Aki 2019 Day 2 Highlights

Day 2 was all about balance, I would guess. Many matches were decided when an opponent focused on working to pull down a rikishi who kept his weight centered, and his stance wide. The pullers overwhelmingly paid the price today.

With Hakuho out of the tournament with a broken finger on his right hand, the idea of what a week 2 yusho race might look like gets a lot more interesting. It’s clear that Goeido’s ankle is not bothering him right now, and Tamawashi seems to be back to his super-genki form. For a host of reasons, Aki tends to be my favorite basho, as frequently everyone seems to be healthy and in fighting form.

Highlight Matches

Yutakayama defeats Takagenji – Takagenji threw everything he had into this match, but extended his string of losses as Yutakayama was relentless. Yutakayama got his hips squared and his forward pressure centered early, and although Takagenji did a masterful job of trying to pivot for a throw, but Yutakayama kept driving forward and controlled the match.

Daiamami defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan continues to look tenative. He’s lost none of his excellent sumo skill, but cannot muster the strength and stamina to match the young, fresh talent right now. Daiamami showcases this by staying in the fight, wearing Tochiozan down.

Ishiura defeats Tsurugisho – Fluid shift to the left at the tachiai by Ishiura, beautifully executed, puts Ishiura behind Tsurugisho. Ishiura hits the spin cycle and Tsurugisho has no chance to do anything but try to enjoy the ride.

Azumaryu defeats Toyonoshima – Another battle where I think stamina played a role, with Toyonoshima running out of energy following a drive to take Azumaryu to the edge. Azumaryu played it cool, waited out Toyonoshima and rolled him to the clay.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Kagayaki matches (at least the good ones) are masterful displays of disciplined sumo fundamentals. Then there is today where he had to contend with Shohozan, where the focus was to keep Shohozan as close to in front of him as possible and keep moving.

Nishikigi defeats Daishoho – Endurance match, which Nishikigi seems to have a knack for. He wore Daishoho down in a protracted yotsu battle, and claimed his second straight victory.

Sadanoumi defeats Onosho – Onosho has lost none of his frantic form of oshi sumo, but it seems his knees are far from back to healthy. At least twice he could have finished Sadanoumi, but just could not transmit enough power to ground to move Sadanoumi out. This could be a rough basho for Onosho.

Enho defeats Meisei – As a sumo fan, I feel spoiled now watching Enho. It’s a daily dose of WTF sumo, where for the second day in a row we get to see Enho use his entire body as an integrated combat system. The finishing shitatenage was a thing of beauty, once again demonstrating angular momentum exquisitely.

Okinoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi perhaps thought he could do the same, but Okinoumi was having none of it. He kept Terutsuyoshi centered and focused center-mass. The finishing move was a forceful thrust to the chest that put Terutsuyoshi in the crowd. Nicely done.

Kotoyuki defeats Takarafuji – I am starting to thing there is something to this rebuild Kotoyuki. Granted, Takarafuji can be hit-or-miss, but Kotoyuki looked stronger, more focused than I remember previously.

Shimanoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – In the roster of “can’t generate forward pressure”, we find dear old Kotoshogiku, whose knees are likewise an ad-hoc collection of damaged tissue. Kotoshogiku gets the inside position at the tachiai, but can’t make anything of it due to Shimanoumi’s excellent hand position, and Kotoshogiku’s lack of pressure.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoeko – It’s over in an instant, all down to Myogiryu’s superior tachiai and forward drive.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyotairyu – Where was this version of Tamawashi in Nagoya? This looks like that same fellow who took the Natsu yusho.

Shodai defeats Ryuden – Shodai yet again turns in another “what the hell was that?” win. Yes, weak tachiai from Shodai, but he somehow turns a bad body position into a left hand inside grip. As with day 1, break and escape from Shodai confounds his opponent, and somehow leaves Ryuden on the defensive. It’s messy, odd-ball sumo but it somehow got the job done.

Endo defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze twice tried to pull Endo, which was a big rookie mistake. Endo was expertly keeping his weight centered over the arches of his feet, and Tomokaze was simply giving ground to a highly skilled opponent.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – Another match where balance was the deciding factor. Daieisho put massive amount of energy into his attack and controlled the match, keeping Mitakeumi on the run. But Daieisho progressively kept extending his balance further and further forward, allowing Mitakeumi to apply the tsukiotoshi at the edge.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – Huge credit to Takakeisho for knowing what to do here, and executing it. Aoiyama tried at least three times to pull down Takakeisho, but Takakeisho kept his hips low, his weight centered, his feet wide. Still no “wave action” attack from Takakeisho, but I think has he gains confidence we may see his primary weapon.

Goeido defeats Ichinojo – oh yeah, Goeido looking sharp in September. Hakuho benched. I have good feeling about this basho possibly turning into a multi-way barnyard brawl. If we have a strong / wide leaderboard coming out of the middle weekend, I expect Goeido (if he can keep that ankle healthy) to be in the thick of the hunt.

