Natsu Day 11 Preview

kaiju mode
Ozeki Terunofuji Headed to McDonalds In Ryogoku, 11:22 PM Tuesday

We Start The Final Act

As we begin the last 5 days of this awesome tournament, it’s time to check up on a few of our story threads

Takayasu’s Ozeki Run – I would declare this on uncertain footing but still quite possible. Takayasu needs to face another Yokozuna who is currently unbeaten, and both Ozeki, one of which is operating in kaiju mode. That leaves him with 2-3 plausible wins, so still possible.

Injured Yokozuna Corps – Kakuryu already has withdrawn. He is probably facing pressure now to retire. He can in fact hang his hopes of delaying that by his November yusho in Fukuoka. Kisenosato insists on competing even though he lacks the strength in his upper body to present a reasonable threat to the upper San’yaku. Harumafuji and Hakuho have reverted to their genki forms, and are unbeaten and undeterred. It’s wonderful to see them both back to their former potency, and we are reminded of how they dominated everything sumo for years.

No-Zeki – Goeido is kadoban, this tournament, and is only 6-4 as of today. It’s not too far of a stretch to think he can pick up 2 more wins, but that’s very weak performance for an Ozeki. This week he faces all 3 Yokozuna, so I would guess at least 2 more losses are inbound. His match with Tamawashi may be the decider. Terunofuji on the other hand seems to be in the same mode he was in during Osaka. That of a rampaging sumo powerhouse with unbeatable strength. He has yet to face any Yokozuna, and I am guessing that he has a fair chance of beating any of them, except Kisenosato. I think he could actually injure Kisenosato.

Mitakeumi’s Komisubi Residency – He was out to strong start, but then hit some very rough patches. Now, Mitakeumi is in real danger of going make-koshi and being pushed back to rank and file Maegashira. I personally don’t think that’s going to harm him, as there is still a bunch of brush clearing that needs to take place in San’yaku before the promotion lanes are actually open. He has faced all of the Ozeki, but still needs to get by Harumafuji on day 11. After that he should draw some easier matches, and may end up 8-7 if he is not too discouraged.

Ojisan Kotoshogiku – We are at day 10, and he is still not make-koshi. His next loss seals his demotion, but he has faced both Ozeki and all three Yokozuna. Is it possible he can win his last 5 matches and escape demotion? Yes, but it would be highly improbably. But look at who he is likely to face: Chiyonokuni (2-8), Okinoumi (1-9!), Daieisho (2-8), Aoiyama (2-8)? We get to Tochiozan before we find a rikishi who is looking strong. So don’t write of Kotoshogiku yet. Then there is the thought of a Shodai – Kotoshogiku match, which might be a big deal.

Upper Maegashira Blood Bath – Ranks M1 – M5 contain 10 rikishi, only 3 of them have even or winning records. This is not atypical by any means, as the upper Maegashira are frequently the punching bags of the San’yaku, but the last few basho had been relatively gentle on these folks. But Natsu has brought the pain back with vengeance.

Juryo Meat Grinder – Upper Juryo is in worse shape than anything I have seen in some time. None of the top 6 Juryo ranks has anyone with more than 6 wins. Without a strong leader or leaders, it throws the promotion picture into chaos. It’s clear that a number of rikishi will be booted out of Makuuchi, but are any of these Juryo guys worthy to replace them?

Osunaarashi In Trouble – He is 1-9 right now. Given that the NSK has given him brutal demotions in the past, it’s reasonable to ask how far down the banzuke he will fall. It was clear from watching him in person that his multiple, unrecovered injuries have robbed him of the physical presence he used to command.

Natsu Leader board

LeadersHarumafuji, Hakuho
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Shodai, Tochinoshin, Ura

5 Matches Remain

* Note, we are almost to the point where the math required for anyone to catch Hakuho or Harumafuji becomes unworkable.

Matches We Like

Kaisei vs Toyohibiki – In spite of his injuries, it seems Kaisei decided he is not going back to Juryo, no matter what. He needs 2 more wins to make that a reality. He has a 10-5 career advantage over Toyohibiki.

