Haru Day 14 Highlights

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We have 8 rikishi with 7-7 records at the end of the day. Not the most there could have been, but a healthy number of tomorrows matches will be deciders between rikishi balanced between make and kachi koshi. I call these matches “Darwin Matches” as the strong survive, and move up the banzuke.

But in the final 3 fanale, the wins and losses aligned just right so that Wakatakakage and Takayasu are tied for the lead once more, with Kotonowaka just one behind. We won’t know who will take the yusho until the final match of the final day, and even then there might require a 3 man playoff. Nice!

Highlight Matches

Hidenoumi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s poor form showed up again today. You can see him keeping his head down rather than looking at and studying his opponents grip and stance. His hips get high, his upper body bent over while his legs are straight, man what a mess. Hidenoumi pushes him out to win his 8th while handing Kagayaki his 8th loss. Kachi-koshi for Hidenoumi, make-koshi for Kagayaki. I would guess lower back problems for Kagayaki.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Chiyonokuni – immediate pull at the tachiai completely disrupts Chiyonokuni, and Ichiyamamoto shoves him out from behind. Ichiyamamoto 7-7 and headed for a Darwin match.

Kotokuzan defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu opened big, and quickly had Kotokuzan’s heels on the bales. What did he do then? Pulled Kotokuzan forward, and five steps later found himself out. Crappy sumo from Chiyotairyu nets him a make-koshi today, while Kotokuzan improves to 7-7 and is headed for Darwin.

Myogiryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama got in trouble early, when Myogiryu found himself with a deep right hand grip, and Yutakayama turned at an angle. At that moment, Yutakayama was off balance and nearly upright. Myogiryu made fast work to get him to the bales, and finished with a throw attempt that collapsed into a yoritaoshi. Myogiryu improves to 6-8, Yutakayama now 7-7 and headed for a Darwin match.

Nishikigi defeats Shimanoumi – Unable to get his preferred grip on Shimanoumi, Nishikigi had to settle for shoving him out of the ring. Shimanoumi had little in terms of offense, and could not counter Nishikigi’s greater forward pressure. Shimanoumi now 7-7, Nishikigi 9-5.

Kotoshoho defeats Aoiyama – I was quite surprised that Aoiyama surrendered the inside pushing lane to Kotoshoho, but that happened. Once Kotoshoho was moving him back, Aoiyama tried a pull at a very poorly timed moment, and we get our second yoritaoshi in 3 matches as Aoiyama hits the clay. Kotoshoho pick up his 8th win and is kachi-koshi. Aoiyama 7-7 and joins the Darwin crew.

Tochinoshin defeats Wakamotoharu – Tochinoshin had a big opening combo against Wakamotoharu, and Wakamotoharu struggled to get his sumo started. Wakamotoharu found Tochinoshin’s mawashi just as the former Ozeki established his lethal left hand outside grip. To his credit, Wakamotoharu defended well against Tochinoshin’s preferred attack, and kept his feet all the way to the edge of the ring, here he attempted a throw. But Wakamotoharu had already stepped out. Tochinoshin picks up the win to improve to 9-5.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyoshoma – Terutsuyoshi with the mini-henka at the start, takes up a right hand outside grip. He does not hold Chiyoshoma long, as the hand comes down, grabs Chiyoshoma’s left leg, and drops Chiyoshoma with a komatasukui. That’s kachi-koshi for Terutsuyoshi at 8-6.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Once Kotoeko had that right hand inside mawashi grip, he was in charge of this match. Points to Sadanoumi for widening his stance, excellent defensive move. But it prevented him executing the uwatenage he was trying for, and instead he was thrown for his 10th loss. Kotoeko improves to 9-5.

Takarafuji defeats Akua – Akua had both traction and balance problems today. He did fairly well keeping Takarafuji’s right hand from finding his mawashi, but we know Takarafuji is patient and relentless. What does Akua do when he is stuck? Tries a kakenage, of course. Takarafuji was ready, and threw him to the clay. Takarafuji improves to 5-9.