Asanoyama defeats Tochinoshin – It’s painful to watch Tochinoshin right now. It’s clear that knee is trashed, and he’s probably in no shape to compete. Asanoyama’s sumo continues to mature, and if he can stay healthy we can expect some good things from him in 2020, I predict.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – As expected, Big K waits for Hokutofuji to over-extend and over-commit, then puts him down. Hokutofuji went 1-1 against Yokozuna for Aki, an excellent mark.

Yokozuna Hakuho Kyujo From Day 2

It is with no small measure of surprise that Team Tachiai report that Yokozuna Hakuho, “The Boss” has withdrawn from the September tournament on day 2. This gives Abi a fusensho win for a match that would have been a tough run for the Komusubi.

At the moment, there is no report of injury or cause for his kyujo, but perhaps he was injured in his day 1 kinboshi loss to Hokutofuji. Source media reports from Twitter below:

Aki Day 2 Preview

The scheduling committee has no business drawing up a day 2 card this compelling with a typhoon raging in the streets of Tokyo. But they did, and now I would gladly rather be standing in the driving rain to get a “day of” ticket in the upper reaches of the Kokugikan than spending a week at work.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Yutakayama vs Takagenji – Takagenji sputtered a bit on day 1, and he’s got to turn that around. But he’s facing down Yutakayama, who I would guess is on a mission to catch up to Asanoyama sooner rather than later and battle him for the lead of the Freshmen.

Daiamami vs Tochiozan – Daiamami is up from Juryo for the day to fill in the banzuke hole left by Takayasu. Tochiozan holds a 2-0 career lead over the Oitekaze man, and is not looking at all sharp to start Aki. He is another on my “watch list” of beloved veterans who might leave us in the near future.

Tsurugisho vs Ishiura – Ishiura suffered from being too low on day 1, and ate some Tokyo clay. Tsurugisho has gotten a formula for beating Ishiura (3-1) from their days in the lower divisions, so let’s see if Team Hakuho can pull out of the ditch on day 2.

Azumaryu vs Toyonoshima – A pair of storied vets go head to head? Oh do sign me up! Toyonoshima has not fared well in the past (1-3), but the typhoon may be blowing new atmosphere into the basho.

Shohozan vs Kagayaki – This makes 2 basho in a row where Kagayaki comes in encrusted with thick, heavy ring rust. Will we see the highly mobile combat style of Shohozan today, or will he continue with his new love of yotsu?

Nishikigi vs Daishoho – Nishikigi: living, walking proof that in sumo, you don’t really have to see your opponent to be victorious. Or even make it to the joi-jin it seems. He holds a 2-0 advantage over Daishoho. so maybe he squints out another win today.

Sadanoumi vs Onosho – Onosho’s red mawashi needs wins to power itself, and having failed to feed it on day 1, he tries again against Sadanoumi, whom has an 0-3 record against Onosho. We want that blazing belt of fire do its work. Let’s see some tadpole sumo!

Enho vs Meisei – Oh I am just very excited for this one. Something lit in Enho day 1, and it was magic. Maybe he is just racking wins in week 1 before everyone comes up to full basho level, or maybe he’s over that shoulder injury. What makes this great is that Meisei is no push-over, and seems to be bouncing back from his 4-11 make koshi in Nagoya.

Okinoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – As we saw in Nagoya, when Okinoumi fights a pixie, the normal mechanics seem to break down. This is his first ever match against Terutsuyoshi, and I think the young powerhouse is going to give the veteran a hard match.

Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – I can’t believe that Kotoyuki is mid-Maegashira. If he somehow manages to kachi-koshi at this rank, it may be a sign of some sort. Kotoyuki has cut back on his crowd surfing, and it seems to have helped his sumo. Takarafuji will, of course, execute his excellent technical sumo.

Shimanoumi vs Kotoshogiku – I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by how long Kotoshogiku has been able to persist in the Maegashira ranks. He has somehow manage to keep his banged up knees in just good enough condition to rack up 8 wins when he needs them. Today he’s got newcomer powerhouse Shimanoumi.

Kotoeko vs Myogiryu – A pair of strong, heavily muscled, compact rikishi who love to grab a hold of an opponent and toss them around. I am hoping we don’t get some kind of cheap slap down action from these two, and instead its a battle of stamina and guile.

Tamawashi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu let himself get locked up, boxed up and shipped home to Arakawa on day 1. Day 2 it’s toe to toe against skilled pugilist Tamawashi in a battle that may feature a tachiai detectable on seismometers.

Ryuden vs Shodai – Shin-Ikioi takes on Shodai, who in spite of his soft, flaccid tachiai, can actually produce some effective sumo if he can survive the first step. Ryuden needs a bounce back, as all of the “cool kids” are going to vie to stuff the San’yaku party bus to Kyushu.

Tomokaze vs Endo – A first time meeting between two high skill rikishi who both tend to come into a match with a masterful battle plan? This one is either going to be an epic war of warriors, or end in a blink. This match just oozes potential.

