Haru Undercard Preview

Undercard

2018 Haru Basho Banzuke has been published, and while there have been many developments at the top of the rankings, even more changes have happened at the far end of the Torikumi. The undercard, comprised of Maegashira ranks 17 to 9, is shaping up to be just as exciting as it was in January. So let’s take a quick look at the men who will be fighting for their Makuuchi lives this March.

Starting at the bottom, we have a few familiar faces making their return to primetime sumo. At M17 is everyone’s favorite man mountain Aoiyama. The hulking Bulgarian has not been in Makuuchi since November, and it appears his health woes are behind him. He is joined by Miyogiryu, who returns to Makuuchi with a Juryo Yusho in hand. The final Juryo callup is Hidenoumi, better known as the Pink Panther due to his bright fuschia mawashi. Haru marks the first time Hidenoumi has been in Makuuchi since November 2016. Also occupying the bottom rungs of the Undercard are Daiamami and Sokokurai, and the man from Inner Mongolia will try to put his horrible Hatsu Basho in the rearview mirror.

Just above them is a group made up of some of Hatsu’s biggest winners and losers. In the winner’s column, we have Nishikigi, Asanoyama, Ishiura, and Yutakayama, who all scored eight or more wins. Asanoyama stayed in contention up until Day 6 but went on a prolonged losing spree before finishing with a 9-6 record. Ishiura also finished 9-6 but resorted to several henkas to get there instead of using his unpredictable style of sumo. Yutakayama surprised many by picking up his first Makuuchi kachi koshi, while Nishikigi once again staved off demotion. These men are joined by Ikioi, Daishomaru, Kotoyuki, Tochiozan, Chiyoshoma, and Choyonokuni, all of whom had disastrous Januarys. Ikioi had a horrible time at Hatsu, losing all but four matches and subsequently fell nine ranks down the Banzuke. After withdrawing from competition due to injury, Tochiozan will be looking to have a much better tournament this March. Daishomaru and Kotoyuki just missed out on their winning records, while stablemates Chiyoshoma and Chiyonokuni scored matching 6-9 records.

At the very top of the undercard, we find two men who had drastically different New Year tournaments. Following a great showing last November, Okinoumi’s nagging injuries resurfaced, and he registered a 5-10 record at Hatsu. This poor performance resulted in a four rank demotion to East Maegashira 9. His M9 counterpart in the West position is Ryuden, who along with crowd favorite Abi took the undercard by storm last Basho. Fresh off a great 10-5 Makuuchi debut that saw him receive a kanto-sho special prize, it is yet to be seen if Ryuden will carry his success forward or have a sophomore slump.

The 2018 Haru undercard looks just as stacked as it did in January and features several longtime veterans and up-coming rikishi who are sure to put on some spectacular matches this March.

Osunaarashi guilty of driving without a license, may be facing dismissal

The story broke out a few days after the beginning of the Hatsu basho. NHK found out that Osunaarashi has rear-ended a car while visiting the Nagano prefecture with his wife, on January 3rd. There were no bodily injuries, and Osunaarashi apparently compensated the other car’s owner.

osunaarashi

However, the Egyptian wrestler failed to inform either the NSK or his stablemaster of this incident. Admitting to this failure to report, he was put on punitive kyujo for the rest of the basho.

The problems were only beginning for the young former Maegashira. The first problem was that driving is strictly forbidden to all active rikishi. This is not an obscure sub-item in some rule book nobody pays attention to. All rikishi know this and this is the reason why you see many rikishi in public transport or riding bicycles (motor bikes are also forbidden).

There are precedents for rikishi breaking this regulation. Famously, Kyokutenho (currently Tomozuna oyakata) has rear-ended a car waiting at a traffic light back in 2007 and caused its driver a minor injury. Besides his legal proceedings, he was punished by the NSK with a suspension for one basho and 30% were docked from his salary for three months.

If Osunaarashi had reported the incident and admitted to driving that car, he would have probably fared no worse, especially given that there were no injuries. However, he made a serious error of judgement, and gave various conflicting statements to both the police and the NSK. He claimed that he had an international driving license. It was found that the license was not valid. An International driving license is valid in Japan for only one year from entering the country. After that, you have to acquire a Japanese driving license. So he was driving without a license.

The exact order of the statements is not entirely clear, but apparently at this point his wife claimed that she was driving the car. However, evidence including footage from a surveillance camera showed Osunaarashi in the driver’s seat. he then admitted to the police that he was driving the car.

It was at this point that the story was revealed to the NSK. However, in his hearing by the NSK crisis committee, though he admitted to not reporting the incident, he and his lawyer continued to claim that his wife was the one driving the car. His explanation was that his wife was pregnant, and that because she only had an Egyptian license, not an International one, he had switched seats with her to protect her, because he believed his International license was good.