Tobizaru defeats Kiribayama – The tachiai wrapped an intense battle for hand placement, that resulted with Tobizaru getting a deep left hand on Kiribayama’s mawashi knot. I counted three chained throw attempts, but Kiribayama had the counter move ready each time. But with Kiribayama on one foot, he was easy to move about, and Tobizaru shoved him into the East side front row. That’s win number 8 for Tobizaru, and he is kachi-koshi for the first time in a year.

Chiyomaru defeats Meisei – Meisei still can’t find his second win. After beating Takanosho on opening day, its’ been 13 straight black stars for him. It was an odd match, with an equally odd finish. They called it an oshitaoshi, and that’s good enough for me. Sadly there is no kimarite for “complete discombobulation”, but there should be. Chiyomaru picks up his fifth win to finish 5-9.

Tamawashi defeats Onosho – Tamawashi’s opening combo stood Onosho up, and he immediately pulled Onosho forward, rolling him to the clay. Balance, Onosho’s weak spot. Tamawashi finishes the day at 7-7, adding his name to the Darwin list.

Daieisho defeats Ichinojo – Color me surprised, Ichinojo blew his two attempts to find Daieisho’s mawashi, and failed to set his feet defensively. Daieisho’s big thrusts connected well, and got Ichinojo on the move. A final big push finished him, and Daieisho improves to 7-7, joining the Darwin crew.

Ishiura defeats Ura – Ishiura was able to find his second win in the battle of the Uras. Today he looked strong, focused and quite aggressive. He gave Ura quite a rough ride, and none of Ura’s escape moves worked well enough to stave off the Ishiura’s oshi-zumo. Ishiura improves to 2-12.
Ura: 3-11

Okinoumi defeats Takanosho – Nice combo attack from Okinoumi today. Hazu-oshi arm pit attack, lighting fast change up on the right hand straight into a katasukashi. He dropped Takanosho like a sack of cat food to find his 5th win of Haru, ending the day 5-9. I love Okinoumi’s technical sumo, when he is feeling healthy enough to execute it, its a thing of beauty.

Hoshoryu defeats Endo – Both rikishi succeeded in blocking the other’s opening gambit, and neither had working hand placement at the tachiai. They re-engaged, with Endo lunging in just as Hoshoryu stepped to the side and guided Endo’s body out. It was a bit of a long shot, but indeed it payed off as both end the day 7-7, joining the Darwin group.

Hokutofuji defeats Abi – Abi has now lost 5 of the last 6, and I am worried he may be injured. He had the better of the initial phase of this match, but lost contact with Hokutofuji, and gave Hokutofuji his back. It was easy for Hokutofuji to push him out of the ring and into the front row to visit Dr Takasu and the posture princess. Hokutofuji pick up his 8th win and is kachi-koshi.

Once again, the climatic final three matches are stacked with big sumo.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – I struggle to interpret the final moments of this match, and I have re-watched it at least a dozen times. Takayasu presses forward, and for a moment has both feet airborne, I think he is doing some kind of flying gaburi-yori. It was a poor choice as it leaves his feet even, his balance of center and his body ripe for a throw. Shodai, in dire need of a win, takes Takayasu to the clay with a sukuinage for his 8th win, reaching kachi-koshi and clearing kadoban. What was that, Takayasu? I think this is his biggest issue, he wins when he stays calm, strong and a little bit slow moving. When he lets out his “wild man sumo” he’s easier to pick off. Opinions of this match in the comments, if you would please.

Kotonowaka defeats Mitakeumi – With the leader down, its time for these two to decide who will be a challenger for day 15, as Takayasu left the door open for someone else to take the cup. Mitakeumi’s opening combo fell apart, and Kotonowaka was ready to make him pay. Following his blown opening, Mitakeumi failed to set up defensive foot placement, allowing Kotonowaka to move him to the edge of the ring and walk him out. Kotonowaka now 11-3. These mid-maegashira guys with their double digit scores are going to force additional slots in the named ranks if they keep this up.