Tochinoshin vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu trying for kachi-koshi against a resurgent Tochinoshin. I am looking for Tochinoshin to employ his massive strength and size advantage if he can grab the mawashi, Tochinoshin will be thrusting with everything to keep the big Georgian away.

Chiyotairyu vs Takakeisho – Less of a mismatch than a M7 vs M14 bout should be. If Takakeisho wins, he claims his kachi-koshi. But Chiyotairyu has beaten him 2 out of their 3 times they have matched before. I would guess Chiyotairyu is going to try for a quick slap down before Takakeisho can set his feet and start his sumo.

Ura vs Shodai – Also a match likely better than you would expect with a M10 vs M5 bout. Ura deploy his quantum sumo against Shodai’s flawed tachiai. As Ura will probably go low and crazy, it’s going to be fun to see how Shodai reacts. This is their first ever match. May be the best match of day 11.

Endo vs Yoshikaze – Time to see if Endo learned anything from the Mitakeumi vs Yoshikaze bout. I am guessing he did not. Interestingly enough, these two are tied 5-5 over their career. Endo is looking a bit off now, and may be hurt, where Yoshikaze seems to actually be enjoying himself almost as much as Hakuho is.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyonokuni – Yes, Chiyonokuni is already make-koshi, but he has not been phoning in his matches. He has stepped on the dohyo each day with a plan to win, and he has given it his all. Kotoshogiku has a narrow path to hold onto Sekiwake, and the next step is defeating Chiyonokuni.

Tochiozan vs Takayasu – This is a must win for Takayasu. Given the brutality of the rest of his schedule, he needs to bank this win. Tochiozan is stronger this basho than he has looked since Nagoya 2016, so it’s not a foregone conclusion. Also of note is Tochiozan leads the career matches 18-5, so he has a habit of beating Takayasu. Much as Kintamayama seems to play on it, it does seem true that Takayasu is a chronic worrier, and it may restrain his sumo on day 11.

Terunofuji vs Aoiyama – The only question is what look of pain Aoiyama will have on his face moments after the tachiai. Kailua for the win over the man shaped meat mountain.

Hakuho vs Goeido – Only Goeido 2.0 has a chance here, and it would be so very magical if he appeared and battled Hakuho to a win. But reality says Hakuho is going to play with Goeido for a bit, then toss him around. Success here means that Goeido can come out of it without an injury.

Harumafuji vs Mitakeumi – I am still hoping to see the death-spin. It’s been many months since Harumafuji tried to put a man in orbit, and I do so hope he can pull that one out this basho. Mitakeumi is still going to be a big deal in a while, but day 11 he gets to “enjoy” Harumafuji.

Kisenosato vs Tamawashi – Although Kisenosato has won all 9 of their prior meetings, Tamawashi has a fair chance against the one-armed Yokozuna. I am still looking for Kisenosato to do the responsible thing and go kyujo.

Kisenosato – Most Wins For 2016

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Prevails Over Harumafuji In Victory Derby

At the completion of the Kyushu basho, perpetual runner up in all things sumo earned an important achievement. Kisenosato was recognized for the most wins this year in Makuuchi, a distinction normally claimed by Hakuho. As Hoakuho sat out all of Aki, the contest was wide open, with Harumafuji and Kisenosato tied until the last week in Kyushu.

Kisenosato’s final record for 2016 stands at:

69 Wins – 21 Losses

Not a stunning run, but it’s nice to see Kisenosato finally win something, and earn some recognition. In spite of the fact that I make him the butt of jokes, he is a solid Ozeki, probably one of the more dominant in a while. In this world of superlatives, everyone feels that he must become a Yokozuna to really have mattered. I would point to the mighty Kaio as an example of a fantastic sumotori, who continues to contribute to the sport, but never was promoted past Ozeki.

Congratulations to Kisenosato, well done.