This put him in a position in which he was lying either to the police or to the NSK. The NSK called him in for questioning several times more, and the details of the story kept changing, according to Kagamiyama oyakata.

Since then, the Nagano police found out that he has been driving not just on the occasion that ended in the accident, but also twice before. Once in Nakano city on January 1st, and then twice in the town of Yamanouchi. Of course, they were only investigating within their own jurisdiction. The police then filed charges with the Nagano prosecution.

Today, the Nagano prosecutor decided on a summary indictment for three counts of driving without a valid license. Within the same day, he was fined ¥500,000. (It is perhaps noteworthy that this is the same sum Harumafuji was fined for injuring Takanoiwa. This suggests that cooperation with police makes a world of difference). He also paid the fine within the day.

However, this still leaves him to face the NSK, and this is where it is probably going to get a lot more serious for the popular Egyptian. The NSK board is going to hold a regular meeting on March 9th, and the subject of Osunaarashi’s punishment is on the agenda. They intend to listen to him and his lawyer again before making their judgement. However, the prospects do not look good. In addition to breaking the NSK regulation, he broke the law, and he was dishonest. The press expects a severe punishment, not ruling out a dismissal.

Dismissal is the heaviest weapon the NSK has. Below it there is a “recommendation to retire”. The recommendation becomes mandatory if the rikishi doesn’t hand in his resignation. There is a subtle difference between the two punishments, but both of them mean that Osunaarashi will not be mounting the dohyo again. Of course, there is still a possibility that they will decide on a long suspension and additional fine. Osunaarashi is already heading for Makushita following his forced kyujo, so there is no possibility to dock his salary, as he won’t have one.

Also expect his stablemaster to be punished. In the case of Kyokutenho, his stablemaster’s salary was also docked. Otake oyakata has already apologized several times for this unfortunate incident. Although Osunaarashi did not report to him, the NSK usually takes stablemasters to task for the scandals caused by their deshi, viewing it as lack of proper guidance.

Tachiai will keep you updated on the final decision.

Ranking the 2018 Hatsu Undercard

The 2018 Hatsu Basho has come to a close, and what an incredible Basho it was! While the Cinderella story of Tochinoshin claiming his first Yusho – and as a Maegashira to boot – made the New Year Tournament special, this Basho was also notable for the incredible level of competition coming from the bottom of the Makuuchi banzuke. The undercard, comprised of the bottom nine rungs of the top division, consistently turned out high-quality matches day in and day out and made this January one of the most exciting months in sumo in quite some time. Here are my rankings for the 2018 Hatsu Basho undercard.

17. Terunofuji: 0-8-7
What can I say about Terunofuji that hasn’t been said countless times already? With a 0-8-7 record, Terunofuji’s performance is one of the worst seen in quite a while, and now the former Ozeki has fallen entirely out of the Makuuchi division. But all hope is not lost. The career paths of Tochinoshin and Chiyonokuni have demonstrated that taking much needed time off and starting over lower on the banzuke is not a death sentence. Hopefully, our Kaiju does the same and returns to wreak havoc in the top division one day soon.

16. Aminishiki: 3-9-3
Aminishiki’s performance was far from what many had hoped for after his splendid tournament in November. The crafty maneuvers he used in Kyushu were well scouted and dealt with by his Hatsu opponents. Coupled with a new injury that forced him to miss three days, Aminishiki racked up only three wins and is Juryo-bound. Here’s hoping we see that lovable old uncle back in the top division in the future!

15. Takekaze: 5-10
The other elder statesman of the undercard, Takekaze, will also leave the top division in March unless he has a barbers appointment booked before then. Grandpa Bullfrog didn’t go out without a fight though, and managed to put together a nice four-match win streak after a disastrous start. However it was too little, too late, and he finished Hatsu with a record of 5-10.

14. Sokokurai: 6-9
Juryo is probably looking pretty good right about now for the former second division champion. Sokokurai made his return to Makuuchi at Hatsu, but during his time away the top division has gone through a significant influx of talent and is now far more competitive than when he left it. The Chinese rikishi just couldn’t keep up with the young guns.

13. Daishomaru: 7-8
Daishomaru was kind of invisible this January, and with only seven wins (including a fusen win over Terunofuji) he failed to score his kachi koshi. However, 7-8 is far better than his abysmal 4-11 Kyushu record, so at least he is trending in the right direction.

12. Kotoyuki: 7-8
While Kotoyuki failed to get a winning record, his performance at Hatsu was more consistent than other the rikishi with make koshi records, and he could have very well finished in the winners’ column had he not bit so hard on Ishiura’s Day 15 henka. The Penguin will have to regroup for March.