Wakatakakage defeats Takakeisho – With Takayasu down, it’s Wakatakakage’s chance to even the score. Excellent opening hit from Takakeisho blasts Wakatakakage back, but Wakatakakage bets everything on getting his right hand inside on the Ozeki’s belt. The third attack finds the mark, and Wakatakakage sets up shop. Takakeisho knows he’s in trouble, and fights back, but Wakatakakage somehow manages to keep his feet, while his left hand finds the inside lane. Now with a double inside grip, Takakeisho is ballast, and Wakatakakage moves him across the bales for his 12th win, evening up with Takayasu.

The rollercoaster tale of the 2022 Haru basho will conclude tomorrow. We are looking forward to one hell of a final day.

Haru Day 14 Preview

Its the final weekend, and we are here for the drama. Stock the fridge, put the phone on silent and get comfortable, it’s a non-stop sumo festival for the fans. There are a lot of rikishi who could potentially face Darwin matches on day 15. A Darwin match is when two 7-7 rikishi face off, the loser goes home with a kachi-koshi, the loser with a make-koshi. Sumo’s final day zero sum contest. How many will exit day 14 with 7-7 records, ready to face the grinder on the final day? I can’t wait to find out.

Haru Leaderboard

A win won’t decide it for Takayasu, unless Wakatakakage also loses. I think this will come down to day 15 for all the hardware.

Leader: Takayasu
Chaser: Wakatakakage
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Kotonowaka

2 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Kagayaki vs Hidenoumi – Hidenoumi visit from Juryo, because Ishiura wants to rack up losses in person. Go figure. A win by Hidenoumi today would give him kachi-koshi and Kagayaki make-koshi at the same time. I do love symmetry.

Ichiyamamoto vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni is already scored a mummified make-koshi, so a win today would send Ichiyamamoto to 8 losses, and a certain demotion to Juryo. Chiyonokuni, in healthier times, dominates Ichiyamamoto with a resounding 3-0 career record.

Kotokuzan vs Chiyotairyu – Loser of this match is make-koshi, winner gets to have a Darwin match tomorrow. It’s also the first ever meeting between these bulky guys. Chiyotairyu would not henka 2 days in a row, would he?

Myogiryu vs Yutakayama – For the Darwin mavens in the audience, we need Myogiryu to give Yutakayama his second straight loss to send him into the Darwin mill. Myogiryu is already make-koshi, so he is only here to try and wreck Yutakayama’s day. A Yutakayama win is his kachi-koshi.

Shimanoumi vs Nishikigi – Likewise, a Nishikigi win today sends Shimanoumi to Darwin land with a 7-7. Meanwhile Nishikigi is at 8 wins, his first kachi-koshi in the top division since 2018!

Kotoshoho vs Aoiyama – This is a good one, the winner gets kachi-koshi, the loser gets a Darwin match tomorrow. Ah, the fun you can have when you get so many rikishi near the middle of the pack. I personally would rather see Kotoshoho win today, and Big Dan face the Darwin test tomorrow.

Tochinoshin vs Wakamotoharu – Well, with all of that action to get as many people to 7-7 as possible, its nice to have a fight between two already kachi-koshi rikishi. Both exceeded my expectations for this basho, and are worthy of substantial praise. I know Wakamotoharu is happy to go chest to chest, so hopefully he can block Tochinoshin’s left hand.

Chiyoshoma vs Terutsuyoshi – Chiyoshoma, if you have the urge, today is a good day to unleash a henka. Not that it would work on Terutsuyoshi, but a Terutsuyoshi loss today would add his name to the 7-7 roster. Chiyoshoma is already make-koshi.

Kotoeko vs Sadanoumi – The odd ball match of the first half, we have already kachi-koshi Kotoeko against already make-koshi Sadanoumi. I guess they had to have someone fight Kotoeko, and Sadanoumi got the nod. Or maybe its some kind of “exchange” match to see how Kotoeko will do higher up the banzuke in May.