Kyushu Story Line Wrap-Up

Sadly, our Kyushu basho has come to a close. Kakuryu has won his third tournament in solid, convincing fashion. I’ve been critical of him in the past and will continue to be critical of him. I still feel he was elevated early. We expect this performance from our yokozuna every tournament. We need to see this carry into the next year with Kakuryu in contention again. The same goes for Harumafuji…who was in contention this tournament and had FOUR yusho under his belt as an OZEKI. I think it is always a better legacy to be a great ozeki than an underperforming yokozuna.

As I review the tournament I will revisit the key story lines we raised before the matches started.

  1. Terunofuji survives as Ozeki, barely. His first few bouts were painful to watch. But he must have eaten his spinach after Day 2 as he won his next seven straight.
  2. Shodai and Endo both put on a show. Endo sure shocked me by beating three Ozeki and Hakuho in his first week. Things cooled off for him and he just missed getting a winning record, and likely a special prize. His losses weren’t to pufters, though, either. He fell to Tochiozan and Yoshikaze who both ended on worse records but are clearly solid former sanyaku wrestlers. As for Shodai, his easier schedule sure helped him as he DID get a special prize. His biggest victory was likely the spoiler win against Kisenosato at the end of the first week. The Ozeki was in contention but Shodai’s win ended up being decisive. He’ll face a much harder schedule as shin-sekiwake in January. Both times he went through the ringer as Maegashira 2, going 0-6 and 0-7. Personally, I’m more impressed with Endo this tournament, in spite of the worse record and it’s great to see him competing well at this level.
  3. The sinkhole got fixed in a week. Efficient.
  4. Hokutofuji and Ishiura had very successful debut tournaments. Ishiura’s performance was a bit more electric as he was even in yusho contention well into week 2, garnering a special prize. Hokutofuji finished with one fewer win but I feel he will fit better among the middle maegashira in January.
  5. Mitakeumi’s sanyaku debut was quiet as his only win during week one was to the poor-performing Kotoshogiku. He picked up much needed wins in week two against easier opponents but is clearly not ready to take on championship caliber competitors.
  6. Yay, Hakuho’s back! His loss to Endo was quite the shocker but a 90% Hakuho is still a great competitor. He finished with 4 losses which is better than his previous 10-5 record in July. I’m not going to break out a crystal ball and prognosticate about how many more tournaments or how many more years he’s got of competitive sumo ahead. I’m just looking forward to January.
  7. Takayasu’s path to Ozeki will need to start again at square one. He was unable to secure even a winning record but he may not drop out of sanyaku altogether. He’ll likely be komusubi in Tokyo.
  8. Ichinojo under-performed but it was probably a good thing. He’ll stay in the lower reaches of the makuuchi and can hopefully work on his technique and speed. We saw speed from Aoiyama, now the big man in the division. Ichinojo will get there with more training.

As  always, a big Thank You to Bruce for his great contributions (and the new look)!

Kyushu Day 15 Preview

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One More Time!

The last day of sumo for 2016, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. The Kyushu basho has taken us on a wild and exciting ride, but now it’s time to bring this glorious and unpredictable tournament to an end.

As Andy mentioned, there are still a few more rikishi who are fighting for their winning record (kachi-koshi), and there are few “test matches” on Sunday’s card. The following men are on the bubble, and their matches will be the ones to watch.

  • Endo – He had some great successes during this basho, but he has been inconsistent. He would likely receive several special prizes if he can secure his winning record. On Sunday he takes on Tamawashi: Komusubi and soon to be Sekiwake. This will be no easy match.
  • Myogiryu – He has really been hit or miss, and he has been matched with Maegashira 16 Gagamaru for this final bout. A loss here would not demote him out of Makuuchi, so make-koshi is not a total loss this time for Myogiryu
  • Ichinojo – Ichinojo is clearly still healing up, but he has managed to almost achieve a winning record. His final match is against Takekaze, who I would guess can bottle up the big Mongolian and put him down if he wants to. Ichinojo needs to summon everything for one final push.

Other Notable Matches

Hidenoumi vs Kagayaki – As mentioned by Andy, Hidenoumi had to be wheeled out of the Fukuoka stadium on Saturday, and I would be surprised to see him back. There is nothing to be won by fighting the day after a concussion.

