Aki Story 3 – Fallen Heroes

We are now deep into a transitional period in sumo. The cohort that had been dominant for 10 years or more are finding time catching up to them. Their sumo is not as sharp, their bodies can no longer endure the punishment of the fight, and they are staring down a significant change in their careers. It’s heartbreaking to watch great rikishi close out their careers, and I suspect Aki is going to be the finishing stroke for more than one storied rikishi.

Yoshikaze – Fans who have been reading the blog know Yoshikaze is my absolute favorite, and has been for years. The guy has been an absolute giant-killer, and has been able to sumo a nearly demonic fighting spirit at times. Because of this, and his willingness to sacrifice his body to the fight, I nicknamed him “the Berserker”, which at least a couple of fans though of as an insult. For those who have studied Nordic history, we know that being called a Berserker is a high compliment. But Yoshikaze has been suffering a variety of physical problems for most of the last year. He had a mystery rash for a time, and in May he damaged a knee, which saw him seek surgery. He did not compete in Nagoya, and dropped to Juryo 7. Yoshikaze last competed in Juryo in 2007. There is also word from the Japanese sumo press that he has not recovered, and is unlikely for Aki. Failure to start in September would surely mean a demotion to Makushita. At 37 years old, he probably would rather not break back into Sekitori status. The good news for Yoshikaze fans – he has an oyakata slot waiting for him upon retirement. Already heavily involved with youth sumo, I think the future Nakamura oyakata is going to be responsible for bringing sumo to new generations of people in Japan.

Ikioi – Ranked at Juryo 12w for Aki, fan favorite Ikioi’s heart is still in the fight, but his body is too broken to really continue. His last kachi-koshi was at Hatsu of 2019, and there has been no sign that his injuries are actually improving. He continues to rack up double digit losses, in spite of being reduced to a lower division. While the full extent of Ikioi’s injuries are probably not published, we know that he has taken many blows to the head, suffered with cellulitis, and has ankle and knee problems. Each time the man steps on the dohyo, you want to call an ambulance. But the warrior spirit in him refuses to relent, and each bought he leaves just a bit more damaged. Like Yoshikaze, he has a oyakata slot waiting for him (Kasugayama). I think that if he gets his 8th loss in September, we may see him take a hair cut and put on a nice suit sooner rather than later.

Kaisei – The picture around Kaisei is less clear. As a foreigner (Brazil) he has no access to an oyakata slot. He is also quite banged up, ranked Juryo 8, and I think he is in serious peril of being demoted to Makushita with a losing record. He has managed only 7 wins over the last 3 tournaments. Ouch! He’s a fan favorite, and a real sweet heart in real life, so we can only hope that he can either rally in September, or he can find something to pay the bills if he is demoted further down the banzuke. At 32, he may only have 1 big campaign up the banzuke left, if any.

Arawashi – This guy is a mess. His sumo skill is fantastic, but he has been walking wounded since last year, and has struggled to hold onto a Juryo rank. Now 33 years old, and at Makushita 1, he has more or less one shot to get 4 wins against the brutal Makushita joi-jin to regain a salaried rank, or face a long, unfunded road to the exit. Like Kaisei, he is a foreigner and has no access to buying his way into a kabu.

A reminder to fans – sumo is a combat sport, and a literal zero-sum game. It is by its nature brutal and elminationist. It’s Darwin in action, and only the fittest of the pack can survive each new tournament. While we love our aging heroes, their slow fade makes room for new rikishi to leave their mark on the sumo world.

Sumo News Round Up – July 28th

First up, the Aki banzuke will be released 4 weeks from today. Lksumo has already presented an idea of where the banzuke will end up, and we expect a high-resolution prognostication in a few weeks. While it might seem like an eternity to sumo fans, there are some actions in the world of sumo worth noting.

Fans may recall Ikioi, a popular, long time veteran of the top division (41 basho!) who suffered injuries and maladies aplenty in Osaka. His 2-13 record was enough to punt him to Juryo 1w, but he has not really recovered. His 5-10 performance in Nagoya from Juryo 8w have many worried that at 32 years old, he is too banged up to compete, and may soon find himself demoted back into the mosh pit that is Makushita, a rank he has not seen since 2011. Naturally, thoughts turn to intai.

Now word that the person (the former Shotenro) who has been using Ikioi’s kabu (elder position) has vacated that position and taken up another. This is a fairly good signal that Ikioi is starting to prepare for a post competition career, should Aki continue his poor performance.

The summer Jungyo is starting today, with any luck Herouth will bring us video clips and reports scavenged from the web and from twitter. There are a host of rikishi who are not on jungyo: Takayasu, Goeido, Tochinoshin, Takakeisho, Yoshikaze, Kaisei and Takagenji. With many of these rikishi being part of the “over 30” club, fans are right to be concerned about the long term health of sumo’s stars. Goeido and Tochinoshin will both be kadoban in September, Takakeisho will be fighting for 10 from Ozekiwake, Yoshikaze may still be in dry dock, but should be dropped to Juryo.