Takarafuji vs Akua – A battle of the make-koshi, I think this is to see how far down the banzuke Akua is going to drop. I will wait for lksumo to diagnose the likely target ranks for folks like Akua, but he will finish no better than 5-10. Hopefully he is ready to stow he gear on the Juryo barge come Sunday evening.

Kiribayama vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru can hit his 8 today, all he has to do is beat Kiribayama, who has won 4 of his last 5 matches. Easy stuff. Oh, and if he loses, Tobizaru joins the Darwin group.

Chiyomaru vs Meisei – Meisei, at 1-12, is tied for the ass end of the scoreboard with Ishiura. But he’s going to show up day 14, and he needs to fight someone. So why not Chiyomaru, who by all accounts has a fine sense of humor. Chiyomaru has never beaten Meisei, but maybe today is his lucky day.

Onosho vs Tamawashi – If Tamawashi beats the already make-koshi Onosho today, he can finish day 14 at 7-7, and earn yet another spot in the Darwin group. He has not been 7-7 on the final day since 2019, where he was in Darwin matches for both Aki and Kyushu.

Daieisho vs Ichinojo – The best Daieisho can do is to win against a rather genki and completely enormous Ichinojo today, which would earn the Hatsu 2021 yusho winner a spot in the Darwin group. A loss would give him a make-koshi for Osaka. Ichinojo has a career record of 7-4 against Daieisho.

Ishiura vs Ura – If you have a busted up Ishiura, why not have him fight a malfunctioning Ura? Its Ura vs Ura in this battle of the deeply make-koshi. Ura a 3-10, Ishiura at 1-12. I suggest they go drinking instead.

Takanosho vs Okinoumi – Both are 4-9, both are make-koshi, and I am sure both just want this thing to end so they can go back to Tokyo and start fixing whatever is causing them this much trouble. At least we know one of them will get their 5th win today.

Endo vs Hoshoryu – An Endo win is kachi-koshi for him, while dealing out make-koshi to Hoshoryu. Of course, should Hoshoryu win, it’s Darwin for them both. I know which outcome I want!

Hokutofuji vs Abi – Winner gets kachi-koshi, the loser joins what could be an enormous list of Darwin candidates. Although Abi has a 6-4 career advantage, I really want to see Hokutofuji put Abi on the clay today.

Again today, we get a “Big 3” finish

Shodai vs Takayasu – We all way Shodai to clear kadoban, but to do so today means he has to take out the leader in the yusho race, Takayasu. Now he has a career record of 15-9 of the hairy fellow, so its actually not that far fetched. The question being one of what kind of condition will Shodai be Saturday afternoon? Of course, he Shodai loses, he’s at the magical 7-7 score, and what could be more miserable than a kadoban Ozeki facing a Darwin match. Reminds me of Kotoshogiku.

Kotonowaka vs Mitakeumi – The two men who are 2 wins behind Takayasu. Should Shodai prevail, there is an outside chance one of them could still vie for the cup on day 15. So this has a lot of gravity behind it. Mitakeumi took their only prior match in September of last year, but both rikishi have made significant improvements since then.

Wakatakakage vs Takakeisho – Wakatakakage needs to win this one to remain competitive for the cup. He is now one win behind Takayasu, and cannot afford to drop this match today. He has a 1-5 career deficit against Takakeisho, but it seems that Takakeisho is not quite dialed into his sumo right now.

Haru Day 13 Highlights

The three part finale to day 13 worked quite well, delivering the high stakes matches that area almost impossible to set up for day 15, when most records are decided, and frequently we already know who has the yusho. With the winner of the emperor’s cup still very much up for grabs, we went into day 13 looking for some big sumo, and we got our wish.

