Kotoshogiku Welcomes 1st Baby Boy

Tachiai would like to congratulate Kotoshogiku on the birth of his first baby, a boy. Today’s news comes from Mainichi, again. Apparently Nikkei doesn’t want to cover sumo during Jungyo. Well, even during a tournament it falls under “Sports\Other,” so maybe my expectations are too high. Glad to see that Mainichi is covering it. Three articles from them today. This one is a great, easy headline. Now that I’ve spoiled the surprise of the headline, we may as well take a look at it:

琴奨菊に第1子の長男誕生「親孝行だ」

First thing’s first, Kotoshogiku’s shikona followed by hiragana “ni” because the baby was born to Kotoshogiku. When counting ordinal numbers (i.e. sequentially) Japanese often uses the character “DAI” (第) and follows up with the appropriate kanji for what you’re counting. Here we’re counting kids (子). “CHONAN” is the word for first son (長男). If you replace the second character (which means male) with the character for female (女), you get first daughter. The first character is usually translated as “long” but it also gets used as leader or “head” as in the head of an organization. The head of a company is the ShaCho, using that character.

Then Tanjo (誕生) is birth. If you study Japanese you learn the word Tanjobi (誕生日) which is birthday. This is an important word to know for anyone studying Japanese. Not just so you can celebrate your birthday, you can fill out immigration forms and other paperwork! If you know your bloodtype, you can even set up a social media profile or blog. If you think I’m joking, I’m laughing but I’m not joking.

「親孝行だ」

Lastly, remember yesterday’s “synergy”? How the sumo assistants, tsukebito, get a benefit from assisting sekitori by being able to train with them? Well, kids provide for their parents by respecting them and being dutiful…doing things, like not dying before their parents. His son decided to be born after the tournament, so Kotoshogiku said, “Oyakoko da.” If he’d been born during the tournament, 困ったね。

Introducing the Heya Power Rankings

takayasu-training
Where winning is born

Now that Haru is in the books, I thought it might be fun to dig back into the maths and introduce an equation to work out which of the Heya, or sumo stables, are the real power players at the top end of the game. If it looks like we’re on to something, then perhaps it’s something we can revisit after future tournaments as well. As this is our first post on the subject, let’s tackle the methodology and then we can get into the rankings for Haru and analysis. So, whose chanko nabe tastes the best?

Methodology

In order to work this out, I built a points system which can be loosely based around these Three R’s: Ranking, Results, Rewards. Very simply put, a heya should get points for the level at which their rikishi perform, the results they achieve, and the rewards which bring them glory. All good positive stuff.

Ranking

Points are awarded for fighting at the following ranks:

  • Yokozuna: 40
  • Ozeki: 30
  • Sekiwake: 20
  • Komusubi: 15
  • Maegashira 1-5: 10
  • Maegashira 6-10: 8
  • Maegashira 11+: 5
  • Juryo 1-7: 2
  • Juryo 8+: 1

I separated Maegashira and Juryo into separate points categories as rikishi at the various ends of these ranks tend to have vastly different schedules. Fighting at a Maegashira 2 rank and having to face the likes of Hakuho is a bigger accomplishment than fighting at Maegashira 14. And being Hakuho is an even bigger accomplishment. So the points should be awarded accordingly. This obviously could be scaled up to accommodate even lower ranks, but it makes sense to start awarding points based on the world of professional sumo.

Results

I added 5 points for scoring a kachi-koshi in makuuchi, and 3 points for achieving a kachi-koshi in Juryo. I did not subtract points for scoring a make-koshi. Again, the rationale here is that fighting at a particular rank is the achievement. Achieving success at that rank should be recognised. Achieving failure at that rank will be reflected by the lower rank the rikishi will receive in the next banzuke, and therefore the lower score that the heya will receive in these next rankings. So, theoretically, it takes care of itself.

Additionally, if you follow the above logic, it stands to reason that a rikishi competing at the top end of Juryo and achieving kachi-koshi and on the cusp of promotion (2+3 points) is fighting at a similar level to a rikishi at the bottom end of Maegashira rank who gets a make-koshi and is in danger of demotion (5+0).

Rewards

Here’s where we will create variance from month to month, with points being awarded for the following achievements:

  • Yusho (Makuuchi): 50
  • Jun-Yusho (Makuuchi): 25
  • Makuuchi Special Prizes: 10
  • Yusho (Juryo): 15

At the end of the day it’s really all about winning the big prizes, and these represent prestige. These are the people who have been the focal point of the two weeks that have passed, either because they have outperformed their level, they have challenged for the yusho, actually won it, won a big promotion up to the next level, or all of the above.

