Haru Day 15 Preview

Once More…

It’s been a big crazy ride! Haru has been 14 days of the legends of sumo stomping with force through the rank and file, taking white starts wherever they go. Not a single kinboshi this tournament, let that sink in. Now that we are down to 2 Yokozuna, and they are both in fairly good health, the chances of a gold star are down. Looking at Kakuryu, there is a chance that his ankle is not quite right again, but with just one day left to go, I don’t think we will see him go kyujo.

The battle of day is, with no doubt, Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin. The landscape of the final day of the basho has been set up expertly by lksumo, as is his custom, but I wanted to examine this match. Tochinoshin is a mawashi rikishi, and he likes to use “lift and shift” sumo to remove his opponents bodily from the dohyo. When he is in good health, he can and does do it to anyone, including Ichinojo. Frequently this is accompanied by his opponent pedaling their legs furiously as the are lifted to height and carried to the janome like a crate of green bottles on Wednesday in Sumida. If Tochinoshin can get a hold of you, there is simply no way to stop it. It has even worked on Hakuho.

Takakeisho is a finely honed oshi-fighter, with the focus being primarily on thrusting / pushing attack and less on slapping his opponents around. He has perfected what we sometimes call a “wave action” attack, which features both arms working in tandem or near tandem to apply overwhelming force to his opponents body. This works best when he can get inside, and he can focus on center-mass. The day 14 match broke down when, for reasons we can’t explain, Takakeisho targeted Ichinojo’s neck, with absolutely zero effect. This double arm push is repeated in rapid succession, like a series of waves breaking against his opponent’s body. The result is that his opponents must constantly react and fight for stance and balance, all the while Takakeisho is moving them rapidly to the tawara.

The fight will hinge on if Takakeisho can move fast enough at the tachiai to land his first push before Tochinoshin can get a hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi. If Tochinoshin can grab a hold of this tadpole, it’s likely to Takakeisho’s doom. Tochinoshin’s sumo typically relies on him being able to set his feet and brace his shoulders and hips for his “sky crane” lift; this means if Takakeisho is landing wave after wave of heavy force thrusts against him, he won’t have a chance to use his lethal move.

A real clash of sumo styles and approaches, and on the line is who gets that 3rd Ozeki slot. The stakes could not be higher, and the rikishi nearly opposites.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Shohozan vs Chiyoshoma – The bottom man on the banzuke needs one more win to hold on to Makuuchi. Shohozan has lost 4 of the last 5, and seems out of gas. Should Chiyoshoma lose, he will join the platoon of rikishi that are eligible for return to Juryo.

Ryuden vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has had a great tournament, and this is his highest score since his January 2016 yusho (14-1), but it seems to me he has run out of stamina, and he may be picked off by Ryuden on day 15. Many fans, myself included, are a bit let down that the schedulers did not put Kotoshogiku against Toyonoshima for their final match. Some of these guys need to take nostalgia into account.

Asanoyama vs Kotoeko – Asanoyama has been fighting for that 8th win for the last 4 days, and his chances are good on day 15, as he holds a 4-0 career advantage over Kotoeko.

Ishiura vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji is also in the 7-7 category, and will need to keep Ishiura in front of him to pick up #8. Ishiura may as well henka this one, in my opinion. But do make it acrobatic!

Kagayaki vs Abi – Abi, old bean, I worry you won’t diversify unless you lose more matches. Won’t you give something else a try? Your double arm attack is solid, but is that all you can do? You have so much talent. Ok, go ahead and win day 15, and while you are at it, give Kagayaki some reason to look a bit more excited. The poor fellow looks a bit like the walking dead some days. Thanks, signed: your fans.

Okinoumi vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze at 10 wins, Okinoumi at 7 wins… Yeah, I think Okinoumi gets this one.

Chiyotairyu vs Myogiryu – Although Chiyotairyu needs a win to get to 8, I am going say that Myogiryu has an advantage here due to his shorter stature, and his strength. Chiyotairyu can and does hit like a wrecking ball, but he loses stamina in a hurry.