I think it’s important to point out just how much Mitakeumi has changed. A year ago, we would be wondering why after 8 wins he seemed to be coasting, or we would be cracking jokes about his week 2 fade. That guy really has put a huge amount of effort into improving his sumo, and becoming one of the strongest competitors. I am not sure what he changed, but sir, it worked a treat. Since your first yusho at Nagoya 2018, sumo fans knew you had potential, I salute you for finally putting it all together.

Highlight Matches

Ichiyamamoto defeats Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho seemed to be taken by surprise at the tachiai, and immediately Ichiyamamoto had the initiative. A couple of failed escape attempts and Tsurugisho was out on the East side. The touch down was too close to call, and they fight again. Second verse? Same as the first! Double arm thrust, Tsurugisho blasted backward, and out on the East side. Tsurugisho for some reason can’t win against Ichiyamamoto, his career record is now 0-4. Both finish the day 6-7, and they can but hope to win tomorrow.

Kotoeko defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama had the stronger tachiai, but he was putting all of his force high against Kotoeko’s head. Kotoeko endured the thrusting attack, and focused center mass. Stalemated, or even losing a step, Yutakayama tried a pull, and that was all Kotoeko needed to drive him from the ring. Finally, on his third attempt, Kotoeko gets his 8th win and is kachi-koshi for Haru.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotokuzan – Kotokuzan was rightly worried about what kind of opening move Terutsuyoshi was going to bring to the match. Terutsuyoshi hit first, opening with a blistering combo. Kotokuzan defended well, but Terutsuyoshi was fierce. A big shove from Kotokuzan broke contact, Terutsuyoshi lunged to re-engage and transmitted enough force to shove Kotokuzan out, improving to 7-6.

Nishikigi defeats Myogiryu – Nishikigi could not get an adequate grip on Myogiryu, and had to settle for a clumsy kotenage. A monoii reversed the gyoji’s gumbai, giving the win to Nishikigi. That’s the 8th win and he is kachi-koshi for Haru. Myogiryu picks up his 8th loss and is make-koshi in the same match.

Aoiyama defeats Chiyonokuni – Aoiyama connected like a wrecking ball. The first hit was enough to send Chiyonokuni out, but Aoiyama gave him another one for good measure. Chiyonokuni was once again holding that mummified shoulder oddly, and I wonder if he’s back to broken with 2 days to go, and needing another win to be safe. Aoiyama advances to 7-6.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Shimanoumi tried to get his hazuoshi to work, but it was not moving Chiyomaru at all. He gave up and changed to a left hand outside grip. They locked up and waited. Chiyomaru advanced after a time, and Shimanoumi went back to hazuoshi, and this time it did work, driving Chiyomaru back for a win. Shimanoumi now 7-6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Wakamotoharu – Yes, Chiyotairyu did indeed henka.. again. Wakamotoharu came rocketing off the shikiri-sen, and into open air as Wakamotoharu leaps to his right. Chiyotairyu improves to 6-7.

Tobizaru defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho was hungry for his 8th win, and drove hard again and again against Tobizaru. But Tobizaru executed an amazing chain of deflections and lateral moves. Frustrated that he could not keep Tobizaru centered, Kotoshoho grabs a left hand outside on the mawashi and moves to put an end to the monkey shines. In his haste, he left himself open on his right, Tobizaru swings him past his body with a sukuinage for the win. Both end the day 7-6.

Kagayaki defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma worked hard to get a right hand mawashi grip, but achieved it just as Kagayaki pivoted and delivered a winning sukuinage. That’s Chiyoshoma’s 8th loss and he is make-koshi for Haru.

Okinoumi defeats Akua – Immediate left hand inside / hidariyotsu stance for both, and they dial up the pressure. Okinoumi is more upright but his hips are lower. Akua tries (no surprise) a kakenage, and Okinoumi flattens him to pick up his 4th win, now 4-9.

Sadanoumi defeats Ishiura – I have to wonder why Ishiura came back. Maybe Hakuho talking him into it? He’s got zero forward power right now, and seems to instantly go on defense at the tachiai. I am sure Sadanoumi appreciates having a cream-puff opponent today, he’s got a 4th win at 4-9.

