikioi and Sokokurai? Ikioi does really well when ranked low. His wins haven’t looked pretty and he’s had a habit of slipping and making these bouts really tight. But he could pick up 9 or 10 wins and get a special prize – or the wheels could fall off the bus and he could lose every match from here on out. You can never tell which Ikioi will show up. Today he was matched with Asasekiryu, fresh from spending the last three years in Juryo. However, Asasekiryu did give Ikioi a run for his money and very nearly had the push-down win. Ikioi lucked out and apparently pushed the M15 out of the dohyo before belly flopping.

Sokokurai has also been really strong against these low-ranked maegashira. He had a solid Juryo tournament in July coming off injury. Today he didn’t quite henka Chiyotairyu but the sidestep got the big guy off balance so all that was needed was a little shove to send him to the clay. Tomorrow he’s got my favorite kicker, Tokitenku.

Tochiozan has fallen off the yusho pace with two straight losses, including his loss to Yoshikaze today. But he remains on strong ozeki pace with 5 wins during the first week. He can certainly play spoiler as we get deeper into the championship run. Tomorrow he battles Goeido who’s been having a woeful tournament and is on pace to go kadoban.

Yoshikaze’s having an excellent tournament. Though one kinboshi came against injured Hakuho, he’s followed that up with upsets of Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku, Goeido, and Tochiozan. He’s got a pumped up Osunaarashi tomorrow.