Daieisho vs Ichinojo – “Hulk Smash!”

Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – The big match, in my book. It may only last seconds, but it’s going to leave someone out in the cold.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Both Ozeki have 10 wins or better, so I see this as a “test match” of Takayasu’s tuned up sumo style. Goeido is going to blast in fast with everything he has. In the past that is sometimes enough to actually bowl the burly Takayasu over. But Takayasu has changed his “contact” stance a bit at the tachiai, and I think we may see this shift into a battle for grip in the first 4 seconds. If Takayasu can stalemate Goeido to the point his frustration leads Goeido into an attempt to pull, he will have his opening to strike.

Hakuho vs Kakuryu – The Boss goes up against Big K for the final match. Should Hakuho go down for some reason and Ichinojo prevail, we will get one more tasty sumo morsel before the long break leading up to Natsu. Wise money is on Hakuho to contain, constrain and then maintain his perfect record. But it will be fun to watch.

Haru Day 14 Highlights

I think the big, double-wide story of this basho is going to be the enormous pile of rikishi who own demotion worthy scores at the end of this basho. If you take a look at the records vs banzuke position, I count at least 10 rikishi who might be worthy of a return to Juryo. That does not mean there will be 10 men dropping to the 2nd division, as Juryo has 3-5 rikishi who could be considered promotion worthy.

Before the basho, Team Tachiai remarked that all of the really great action might be in the bottom ⅓ of the banzuke, and for folks who enjoy the Darwinian nature of sumo, this basho has been a banquet of slaughter. There are 3 veterans below Maegashira 6 who have double digit wins, and a vast crater of make-koshi devastation around them that fed those double-digit win scores. Do we stop there? No indeed.

There are no fewer than 8 rikishi who will decide kachi/make koshi on the final day, including the man at the bottom edge of the banzuke, Chiyoshoma. The competition in the rank and file has been so brutal that even getting to 8 wins has been a struggle for most. While its tough to see so many great athletes come up short, this kind of tournament breeds excellence. Haru is somewhat unique, in that most of the rikishi have not had to do anything other than train and improve their bodies since Hatsu. The old veterans, who feel the pains and injuries of years of battle, have enough time to pull their sumo together for another hard climb to day 15, and that extended rest as let them once again use their experience and years of skill to edge out youthful vigor and health.

Highlight Matches

Takagenji defeats Ishiura – Ishiura suffered from not picking a strategy and enforcing it, as this match was very much a “try anything” affair. With the loss, Ishiura joins the growing pile of demotion worthy rikishi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoeko – Sure, lets throw Kotoeko into the “return to Juryo” bin too! Terutsuyoshi gives us the “bounce” tachiai that works well when he uses it, and he gets a firm hold of Kotoeko, who can do little more than react. Both men are make-koshi and part of that pile of demotion capable rikishi.

Ryuden defeats Daishoho – Daishoho gets his 8th loss, and joins the incredibly crowded barge of rikishi who could find themselves in Juryo for May. Ryuden got a deep right hand inside grip and made it work, while Daishoho looked like he had nothing to give.

Tomokaze defeats Shohozan – While not in danger of heading to Juryo, Shohozan gets his make-koshi too. The fact that Tomokaze was able to out-slap him indicates that Shohozan is worn down from the lengthy competition.

Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – As the captain of the Juryo barge, Ikioi managed to take one from a horrifically demoralized Yutakayama, who seems to be capitulating for now.

Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Still no 8th win for Asanoyama. Kagayaki stays low and moving forward and just motors Asanoyama around the dohyo and finds him an exit.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yoshikaze – Kotoshogiku got the better of the tachiai, and never gave up the advantage.

Aoiyama defeats Meisei – Meisei somehow decided that taking on Aoiyama straight on was going to work for him, when in fact it threw away all of Meisei’s advantages. Aoiyama did not waste the gift, and slapped Meisei to the clay.