Kiribayama defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin was too high at the tachiai, and surrendered his left side to Kiribayama deep right hand grip. Of course Tochinoshin was looking to land his left, but Kiribayama was never going to open that door. With Tochinoshin focused on improving his grip, he had no awareness of the sotogake leg trip, and hit the clay in a heap. Kiribayama improves to 9-4.

Hokutofuji defeats Tamawashi – Nice, off speed tachiai from Hokutofuji, he pulls up short of full contact. As a result, Tamawashi is slightly over-extended on the initial merge, and Hokutofuji immediately has his right hand on Tamawashi’s shoulder, slapping him down. Hokutofuji at 7-6 to end the day.

Ura defeats Meisei – I am not sure this tentative, defensive sumo is working for Ura. I mean, he has double digit losses, and it looks like he’s trying to avoid direct engagement. He does manage to slip away from Meisei today near the East side tawara, and pushes from behind. I guess a win is what you make of it, and Ura improves to 3-10.

Daieisho defeats Onosho – Mega thrust from Daieisho at the tachiai, stands Onosho up, and Daieisho immediately throws it into reverse and pulls Onosho down. Daieisho improves to 6-7, Onosho 5-8 and make-koshi.

Ichinojo defeats Hoshoryu – Ichinojo seems to have assembled all of the pieces into some sharp sumo for Osaka. I don’t know if he can keep this formula going through 2022, but he’s fairly unbeatable in this configuration. I am sure its all mental, and I am happy that he has his mental fight system in such great shape now. Hoshoryu comes in with plenty of energy, but quickly finds that Ichinojo is using his enormity to great effect. As if to make a point about just how big is big to Ichinojo, he finishes with an abisetaoshi, giving Hoshoryu a 206kg tune up against the West side salt basket. Ichinojo improves to 9-4. Sometimes, being enormous is a valid sumo strategy.

Takanosho defeats Takarafuji – Best defense from Takarafuji that I think he has been able to produce all basho. But he simply cant’t hold his ground. Injury? Lingering effects of COVID? No clue, but when being Mr. Defense is your brand of sumo, it more or less renders you ineffective. Takanosho picks up a welcome win to improve to 4-9.

Abi defeats Endo – Abi snaps a 4 match losing streak, catching Endo open after Endo’s opening gambit ran out of power. Driving him back with Abi-zumo, he sent Endo for a visit to the front row. Both end the day 7-6.

Mitakeumi defeats Wakatakakage – Big match to decide the fate of one of the leaders, Wakatakakage came off the shikiri-sen strong, grasping for a right hand outside grip, but his arm position was too wide, and his left side was open to Mitakeumi, who hugged, lifted and walked toward the bales. By the time Wakatakakage refocused on defense, his heels were on the tawara, and it was too late to fight back. Mitakeumi wins by yorikiri, and improves to 10-3.

Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – The second element of the tripartite finale, Takayasu out-lasts Takakeisho. Again we see Takayasu’s nearly inhuman endurance pay off, as he drains every gram of mojo that Takakeisho brought to the dohyo today, and then throws the exhausted remains of the Ozeki over the East side with an uwatenage. Takayasu back to the sole leader at 12-1. That was big sumo.

Kotonowaka defeats Shodai – We all wanted Shodai to clear kadoban today, but after his day 12 loss, Kotonowaka is back for another win. Shodai was high and slow at the tachiai, and Kotonowaka never gave him a chance to set his feet, escape his grasp or unleash any cartoon sumo. Kotonowaka improves to 10-3, Shodai will have to try again tomorrow, though I am going to guess he will take another loss against Takayasu on day 14. 7-7 kadoban Ozeki for day 15? Oh yes please!