For some more sunny news, Yokozuna Hakuho was active on the first day of the jungyo, so whatever problems he still has with his elbows are not keeping him from the dohyo.

Nagoya Day 11 Preview

Welcome to the start of Act 3, the final act in what has been a grueling and brutal basho. We are down to about half of an Ozeki, and 1¾ Yokozuna.It has been a parade of injuries and misery, with the dohyo getting slick, and the stadium getting hot. But the fans are loving the fantastic sumo.

Act 3 is where we crown a yusho winner, and everyone gets sorted into make and kachi koshi. As lksumo has pointed out so well, the named ranks situation will be complicated by the insertion of Ozekiwake Takakeisho, and everyone else is going to face a shuffle for September.

Starting Act 3, it’s still Kakuryu’s yusho to lose, and we have to wonder who will have the mojo to put dirt on the only fully functioning member of the Ozeki and Yokozuna corps.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Hakuho
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Myogiryu, Tomokaze, Terutsuyoshi

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Enho vs Sadanoumi – Enho needs one more to reach kachi-koshi, and he can do it today with a win over Sadanoumi. They only had one prior match (Natsu) which Enho won. I am ready for more crazy wild sumo from Enho. Lets go!

Yago vs Kagayaki – A loss today and Yago is on the barge back to Juryo with Kaisei. Although I expect him to fight with a palpable sense of urgency, I think whatever injury that has wrecked his balance is going to need time to repair. We will see Yago in the top division again soon, I would think.

Tochiozan vs Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima is not quite ready to join the Juryo barge, but he is getting dangerously close. He faces a relic of Tochiozan, who is a faction of his formerly fearsome self.

Terutsuyoshi vs Nishikigi – Terutsuyoshi tends to be more power and less mobility than Enho, and that might be very good news for a struggling Nishikigi, who is one loss away from make-koshi. I keep reminding myself it was Hatsu (January) that he won a kinboshi.

Chiyomaru vs Takagenji – Identical 4-6 records, and it will come down to who can establish the form of the match first. Takagenji will go for the mawashi, and Chiyomaru will want to stay mobile and pushing.

Onosho vs Kaisei – Its depressing watching Kaisei each day. But I think that Onosho could use the win.

Kotoyuki vs Tomokaze – Kotoyuki continues to surprise me. Today he has a chance to really outdo himself if he can manage to defeat Tomozake. Tomokaze is on a serious hot streak, and I hope he can reach double digits. I expect him to be ranked in the joi-jin for Aki.

Myogiryu vs Okinoumi – One of the over-arching themes of this basho seem to be the fading out of the over 30 crowd. Okinoumi is doing better than some, but he’s not anything close to the sumo he had on offer even 2 years ago. How high Myogiryu will run up the score before Sunday?

Kotoeko vs Shimanoumi – A pair of 6-4 rikishi face off to take a step closer to kachi-koshi. I would expect that whomever loses this match might end up in a “Darwin” match on day 15.

Chiyotairyu vs Daishoho – This first time meeting comes down to the tachiai. Even if Daishoho can get inside, it will be decided by how much yield Chiyotairyu dials into his initial charge.

Shohozan vs Takarafuji – Given the 11-3 history between these two, I am expecting that Shohozan will find his 5th win.

Shodai vs Daieisho – Both come in 5-5, and both are fighting well enough to make it to 8 wins. They have spit their 4 prior matches, so this is about as even as you might hope to see on day 11.

Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – Yes indeed! The previous yusho winner goes up against the faster than ever Hokutofuji. They have split their 2 prior matches, and both are coming in strong and eager to win. For Hokutofuji, a win would mean kachi-koshi. A win for Asanoyama mean his chances of reaching 8 improve.

Endo vs Ryuden – Ryuden has had a tough time at Komusubi, which is typical for that rank. I jokingly say it’s origin is ancient yayoi for “human punching bag”. Many Komusubi find that even once they are done with the “hard” part of the schedule, they area too shattered to win consistently in the “Easy” part.

Abi vs Aoiyama – I want to see Abi-zumo 2.0 again. Please show us another demo on Aoiyama.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi is having a terrible basho. He has only one 1 match (against Asanoyama no less), and today he faces the Boulder. Now Ichinojo has not been consistent this July, so there is no telling which version of the Boulder you will get on day 11.

Mitakeumi vs Meisei – Another rikishi with an abysmal record, Meisei will have to suffer the a fairly frustrated Mitakeumi, who probably wants to get those last 2 wins and safely hold his rank. Mitakeumi won their only prior meeting.

Takayasu vs Hakuho – Today’s WTF match, we have damaged arms galore on display. Both of these men have their 8, yet they decide they are going to fight on. This is the part of sumo I think is a bit odd. Hopefully no one compounds their injury today.