Shodai defeats Sadanoumi – Is that the second day in a row where Shodai came close to a proper tachiai? Sadly it looks like Sadanoumi may have hurt his good knee in this match.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Should Abi end with a kachi-koshi, it will simply delay the time when he diversifies his sumo. Sumo fans around the world are eager for that transition, and we hope it comes soon. Today’s win was a standard Abi-zumo attack that Daieisho did nothing to avoid.

Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – Myogiryu used superior strength to out muscle Okinoumi into a throw position. Okinoumi’s final day match will decide his winning or losing record for March.

Kaisei defeats Onosho – Two things for Onosho to focus on. 1) Improve your balance, it seems to have taken a big hit from your injury / surgery / recovery, and everyone knows it now. 2) Bring back that red mawashi. Some powerful kami inhabited that one, and when you wore it onto the dohyo, it gave you some kind of edge.

Endo defeats Nishikigi – It seems that this match is a bit of a controversy. There is a point where Endo steps aside of a charging Nishikigi where toes on Endo’s left foot would seem to hit the janome. But the gumbai went to Endo, and there was no monoii. Endo did show some solid sumo today.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi went flat out at the tachiai, attempting to overpower the mighty Chiyotairyu. Interestingly enough, today it worked. Mitakeumi got a double inside arm position, dropped his hips and marched forward.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan joins Captain Ikioi in holding a dismal 2-12 record. Though not as visible beaten and broken as Ikioi, for Tochiozan to perform this poorly, he has to be having body problems.

Ichinojo defeats Takakeisho – Not sure what Takakeisho had in mind here. He seems to channel Abi, but lacks Abi’s height, his reach or his technique. Ichinojo looks puzzled for just a moment, and the all to familiar “hand of god” sweeps down and pulls Takakeisho to the clay. Ichinojo stays 1 behind Hakuho.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin keeps his hopes alive, overcoming Tamawashi in what was an odd hybrid between oshi and yotzu. At times chest to chest, at times pushing and shoving. Tochinoshin as throwing everything he could into this win (as well he should), and looks rather sore at the end. He needs 1 more win to clear kadoban, and it will be decided by his day 15 match with Ozeki hopeful Takakeisho.

Hakuho defeats Takayasu – A lot of posturing, dominance display and tension in the run up to this match. Hakuho wins the tachiai, and was faster off the shikiri-sen. Takayasu is immediately balanced too far on his heels, and Hakuho digs in. Try as he might, Takayasu cannot connect with that left hand, and his struggle to land a grip continues to put him high and balanced unevenly. Hakuho capitalizes on this, and gets moro-zashi, and moves to put the Ozeki away. Takayasu’s last ditch attempt at a throw collapses into abisetaoshi, and Hakuho takes the match to remain undefeated.

Goeido defeats Kakuryu – As we expected, Goeido’s approach to this match was an all or nothing opening salvo so fast and so powerful that either Kakuryu would not have time to react, or Goeido would have no recovery. Goeido’s plan payed off, and Kakuryu had no time to react.

Haru Day 14 Preview

The Miyazaki Prefecture Trophy – A Delicious Cow Held Aloft By Strong Men

It’s all come down to the final weekend. With everyone but Ichinojo mathematically eliminated now, it’s up to Takayasu or Kakuryu to put dirt on Hakuho, or watch him go home with his 42nd cow, lifetime of gasoline, and giant trophy full of mushrooms. In fact, I would wager that Hakuho’s house is made of vitrified beef steaks, stacked high and painted to look like wood. Seriously, what does this guy do with all of these prizes? What does he do with all of that money?