Ishiura vs Tochinoshin – Another test match for Ishiura. He had to re-match against Shodai, but did fairly well in his first bout. Tochinoshin dispatched Kisenosato on day 13, then lost to Gagamaru on day 14. Who can tell which version of Tochinoshin Ishiura will face.

Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – After Aoiyama’s day 14 henka, I am going to be eager to see what Yoshikaze can apply to the giant man from Georgia.

Hakuho vs Goeido – It would be very useful for Goeido to finish with double digit wins. Hakuho would love to finish with a win, and possibly tie with Harumafuji should he lose to Kakuryu.

Kyushu Day 14 Results

Now that Santa pictures are over, I’ve got some time to wrap up the rest of Day 14 action. Kakuryu’s yusho is a lock and Goeido’s yokozuna hopes are dashed. Kisenosato’s sleeper run was put to an end the day before, so Terunofuji caught him in a bad mood; he’s lucky the veteran had not been able to wrap the mawashi around his neck rather than just up to his man boobs. Kotoshogiku’s continued presence is a bit of a puzzle to me. If he were injured, kyujo would have been a good option days ago. Today he just faced the ignominy of falling flat on his face, victim of an Aoiyama henka.

Other Notable Matches

Hidenoumi got knocked out by Kotoyuki. It was a tense several minutes as he laid still on the dohyo. Kotoyuki’s right paw caught got him under the chin and he was out cold. The scariest bit is the way he fell as his right knee seemed to twist. Several yobidashi scurried to help but I’m not sure how much medical assistance these guys are prepared to provide. There needs to be more medical attention ready ringside.

Gagamaru really wanted his kachi-koshi. I think Tochinoshin was the most surprised that he couldn’t beat his fellow Georgian. Endo just got flat beat by Tochiozan and will be battling a hot Tamawashi for his winning record. Given his performance in the first week, I would hope he’d be in the running for a special prize. Gotta meet friends for dinner…will finish later tonight.

Jun-yusho battles

As Bruce mentioned, Kakuryu has locked up the basho. Tomorrow he will close, win or lose, against Harumafuji. Therefore, the drama is in the jun-yusho. Can Harumafuji maintain his second place position? Will Kisenosato be a bridesmaid for the twelfth time? He’ll “battle” the Yokozuna’s stablemate Takarafuji. The Ozeki has dominated this matchup, winning 11 straight – mostly by yorikiri. Shodai has been great but did not have the insane schedule faced by Endo. By virtue of that lighter schedule, he’s in the running for the jun-yusho as well and will likely get it on the back of Arawashi, a Maegashira 10.

Yokozuna Kakuryu Clinches Kyushu Yusho

yokozuna-kakuryu

Impressive Performance, Outstanding Results

Congratulations to Yokozuna Kakuryu, who has had a long and difficult struggle to recover from injuries in 2016. The key to his victory in the Kyushu basho was adaptability. He was constantly on the move, and his approach to any given match could and would change in the blink of an eye.

With Kakuryu’s victory on day 14, there is no means that any other rikishi can catch him tomorrow, on the final day. With a 14-1 record tomorrow, or 13-2, the next closest would be Yokozuna Harumafuji, who could possibly finish 12-3 should he defeat Kakuryu.

Update: The original version of this post included discussion of a monoii for this match. Sadly this was my mistake given early morning match reviews via videos posted on the Grand Sumo app. Clearly I got that wrong, and I apologize.

Kyushu Day 14 Preview

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The Final Drive To The Finish

The last weekend of sumo for 2016 is upon us now. While we now seem to have good indicators of who will with the championship for both Juryo and Makuuchi, I am sure that there are a few surprised, and several great matches left to enjoy.

The popularity of sumo seems to once again be on the upswing in Japan. Tickets are becoming harder to get, and venues outside of Tokyo are selling out more frequently. World wide, there are more opportunities today than at any other time in history for people do start following and enjoying sumo. Enough opportunities for me to suggest, short of some hideous scandal, that sumo is on the cusp of a broader global following.