11. Daiamami: 8-7
Daiamami, the man at the absolute bottom of the division, did just enough to remain in Makuuchi for Haru. With his size and strength, Daiamami has the makings of a sumo powerhouse, but he needs to get his consistency issues under control first.

10. Nishikigi: 8-7
Nishikigi lives to fight another day! The man in green managed to secure his kachi koshi, in dramatic fashion this time with a big senshuraku win. He won’t have to worry about demotion for a while. Well, at least for February.

9. Ishiura: 9-6
While I’m glad to see Ishiura make his return to Makuuchi, I was a little disappointed by the quality of his sumo near the end of the Basho. While I have no problem with a smaller rikishi pulling out a henka to get the upper hand, it got a little tiresome by the third time he used it. I hope Ishiura uses more of the creative sumo he employed in week one of Hatsu when the March tournament rolls around, and saves the henka for when he really needs it!

8. Asanoyama: 9-6
Asanoyama looked like he was having a major rebound Basho after the disaster of Kyushu last November, but he faded considerably in the latter half of Hatsu and went on another prolonged losing skid. A lack of self-esteem seems to be his most significant issue, and he needs to figure out how to keep it together when he starts to lose if he wants to make it in Makuuchi. Asanoyama did manage to pull out of his tailspin this Basho and put together nine wins. I hope he takes the next few weeks to tighten up his sumo and enters March with more confidence.

7. Yutakayama: 9-6
You may be asking yourself, why is Yutakayama so high on this list when he has just as many wins as a bunch of other rikishi? Well, the simple explanation is that with nine wins he more than exceeded all expectations the majority of fans had for him coming into Hatsu! Even if he had finished with a 5-10 record, Yutakayama would have improved on his previous ventures into the top division. But instead, he captured a bonafide Makuuchi kachi koshi, something many thought he was incapable of, and for that I commend him.

6. Chiyomaru: 9-6
Another solid outing for the marshmallow man. Chiyomaru has recorded nine wins in four of his last five tournaments, and it’s this consistency that earned him his spot near the top of this list. If he can keep this run of 9-win kachi koshis going, he could find himself in the Joi before the year’s end. At Maegashira 9 and assured a promotion, Chiyomaru will not be a part of the Makuuchi undercard come March.

5. Kagayaki: 9-6
I have a feeling we will be looking back on Hatsu 2018 as a turning point in the career of Kagayaki. The man in gold transformed from the clumsy, hesitant rikishi we knew into a much more confident, skilled athlete. Heck, he even fought on the mawashi a few times this Basho! If Kagayaki continues to build upon this success and strengthen his craft, 2018 could be his year.

4. Daieisho: 9-6
While my prediction of Daieisho fading in the second half of the tournament was right, his drop off wasn’t nearly as severe as in previous Basho, and he ended Hatsu with a very respectable 9-6 record. Daieisho has so much natural talent when it comes to sumo, and if he can figure out how to show up for the full 15 days of a tournament, then it won’t be long until he’s one of this sports brightest stars.

3. Shohozan: 9-6
Big Guns Shohozan has made a humongous return to form after his ghastly 3-12 Kyusho record. The man from Fukuoka was a consistent threat throughout the first half of Hatsu, and while he did drop off near the end of the tournament, he will be remembered for his colossal clash with Tochinoshin, giving the Yusho winner one of his toughest matches of the Basho. I look forward to seeing what Shohozan has in store for us at Haru, and I pity anyone who has to stand across the dohyo from this brawler.

2. Abi: 10-5
Sorry Asanoyama, but I think it’s time to pass on that Mr. Happy moniker to Abi. Things didn’t start off great for Abi, whose balance issues were exploited by his opponents. However, he never lost his smile, and once he got his balance under control, there was very little anyone could do to stop him from reaching his impressive 10-5 record. Even facing opponents ranked much higher than him didn’t seem to perturb the smiling one, who took them on with great determination! When I look Abi, with his long limbs and stocky body, he reminds me so much of a young Takanohana. While they are known for different fighting styles, if Abi can learn to use his proportions as effectively as the former Yokozuna, he has a very bright future ahead of him.

1. Ryuden: 10-5
Without a doubt, Ryuden was the star of the 2018 Hatsu undercard. Few have had as tough a road to the top division as Ryuden. Throughout his twelve-year career he has faced everything, including injuries that forced him to miss most of 2013 and 2014, but he never let these roadblocks stop him from reaching sumo’s biggest stage. Once he reached the top division, he not only held his own but flourished! After a rocky Act One, Ryuden took flight and won eight of his last nine out matches, clinching a sansho special prize for fighting spirit along the way! While he shares the same record as Abi, Ryuden gets the edge over the smiling youngster due to his consistency and his tenacity. It didn’t matter who he faced or how outmatched he was, Ryuden fought with everything he had each and every day, and sent a message that he is here to stay.