Haru Day 13 Preview

I have to admit, the schedulers are doing a great job of making this tournament as fun to follow as they can. After a day 12 that saw both men who were one loss behind pick up their third loss at the hands of both leaders, we get the leaders fighting the kachi-koshi Ozeki. It’s a 3 way shuffle at the top that sees both 11-1 and both 9-3 rikishi face a fierce challenge to fight their way toward the Emperor’s Cup.

In today’s match card, we have 6 rikishi tee’d up for possible kachi-koshi today: Shodai, Endo, Kotoeko, Kotoshoho, Yutakayama, and Nishikigi. Of course the bonus for Shodai is that if he can beat Kotonowaka today, he also can clear kadoban, an achievement that I was certain to not happen this month.

We also have a growing list of rikishi that are being herded toward a 7-7 score at the end of tomorrow, ripe candidates for the most zero-sumo of all sumo contests, the “Darwin Match”, where one rikishi exits with a winning record, and one with a losing record. I am not sure how many they will get, but I am guessing they will get a few.

Haru Leaderboard

The two leaders take on the two kachi-koshi Ozeki, and the other member of the chasers takes on Shodai. Oh my..

Leaders: Takayasu, Wakatakakage
(2 behind): Mitakeumi, Kotonowaka

5 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Tsurugisho vs Ichiyamamoto – Tsurugisho up from Juryo to fill the empty slot in the banzuke left by Terunofuji. This is an interesting match, in that Tsurugisho has never won in 3 attempts against Ichiyamamoto. Tsurugisho comes to the top division with a 6-6 score, and Ichiyamamoto needs to win the remaining 3 matches to avoid make-koshi and a certain demotion back to Juryo in May.

Kotoeko vs Yutakayama – The good news, one of these guys will get their kachi-koshi today. The bad news is, one of them will have one more day to avoid being relegated to a Darwin match on Sunday. My sumo brain says Yutakayama gets the win, but my heart says that Kotoeko deserves it.

Kotokuzan vs Terutsuyoshi – Ah funnel match. Both are 6-6, both need to win 2 or lose 2 now to escape the funnel. This is their first ever match, and I am sure that Kotokuzan is going to have to do something better than his obligatory push/push/pull routine if he wants to get the win.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – This will be Nishikigi’s 3rd consecutive day where he will attempt to pick up his 8th win. Now we see why he’s not had a top division kachi-koshi in several years. Can 5-7 Myogiryu prevail and stave off make-koshi?

Chiyonokuni vs Aoiyama – It’s still possible for Chiyonokuni to reach kachi-koshi, but it would require him to win all.3 matches. Given he is ranked M13e, he just needs a couple to ensure that he remains in the Makuuchi side of the banzuke come May. At the same time, Aoiyama needs 2 wins or two losses to avoid a day 15 Darwin match, as he is part of the 6-6 crew.

Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru – (Cheesy TV announcer voice.) “Chiyomaru is already make-koshi, Shimanoumi is part of the 6-6 Darwin candidate list. When they get together on a clay platform… sumo ensues!” I would really like to see Chiyomaru win enough to keep in the top division, even if its the bottom of the banzuke.

Chiyotairyu vs Wakamotoharu – Given how Wakamotoharu is fighting right now, I don’t like Chiyotairyu’s chances one bit. Chiyotairyu is always compressing all of his energy into the first 5 seconds of a match. All Wakamotoharu has to do is find a defensive spot and make it work.

Tobizaru vs Kotoshoho – These two have an even 3-3 record across their careers, and it’s kachi-koshi today if he can overcome Tobizaru’s frantic hit and move sumo. Tobizaru has lost 3 of his last 5, so he’s beatable today. A loss would more or less consign him to the Darwin fest on day 15.

Chiyoshoma vs Kagayaki – One of these guys is leaving the dohyo with a make-koshi. Given how poorly Kagayaki has been fighting this month, I really think it should be him. Not that Chiyoshoma has done that well, but I would rather see him added to the Darwin crew on day 15, for a special senshuraku flying henka Darwin match celebration.