Haru-basho Power Rankings & Analysis

PowerRankings

What we’ve got above is a bar chart of January’s ranks vs. March, so that we can see for this first edition which stable is at the summit of the sport, who’s improved their standing, and also how the Haru basho might have negatively impacted stables. Here’s our inaugural top 20 chart, with their score in brackets:

  1. Tagonoura (130)
  2. Isegahama (125)
  3. Sakaigawa (60)
  4. Miyagino (50)
  5. Izutsu (45)
  6. Kokonoe (43)
  7. Oitekaze (38)
  8. Sadogatake (35)
  9. Kasugano (34)
  10. Takanohana (30)
  11. Oguruma (27)
  12. Kataonami (25)
  13. Kise (24)
  14. Hakkaku (23)
  15. Dewanoumi (20)
  16. Tokitsukaze (20)
  17. Tomozuna (19)
  18. Isenoumi (15)
  19. Arashio/Minezaki/Nishonoseki (10)

The headliner for the second consecutive basho is the Tagonoura-beya, headlined by Shin-Yokozuna Kisenosato‘s heroic yusho, and another prize-winning outing by san’yaku fixture Takayasu. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the dominant Isegahama is not far behind, off the back of several prominent rikishi towards the top end of the banzuke and a just-nearly performance by Terunofuji. We can probably expect to see these two stables in or near the top two for some time to come, especially if Takayasu is successful in his Ozeki run.

Taking the bronze medal this time, it’s Sakaigawa: a stable with a number of makuuchi wrestlers and featuring the Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki, who we’ll see back in the top flight for Natsu. While it’s not impossible, Sakaigawa will have a challenge to hold onto a position in the top 3 in May. Goeido will need to chase a kachi-koshi to retain his Ozeki status, but they may lose 2 rikishi from makuuchi to Juryo with demotions, and the next best heya Miyagino will hope for a healthier outing from Hakuho and better returns from Ishiura as he tries to cement his place in makuuchi.

Looking at whose stock plummeted the most this month, you can’t look further than the first name on the list. With only one rikishi in the top 2 divisions, Arashio‘s prestige is wholly dependent at the moment on the performances of Sokokurai, whose gino-sho winning Hatsu was followed up with an 11 loss outing this time around. Solid but unspectacularly performing heya with a diversity of competitors (e.g. Kokonoe) are better able to insulate themselves from this kind of performance, and Arashio doesn’t have anyone else near the top divisions at the moment.

On the whole, this exercise has shown that out of all of the places that rikishi live and train, about a dozen are real players at the top end of the game, and another dozen are developing middling talent trying to gain a foothold in the professional ranks. The rest are in limbo, either unable to produce top level talent at the moment or simply in a transitional period where their top level participants have recently retired or been demoted while they try and bring through a new generation of rikishi with the ability to compete at the highest level.

Looking ahead to Natsu, I don’t think we should expect much change in the top 5. A few stables under the radar who might make moves one way or the other in the near future:

  • OitekazeEndo will move up, and may face a tougher schedule given that many of the rikishi in front of him this time out are staring at demotion. Meanwhile, Daieisho‘s due a promotion and Oitekaze’s quintet could be joined soon in the professional ranks by Iwasaki, who picked up a kachi-koshi at Makushita 3, and Daishoho, who made his brief Juryo debut in November and just put up 5 wins at Makushita 7.
  • Takanohana: As Andy noted earlier in the week, Takagenji is set for his Juryo debut at Natsu, and while Takanohana isn’t teeming with the sheer volume of rikishi that you might see at other stables, there are actually a couple more young wrestlers not far behind. Star man Takanoiwa‘s results have been volatile, but he has made a step forward in the past year which is that he’s now more able to cope with what the schedule throws at him at the lower end of makuuchi. Likewise, Takakeisho seems to be settling in well as a rank-and-filer and will move up the banzuke next time out.
  • Sadogatake: It’s tough to call a heya with such a rich history at the top level “under the radar,” but they’ll take a hit if Kotoshogiku does retire or show diminished performance following a soul-crushing nearly-basho in March, and it would be charitable to say that Kotoyuki hasn’t been at his best recently. He looked overpowered and out of sorts more often than not at Haru. Realistically the next wave of talent here is at least a couple of years away – there are a handful of journeyman rikishi at Makushita level already, but the next youngster showing serious promise looks to be 19 year old Kotokamatani who just finished up a 5 win basho at Sandanme 3 and is primed for already his second spell at Makushita having only made his tournament debut last January.