The answer is, of course, a whole lot of good. American sumo fans don’t get a full media diet about sumo, and so we don’t see some of the amazing charity that the kanban rikishi undertake. Most of them have personal community enrichment projects, and the ones from Mongolia (I am looking at you, Harumafuji) work hard to improve life in that poor and isolated country. Some of my favorite photos of Harumafuji include him visiting children, some of them critically ill, in his yellow and black “hornet stripe” yukata. Hakuho has a laundry list of good deeds and causes he attends to and funds. In general these guys really do live up to a higher standard than what most western star athletes do.

Again lksumo takes on and explains how the final weekend will decide several important story lines for Haru, and I encourage everyone to read it. Part of that story are the 12 rikishi who can still mathematically reach kachi-koshi, who will be increasingly fighting for rank. This portends a great weekend of sumo ahead. For myself, I am going to be once again cooking a pot of chanko for Sunday, and taking it all in.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Takagenji – Loser is make-koshi, and the list of rikishi in the bottom third of the banzuke who have 8 or more losses will be most impressive. There will be a veritable train-wreck of rikishi who could mathematically be demoted, if only there were stronger rikishi with winning records in upper Juryo.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko could join that group with a loss today. Terutsuyoshi seems to have found his sumo again, and his over the top mobility and agility might be more than Kotoeko’s strength can overcome.

Ryuden vs Daishoho – Daishoho is also in a must-win situation, or join the herd that will be frustrating the banzuke committee.

Shohozan vs Tomokaze – Shohozan is safe from joining the Juryo candidate dog-pile, but he still needs to win both of his last 2 to end with a kachi-koshi. This first time match against Tomokaze will feature some energy.

Chiyoshoma vs Yago – Chiyoshoma’s match today could have him reach safety, if only he can overcome Yago’s giant head tempting him to just give it a tug… pull it down. Just a little hatakikomi… GIANT HEAD! G I A N T H E A D ….. There, I said it. The guy reminds me of Juggernaut from the X Men.

Asanoyama vs Kagayaki – Asanoyama has lost 3 straight looking for that 8th win. Kagayaki seems to be very calmly going about his sumo, and I have to wonder if Asanoyama has run out of steam now 2 weeks into this tournament.

Yoshikaze vs Kotoshogiku – In the battle of genki veterans, we will see what happens when you let seasoned rikishi go almost 4 months without a jungyo. You get sumo masters who have regained their strength and stamina, beating the tar out of the younger crowd. Now they face each other, both with 10 wins, both of them facing a huge leap higher on the banzuke for May. Kotoshogiku holds a 24-7 career lead.

Aoiyama vs Meisei – Another battle of the mega-genki, Meisei is quick enough that he does not have to let Aoiyama hit him if it’s not in his plan. Aoiyama has trouble with quick, busy guys like Meisei (see the day 13 match with Yoshikaze), they can duck and dive and get behind the man-mountain, and send him to the zabuton zone.

Daieisho vs Abi – We have Daieisho one win away from kachi-koshi, and Abi one loss away from make-koshi. If Abi were to pull out an 8th win this tournament, it would be amazing. But I think he might just do it. Thus it would postpone the day he figures out what more he can do in sumo now that everyone figured out his “one weird trick”.

Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – Okinoumi needs one more win for his 8, and the chances are good he will get it today. He tends to win against Myogiryu when his health is good, and he has been “well enough” for Haru.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu needs one more for kachi-koshi, and possible big bounce up the banzuke for May. Mitakeumi will be vacating his Komusubi slot, and we know he will be back in the named ranks once he can get his undercarriage repaired.

Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – The records state that Takakeisho holds a 7-2 career advantage, but statistics cannot tell the story of this match in this basho. Ichinojo has uncovered a seemingly endless well of fighting spirit, and is using it to flatten every opponent save one. Takakeisho knows how to beat Ichinojo, but can he beat this version of Ichinojo? A win today would give Takakeisho his 10th, and punch his ticket, validating his bid to be considered for Ozeki.

Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – Tochinoshin needs two wins, and his day 14 match against Tamawashi is probably his easier match. He has a 16-10 career advantage, and Tamawashi looks only about 80% of his normal self. Of course Tochinoshin has been less than the awesome rikishi he was a year ago.

