Nagoya Day 15 Preview

We come to it at last, the final day of Nagoya, a basho that has been marred by injury, but filled with heroic efforts at all levels of the banzuke. Hundreds of stories of struggle played out on the dohyo. Many lost but some won, and as is always the case in sumo, almost everyone will train, recover and test their sumo again in 2 months.

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Because it is more or less a hobby, it can become tough to find time to contribute. Long-time readers will note that my inter-basho posting fell off a cliff shortly after the birth of my first child 2 years ago. I personally would love to put more up during the gap between tournaments, but Tachiai has to take a back seat to my job and my family. Others have noted that recent posts are not necessarily always full coverage of a day’s matches. When my professional life makes demands that shove my normal sumo-writing time out of the way, or compress the 2 hours or so I would rather spend writing up the day’s results, the blog does suffer.

But I think I speak for the entire team in saying we remain committed to our cause, and while we can’t always spend as much time on sumo as we would like, we will spend all that we can with you, dear readers.

With day 15 racing towards us now, there are some great matches on tap. In fact, the torikumi was late to be published Saturday, and it was not available until I woke Saturday AM in Texas. I chuckled to myself, noting that even with a heavily depleted roster, they managed to keep our interest to the very end. But the one match that will top all others is the final bout of the day: Both Yokozuna will face each other for the Emperor’s cup. The advantage here goes to Kakuryu, as he needs just 1 win to take home the yusho, whereas the injured Hakuho must win twice. Put an extra bottle of sake on ice—it could be a big day.

ReminderNHK World Japan will be streaming the last 90 minutes live overnight US time. Everything kicks off at 3:30 AM Eastern / 12:30 AM Pacific.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Chiyomaru vs Nishikigi – Both men come into this match with a horrible 5-9 record, with the loser walking away with 10 losses. Nishikigi tends to be able to trap Chiyomaru in his preferred arm-lock, and take away any mobility that Chiyomaru might use. 8-2 career record favors Nishikigi. Chiyomaru faces possible demotion to Juryo with a loss. -lksumo

Enho vs Daishoho – Enho has been injured this entire basho, and would have a daily allotment of tape across his upper body. But he managed to endure and get 8 wins, and will get at least some measure of safety higher up the banzuke for September. His opponent, the 6-8 Daishoho, is much higher ranked, already make-koshi, and at no risk of being sent to Juryo. So this match is just for a final score.

Shohozan vs Tochiozan – Unlike the match above, Tochiozan may be at risk of demotion back to Juryo, which he has not seen since 2007. Tochiozan has not had more than 6 wins in a basho this entire year, and it may soon be time for him to hang up the mawashi. Would a win here save him? I will leave that to lksumo’s skilled forecasting.

Kagayaki vs Okinoumi – Darwin match! Only one of them can take home a kachi-koshi from this one, the other gets a losing record. Kagayaki, specifically, has struggled this basho. His sumo has been rougher and less focused than at any time that I can remember in recent tournaments. As a master of razor-sharp execution of sumo fundamentals, I have to assume he is nursing some injury.

Terutsuyoshi vs Tomokaze – What an awesome match. Should Hakuho lose the final regulation bout, the winner will share the Jun-Yusho, and I expect both of these fresh faces to the top division to unleash hell. The big risk will be the slippery Nagoya clay, and the danger of losing traction. Though Tomokaze has a 2-1 career score against Terutsuyoshi, both rikishi are operating well outside their normal sumo envelope this tournament.

Myogiryu vs Kotoyuki – It’s remarkable to me that I will write this: I expect Kotoyuki to win this one. He has a 9-3 career record over Myogiryu, and for some reason the stars have aligned on Kotoyuki’s sumo this July, and I think he’s likely to “win out”.