 

Hatsu 2018 sansho
Abi, Tochinoshin, and Ryuden, the stars of Hatsu

*This is just an opinion piece, and I would love to hear who you think were the standout rikishi of the 2018 Hatsu Basho.

Hatsu Special Prizes Awarded

With Senshuraku underway in Tokyo, the Special Prize Selection Committee has announced the recipients of sansho prizes for the 2018 Hatsu Basho. Tochinoshin has been granted two awards for his tremendous performance this Basho and will receive the Shukun-sho Outstanding performance prize and the Gino-sho Technique prize. A Kanto-sho fighting spirit prize will go to Ryuden for winning ten matches in his Makuuchi debut. Ryuden was also in the running for a Gino-sho, but he did not gain enough votes from the committee to qualify. Fellow top division newcomer Abi will also receive the Kanto-sho if he can win his Day 15 match against Shohozan and finish with a 10-5 record.

Congratulations to all the Sansho winners!

Update: With a win over Shohozan, Abi has earned the Kanto-sho prize!

 

Day 13 Undercard Matches to Watch

The competition level continues to rise as we get near the end of Hatsu, and Day 13 will see many stars of the undercard compete for their spot in the top division come March. Here are some great undercard matches that you shouldn’t miss!

Sokokurai vs. Yutakayama

Yutakayama is one win away from kachi koshi. That phrase sounds so strange to me, but considering how wild the last few days of this Basho have been, I guess anything is possible now! Having picked up a fusen win from Tochiozan on Day 12, Yutakayama can earn his winning record with a victory over Sokokurai tomorrow. The November Juryu Champ Sokokurai continues to look like a fish out of water this January and is already make koshi. These two have met twice before, and their series is tied 1-1.

Kotoyuki vs. Daiamami

The last two days have been pretty easy on big Daiamami. On Day 11 he gently plopped Aminishiki over the bales without much fuss, and on Day 12 he picked up another win by quietly walking Terunofuji out of the ring. The competition level picks up on Thursday when he takes on Kotoyuki. Despite limping away from the dohyo on Day 11, Kotoyuki didn’t look very injured in his match versus Asanoyama and had little trouble pushing Mr. Happy over the bales. In four previous meetings, the Penguin has beaten Daiamami thrice.

Terunofuji vs. Takekaze

Takekaze seems hellbent on capping his losses at eight and has now won his last three matches. On Thursday he has a chance to extend that streak to four when he faces the hollow shell of what used to be Terunofuji. If there’s any life left in the Kaiju, tomorrow would be the perfect time to show it as Takekaze is one of the easier opponents he’ll face over the next three days. A win could go a long way in restoring Terunofuji’s confidence, which seems to be a big factor in his listless sumo.

Asanoyama vs. Chiyomaru

What is going on with Asanoyama? During week one he looked like the skilled young rikishi who turned heads at Aki, but in the second week, he appears just as lost as he did  in Kyushu. While he could be injured again, I think the major culprit is his self-esteem. Prior to Aki, Asanoyama had a career record of 98-30, giving him a win rate of 76.6%. During this time his longest losing streak was only three matches. Since then, he has lost 42 matches, and his win rate has dropped to 34.4%. It was during this period that Asanoyama also picked up his first make koshi. This guy has been a winner almost his entire career, and now he needs to figure out how to handle losing in the big leagues, or he won’t be there much longer. Tomorrow he’ll face Chiyomaru and have another chance to clinch his kachi koshi. Chiyo is also coming into Day 13 looking for his kachi koshi and will be a stiff opponent for Mr. Happy.

Chiyoshoma vs. Kagayaki

Kagayaki will be making a trip up the torikumi tomorrow when he faces off with Maegashira 7 Chiyoshoma. Chiyoshoma fell victim to the new and improved Shodai yesterday, and now has to deal with the new and improved Kagayaki as well. While Kagayaki has been performing far better this Basho, he still has a lot to learn when it comes to yotsu-sumo. Nishikigi took full advantage of this weakness yesterday, and if Kagayaki tries to engage a skilled grappler like Chiyoshoma in some mawashi fighting, he can expect the same kind of results. Chiyoshoma has a 6-4 series lead.

Abi vs. Kaisei & Takarafuji vs. Ryuden

Kagayaki isn’t the only one taking on a higher ranked opponent on Day 13. Two of the brightest young stars of the undercard, Abi and Ryuden, will leap up the match schedule to face Makuuchi mainstays Kaisei and Takarafuji. These matches, for the most part, are to help the schedulers figure out where the chips will fall for Haru, as every man except for Takarafuji has a kachi koshi. Since neither pair has faced one another before, these matches should be very entertaining!

I’ve been blown away by the quality of the Hatsu Basho this year, and Day 13 can’t come soon enough!