Kisenosato Wins Osaka

It’s tough to fathom, and a bit tougher to believe. On day 15, Kisenosato won his scheduled match against Ozeki Terunofuji. The match was precluded by yet another matta when Terunofuji false-started. After day 14, I am sure Kisenosato was buying none of it. At the tachiai, he employed Harumafuji’s mini-henka to deflect a portion of Terunofuji’s charge, which took him immediately off balance. Terunofuji recovered and locked up chest to chest with the shin-Yokozuna, but Kisenosato was able to maneuver him out for the win.

As the two leaders were now tied, there was a playoff once Harumafuji and Kakuryu fought to end regular matches. Once again Terunofuji jumped in early, resulting in yet another matta. Almost immediately, Kisenosato had Terunofuji pinned by the arm using his right arm (the one that is not injured) and was able to throw Terunofuji using kotenage. The fact that Kisenosato won using his non-favored side was a complete surprise, as Kisenosato is left side dominant.

Needless to say, the fans in the stadium, and indeed across Japan erupted in celebration that the Shin-Yokozuna was able to pull out a come from behind victory in spite of some significant performance limiting injuries. In regards to Terunofuji, he has a great future ahead of him, and his time (probably several) to hoist the emperor’s cup will come again.

I had quite a laugh at the end of the video, as they delayed the 6:00 PM news to cover the end of the basho.  This almost never happens, as there seems to be some kind of code that the 6:00 PM news must not be delayed.

A great write up on the tournament and the changing times in sumo can be found here. It’s a great time to be a fan.

Haru 2017: Wrap-up

Osaka treated us to a fantastic show. The build-up and thrilling denouement, capped off by the storybook ending makes this one to remember.

Senshuraku does not often live up to its billing as the climax of a sumo tournament. Often, the yusho race is clear heading into the final weekend and the winner is crowned a day or two early.

Let’s take another look at our storylines leading into the tournament.

#1: Kisenosato Yusho. Clearly, this is the story of the tournament. With Hakuho out of the picture and contenders dropping like flies in Week Two, it looked like a sure bet. Then, Darth Vader defeated him in battle and worse, took his fighting hand. With defeat the next day to an apologetic Kakuryu, the Emperor’s Cup was Terunofuji’s.

Terunofuji was even ready for the henka but Kise was still able to shift the young Ozeki off-balance, forcing a play-off. In the play-off, Kisenosato locked Terunofuji’s arm with his right and brought both wrestlers down (Teru first) to pick up his second straight tournament victory.

#2: Takayasu’s Ozeki run. So many wrestlers came into this tournament with Ozeki hopes. The path was easiest for Kotoshogiku but with his hopes dashed, Takayasu is now poised to be the next rikishi promoted to Ozeki. He finished on 12 wins with his only losses going to two yokozuna and Yoshikaze. He’s been in sanyaku for the past five tournaments, a strong run as not many have stayed in the lower sanyaku ranks for more than two. With 10 wins next tournament, he’ll be promoted. The question for next tournament, though, is will there be four Sekiwake? The three current sekiwake all secured winning records and Mitakeumi deserves a promotion after his strong 9-6 finish. Maybe Celina’s bracket will come true, after all?

#3: Hokutofuji makekoshi. Hokutofuji’s run of kachi-koshi tournaments has come to an end. He finished with a very respectable 7-8 record so while he will slide a bit, it won’t be far.

#4: Kotoshogiku demoted. The henka on Day 14 which sealed his fate will always be controversial. However, the fact is, Kotoshogiku was fighting on one healthy knee. His on-again, off-again relationship with kadoban status was untenable in the long term.

Well, at least he was able to get a winning record this time but he will need to start from scratch and get 33 wins in three tournaments to get back to Ozeki. The question now is, does he have it in him to continue to compete or will he retire, like Kotooshu? I’ve got nothing but admiration for guys like Aminishiki who carry on as long as they can. BTW, Aminishiki finished with a 9-6 record in Juryo.

#5: Goeido kyujo, kadoban. I know I continually harp on injured wrestlers battling and risking further injury. If they listened to me, we clearly wouldn’t have had this epic finish today because Kisenosato would be at home on his couch watching Terunofuji hoist the Emperor’s Cup. But for every spectacular finish, there are several guys who make my knees hurt to watch them get up there: Kaisei, Tochinoshin, Osunaarashi, Myogiryu. In Goeido’s case, as an Ozeki he could have used the luxury of not starting this tournament to try to fully recover but his competitive spirit (like Terunofuji for the past year) draws him to the dohyo. I hope he has a full, speedy recovery.