There are distant rumors that NHK plans to expand sumo coverage as part of their world service, and frankly – I can’t wait. In fact, I have personally offered NHK heaps of my money on demand to let me stream the full Juryo and Makuuchi program at will. I have to imagine that I am not the only one.

Before we can close out Kyushu, we get to see the rest of the Yokozuna head-to-head matches, and watch the rikishi with marginal records scrap for the final wins, hoping to stave off demotion.

Notable Matches

Myogiryu vs Arawashi – Myogiryu only needs to defeat Arawashi to secure his rank.

Takekaze vs Daishomaru – Can the veteran seal his winning record and deal a losing record to Daishomaru at the same time? Historically, the two are evenly matched.

Shohozan vs Sokokurai – Local sumotori Shohozan goes up against to try and finish with a winning record. These two are separated 9 slots in the banzuke, so it should be an easy win for Shohozan.

Ishiura vs Shodai – An even bigger mis-match than the previous bout, it’s time for rising star Ishiura to test his performance against Shodai, who has done very well this tournament. The mini-henka is not working against the upper Maegashira, so I am hoping that Ishiura deploys some real sumo today. Shodai already has a strong winning record, and will likely be san’yaku come January, so I am hoping for a really fun upset.

Tochiozan vs Endo – Tochiozan received a dirty henka on day 13 to deal him a make-koshi. Now it’s Endo’s turn to try and lock up a winning record, and a promotion towards the top of January’s banzuke. Historically, Tochiozan beats him up and steals his lunch money. So we will look for Endo to do something new and useful here.

Harumafuji vs Hakuho – Hakuho faded fast once he started his matches against the great San’yaku Battle Fleet. Now he faces his nemesis, Harumafuji. I am hoping the The Boss can escape without any further damage to his undercarriage. Under normal, healthy conditions – this is a Hakuho win. But for day 14, the edge goes to Harumafuji.

Goeido vs Kakuryu – The only thing to consider here is Goeido’s pride, and the yusho. If Goeido wins, there is a strong chance that the yusho will come down to the final day match between Harumafuji and Kakuryu. There is a great deal of rivalry between Goeido and Harumafuji, so it may worth considering that a loss by Goeido could put Harumafuji out of the running for the yusho. Ah, decisions decisions… My money is on Goeido taking his sumo to the Yokozuna. In the long game, Goeido must perceive that this is simply a warm up for his next Yokozuna run. However the career records strongly favor Kakuryu

Kyushu Day 13 Results

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Kakuryu Yusho Looking More Likely

As noted in prior news postings, the action on day 13 from Kyushu was big, the matches were outstanding, and the yusho race became a lot clearer. But for sumo fans wishing for a giant multi-way final day tournament to decide the ultimate winner, the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan had other plans.

Likewise in Juryo, we had Osunaarashi go Kyujo with a right knee injury, handing the Juryo-yusho to Seiro for all reasonable purposes. Keep in mind, dear reader, that the Kyushu basho this year is a wily and unpredictable operation, and we may yet see at least one more twist in the tale before it concludes on Sunday.

With Kisenosato, Goeido, Hakuho and Ishiura all losing on day 13, the leaderboard has narrowed considerably

Leaderboard

  • Leader: Kakuryu
  • Chasers: Harumafuji
  • Hunt Group: Kisenosato, Shodai, Ishiura

2 matches remain

Notable Matches

Arawashi defeats Ishiura – Bit of a slippi-toshi on this one. There have been reports of the Kyushu dohyo being especially slippery this basho. We have seen a large number of slips, and mechanical injuries due to uncontrolled descent of 150+ Kg men.

Hidenoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma was going for his kachi-koshi today, but Hidenoumi put on a great show of yotsu sumo and eventually forced Chiyoshoma out.