Day 12 Undercard Matches to Watch

This Basho is the gift that keeps on giving, especially considering the excellent matches coming out of the undercard. Day 12 looks like it’s going to be just as good as Day 11, and there are many high-stakes matches throughout the torikumi! Here are a few exciting undercard matches to watch on Day 12.

Nishikigi vs. Kagayaki

Kagayaki is back to using his strong sumo again, winning his last four bouts and coming into Day 12 just one victory shy of his kachi koshi. While the Kagayaki of old would have fallen flat on his face after a henka, the new and more confident Kagayai stayed upright and managed to throw Kotoyuki off the dohyo and into the first row today. Tomorrow he faces Nishikigi, who is once more walking the tightrope between Makuuchi and Juryo, and will need to win three out of his four remaining matches to secure a winning record. The two have faced off eight times before, and Kagayaki holds a 5-3 series lead.

Kotoyuki vs. Asanoyama

Tokyo wasn’t the only thing that cooled down last weekend. After blazing through the first six days of competition, Asanoyama lost four matches in a row before picking up his seventh win today versus Sokokurai. Mr. Happy looked incredibly relieved after his victory, leading me to believe that a mental block was a factor in his losing skid. With the monkey off his back, hopefully, he can get back to his stellar sumo and clinch his kachi koshi on Day 12. He meets Kotoyuki, who is also experiencing a string of recent losses. To make things worse, the Penguin took another tumble off the dohyo and was last seen needing help to walk the rest of the way to the locker room. Tomorrow will mark their second meeting, with Kotoyuki holding a 1-0 edge over Asanoyama.

Terunofuji vs. Daiamami

If Terunofuji is in fighting form, we certainly didn’t get a chance to see it today. The towering Kaiju was swiftly sidestepped at the tachiai by the much smaller Ishiura, who got behind Terunofuji to force him over the tawara. Tommorrow will be a true test of Terunofuji’s ability to compete, as he meets fellow big man Daiamai on the dohyo. Daiamami comes into Day 12 looking to pick up his sixth win and bring his record back to .500. Success tomorrow will put him two wins away from his first Makuuchi kachi koshi. Day 12 will be the first meeting between these two behemoths.

Takekaze vs. Aminishiki

Wednesday marks the thirty-third, and potentially final, time veterans Takekaze and Aminishiki face one another on the dohyo. Takekaze comes into Day 12 with a dreadful 3-8 record and is at risk of falling out of Makuchi come March. There is a good chance he will go intai if this happens. Aminishiki also has a poor record, and unless he can run the gambit and win his final four matches, he will be demoted. At Maegashira 10, ‘Shiki has a bit of a buffer between himself and Juryo, but his presence in the top division at Haru is looking very uncertain. Given his recent lower body issues, Uncle Sumo may choose to hang up the mawashi if his Makuuchi swan song comes to an end. As much as it is hard to hear, the changing of the guard is going to start sooner rather than later. With the elder statesmen of sumo unable to keep up with the new generation, Hatsu 2018 may mark the beginning of that change.

Abi vs. Choyomaru.

It’s hard to believe that Abi is one now win away from his kachi koshi considering the rough start he had this Basho. The shiko master has been a great addition to the top division and is one of the brightest stars on the undercard! Day 12 sees Abi face marshmallow man Chiyomaru, who is also one victory away from a winning record. While Abi’s tsuppari attacks are powerful, they’ve so far been ineffective against Chiyo’s bulky physique, and the big man has never lost to Abi. Will that change tomorrow, or will Abi have to wait until Day 13 to claim his kachi koshi?

Day 11 will be pretty hard to beat, but Day 12 has just as much fantastic undercard action to enjoy, in what is becoming n all-time great Basho!

Everything You Need to Know After Act Two

Act Two has come to a close, and while Tokyo is freezing over, action at the Ryogoku Kokugikan continues to heat up! The third and final act of the 2018 Hatsu Basho begins tomorrow, and what an act it is shaking up to be. Over the next five days, dreams will come true, aspirations will be crushed, and a new champion will be crowned. The rikishi are ready, the Emperors Cup has been polished and the giant macaroon baked. Without further adieu, here is everything you need to know going into Act Three!