#6: Ura kachi-koshi. Ura debuted fairly high on the banzuke at Maegashira 12 but was still able to achieve a winning record (though barely). He only lost once to hatakikomi but a few times his unorthodox style clearly gets him into trouble at times. He will climb the banzuke in May and I’m eager to see how he fares. Will he and Ishiura take their approach to the next level? Or will their gimmicks serve to confuse and confound those at the bottom of the table?

#7: Wakaichiro kachi-koshi. We at Tachiai are excited to see Wakaichiro pick up his first winning record and look forward to seeing him promoted into Jonidan.

Day 15 Osaka Recap

sansho-osaka

Beyond The Yusho

In addition to one of the more dramatic ends to a sumo basho that I have ever witnessed, there was a lot of great action on the dohyo for the final day. As we highlighted earlier, a lot of rikishi were still battling to secure a winning record (Kachi-koshi), and bid for promotion on the May ranking sheet.

First and foremost, in the Yokozuna battle, Kakuryu was able to prevail over Harumafuji, and finish the tournament with 10 wins. While not earth-shattering, his double digit score puts him squarely in the territory expected for a Yokozuna. Harumafuji’s loss continues to worry, as it’s clear he was hurt most or all of Haru, and competed anyhow.

Special Prizes

  • Outstanding Performance / Shukun-sho: Takayasu (3rd shukun-sho, 8th sansho overall)
  • Fighting Spirit / Kanto-sho: Takakeisho (1st kanto-sho, 1st sansho overall)
  • Technique / Gino-sho: not awarded

I thought there were some great kimarite unleashed in Osaka, and the Gino-sho should have been awarded.

Match Results

Takayasu was able to beat Tamawashi in the battle of the Sekiwake, and pushed his record to 12-3. Firstly, don’t worry about Tamawashi, he finished 8-7, and will remain at Sekiwake for May. Takayasu, however, now only needs 10 wins in May to secure an Ozeki promotion. This also marks a shift, as in prior basho, Takayasu would have a big early winning streak, run out of gas, get a disappointing loss, and then proceed to continue losing. This time, he pulled out of his losing streak and racked up 2 additional wins.

Kotoshogiku, in what may be his final match as a sekitori, faced another veteran Yoshikaze. After a good tachiai, Kotoshogiku quickly established his favored inside grip, and applied his familiar hug-n-chug (gaburi-yori) to the Berserker, and rapidly had him out. Yoshikaze already had his kachi-koshi, and this was (possibly) a goodbye match. I was happy that Kotoshogiku could end on a high note, while Yoshikaze lost nothing.

Mitakeumi finished strong as well, defeating Tochiozan, and confirming he is a contender for higher rank soon. Since turning from a pure pusher-thruster into a hybrid mawashi / thruster, Mitakeumi has improved greatly. I expect that he may take another dip or two down the banzuke in the coming months, but he has the size, speed, strength and skill to be a sumo leader.

Endo was also able to secure a winning record on the last day, taking it from Tochinoshin, who needs to visit whatever clinic gave Terunofuji his legs back. Ura also was able to defeat Ichinojo through a rather clever use of leverage and balance. It was different enough, the judges called a Monoii, but eventually gave Ura the win. Ichinojo is so tall, I swear it took him 30 seconds to finish falling.

Lastly, thank you readers of Tachiai. You have made this our biggest Basho yet, and it’s been wonderful to have all of you spend time on our site, sharing our love of sumo.

Haru Day 15 Preview

dohyo-iri-15

Final Day Of the Osaka Tournament

It’s been a strange and crazy basho, and now we face the final day of competition. The yusho race had focused almost entirely on Kisenosato for the bulk of the tournament, but it’s now clear that bar some strange occurrence, Terunofuji will lift the Emperor’s Cup tomorrow. Prior to day 14’s henka against Kotoshogiku, most sumo fans would have cheered his return to glory, after more than a year of crippling injuries and constant pain.

Fans have commented on Tachiai, Twitter and Facebook that the henka is part of the sport. This is true, and there are times when it’s employment is kind of neat. What troubles me about day 14 is that Kotoshogiku was not going to be able to best Terunofuji’s kaiju mode. To me the henka this time smelled of cruelty. I restrain myself, I hope, from layering too many American / European idioms on what is a completely Japanese cultural phenomenon. But it was clear that Kotoshogiku intended to go out, guns blazing, giving his all every match. This was the match where his bid to return was to be lost, and he was not allowed to end with dignity.