Chiyotairyu vs Toyonoshima – Second Darwin match of the day, and this one tugs at my emotions. I love Chiyotairyu’s sumo when it clicks, but you have to sit in respect and awe of what Toyonoshima has accomplished. From his injury, to his recovery, to fighting his way back through the mosh-pit of Makushita, and finally back to the top division. Just to have a completely cold start and rally to be 7-7 on senshuraku. I want Toyonoshima to win, but even if Chiyotairyu bests him today, he has my respect.

Yago vs Takarafuji – Yago is damaged and not doing real Yago sumo. I suppose he can sort himself out in Juryo, and I hope that he does.

Kotoeko vs Ichinojo – First time match up, and I am sure Kotoeko will need to think through how he counters that much mass. Ichinojo already has his 8th win, so this is to determine rank for September. There is a traffic jam trying to push into the Komusubi slot(s), so Ichinojo will in all likelihood not be in San’yaku for Aki.

Shodai vs Takagenji – I am a bit down that Takagenji has had such a rough ride on his first trip to the top division, but I hope he can sharpen his sumo through these bouts. Day 15 he gets Shodai, who will spring unpredictable sumo on any opponent he gets into a real fight against. Takagenji won their only prior match.

Aoiyama vs Daieisho – I am calling it for Aoiyama unless something odd happens (slippiotoshi?), Why? Aoiyama is 7-7 and Daieisho has his 8. I am not saying Daieisho would throw the match, but it would be wise to not risk injury for the sake of making it 9. I expect Daieisho will put up a good fight, but the Man Mountain will prevail.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – I would guess this match may be to see who gets Ryuden’s Komusubi slot, and it’s a brilliant pairing. Endo is going to bring masterful planning and execution to this match. Hokutofuji will bring speed and power. I think this one may come down to balance, stance and defensive footwork on the slick Nagoya dohyo.

Asanoyama vs Sadanoumi – I am not sure I understand this pairing, other than that this is the leftovers from the Darwin and ranking matches. 6-8 Asanoyama holds a minor 5-3 career advantage over 9-5 Sadanoumi.

Meisei vs Ryuden – Perhaps we should call this the “Kassen no shitsubou” or battle of disappointments. Both are bringing in double digit losses, and both are eager to move on and try again in September.

Onosho vs Tamawashi – The Nagoya Precision Slip And Fall Squad takes to the dohyo to see who can be more off-balance, and get more clay on their face one more time, in this classic head-to-head showdown of feet moving one way, body moving another. Regroup guys, your fans love you and look forward to your rebound in September.

Abi vs Kotoshogiku – The final Darwin match of the day. If Abi can prevail, he can keep his Komusubi slot. He has to take out Kotoshogiku, fresh from a gold star win over Hakuho on day 14. If Abi can get his thrusting train running, it will be tough for Kotoshogiku to generate much offense.

Mitakeumi vs Shimanoumi – No restart of an Ozeki run for Mitakeumi, but then his sumo has not really been Ozeki class this basho. Both rikishi come in 8-6 to this first ever match-up. I would give an advantage to Mitakeumi to be certain.

Kakuryu vs Hakuho – The Boss has to be respected to come into the basho with two bad arms and tough it out for the whole 15 days. The man is a sumo machine. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk for Kakuryu, as “The Boss” holds a 41-7 career advantage over “Big K”. But Hakuho is hurt, and Kakuryu’s sumo has been excellent this July. If Kakuryu loses the first, they fight again for the yusho. Guys, blow us away with your sumo, but for the sake of everyone – DON’T GET HURT!

Nagoya Day 14 Highlights

Once again, purple rain fell in Nagoya. In the final match of the day, Kotoshogiku managed, against all expectations, to overpower Yokozuna Hakuho. I had to watch it a few times to absorb what happened, but it was in fact glorious. As a result, the yusho race has Yokozuna Kakuryu in front by 1 win, with Hakuho needing to beat him twice on senshuraku to take the cup.