Yusho Race

After ten days of sumo, the Yusho race has boiled down to just one name: Kakuryu. With a spotless 10-0 record coming into Act Two, the Yokozuna is firmly in the driver’s seat this Basho and the Emperors Cup is now his to lose. However, he’s not home free yet, as Maegashira 3 Tochinoshin is just one win behind, and a slip up by Kakuryu will put him back into contention. Kakuryu will begin to face his stiffest competition yet over the next coming days and will have to weather the storm if he wants to hoist the cup come Sunday.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

Despite several rikishi sitting halfway to their kachi koshi after Act One, only three men were able to achieve a winning record during Act Two. Tochinoshin secured his kachi koshi on Day 9 in a herculean effort against Mitakeumi. Daieisho picked his up with a win over Tochiozan on Day 10. While Kakuryu had eight wins by Day 8, he obtained his Yokozuna kachi koshi of ten wins on Day 10. Grandpa Bullfrog Takekaze, Terunofuji, Ikioi and Hokutofuji are the only rikishi entering Act Two with make koshi records, as each only pick up two wins after ten days. Hokutofuji’s make koshi is especially unfortunate as the young rikishi was looking stellar coming into Hatsu and high hopes were surrounding him. Looks like the curse of the NHK special strikes again. As for Terunojuji, he recieved his losing record from the sidelines after missing a week of the Basho due to illness. Everyone else will have their fate decided in Act Three. For an excellent break down of the promotion and demotion implications for March, please see lksumo’s post here.

Kinboshi

With Kakuryu firing on all cylinders, there weren’t any kinboshi gold stars handed during the Act Two. Now that Onosho has pulled out, Kakuryu’s projected final opponents will change, giving one more Maegashira a chance to put dirt on the Yokozuna. Endo will likely be the one chosen to square off against the Yokozuna on Day 12.

Kyujo

Act One saw us lose Kisenosato, Hakuho, Terunofuji, and Aminishiki. That list has since shortened, as Aminishiki made his return on Day 10 and Terunofuji will be coming back from kyujo tomorrow. In their place is Onosho, who pulled out on Day 10 due to a ligament injury in his right knee, and will lose his Komusubi spot for the Haru Basho in March.

While the conclusion of this Basho may seem clear, if there is one thing I’ve learned about sumo is that it is very unpredictable. So much can happen over the next five days, and Act Three of the 2018 Hatsu Basho is shaping up to be the best act yet! Raise the curtain, let’s begin!

Terunofuji to Return on Day 11

Terunofuji, who went kyujo on Day 3, will make a return on Day 11 to face Ishiura. The Kaiju’s initial doctors note only recommended a week off from competition due to symptoms of diabetes, which appear to be under control following medical intervention. In a statement to the press, Isegahama Oyakata reported that Terunofuji’s old knee injury was getting better and that his glucose levels were much lower after treatment. Despite his Oyakata’s optimism, it is obvious that Terunofuji is in no shape to be competing, and slogging through the last five days of competition could only serve to undo any healing that has taken place. While it’s good that Terunofuji’s health is apparently trending in the right direction, returning now could be just another step closer to the end of the Kaiju’s career.

Onosho Withdraws from Hatsu Basho

The Japanese news has reported that Komusubi Onosho has withdrawn from the 2018 Hatsu basho due to a right knee posterior cruciate ligament injury. While the severity of the injury is undisclosed as of yet, treatments range from simply resting and icing the joint to physiotherapy. Going kyujo with a 4-5 record coming into Day 9, Onosho will receive a demotion back into the Maegashira rank for March. As a result, we will have a new Komusubi for Haru, and with Takakeisho sitting dangerously close to a make koshi, we could potentially have two new faces holding the rank come Hatsu. We at Tachiai hope that the power of the red mawashi will heal Onosho and that he returns even stronger!

Day 8 Undercard Matches to Watch

What a way to begin the second half of the 2018 Hatsu Basho! The undercard continues to deliver competitive matches, and you really get the sense that these rikishi are pushing hard to make their mark in the division. Day 9 has some excellent undercard matches so be sure not to miss them.

Abi vs. Asanoyama

With back to back losses, Asanoyama is now on the outside looking in on the Yusho race. While nothing is written in stone, Asanoyama will have to take care of his business if he wants to remain relevant. Mr. Happy didn’t fare too well against pusher-thruster Kagayaki today, who surprised him with a well-placed overarm throw. Tomorrow Asanoyama faces another competent oshi-zumo fighter in Abi, but he’ll have to be even more cautious, as Abi’s throws are far more deadly than Kagayaki’s. Abi will be looking to extend his winning streak to three, and even his series with Asanoyama 1-1.

Ishiura vs. Daieisho

After a straightforward win over Chiyomaru today, Daieisho kept his spot in the chase group and can clinch his kachi koshi on Day 9. Daieisho has impressed me this Basho but Is still worry he will continue his pattern of fading in the second week. Tomorrow he’ll face off with mini muscleman Ishiura. The momentum Ishiura brought with him from Juryo seems to have evaporated, and he’s now lost three of his last four matches and now has a record of 4-4. As a result, Ishiura has arrived at a crossroad between his kachi koshi and a make koshi. It can go either way from here so the next few days will be crucial for the man from Miyagino Beya.