So you may see some noise from the Japanese fan community about Terunofuji, and I worry, about the Mongolian contingent as a whole. This would be a huge mistake, in my opinion, as the Mongolian rikishi have hugely enriched the sport, and have done fantastic things for Japan and the Japanese people.

Key Matches, Day 15

Terunofuji vs Kisenosato – This one decides the yusho. If Kisenosato some how manages to win the first one, the two will fight a tie breaker after Harumafuji and Kakuryu fight the last match of the basho. Given that Kisenosato can’t really do anything with his left arm (and he’s left handed) it’s going to be a long shot. My hope is that Kisenosato can survive without additional injury, and Terunofuji does not do anything to further lose face.

Harumafuji vs Kakuryu – This bout has very little impact, save to see if Kakuryu can get to double digits this time. Both are out of the yusho race, Harumafuji is banged up and struggling. I hope no one gets hurt and both can recover soon.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – If Takayasu can win this one, it means that he will need 10 wins in May to become Ozeki. It’s still a tall order, but a 12-3 record might also give him Jun-Yusho status for the first time in his career. Tamawashi will likely stay at Sekiwake for May, but needs wins to start making the case for promotion to Ozeki himself.

Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze – I hope both of these well loved veterans have some fun with this match. Both have kachi-koshi, and both are looking at retirement in the not too distant future. Kotoshogiku will try to wrap up Yoshikaze, and Yoshikaze will try to stay mobile.

Kachi/Make-Koshi

A number of rikishi go into the final day at 7-7, and will exit the final day either with promotion or demotion as their next move. This includes

Ishiura vs Takarafuji – First meeting between these two, Takarafuji already make-koshi

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Both at 7-7, the loser gets a demotion. Prior meetings are evenly split, but Tochinoshin is a shadow of his former self.

Daishomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has his first make-koshi of his sumo career, but Daishomaru has a chance of kachi-koshi if he can win.

Myogiryu vs Aoiyama – Should be an easy win for Aoiyama, Myogiryu already make-koshi

Ichinojo vs Ura – Maegashira 7 Ichinojo vs Maegashira 12 Ura. Ichinojo already make-koshi, Ura trying to stay in the top division. A huge mismatch in size and speed. This may be a strange one indeed.

Takayasu Recovers, Defeats Takarafuji

Bout Included Mawashi Malfunction

On day 14, Takayasu racked up his 11th with, an important addition for his quest to win promotion to Ozeki. The match featured a solid display of yotsu-zumō, but was halted by the Gyoji, as Takarafuji’s mawashi threatened to come un-done mid battle. As shown in earlier posts, the Gyoji stops the match, throws his gumbai over his shoulder and re-ties the offending garment.

This 11th win matters a great deal for Takayasu, as it means that he was able to set his disappointment over his day 11 loss aside, and overcome whatever worries he has for his friend Kisenosato and focus on his sumo, which he did well today. Sadly this victory gave Takarafuji his make-koshi, and he will face a small rank demotion for May. Takayasu will need at least 11 wins in May to secure Ozeki, and we think that if he stays focused and healthy, that goal is in reach.

Video thanks to Jason’s All Sumo Channel on YouTube, which is a Tachiai mainstay. Feel free to hit his tip jar, too!

Yokozuna Harumafuji Defeated By Sekiwake Tamawashi

Harumafuji-14

Clinches Kachi-Koshi With Important Victory

In a further sign that the current Sekiwake ranked rikishi are on a path towards higher ranks, Tamawashi bested Yokozuna Harumafuji in a fast, aggressive bout. This victory gave Tamawashi his much needed kachi-koshi, signaling he will retain the rank of Sekiwake for his third consecutive tournament. Tamawashi cannot necessarily be considered to be in contention for promotion to Ozeki yet. He can only, at best, reach 9 wins this tournament, which would not make a strong case for promotion. But the ability to survive and even thrive in sumo’s toughest rank speaks volumes about his skill and tenacity.

It’s also noteworthy that there were multiple reports of heckling from the crowd directed towards Yokozuna Harumafuji. I am going to assume that it’s in response to Kisenosato’s injuries following the day 13 match with Harumafuji, and Tachiai hopes that Japanese sumo fans are just blowing off a bit of steam. The last thing sumo needs is some manner of endemic anti-Mongolian theme.