I have been an admirer of the “Kyushu Bulldozer” for a good long time, and it’s true he is fading out due to accumulated injuries, and can no longer fight like he once could. He came into the match with a 6-56 career defect against The Boss, but in true sumo hero fashion, he did not let that worry him much if at all. The crowd lost their mind, and the zabuton took to the skies in celebration.

Body Headline

Toyonoshima defeats Nishikigi – Toyonoshima started the tournament 5-1, then recovered to 6-2, winning the last 3 in a row. Toyonoshima refuses to give up. What else could you expect for a man who go hurt, fell to mid-Makushita, and has battled his way back against all odds to return to the top division. A win on the final day seal his return with a kachi-koshi.

Kagayaki defeats Onosho – (Thanks to Herouth) Wakanohana: “Onosho aims to go forward, but his feet don’t go with him”. I could not have described it any better. Kagayaki still has a chance for his 8th win, while Onosho is make-koshi and need of work.

Enho defeats Myogiryu – After two matta, Enho gets the tachiai right, and immediately tries for a left hand mae-mitzu grip, which he can’t maintain. Now Myogiryu has him in a headlock and is pressing him toward the clay. Taking the bait, Enho now has Myogiryu right where he wants him. With Myogiryu clinging tenaciously to his head, Enho has clean access to Myogiryu’s mawashi. A quick hip pump and Myogiryu is high, with his feet poorly positioned to resist the charge. The crowd loses it, I lose it, it looks like sumo twitter goes bonkers and the guy everyone wanted to get his 8th affirms his position in the top division. I love sumo some days.

Tomokaze defeats Kotoeko – I can hear the grumpy sumo fans calling from September or November, when Tomokaze has a bad tournament and is looking poorly, “See, he’s just a flash in the pan”. Well, future sumo-grumps and negative types, the promising young ones gain consistency. I expect that this is going to be local high performance mark for Tomokaze, but over the next few years, he has the potential to be a big deal.

Kotoyuki defeats Meisei – What the hell happened to the real Kotoyuki? The bumbling fellow who was never too good, who liked to land in the crowd and roll around? That guy is not on the dohyo today, or really any day this basho. Instead we get some kind of hard, focused sumo machine. Nice work Kotoyuki.

Shimanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama tried too many pulling moves this bout, and gave up position too many times. Shimanoumi has his kachi-koshi, and continues to move up the banzuke.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Am I allowed to regain a touch of optimism about Endo? It’s been a fools game thus far, so perhaps not. With two brilliant sumo technicians on the dohyo, you knew it was going to be like a bad episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! with all kinds of of things happening that only the hard core fans would catch. I lost count of how many times the switched up grips, but Endo advances to 9 wins.

Asanoyama defeats Shodai – More sumo grumps were busting on Asanoyama for going make-koshi this tournament after taking the yusho last time. Folks got spoiled with Hakuho and Asashōryū dominating the daylights out of sumo for a long time. Consistency on these young guys is a work in progress, of course. The Asanoyama we enjoy today is a larval form of the Asanoyama we will see next year. He just needs to stay healthy. Oh and he handed Shodai his make-koshi. If you wanted an example of Shodai’s chaos sumo, this was a great match to review.

Abi defeats Ichinojo – Abi keeps his kachi-koshi hopes alive by getting Ichinojo into his “give up” mode quickly and not letting the boulder do much except react. That brace on his right arm (his main weapon) is a bit of a worry.

Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Shin-Ikioi (Ryuden) has had a tough tournament. But Daieisho seems to not only made some solid improvements to his sumo, but his stamina is noteworthy. We are 2 weeks into a sumo tournament, and if anything the energy he is bringing to his matches has gone up. In defeating Ryuden, Daieisho is now kachi-koshi.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – If you can watch this frame by frame, you can see that Kakuryu is literally a half step faster at the tachiai. Mitakeumi goes for center mass to begin thrusting, Kakuryu keeps his hands low and works for a grip, while rotating his right shoulder to deflect Mitakeumi’s force away. Kakuryu’s gambit pays off, and after a single thrusting attack from Mitakeumi, he has a deep right hand grip, and control of the tadpole. Down go the Yokozuna’s hips, and forward for the win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hakuho – At the tachiai, Kotoshogiku bunches his shoulders, and gets his arms inside as Hakuho attacks at the arm-pits. The both land grips as Kotoshogiku turns the Yokozuna to Kotoshogiku’s right. This puts Hakuho slightly off balance, but Kotoshogiku’s hips are square, his feet are bracketing Hakuho’s, and the Kyushu Bulldozer is in business. Kotoshogiku engages the gaburi-yori and wins. Damn that was beautiful.