Sokokurai vs. Ryuden

Sokokurai got away with one today, as his knee touched the clay a split second before Ishiura’s did. However there was no Mono-ii, and as a result, veteran Sokokurai enters Day 9 with a 3-5 record. Ryuden, on the other hand, won his Sunday bout with gusto, surviving Kotoyuki’s flipper attacks and forcing him over the tawara. With four consecutive wins, Ryuden is putting together a great case that he belongs in Makuuchi. Sokokurai and Ryuden have faced off twice, with the younger rikishi emerging victorious.

Daiamami vs. Chiyomaru

Having paid close attention to Daiamami’s nose pulling after Herouth brought it to everyone’s attention a few days ago, I’m beginning to think this little prematch ritual is doing Daiamami more harm than good. His last nose tug is becoming something of a tell, letting his opponent know he’s just about to charge and giving them more time to react. This could be the reason why he’s been henka’d twice this basho, as his tachiai is far too predictable. Tomorrow he meets fellow behemoth Chiyomaru on the dohyo, so expect a real slugfest.

Shohozan vs. Kagayaki

Another man to fall out of the chase group today was Shohozan, who despite a great effort couldn’t overpower Takarafuji. With his six-match winning streak over, Shohozan will be looking to rebound on Day 9. His opponent is Kagayaki, who took his sumo to whole new level against Asanoyama. Kagayagi surprised everyone with an uncharacteristic overarm throw to Mr. Happy, and if he starts integrating yotsu-zumo into his repertoire, he could become a major threat in the Makuuchi division. Kagayaki holds a 4-2 edge over Shohozan in their series.

The first half of Hatsu is over, the second half has just begun, and the quality of this Basho keeps getting better. The undercard is on fire, and we still have so many great matches coming up. Day 9 will be a bit of an abbreviated post as I tutor tomorrow night, but I will be back on Tuesday to give you the rundown of Act Two.

Day 8 Undercard Matches to Watch

Tomorrow marks the end of the first half of the 2018 Hatsu Basho, and what a first half it has been! While the top of the banzuke is exciting as always, the most pleasant surprise this January has been the fantastic sumo coming out of the undercard. The Makuuchi Division has been infused with some great young talent, and they are delivering many of the best matches this tournament. Here are just a few undercard matches to watch as we enter the second week of Hatsu!

Abi vs. Daiamami

The second week kicks off with shiko master Abi facing itchy nose Daiamami. Abi has done a great job salvaging his Basho and comes into Day 8 with a respectable 4-3 record and some major style points for the beautiful throw he used to beat Nishikigi today. His Day 8 opponent Daiamami, on the other hand, remains streaky and has yet to pick up back to back wins. Daiamami probably would have been better off returning to Jury to regroup after Kyushu, but was spared demotion due to the retirement of Harumafuji. Abi emerged victorious in his only previous match with Daiamami.

Takekaze vs. Yutakayama

January has not been kind to Grandpa Bullfrog. At 1-6, Takekaze continues to be manhandled by his opponents and is on a course to set one of his worst ever career records. But there is a ray of hope, as he faces the perennial disappointment Yutakayama on Day 8. Yutakayama’s third shot at Makuuchi is going just as well as his last two, and he could find himself in Juryo come March. Despite his youth and size advantage, Yutakayama’s sloppy, inconsistent sumo could cost him his match with Grandpa Bullfrog.

Asanoyama vs. Kagayaki

Asanoyama’s Day 7 outing against Daieisho was a textbook example of how important a good tachiai is for success on the dohyo. The smiling rikishi started too high, and that was all Daieisho needed to get him up and over the tawara. Asanoyama will have to refocus and get back into win column tomorrow to stay in the Yusho race, as another slip up could take him right out of it. On Sunday he meets Kagayaki, who looked strong during the opening days of Hatsu but has picked up three straight losses. These two have met once before at the 2017 Kyusho Basho in a match won by Kagayaki.

Daieisho vs. Chiyomaru

Daieisho continues to impress this January and looked very sharp in his Day 7 victory over Asanoyama. With a 6-1 record, he is still very much in the Yusho race. However, Daieisho has a history of fading during the second week, and he’ll need to buck this trend if he wants to be a contender. His first test comes in the rotund form of Chiyomaru, who at 5-2 sits just outside the chase group alongside Goeido, Tochiozan, and Endo. Chiyomaru holds a 4-3 edge in this evenly matched rivalry.

Takarafuji vs. Shohozan

While Asanoyama and Tochinoshin have been making waves in the Maegashira rank, Shohozan has been something of a dark horse this Basho, quietly putting together a 6-1 record. Since losing on Day 1, he has been perfect and finds himself in the Jun-Yusho picture coming into the midway point. On Day 8 Shohozan faces Takarafuji, who is the last standing rikishi from the once mighty Isegahama Beya (let that sink in). Takarafuji’s basho has been going well, but he will have to step up his game against Shohozan. Their rivalry currently sits at 9-1 in Shohozan’s favor, who dominated their first eight matches.