Hakuho vs Takayasu – This is going to be fun to watch, for the reason that Takayasu seems to once again be under Kisenosato’s active tutorage. Kisenosato had a specific ability to confound and dismantle Hakuho’s sumo, and many times when no one else could stop the dai-Yokozuna’s winning streaks, up would step Kisenosato and drop the boss. Can Takayasu deploy some of that knowledge on day 14, and bring one last surge of excitement to a throughly enjoyable Haru Basho?

Goeido vs Kakuryu – Rapid attack vs rapid react. I am going to guess Goeido will go for a massive opening attack that either works before Kakuryu can counter, or will leave Goeido in such an indefensible position that it’s a quick loss.

Haru Day 13 Preview

With lksumo doing a fantastic job of spelling out exactly what is at stake for the remainder of the tournament, let’s talk a bit about the continuing transition period. As we saw at Aki 2018, the transition from the old warriors to a newer generation will not be a straight line. Many of these rikishi are some of the highest skill the sport has seen in some time. In fact the current dominant cohort has had an impressively long and stable tenure. Many of these rikishi have been fixtures of the top division for several years, some of them more than a decade.

Like Aki, we have a point in the transition where the old guard can muster a strong basho, and compete like the “old days”. Frankly I love it, and I am sure the fans love it too. It’s great to see the named ranks laying waste to the upper Maegashira, and fierce action at the bottom of Makuuchi as the staple for each day of the tournament. As much as folks like to gripe about Hakuho, his reign as the king of the ring has been very stable, but it is fading. We don’t need to look back too many years to find Hakuho taking 4-6 yusho a year. Now we see him taking 2, or maybe 1. He has taken to (wisely) sitting out any tournament where he is not strong and healthy. As a result, if Hakuho shows up, he is the man to beat for the cup.

As the old guard comes out the dominate again, we see the tadpoles taking it in the shorts, we see the Freshmen faltering, and we see at least 2 more waves of fresh faces forming up to attack the top division. But make no mistake, we are in the twilight of this era, and setbacks for rikishi like Mitakeumi, Takakeisho and Hokutofuji are part of the evolution of sumo. This will be a big year for the tadpoles, the freshmen, and we are going to see the pixies start to elbow their way into Makuuchi too. I think this year we lose at least one Ozeki, and maybe two. I think we may also gain a Yokozuna if you-know-who can take advantage of the next time Hakuho rests up in his sumo-life-extension project.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chaser: Ichinojo
Hunt Group: Goeido, Aoiyama, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Ishiura vs Daishoho – A whole lot ‘o make-koshi out for offer in the lower matches. Daishoho is one loss away, and if Ishiura can deliver the goods, it adds another rikishi to the hopper of demote-able guys with lots of pomade in their hair. What are they going to do with this mess – especially if (as lksumo points out) there are not a whole lot of Juryo guys who are making the case for promotion.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoyuki – Once again Mr 5×5 comes to town, ready to crowd surf his way through another match. Terutsuyoshi won their only prior match, and winning again today would push Kotoyuki to make-koshi, further hashing the group of the top Juryo men into an even smaller promotable pile.

Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – It’s shin-Ikioi’s time to beat on the ever elusive Chiyoshoma. He’s in a tight spot with wins, so I am going to look for every move, trick or gambit he can think of. And he can think of a lot. Fortunately Ryuden is already kachi-koshi.

Kotoeko vs Yago – Will Kotoeko be able to save his muscular hinder from joining the demote-able, pomade covered dog-pile? Somehow I think the lure of that much hair-grease, and that many mawashi clad fellows might be more than a small town boy from Miyazaki can resist. Aim for the rafters, Yago!

Shohozan vs Yutakayama – Shohozan’s happiness is proportional to the number of times he hits somebody. And lately he’s been losing matches, and he just seems… Well, a little blue. As Yutakayama is close to the squishy center of that pile of demote-able folks right now, he may as well do something benevolent, and help cheer Shohozan up.