Yokozuna Kisenosato’s Second Defeat

Kise-14

Competed In Spite Of Painful Injury

In a move that surprised many, Yokozuna Kisenosato decided that he would not withdraw from Haru, and in fact mounted the dohyo to face Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 14. After Friday’s injury, many in the sumo press as well as myself expected Kisenosato to be barred from further competition by his doctor. Sumo association officials were very tight lipped about the exact nature of his injury and his condition. In information from the Japanese press (thanks to Kintamayama):

“This morning we had a chat about various things. He said he would like to participate today. He is strongly motivated.,” said his Oyakata Tagonoura. His condition? “He can move. There are two days left and there other other rikishi. He is a bit better than yesterday.. I’ll watch today’s bout and if it’s really bad we might have to reconsider..But if he will be OK he will appear on the last day as well. He will of course be doing the Yokozuna dohyo-iri and will move his body” added the Oyakata, not divulging much.

With Kisenosato’s loss, Terunofuji steps into sole the lead in the yusho race. The championship will be decided on day 15, when the injured Kisenosato faces Terunofuji in the second to last bout of the day. Tachiai hopes that Terunofuji has all of that henka nonsense out of his system, and faces Kisenosato like an Ozeki.

Kotoshogiku’s Ozeki Bid Ends

Kotoshogiku-14

Terminated by Terunofuji’s Henka

In on of the most disappointing 5 minutes of sumo of my life, Sekiwake Kotoshogiku’s bid to reclaim his Ozeki rank, and likely retire on a high note, ended when Terunofuji chose to employ a henka rather than give the fading rikishi an honest fight. The match had trouble getting started, with Terunofuji coming off the line prematurely, and matta was called.

On the restart, Kotoshogiku launched into the tachiai, but found that Terunofuji had leapt to the side. Thus ends a valiant effort by a long serving rikishi to end things on a high note. The crowd in Osaka was shocked, and I might say insulted. Everyone assumed that Terunofuji was going to win this bout, but they wanted to see him win via strength and skill. The expression on the crowd’s faces on the image above speak volumes.

Haru Day 14 Preview

Kise-kak-14

Kisenosato Will Compete Day 14

The results from day 13 were catastrophic for the Japanese sumo industry. Their home-grown Yokozuna was hurt in a bout, many would say needlessly. Some my wonder why I label this a catastrophe, it’s because Kisenosato’s ascension led to a huge uptick in sumo’s popularity and cultural prominence. Any long term injury could lead to some very hard feelings between the Japanese public and some of sumo’s top performers. This would be an utter disaster for the sport.

As of the moment this is being written (and one of the reasons it’s so late), Kisenosato has decided he is going to show up and face Kakuryu on day 14. I fear that he is not at 100%, and may in fact risk a grave injury. But Kisenosato is so proud to be a Yokozuna now, he wants to show Japan that he is going to be there, no matter how much it hurts.

In other news from day 13 (most of you will have watched video by now). Terunofuji defeated Kakuryu in a fairly amazing bout. I am not sure what happened to bring “classic” kaiju mode Terunofuji back, but I think everyone (including myself) figured he was gone for good. Now he is back, and he is tied for the lead in the yusho race with an injured Kisenosato.

Takayasu continued his typical out of gas / collapse on day 13, losing to Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze is now kachi-koshi, which delights me, but I was hoping to see Takayasu set his defeat aside and charge ahead. Kotoshogiku also managed a win over Shodai, a convincing one, to keep his return to Ozeki status alive by the narrowest of margins.

Yusho Race – It’s either Terunofuji or Kisenosato. God help us, but they will face off on day 15.

Key Matches Day 14

Kisenosato vs Kakuryu – How injured is the Shin-Yokozuna? Time to find out. I doubt Kakuryu is going to give him any quarter. Kisenosato tends to beat Kakuryu, their career record is Kisenosato 31, Kakuryu 17. But this is going to be a tough match with Kisenosato’s left arm hurt. It’s also a must-win for Kakuryu, who only has 8 wins so far.

Kotoshogiku vs Terunofuji – Well, it’s been nice knowing you Kotoshogiku. Terunofuji seems only to be increasing in strength and intensity, where it’s clear the past few days the Kotoshogiku is on fumes. Terunofuji has gladly granted his opponents a double-inside “death grip” the past few days, and then proceeded to make them suffer. Given that Kotoshogiku will try for that same grip to start his hug-n-chug, the results could be ugly. Kotoshogiku must win all remaining bouts to return to his Ozeki rank.

Takarafuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu may be convincing himself that things are tougher than they should be. He needs to break above 10 to help his Ozeki push, and he needs to be able to recover from a disappointing loss like day 11 if he is to excel at sumo’s higher ranks. Takarafuji is fighting well this basho, so this is not an easy match.

Expected Day 15 Matches

  • Kakuryu vs Harumafuji
  • Kisenosato vs Terunofuji
  • Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze
  • Takayasu vs Tamawashi

Haru Day 13 Recap: WTF.

Well, this yusho has been totally thrown on its head. As Bruce reported, Kise is down and likely out. We’ll get to the implications later but there was also a lot more action to cover. This tight race with Tochiozan and Takayasu has become decidedly less tight as both wrestlers fell today, leaving Terunofuji alone (presumably) in the lead by two bouts.

Would someone please return Terunofuji’s lunch money? He’s a new man as his knees seem to be holding up. Today, he demonstrated Championship level sumo against Yokozuna Kakuryu. Both wrestlers locked up quickly with two-handed belt grips. While the bout was closely contested, Terunofuji was never in any real danger, even as Kakuryu tried desperately to trip the big lug, kicking at those apparently-not-so-tender knees. Eventually, Terunofuji’s height advantage and leverage meant his atomic wedgie was superior…lifting Kakuryu over the straw bales.

Thus, with a two bout lead over his closest competitors, Terunofuji will seal the deal on his second yusho with a win tomorrow over Kotoshogiku. Kotoshogiku was able to finally get his kachi-koshi with a powerful tachiai and quick force-out victory over Shodai. Shodai will tumble into the rank-and-filers with nine or more losses now. His ozeki dreams are on hold. Mitakeumi, on the other hand, is keeping his sanyaku ambition alive after beating the ever-feisty Sokokurai. He’ll face Chiyonokuni in a tough match for a winning record. Sekiwake rank will be crowded if Giku fails to regain his Ozeki rank. Three Sekiwake in May with Mitakeumi held at Komusubi with 8 or even 9 wins?

Takayasu’s ozeki dreams are coming undone, as well. He really needed 11 or 12 wins this tournament and has not been in good form the past few days. He has been slow to get up after both defeats. Yoshikaze shoved him from the ring today after a frantic bout. Takayasu did not demonstrate the clear control and command he had in the first two thirds of this tournament. Likewise, Tochi-from-Kochi let Endo control the pace and position of their fight. Endo pushed, keeping Tochiozan on the defensive and eventually shoved him over the bales.

Tochinoshin wants to win and it showed against Kagayaki. He’s battling a bit below his abilities because of his injury but may still pull off a winning record. Likewise, Okinoumi has shown some life lately, picking up his eighth win against Ishiura. He’ll climb back up the banzuke, unlike Myogiryu. I’m worried about him. He’s got 6 wins this tournament so far but with the loss to Juryo-ranked Onosho. He will need to pull out all of the stops and win out in order to get a winning record and arrest his slide down the banzuke (possibly into Juryo).

Yokozuna Kisenosato Injured In First Loss

Kise-13

Shoulder Wounded Falling From Dohyo

There were a lot of developments in the basho over night, but the most significant is Harumafuji’s defeat of Kisenosato in the final match of the day. The match was a rapid brawl with Harumafuji taking control from the tachiai, driving him backwards on launching him off the dohyo.

While a loss for the undefeated Yokozuna was a major development, the crowd was stunned when Kisenosato did not mount the dohyo to complete the match, but instead collapsed in pain, clutching his left shoulder. Later it was reported:

Kisenosato was transported to an Osaka hospital after his bout in an ambulance. His right arm was in a sling; he apparently also has some sort of chest injury to go along with his shoulder injury. The dislocated shoulder was reportedly affixed [Sankei] but Kisenosato told the reporter (referring to his arm): ” 動かない。痛みがあって動かすのが怖い ” (Close enough translation: “I’m not moving it. It hurts and I’m too scared to move it.”)

Kisenosato’s sumo depends on his strong left hand grip, and the chances are very good that he as at least dislocated his left shoulder, and possibly suffered a more significant injury. Fans should expect that he will by kyujo for the remainder of the Haru basho, forfeiting a solid chance at yusho in his first tournament as Yokozuna.

Fans should note, if Kisenosato withdraws from Haru (as I expect), the yusho winner would be Terunofuji. With 2 matches left there is likely no way anyone can catch him. Terunofuji’s day 14 opponent is scheduled to be Kotoshogiku.