Kakuryu vs Kotoshogiku – I look past their 29-22 career record, as Kotoshogiku has no power to generate forward pressure. The dohyo is also increasingly slick, and that robs Kotoshogiku of the ability to push forward effectively. Should Kotoshogiku manage to score an upset, it would put the Emperor’s Cup back in play.

Nagoya Day 10 Highlights

We had a number of rikishi pick up their 8th win today, including injured Ozeki Takayasu. Will he now finally go kyujo and get that arm worked on?

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyomaru – Terutsuyoshi picks up his first ever Makuuchi kachi-koshi, and will not need banzuke luck to be ranked as a Maegashira in September. This match was won by Terutsuyoshi’s ability to outmaneuver Chiyomaru.

Tochiozan defeats Kaisei – As an indicator on how poorly Tochiozan is doing, he struggled a bit too defeat 1 armed Kaisei. Kaisei at 9 losses and increasing.

Toyonoshima defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki found himself dancing to Toyonoshima’s tune. Try as he could, Kagayaki could not get into an offensive posture, and flailed around quite a bit as Toyonoshima marched him out.

Enho defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi gets his arm lock on Enho as Enho goes to submarine and get to work. Enho looks a bit worried, and starts to improvise. This is, of course, where the magic happens. He breaks the arm-lock, gets a morozashi double inside grip, and starts moving Nishikigi back. Nishikigi is almost on the bales when he tries to throw Enho, but collapses before Enho can touch down.

Kotoyuki defeats Daishoho – Is this actually Kotoyuki? His sumo is focused, strong, and bold. He gets the inside position at the tachiai, and never gives Daishoho a chance, just relentlessly drives forward.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Onosho’s over-extended forward posture works to his advantage today, as Sadanoumi is unable to move to the side and let him fall before he himself is forced from the dohyo.

Myogiryu defeats Shohozan – Myogiryu picks up his kachi-koshi over an ever less genki Shohozan. I am not sure what is plaguing Shohozan, but he’s looking less vigorous each day.

Tomokaze defeats Takagenji – Takagenji opened with an attack to Tomokaze’s face, which left him wide open for Tomokaze to get whatever grip he wanted, which he was happy to do. Takagenji realizes that no only does Tomokaze have him in a hold, but his hips are far too high just about the time Tomokaze rolls to his right and send Takagenji to the clay. Takagenji has lost a few matches due to lack of experience, but that will come. This is Tomokaze’s 13th straight kachi-koshi since he started his sumo career. Wow.

Kotoeko defeats Chiyotairyu – Kotoeko runs a hit-and-shift as the Chiyotairyu cannon ball tachiai goes rumbling through. Chiyotairyu falls for this at least once per basho, its a risk of his style of sumo.

Shimanoumi defeats Yago – Yago continues to struggle, and today Shimanoumi was able to beat him for the first time ever. Once again Yago looked off-balance, and he allowed Shimanoumi to own the center of the ring.

Takarafuji defeats Okinoumi – Takarafuji scores a much needed win in this battle of the veterans. Okinoumi struggled for traction the entire time, and that protective bootie on his left foot made matters much worse.

Aoiyama defeats Shodai – Shodai decides he wants to get into a shoving match with Aoiyama, which shows incredibly poor judgement. Or maybe he saw what happened to Endo and wanted no part of motor boating Aoiyama. While Shodai kept trying not to lose, Aoiyama just relentlessly pounded away, and kept Shodai in retreat.

Endo defeats Kotoshogiku – The poor traction once again played a huge role in match with Kotoshogiku. Endo got that preferred shallow left hand grip at the tachiai again, but could not convert it into a throw as Kotoshogiku turned on the hug-n-chug. Endo showed fantastic sumo by staying in the fight, and working to set up a throw that went off brilliantly.

Abi defeats Asanoyama – Back to Abi-zumo 1.0, and Asanoyama swallows it hook, line and sinker. Asanoyama rushed forward to land a grip, and Abi was ready to help him keep moving, and falling to the clay.

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – I will declare that I have not seen Hokutofuji look this genki sense he took a concussion on day 10 of Natsu 2018. His fans all hope that he can carry on this level of sumo from here on out.

Daieisho defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi continues his traditional week 2 fade. Daieisho owned this match, moving ahead strongly and thrusting with great power and accuracy. Mitakeumi could only react and try to get an opening.

Takayasu defeats Meisei – Takayasu reaches the safety of his 8th win, and damn well better go kyujo. He could barely move the left arm, and I am going to assume it desperately needs medical attention. I feel a bit bad for Meisei in that he lost a match with a one arm man.

Kakuryu defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo gave him a really good fight, but he once again went soft the moment Kakuryu began backing him to the tawara. While many of us want to see sumotori fight to the last moment, I see Ichinojo’s “Give Up” strategy as one of self-preservation. Kakuryu remains undefeated, and in sole possession of the lead.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – For the second time in as many days, Tamawashi gets ejected from the dohyo at high speed. The Boss still looks hurt.