Takarafuji defeats Sokokurai – Takarafuji picks up his kachi-koshi in a fairly strange match. Sokokurai was expecting a henka, I am going to assume, and so was Takarafuji. So they grappled lightly, stood around for a bit, and came up with a new strategy. Takarafuji wins by yorikiri

Ichinojo defeats Shohozan – Quick bout that saw local favorite Shohozan quickly pushed out of the ring by Ichinojo. Ichinojo has been very inconsistent in Kyushu, but still has a chance at kachi-koshi

Shodai defeats Chiyootori – The Shodai train is not slowing down. He made very quick work of Chiyootori

Yoshikaze defeats Mitakeumi – Amazing move at the edge by Yoshikaze. It seems that once he secured his losing record, he remembered all of his really nice moves. Glad to see him educating the shin-Komusubi. The crowd, of course, ate it up – seems everyone loves Yoshikaze when his sumo is strong. Request for the Berserker – next time see if you can get more spiral on Mitakeumi (who is roughly football shaped), I would love to see if you can get him into the second tier of box seats.

Endo defeats Okinoumi – Great great match between these two, with this win, Endo has a solid chance of securing a winning record for Kyushu. Okinoumo – I want him to get healed / have surgeryury and come back strong for Hatsu in January. Great throw by Endo at the end of the match.

Tamawashi defeats Terunofuji – Excellent, but quick match by Tamawashi, who picks up his kachi-koshi from the injured Ozeki. This is the third time he has beaten an Ozeki this tournament.

Harumafuji defeats Goeido – Goeido once again facing a monoii? Yes, this guy has a curse on him. The Goyji awarded the match to Goeido, but the Shimpan decided to re-play the match. In the second bout, Harumafuji was clearly the winner via his patented mini-henka. This leaves Harumafuji the only clear challenger to to Kakuryu for the yusho.

Video of Wakaichiro – American Sumo Disciple

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we now have video of Ichiro Young, now known by his shikona – Wakaichiro, in his first three bouts prior to acceptance as a rikishi. For all American sumo fans, it’s going to be fun to watch this young man from Texas work his way into the world of Sumo.

Wakaichiro played football in High School, and that is quite evident from his matches. He is comfortable charging his opponents strongly, and I predict for the first few tournaments, he will do pretty well, and likely have a lot of fun.

Wakaichiro is part of the Musashigawa stable

More Wakaichirio coverage here

 

Juryo Star Osunaarashi Withdraws From Kyushu

osunaarashi-kyujo

In an unexpected move, star Egyptian sumotori Osunaarashi withdrew from the Kyushu tournament at the start of day 13, handing his opponent, Seiro, a fusen win, and likely the Juryo championship. At this moment, the team at Tachiai don’t have any news on why Osunaarashi withdrew, but we will bring you all the news we discover.

Osunaarashi had been a favorite to compete for the Juryo champion, and a hopeful to return to the Makuuchi top division in the January basho. Given his winning record (9-4), he will receive a nice promotion, but will likely remain in Juryo for at least one more tournament.

We wish Osunaarashi the best of luck, and hope to see him in action again soon.

Update 25 Nov, 17:00 GMT

Thanks to co-blogger Andy, there is some detail now on what caused Osunaarashi to withdraw.  Seems there has been an injury sustained to his right knee, and he has been ordered to rest for at least 28 days in hopes of repairing it.  As we have seen with Kotoshogiku and Terunofuji, damage to a rikishi’s undercarriage is serious business.  Knee injuries are difficult to treat, and difficult to heal.  So much of sumo depends on transferring power to earth via a rikishi’s legs, health of the knee join is essential.  We are all hoping Osunaarashi can recover strongly, and join the Hatsu basho in January.

Kakuryu defeats Hakuho

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Yokozuna Kakuryu Closes On Yusho.

Sumo fans where hoping, praying perhaps, for a multi-way playoff this weekend to decide the final tournament of 2016. Chief among these was we needed Hakuho to defeat Kakuryu. Kakuryu had other plans.

The match was all Kakuryu, and it’s quite clear that Hakuho needs more recovery and recuperation time after his surgeries in September. The instincts and skill are still there, but his body is not quite up to the task yet. Another great video from Jason’s All Sumo Channel shows all.

With this win, it’s almost certain that Yokozuna Kakuryu will secure the tournament championship. It’s a welcome change from the prior performance of Kakuryu, who had been frequently discussed as a candidate for early retirement, due to his lackluster performance.