Hatsu is getting better by the day, and I can’t wait to see what the stars of the undercard have in store for us in the second half!

Everything You Need to Know After Act One

Kisenosato-Yoshikaze

With Day 5 in the books, the curtain has dropped on Act One of the 2018 Hatsu Basho. We’ve seen some spectacular sumo so far, especially from many of the young up and coming rikishi on the Banzuke’s undercard. Although the Basho may have just begun, already so much has happened. Here is everything you need to know to get you up to speed after Act One.

Yusho Race

While the Hatsu Basho may have just begun and a lot can still change, five days of sumo has whittled the leaderboard down to just four men, all with perfect records going into Act Two. Starting at the bottom, these rikishi are Maegashira 16 Asanoyama, Maegashira 3 Tochinoshin, Sekiwake Mitakeumi, and at the very top and looking unstoppable, Yokozuna Kakuryu. Trailing them with four wins are Daieisho, Kotoyuki, Shohozan, Tochiozan, Chiyoshoma, Endo, Takayasu and Goeido. With so much sumo left the Yusho is just starting to heat up!

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

Again, it’s too early to tell who will be leaving Hatsu with their kachi koshi and who won’t, but after five days we have a pack of rikishi who are halfway to their coveted winning record. Asanoyama, Daieisho, Kotoyuki, Shohozan, Tochiozan, Chiyoshoma, Endo, Tochinoshi, Mitakeumi, Takayasu, Goeido, and Kakuryu all have at least four of the necessary eight wins and could pick up their kachi koshi by the end of Act Two. On the other side of the coin, there is a large group of rikishi halfway to receiving a make koshi. Takekaze, Aminishiki, Chiyonokuni, Ikioi, Okinoumi, Chiyotairyu, Ichinojo, and Hokutofuji all ended Act One with four or more losses and will have to get their sumo into top gear if they want to avoid a losing record.

Kinboshi

There have been five kinboshi awarded to Maegashira rikishi so far this Basho. Yokozuna Hakuho gave up kinboshi on Days 3 and 4 to Hokutofuji and Yoshikaze respectively. Kisenosato has relinquished the most kinboshi so far with three, going to Ichinojo on Day 3, Kotoshogiku on Day 4, and Yoshikaze on Day 5. Kakuryu is the only Yokozuna who has not yet caused a zabutan storm at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan.

Kyujo

Since the Tournament opened, only two men have withdrawn from competition. After suffering a defeat on Day 3, former Ozeki Terunofuji went kyujo citing health issues related to diabetes. His Basho may not be over, however, as his medical certificate only recommended take one week off so there is a possibility we will see his return sometime next week. The other man to officially withdraw from the competition was Yokozuna Hakuho, who appears to be suffering from a fractured big toe in addition to other old foot injuries. Fans will remember that these are the same injuries that caused him to miss the 2017 Haru Basho. There is a possibility that another two men will join the kyujo list by days end. Uncle Sumo Aminishiki’s participation tomorrow is questionable after he hit the clay hard during his bout with Chiyonokuni. The veteran rikishi has well-known knee issues, and needed assistance to leave the dohyo. The other man who may forgo competition tomorrow is Yokozuna Kisenosato, who after five days only has one win. With every loss he draws closer to a make koshi, which for a Yokozuna is extremely taboo, and Kisenosato will most likely pull out before that happens. We will have a better idea of their status this evening.

Update: Both Kisenosato and Aminishiki have officially withdrawn from competition, bringing the total number of kyujo rikishi up to four. However, depending on the severity of Aminishiki’s injury, we may see him make a return later on in the Basho.

The stage is set for Act Two, and the playing field is wide open. The next two acts look like they are going to be some of the best sumo we’ve seen in a while, and a great way to start 2018!

Hatsu Basho Scorecard

Hatsu Scorecard PreviewWith the return of sumo just a few weeks away, I’ve put together a new scorecard for the 2018 Hatsu Basho. I wanted to take a moment and thank everyone for the great feedback the first scorecard received! I’m glad that everyone enjoyed it and I plan on having updated versions for each basho from now on.

As for filling out the scorecard, here is the system I use during each basho:

Win= White circle.
Loss= Black circle.
Kinboshi= Gold circle.
Kyujo= Black circle, cross out all remaining days.

There is really no wrong way to fill it out, however, so feel free to come up with the system that works best for you. Here’s to a Happy New Year and more great sumo in 2018!!

Hatsu Basho Score Card Part 1
Hatsu Basho Score Card Part 2