Nagoya Day 14 Preview

We enter the final weekend of the Nagoya basho, and all eyes are on that final match on day 15 between the two yusho leaders, and what might happened on day 14 to set the stage for the conclusion to this tournament. As lksumo has pointed out so well, there are a handful of possible outcomes now, and they all revolve around how the two top men in sumo acquit themselves today.

Lower down the banzuke, the nature of sumo is showing its teeth. A good number of rikishi are still in the narrowing middle ground between a losing and winning record, and where possible they face each other to ensure that only the best rikishi will advance. This is true up and down the banzuke, where in the lower ranks an army of young men have 3-3 records going into their final match, and face another equally determined sumotori, who will throw everything they can muster into that final match in an effort to gain a winning record. Watching these “Darwin” matches on day 13, the action on day 14 will be fast, brutal and unforgiving.

Some fans have expressed disappointment in the torikumi for the final weekend, and with good cause. Sumo fans want to see the top men of the sport battling it out for all the hardware, and for the best there is to emerge triumphant. But with all of the Ozeki out with injuries now, the schedulers have had to make do with what they can, reaching far down the banzuke over the past few days to find opponents for the remaining Yokozuna. We all hope for a better lineup for Aki in September.

Key Day 14 Matches

Toyonoshima vs Nishikigi – Somehow, Toyonoshima is still in the hunt for a winning record. He’s only faced Nishikigi once before (for a loss), in May of 2016! Toyonoshima will have to win both of his remaining matches in order to get his 8 wins, but it could just happen.

Onosho vs Kagayaki – Both of them come in 6-7, so someone is getting loss #8, and someone gets to go into day 15 at 7-7. This is going to strongly favor Kagayaki in my book, given Onosho’s suspension and alignment issues, but their career record has them tied at 4-4. Pop the popcorn and open a fresh bottle of sake, this one might be good.

Tochiozan vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi is also still in the running to get to his 8th win, and he has to overcome his fellow veteran, the deeply make-koshi Tochiozan. Their career record is 13-13, but Tochiozan is looking really dismal this tournament.

Myogiryu vs Enho – Enho has hit a wall, and just can’t seem to find that final win to get to the safety of 8. He will find no relief today when he faces the much higher ranked and already kachi-koshi Myogiryu. Enho has been hurt since before the basho, but he’s out there fighting every single day. I think we all want to see him pull it off.

Aoiyama vs Shimanoumi – One of these two, both coming in with 7-6 scores, will get their kachi-koshi, and the other will have to try again on day 15. This is their first ever match, so no history to go from. I think Shimanoumi will struggle with Aoiyama’s long reach and powerful oshi-attacks.

Asanoyama vs Shodai – Shodai can still make it to 8, but he has to win both of his final matches. Asanoyama has had a rough ride (typical for first time ranked this high), but has fought well. He’s a force for the future, and he’s capable of putting Shodai away, if he thinks he can win.

Terutsuyoshi vs Hokutofuji – These two are surprisingly similar in some ways; you could almost think of Terutsuyoshi as a ¾ scale model of Hokutofuji, but just as fast, just as powerful and just as determined. Both are kachi-koshi, so this is just to run up the score for Hokutofuji, or to stay 1 behind the yusho leaders for Terutsuyoshi.