Wakaichiro (若一郎) Drops 7th Bout

American sumotori Wakaichiro lost his final match on Friday against Ryuko, a sumo newcomer from Onoe heya competing in his first basho. In what was largely a thrusting match, Ryuko seemed to be focusing his pushes at Wakaichiro’s face, driving him from the ring.

Wakaichiro finishes the Haru basho 5-2, which is respectable. With a solid winning record, chances are good that Wakaichiro will be likely be promoted to the next higher division, Jonidan, for the May ranking sheet. His fans around the globe congratulate Wakaichiro for a solid basho and hopes to see him back in action in 2 months in Tokyo.

Haru Day 13 Preview

Preview-12

In Which We Skip A Day 12 Summary Post…

Hello Tachiai readers, you may have noticed no day 12 summary. I worked to cover the bouts that were pivotal to the story lines with some detail, but now find myself without enough time to really talk much about the rest of the action. A quick run down of what else happened day 12.

Kisenosato remains unbeaten at 12-0, the only rikishi in a position today is Terunofuji at 11-1. But this would require Kiesnosato to lose at least one, and Terunofuji to survive his Yokozuna bouts. Count on the NSK to try and have the ultimate battle be between Terunofuji and Kisenosato on the final weekend.

Ikioi, now that he has a clear make-koshi, has found his sumo, defeating Shodai today who now has his make-koshi too. Mitakeumi refuses to give up, and today defeated Takekaze to remain 6-6. Mitakeumi wants back in the San’yaku ranks and he is pushing for a kachi-koshi with everything he can bring. Hokutofuji lost today, but still has a glimmer of hope to escape his first ever make-koshi. Ura and Ishiura both lost on day 12, with their records now 6-6. I predict both of them will be take it right to the final day.

Haru Leader board

LeaderKisenosato
Hunt Group – Terunofuji
Chasers – Takayasu, Tochiozan

4 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Harumafuji vs Kisenosato – Kisenosato’s first real test will come as the final match on day 13, where he will face Harumafiji. The Horse has not been 100% this basho, but he still seems to have plenty of mojo, including enough to make Takayasu look like a forgotten sack of groceries. This bout is absolutely crucial for Kisenosato, as Terunofuji is likely to be his day 15 opponent, and he needs be the leader heading into that match. Harumafuji leads their career record 37-24. Be on the lookout for the mini-henke.

Terunofuji vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu seems to be running low on gas the past few matches. At the same time Terunofuji is in full kaiju mode, and may not be stoppable without summoning Mothra. If Kisenosato can win and Terunofuji lose, it more or less hands the yusho to Kisenosato. Kakuryu has a clear advantage overall with 7-3, but there is this kaiju mode that makes a lot of that irrelevant.

Yoshikaze vs Takayasu – I am a huge fan of both. In fact I have tegata of both on my wall. To me they represent all that I love about sumo. Both of these rikishi have the energy, power and skill to win this bout. In fact Yoshikaze, if he wins, picks up Kachi-koshi – he is doing pretty well this basho. This is a mental test of Takayasu. I fear he may now doubt his sumo, and will be hesitant. Given that Yoshikaze operates at a speed most rikishi can not even follow, any hesitation could equal a Yoshikaze victory.

Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – I fear it has come to Shodai, to some the symbol of the future of sumo, to drive a stake into the heart of Kotoshogiku’s revival. I still maintain hope that Kotoshogiku can bring it home, and exit sumo having restored his rank, but I fear the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan has a different course laid in. They have only fought 3 times before, with Kotoshogiku taking 2.

Shohozan vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji never gives up. He is one loss away from his first maki-kochi in professional sumo, but I expect he is going to find some way, any way to pull in a winning record if it takes him until day 15. This is the first match between these two.

Endo vs Tochiozan – Endo looked very good against Terunofuji on day 12, and it’s time for him to match against a surprisingly strong Tochiozan. This could be a very interesting match if no one goes stupid and tries a henka.

Ura vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma has his kachi-koshi secured, and Ura still needs 2 more wins. If I had to guess, Chiyoshoma won’t be giving away a freebee to Plasticman today, and we will need to see him figure out something other than “low and bendy” as a way to carry the day.

Ishiura vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi will be looking to pick up his kachi-koshi on the back of Ishiura, who is still pushing to get 2 more wins. Given that Okinoumi is a skilled veteran, this may be fairly one sided.