Tochinoshin defeats Kisenosato

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This turns out to have been the lynch-pin match for the multi-way playoff this weekend that so many sumo fans were hoping for. In what was really quite a nice effort by Tochinoshin (available on video from Jason’s All Sumo Channel here) we saw the big Ozeki finally overwhelmed in a massive display of strength sumo.

After some initial pushing that would probably have floored a rhino, the two men went chest to chest with Tochinoshin establishing a right hand inside grip. From there it was straight up high end yotsu sumo. They took each other to the tawara, they each tried throws, but eventually Tochinoshin was able to topple Kisenosato sideways at the edge. Let’s think about that. Tochinoshin was able to man-handle about 400 pounds of sumotori. If Tochinoshin gets bored with sumo, he should consider a career in the railroad industry… as a locomotive.

With this loss, Kisenosato is out of contention for the yusho. He put forth a massive and impressive effort this basho, and it’s really good to see him maintain his sumo. Sadly Kisenosato’s career is full of losses at the crucial moment – where he snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

Kyushu Day 13 Preview

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If you do not control your opponent, your opponent will control you

Book of Five Rings

Sumo fans could not ask for a more exiting final Friday of 2016. Across the two upper divisions (Juryo and Makuuchi), there is a mad scramble for the championship. With just a few bouts remaining, there is a broad group of rikishi that could claim the yusho. Recall that by this time during the Aki basho, we were very sure it was going to be Goeido, we just did not know if it would be a perfect record or not.

Going into day 13, no one remains with a perfect record, and the mightiest men in Sumo now face each other, as the Yokozuna will compete against both the upper Ozeki, and their fellow Yokozuna during the last three days. As each of these men are leading contenders for the championship, which sekitori has the lead in the yusho race to change moment by moment during the final bouts of each day.

The idea scenario for maximum drama would require Hakuho to beat Kakuryu, Harumafuji to beat Goeido, Kisenosato to beat Tochinoshin, and Ishiura to beat Arawashi. That would create a 4 way tie for the lead, with 2 days left.

Notable Matches

Ishiura vs Arawashi – Ishiura faced a very capable Ikioi on day 12, and Ikioi did not charge head-long into Ishiura’s mini-henke. Time to see if Arawashi learned this lesson as well. I expect Ishiura to face at least one more higher level rikishi before the end of the basho. Ishiura is very evenly matched against Arawashi, with a 2-3 record.

Sokokurai vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji is going for his kachi-koshi again today, this time against Sokokurai. Thus match will likely be a strength test between the two men, with a slight edge to Sokokurai.

Shohozan vs Ichinojo – Shohozan should pick up his kachi-koshi today, as Ichinojo is really struggling this tournament. To his credit, Ichinojo is at .500 with three days to go, and kachi-koshi is still possible for him. Slight advantage to Fukuoka home town favorite Shohozan.

Endo vs Okinoumi – It has been a surprising basho for both of these rikishi. Endo had a very strong start, and has faded as of late. He needs a win here against the injured Okinoumi to make a credible case for finishing the tournament with a winning record. Slight advantage to Endo on this one.

Tamawashi vs Terunofuji – Tamawashi will attempt to score a winning tournament record today against the man-mountain Terunofuji. Tamawashi has been doing well, and Terunofuji is injured – but Terunofuji also just beat Hakuho, so I would say Tamawashi won’t find his eighth win today.

Tochinoshin vs Kisenosato – In the strangest match up of day 13, Maegashira 6 Tochinoshin faces off against Yokozuna killer Kisenosato. Tochinoshin has been (in the past) sort of a one trick pony – he likes to lift people up and carry them around. That won’t work against Kisenosato in any reasonable scenario. One of two things (or both) are happening here. First, it could be that the schedules want to give Kisenosato an easy match to make sure he can play spoiler in any potential play-off. Second, it may be the case that they want to see if Tochinoshin can recuse himself well against a solid Ozeki. Worth watching, but my thought is that Kisenosato will take care of him without too much bother.