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – Mitakeumi spent too much time with Ryuden on TV eating the contents of various fields around Japan just prior to the basho. As a result, I think Mitakeumi is still trying to digest all of that daikon, and may feel much better soon. In the mean time, we may see Daieisho dredge him in potato starch and deep fry him for 90 seconds, before serving him on a bed of cabbage.

Aoiyama vs Takakeisho – Folks, each one of these is going to be a nail-biter. Although he holds a 3-1 advantage over the man-Mountain, Takakeisho is clearly only about 80% right now. We have yet to see a proper wave-action attack. Aoiyama, I am confident, is going to bat Takakeisho around to see if Weebils really can fall down.

Ichinojo vs Goeido – This should show us how sturdy Goeido’s injured ankle is. If he blasts into Ichinojo and can beat him moving forward, Goeido may be tough to beat this time. Ichinojo, I predict, will use his enormity to his utmost.

Tochinoshin vs Asanoyama – I am going to assume both men go for yotsu, with Asanoyama spending a lot of attention keeping Tochinoshin from landing that left hand grip to set up the lift-and-shift. Look for Asanoyama to go right-hand outside at the tachiai if he can.

Kakuryu vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji already had one Yokozuna scalp. If Kakuryu can prevail, that may in fact be the deciding difference in the last 5 days, when I expect both Yokozuna to be contending for the yusho. Handshake tachiai to be certain, but I expect Kakuryu to give ground and let Hokutofuji’s natural inclination to get too far forward do most of the work.

Abi vs Hakuho – I an going to guess Hakuho is pretty wound up after day 1, and Abi may be the discharge path for all of that coiled up sumo aggression. Will we see “The Boss” give our favorite sick-insect a flying lesson?

Day One Key Points

Now that the training bouts and special events are over, it’s showtime. Blood has been shed, kensho has been claimed, salt has been brushed away, and power water has been purged, we have learned a bit.

Race for the Yusho

Even with one kinboshi yielded on the first day, the Yokozunae are still the favorites to win. But who are we kidding, Endo’s still in it! He’s just got off to a rough start, knocking off a bit of ring rust. Or more precisely, having the ring rust knocked out of him by the sport’s new top dog. With Hakuho still in recovery, Kakuryu is rightly anchoring the East.

Clearly, Hokutofuji’s off to a great start, and he was absolutely chuffed after today’s fantastic win. The way he drove forward reminded me of…Goeido from the bout before. Juggernaut’s strength is bulldozing his opponents, advancing. Always advancing.

Takakeisho is hunting for 10, certainly not 15. I doubt anyone out there, even among his most ardent supporters, was expecting him to bounce back competing for a title in his come-back tournament. He had his hands full against Daieisho and that is not a good sign. It was a surprise he kept his feet and won this bout.

Race for the Exits

Tochinoshin’s knee is looking terrible. Gunning called it after the quick Ichinojo throw when he noted that GETTING UP was difficult. He had to keep the leg straight. I was reminded of when my Grandmother was in her eighties. OK, that was harsh. I was reminded of the aftermath of last month’s 5K when I couldn’t bend my knee after pushing myself to a fourth personal best in a row. Dr. Google calls it an IT Band and says no one really knows how to cure it. Ice and heating pads are good, maybe some pre-race stretching will help. I really hope his doctor is better than Dr. Google.

Hakuho’s loss was troubling for me. A slap to start the bout and full retreat from there, ending in a light shower of purple rain. As Bruce reported a few days ago, the Dai-Yokozuna has been granted Japanese citizenship. That was followed soon after by an announcement from Sokokurai along the same lines, as Herouth noted below. He looked positively spry crab-walking Kotonowaka out of the ring for his first win of the tournament, though. While Tochinoshin’s exit, due to injury, may be upon us sooner than any of us expected, these two are making moves off the dohyo to start their next chapter.

Race for Sanyaku

Enho’s win against Onosho today was an absolute gem. On the ropes at several points during the bout, it was definitely his bout to lose…until he twisted around and plucked a win from thin air. Terutsuyoshi dispatched a resurgent Kotoyuki. That pixie dust is potent. Of the four, who do you think will reach sanyaku first? One of those who has been there before? Or one the pixies?

Tomokaze’s even more rapid rise continues. His opponent today, Abi, is by this point a seasoned Makuuchi wrestler. Tomokaze studied that hatakikomi vulnerability and wasted no time dispatching the tadpole. Should Tomokaze be granted tadpole status? Or is his rise something else?

Race for Sekitori

In makushita and below, we’re only half-way through the first set of bouts. Several key ones are tonight, with Hoshoryu against Akiseyama and Chiyootori facing Tsurubayashi. With Naya losing his first bout against the veteran Toyohibiki, sekitori hopes for 2019 are likely for naught but 2020 is around the corner. The makushita joi is rough but the churn in the top ranks has yet to settle.

Chiyonokuni’s return was marked with a slapfest. I would put money on all seven of his bouts being fought this way, far from the belt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes kyujo if he manages four wins early in the tournament but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s hoping for yusho. Chiyonokuni’s injury forced him to fall much lower than his abilities and a return to the salaried ranks in early 2020.