Akua vs Okinoumi – Wow, how bad can it get? Well, both of these guys are 3-9 to start today, and one of them will be 3-10 soon enough. The guys in this tournament who are doing poorly are doing quite poorly indeed. Enough of them that the schedulers can pair them off and see who can lose their way to the bottom first.

Sadanoumi vs Ishiura – Why is this match happening? Ishiura is in no condition to fight. He is now 1-11, and he may give Ura a run for the bottom rikishi in this competition. At least Sadanoumi is likely get a 4th win out of this one.

Kiribayama vs Tochinoshin – Now this is a match with some interest. They are tied 3-3 over their careers, and both are coming in with 8-4 kachi-koshi. So on one hand, there is no need to kill yourself to get your 8 wins. On the other hand, it’s sumo and time to basho the other guy until you are tired of it. And at this rank, they never get tired of it.

Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – A pair of 6-6 Darwin candidates, and the winner will have a final chance tomorrow to escape the funnel. I honestly like Tamawashi for this fight quite a bit better, He has a distinct size and strength advantage. He will need to shut down Hokutofuji’s superior mobility, which he should use to get Tochinoshin on his bum leg as early as he can manage.

Meisei vs Ura – Speaking of the worst record in all of sumo, Meisei is tied with Ishiura, and just 1 behind Ura. Not sure what is wrong with these two, but both are at double digit losses right now, and both are going to need recuperation before Natsu in May.

Daieisho vs Onosho – A battle of the big thrusters, both come in 5-7, so the loser today is make-koshi, the winner gets to try to make it to 7-7 at the end of day 14, with an opportunity to hit kachi-koshi in a Darwin match. Brutal stuff. I think Onosho with a slight 11-8 career advantage has the edge here today.

Ichinojo vs Hoshoryu – Shikona still needs 2 more wins to reach the safety of 8, and his 6-6 score puts him on a clear Darwin path. He has drawn Ichinojo today, and he will need some potent sumo to overcome “The Boulder”‘s enormity, which Ichinojo seems to be a lot more comfortable with now.

Takanosho vs Takarafuji – This is a chance for Takanosho to get a 4th win, and for both of them to end the day 4-9. Takanosho has a 6-2 career advantage, and he can play off of the fact that Takarafuji seems to be at least somewhat injured, and is fighting poorly.

Endo vs Abi – I am not sure what happened to Abi, he has lost 4 in a row, and can’t seem to keep his balance. Maybe he was hurt day 8 against Daieisho? He tends to dominate Endo (8-2), but all of that is meaningless if Abi is hurt. If Endo wants to pick up his kachi-koshi today, he will need to evade Abi’s double arm thrusts, get under neath and attack yotsu-style.

And now the final trio, a marvelous piece of scheduling that has the potential to shuffle the leaderboard nicely.

Wakatakakage vs Mitakeumi – A front runner vs a man 2 losses behind. The man behind is an Ozeki, fighting some of the best sumo of his life, and has a 6-2 career advantage over the front runner. The front runner seems to be fighting far beyond what we have seen of him prior to this, and if he can do this consistently must be considered a Yokozuna candidate for next year. Mitakeumi might be able to fight his way back toward a chance at the cup with a win today, and some favorable scheduling tomorrow and Sunday.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – The other front runner, a former Ozeki, coming off of COVID-kyujo in January, needs to win against an Ozeki. This Ozeki is not in the best of condition, but did manage to clear kadoban two days ago. If Takayasu can get a hold of Takakeisho’s belt, he can certainly have his way with him. But just how strongly will Takakeisho defend?

Shodai vs Kotonowaka – One more spicy pancake for our pudding. Shodai can clear kadoban today if he can take a win from Kotonowaka. Kotonowaka is fighting quite well, and should be be able to finish out with 10 or 11 wins, will signal that he is ready for his first trip to the named ranks. Kotonowaka is tied with Mitakeumi, two wins behind Takayasu and Wakatakakage. A win here would allow him to keep pace should Mitakeumi prevail.