Sadanoumi vs Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima did not muster quite the victory lap in the top division that Uncle Sumo managed. It was less of a “here comes awesome” and more “oh, you again? I had no idea you were still doing sumo”. As a bonafied old person, I can relate. Sadanoumi is no spring chicken, but maybe the two of them can yell at Onosho and Takakeisho to get he hell off their dohyo, then go to the Izakaya and pound a few cold ones while singing 90s tunes.

Meisei vs Kotoshogiku – We can think of Kotoshogiku as some kind of “old guard” barometer. When he’s a mess, it seems many of the other vets are just limping by. Right now Kotoshogiku is really racking up the score, and I think that he may not stop at 10. Meisei has the speed and the high-adhesion feet to make some wild maneuvers in a match. But Kotoshogiku is a master of bracketing these kind of rikishi.

Asanoyama vs Tomokaze – The schedulers love these matches. The winner gets their kachi-koshi. The other one gets a face full of dirt. Asanoyama has kept his spirits up and his outlook positive, so I think he can make it happen. This is their first ever match.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s sumo is defined by patience. But sometimes we wish he would just throw down like someone had dented his wife’s Toyota Harrier in the Aeon parking lot. We can be sure that Kagayaki will do his utmost to make this match as colorless and basic as possible, but will execute with absolute form.

Aoiyama vs Yoshikaze – I love me some giant Aoiyama slap-happy sumo. Which will carry the day – a couple of big hits from the heavy guns, or a stream of burning hell from the berserker? They have an 11-11 career record, so give thanks you are not in the front row of the arena, as I suspect that we will see blood.

Ikioi vs AbiEt Tu Abi?

Okinoumi vs Shodai – At this point I think Shodai is so demoralized, he would be happy to have this end. I am guessing this may be his worst spanking since his disastrous 5-10 at Nagoya in 2017 (which included a fusensho), and he may even exceed that basho’s terrible performance.

Nishikigi vs Tochiozan – Both of these guys join Shodai and Kaisei in the “broken toy” box. All of them have had a terrible tournament and are probably going to be happy for Sunday night parties and the start of the spring jungyo. All 4 of them are worthy members of the top division, but this tournament they were little more than target practice for the more genki elements higher up the banzuke.

Daieisho vs Onosho – Onosho has his back on the make-koshi line again today, and he has to take a win from the speedy Daieisho to stay out of the losing column for Haru. Daieisho has a 2-6 record against Onosho, but as we have seen from this tournament, Onosho is having balance and foot placement issues.

Kaisei vs Endo – Both in the make-koshi bracket with the rest, both of them capable rikishi who were strip mined for shiroboshi for the past 12 days, and are in no mood to continue. But the show must go on, and we will see size vs agility on display.

Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – Actually, this match has a lot of potential. Myogiryu has been a tough competitor in a really brutal joi-jin, and he still holds on to a chance to win out and be promoted. Hokutofuji has bounced off his first trip to San’yaku, and will have to regroup for a couple of tournaments before we see him test his mettle again. It’s going to come down to that handshake tachiai and nodowa, I think. Land it – and you have control Hokutofuji. Miss and Myogiryu is going to make you dance, and then eat dirt.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Should we start by saying that Mitakeumi has a 6-3 career advantage over Ichinojo? Maybe we should point out that Mitakeumi is hurt, and Ichinojo seems to have adopted Terunofuji’s kaiju form – at once both dazzling and terrifying to behold. I think this one is Ichinojo’s to lose, but I am also going to assume that Mitakeumi is going to work to make sure he does not drop out of the san’yaku.

Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – The time for Tamawashi to rally is now. He has trouble with Chiyotairyu’s big hit tachiai, but I am certain that the Hatsu yusho winner can take the cannonball and push for a win.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – Sumo fans, we can see this one coming from over the horizon. Takakeisho is going to attack with the wave-action, and Takayasu is going to use the smooth tachiai he has shown for most of the basho. If he can land even one hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi, it’s likely the end of an Ozeki bid. I am looking for Takayasu to finish with at least 11 wins, and to me it looks like his next will likely come day 13 if he boxes up Takakeisho.

Tochinoshin vs Kakuryu – This is not a good match for Tochinoshin. He is 3-22 against Kakuryu, who is one of the few rikishi (along with Hakuho) who can escape the “Skycrane”. But we are to the point now where he must win to defend his rank. As I said at the beginning, Tochinoshin is not beyond sacrificing his body to protect his rank. He might do something that leads to worsening his condition, knowing that he might have a few months to try to overcome it, if he can just clear kadoban. A desperate man might unleash some wild sumo power. I am going to watch for it, as he is nearly out of options.

Hakuho vs Goeido – The rikishi with the best chance of putting dirt on the sole leader of the yusho race will face Hakuho today. Goeido in his genki GoeiDOS 2.2 form has been a damn fine rikishi, and he has delivered wins with speed and brutality that match some of his best sumo from Aki 2016. I predict no matter what way this goes, it may only last single-digit seconds.

Haru Day 12 Highlights

Its looking increasingly difficult for anyone to catch Yokozuna Hakuho, and the chances are growing that he will capture not only another yusho (his 42nd) but another zehsho yusho as well. Whatever his injuries or problems, Hakuho has fought with overwhelming skill and determination, and he has demonstrated an almost inhuman ability to escape even the most dire situations.

The only rikishi who might have a reasonable challenge to Hakuho is the amazingly genki Ichinojo. The chances that they would face each other in anything other than a playoff are slim to none, and to get to a playoff, someone would have to win over the dai-Yokozuna this tournament. Frankly, I don’t see it happening. Much like other great athletes, any time he chooses to compete, he completely dominates the event, and at times makes even the ridiculously impossible look easy and natural.

There are 3 days left in the basho, and for the most part, everything has been decided short of the yusho. But true to form for this tournament, each day continues to deliver great sumo.

Highlight Matches

Enho defeats Toyonoshima – Enho edges closer to his kachi-koshi, and possibly a bid to enter the top division in May. Hapless Toyonoshima really has sputtered and failed this tournament, after working very hard to return to Makuuchi. As is typical for Enho, he uses combo attacks to keep his opponent from settling to a single defensive strategy.

Tomokaze defeats Ishiura – Ishiura can be frustrating to follow, as he seem to be very easily disrupted from the tachiai, and when that happens his sumo quickly falls apart. Tomokaze did apply quite a vigorous series of jostles to Ishiura’s skull, treating it like a poorly mixed bottle of kombucha.

Kagayaki defeats Kotoeko – Kagayaki scores his 8th win, and finally can claim a kachi-koshi for the first time since May of last year. Kagayaki kept his hands low into the tachiai, and went immediately for a highly effective right hand hazu / armpit pin that kept Kotoeko from generating any offense at all.

Yoshikaze defeats Yutakayama – With his 9th loss, we can pretty much wave goodbye to Yutakayama, the one time leading rikishi of the Freshman group. Since he was injured at Aki 2018, he has not been even 80% genki at any point. Like most sumotori, there is little or no word on what is still wrong with him, but hopefully he can get himself and his sumo together in Juryo and come roaring back. Great to see Yoshikaze with 9 wins after a very weak start.

Meisei defeats Chiyoshoma – Meisei took the initiative at the tachiai, and Chiyoshoma knew he had to do something straight away. Chiyoshoma’s gambit was to attempt a throw, which failed when he could not plant his feet, and Meisei plowed through the pivot point. Meisei gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi.

Daishoho defeats Ikioi – If I had a cat in Ikioi’s kind of condition, I would take it to the vet.

Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – The Aoiyama recipe is still paying off every time, so he keeps using it. Lift them up, slap them down. Ryuden is already kachi-koshi, so this match was all good fun.

Takarafuji defeats Yago – Takarafuji prevented any offense from Yago, except on Takarafuji’s terms. Yago gets his 8th loss, but is safe in the top division unless something terrible happens. Yago is a solid rikishi, but his second Makuuchi tournament has been a real struggle.

Okinoumi defeats Shohozan – Okinoumi’s deep sumo library brings us more fascinating technical action today. He took Shohozan’s primary offensive style off the table and kept himself firmly in control of the match. When this guy is a coach, he is going to produce some excellent future rikishi.

Abi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Added to the slow barge back to Juryo is one Terutsuyoshi, who many hoped would bring his high-energy, small-man sumo to a top division that is increasingly dominated by behemoths. Abi continues to rack wins with his back to the make-koshi wall.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Kotoshogiku now has double digit wins. How high can he run up the score? Chiyotairyu has only beaten Kotoshogiku once, and his typical cannonball tachiai has little effect on the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – After 5 straight losses, Onosho claims another white star. Onosho got the better of the tachiai, and his overly forward posture was supported by Sadanoumi’s efforts to find his footing.

Ichinojo defeats Asanoyama – When Ichinojo is operating in this form, I am not sure anyone below Sekiwake can do much to slow him down. So the boulder will keep rolling down the hill, crushing anyone who tries to hug him. I am still confident that Asanoyama will get his 8th win this basho.

Daieisho defeats Tochiozan – As Tochiozan ages up, he increasingly has hot and cold streaks. I would chalk this up to his hit or miss health problems, whatever they might be. But for Haru he is clearly quite cold. Daieisho is operating at speed, and today he employed a well executed arcing turn to apply torque to Tochiozan that set up his defeat.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – Kaisei did not take my advice to change format to a dance-off, but he managed to score his second win, even without employing his moon walk skills.

Myogiryu defeats Mitakeumi – This match surprised me a bit, in that Mitakeumi let Myogiryu bracket him. (Bracketing – when used in naval gunfire, means the enemy has your range and can land shells on you at will. In sumo it means that your opponents feet straddle your stance, and you are going down). Myogiryu’s nodowa was especially effective, and Mitakeumi could not really decide on offense or defense, and paid the price.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji’s lightning fast “handshake tachiai” left Nishikigi unable to do much other than try to push back against Hokutofuji’s forward pressure. Its great to see that the pounding Hokutofuji took has not dampened his fighting spirit.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Endo had this one, but failed to maintain close cover on Tamawashi during an osha-match. As a result, Tamawashi’s perilous toes-out pose at the tawara was not his moment of defeat, and he was allowed to resume the fight. Endo now make-koshi.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – A battle of local favorites, Goeido boxes and ships Takakeisho back to Hyogo in short order with a face full of Osaka clay for a souvenir of his fun on the dohyo today. I am eager for the day 13 match where Goeido brings his genki self up against Hakuho. Just a hunch that this might be the one match that could take Hakuho off the pace.

Hakuho defeats Tochinoshin – Quite the battle, as Tochinoshin lands his deadly left hand outside grip at the tachiai, with Hakuho lower and inside with a mae-mitsu. With his right hand now deep, Hakuho masterfully breaks Tochinoshin’s “Skycrane” setup, and it’s all down hill from there. The Yokozuna patiently sets up, with his feet in excellent position while Tochinoshin continues to work back towards his offensive stance. The end comes when The Boss goes morozashi and advances. Tochinoshin gets Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 13.

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – Takayasu made it clear he was coming out fast, but Kakuryu took the inside at the tachiai. But again, watch Takayasu’s position on the dohyo and his feet. He’s lower, he owns the center and he has enough of Kakuryu to advance. Kakuryu’s excellent mobility and balance keep him in this fight, but the improved Takayasu sumo is really paying off in this match.