Abi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo has never lost to Abi, who needs 2 more wins to reach the safety of 8. How is Abi-zumo going to deal with what someone once called the “Mongolith”?

Daieisho vs Ryuden – Ryuden is make-koshi, but can still play spoiler to Daieisho’s bid to rank higher on the banzuke for September. They are evenly matched, but Daieisho has been fighting better this tournament.

Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – Chiyotairyu needs one more win, and he might find it today against the wreck of Tamawashi. Tamawashi has a dismal 3-10 record at the moment, I think one of the worst of his career. Clearly he is hurt, and not able to really be very effective on the dohyo.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – I expect a lot of caution on Kakuryu’s part today. He’s going to play to his strengths, and use a collapsing / retreating defense against Mitakeumi’s opening gambit. I will watch for him to protect the inside and try to deflect / re-direct Mitakeumi, who is likely going to power in strong. Kakuryu will stalemate and wait for an opening to put Mitakeumi away.

Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Man with damaged knees takes on man with damaged elbows. Don’t tell me the scheduling committee does not have a sense of humor; there have been too many “ha ha” moments this tournament to convince me otherwise. Hakuho has no problem dispatching a genki Kotoshogiku, let along the damaged relic who will mount the dohyo for the final match of day 14.

Nagoya Day 13 Highlights

Photo courtesy of the NSK Twitter feed

A short highlights today, as my work has the bulk of my time. The big news is that the yusho race took a dramatic change as upstart Tomokaze surprised Yokozuna Kakuryu with a rapid hatakikomi immediately following the tachiai. I think that Kakuryu may have been looking to blast the newcomer clear of the dohyo, and over-committed.

Yokozuna Hakuho also won his match against Myogiryu in a bout that was both chaotic and a bit cautious. That right arm (heck, the left too) is still a concern. This means that both Yokozuna have 1 loss each, and the stakes for the final match on day 15 have been raised. With Hakuho in damaged condition, it’s not clear cut that he can be expected to dominate that final match.

Terutsuyoshi also won, and remains 1 behind the leaders. His bout against Onosho featured Onosho’s all to common balance and stance issues, stemming from his knee injury and apparently not completely successful reconstruction. After turning in 6-9 in Osaka, then 6-9 for Natsu, Terutsuyoshi’s turn around is almost miraculous. He has shown fantastic sumo in Juryo to get him to this point, but this is in fact his best run since his Makushita yusho in Kyushu 2016.

Other Matches Of Note

Sadanoumi defeats Takagenji – Sadanoumi reaches kachi-koshi, in his best tournament since January.

Kotoeko defeats Enho – Enho just can’t seem to get win #8, as Kotoeko deftly uses his maneuverability to keep Enho out of any meaningful attack position. Great planning and execution by Kotoeko.

Toyonoshima defeats Shohozan – Toyonoshima’s back is against the wall, and he once again rallies to victory. Shohozan gave him a decent fight, but ends up make-koshi after Toyonoshima’s relentless sumo.

Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Once again Okinoumi wanted to set up a stalemate and wait strategy, but this Kotoyuki from a parallel dimension seems to be some sort of sumo ass-kicker, and just took charge.

Meisei defeats Chiyomaru – Meisei finally finds some sumo, and flattens Chiyomaru, who lands with a satisfying bounce similar to a round, inflatable child’s bouncy-toy.

Endo defeats Shimanoumi – Endo kachi-koshi as he dispenses with the “thinking man’s sumo” and just overruns Shimanoumi.

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – This was a great match, as expected, and I have to hand it to Ichinojo for putting up a strong fight. Hokutofuji kept his cool and his composure in the face of an enormous, blue-mawashi’d obstacle.

Tamawashi defeats Takarafuji – Where has this Tamawashi been? This is the guy who should have been fighting all tournament. Sadly this pushed Takarafuji to make-koshi.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi get his 8, and will retain his Sekiwake 1 East rank for September. He has Kakuryu for day 14, who he has managed to beat about ⅓ of the time they fight.