Hakuho vs Kakuryu – This is one of the two highly anticipated matches for day 13. Hakuho has to be smarting, having been handed a third loss by Terunofuji. I am going to expect that he is hungry for revenge. Kakuryu has been winning, but he has been reactive to my eye, rather than dominating his matches. Hakuho dominates matches, even in his injured state. I can’t wait to see how this one turns out. Historically, Hakuho has a huge advantage over Kakuryu.

Harumafuji vs Goeido – Harumafuji should be gunning for Goeido. The path to Goeido’s Aki yusho went through Harumafuji, and their match was won at the last moment when Goeido engaged a twisting throw at the edge. I have absolute confidence that the “Good” Goeido will be on the dohyo today. After the brutal “codpiece throw” that is part of the NHK intro, Goeido has a large supply of payback to throw at Harumafuji. This will be, in my mind, possibly the most exciting sumo of the day, even though the Hakuho match will go farther to determine the yusho race. Harumafuji has a huge lead in their career record, 29-10. Go boldly Goeido!

Juryo Note

The Juryo-yusho race is every bit as wild as the one in Makuuchi. The sole leader, Seiro (10-2) faces off against Osunaarashi (9-3) early in the Juryo matches. Shortly afterwards, Satoyama (9-3) faces off against Sato (9-3). One of these rikishi is likely to be to Juryo tournament winner, and it’s great to see the schedule putting them head to head during the last few days.

Day 12 News & Highlights

tochinoshin

Intense, Delightful and Satisfying.

Day 11 was big, it was pivotal, it was everything sumo fans wanted. But on day 12 we got more, so much more. This basho saved all of its mojo for the end, and it’s delivering the goods.

We start with the Yusho race – As noted earlier, both Harumafuji and and Hakuho lost their matches today, and Kakuryu won over a failing Kotoshogiku. Ishiura was defeated by Ikioi, which means that all of the leaders have dropped back into the hunt group and chasers, and the yusho race is getting wider, rather than narrower.

This also means the ugly shadow of the bad call against Goeido continues to grow. The race for the Emperor’s Cup now stands thusly:

Leaderboard

  • Leader: Kakuryu
  • Chasers: Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Ishiura
  • Hunt Group: Hakuho, Goeido*, Shodai

3 matches remain

If either Hakuho or Harumafuji can hand Kakuryu another loss, we will witness one of the more exciting finishes to a basho, and the sumo year, in recent history.

In Juryo, the re-rack of the leaderboard was just as dramatic, with early Juryo-yusho favorite Osunaarashi losing to Sato. That leaves Seiro, at Juryo 11, the sole leader. As fortune would have it. Seiro will face Osunaarashi tomorrow! A Seiro loss could put the Juryo-yusho into a 5 way tie, with just 2 days to go.

Notable Matches

Sokokurai defeats Arawashi – Sokokurai did indeed secure his kachi-koshi today. He will be staying in Makuuchi for January, and he may even see a nice promotion if he can pick up another win or two.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – As predicted, the veteran Ikioi knew exactly what to do with Ishiura – stonewall at the tachiai, bottle him up and remove his mobility as a factor and show him the door. Ikioi also earned his kachi-koshi today with this bout, so it was doubly sweet.

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo is really not looking himself, but Tochinoshin is on his sumo and moving very well. Kachi-koshi for Tochinoshin as well today, and he earned it well.

Yoshikaze defeats Takayasu – Heartbreak match here, with Takayasu getting his make-koshi, and demotion from Sekiwake. Not only did he not maintain his fight for Ozeki, he is suffering a huge reset. Prior to the Kyushu basho, he was reported to be in bad form during keiko, and many sumo experts were worried about him. During the basho, he took a couple of very nasty dives, and I would guess we can add injury to whatever else is haunting Takayasu.

Goeido defeats Endo – Good form again today from Goeido, I am happy to report. As the ichiban Ozeki for Kyushu, he will now face the Yokozuna to close out the year. I feel much more confident about his chances, now that he seems to be properly tuned up and running.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku once again had nothing today. I hope he can get in better condition for January.