Haru Day 11 Preview

Takakeisho-zeki, It’s Hakuho Time…

Today we start act 3 of the Haru Basho. Act 3 is sorting everyone in to make and kachi kochi, and finding the yusho winner. This tournament has been brutal to the top Maegashira ranks, and we find that the top 3 have a combined record of 16 – 44. Ouch! At Maegashira 4 we have a super-genki Ichinojo at 9-1, who balances out the 1-9 wreck of the SS Kaisei.

The leaderboard saw Kakuryu and Takayasu both drop to 2 wins behind Hakuho, and its increasingly looking like Hakuho may have a lock on the cup. Day 11’s chaser battle between Aoiyama and Ichinojo will leave us with a single rikishi in striking range of The Boss, unless Takakeisho can manage to send Hakuho to the clay.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: Ichinojo, Aoiyama
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takakeisho, Kotoshogiku, Kakuryu, Takayasu

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Terutsuyoshi vs Chiyoshoma – The question now: Can Terutsuyoshi scrape together enough wins to keep a rank in the top division? With only 2 wins following day 10, he’s in a tough spot for demotion, as lksumo pointed out. Chiyoshoma is fighting well, and has not even been using henkas in most matches.

Toyonoshima vs Kagayaki – Also in demotion risk is veteran Toyonoshima, who faces a resurgent Kagayaki on day 11. Kagayaki never matched against Toyonoshima as he rose through the ranks, and this will be their first contest.

Yutakayama vs Yago – Loser gets make-koshi, and Yutakayama finds himself in a must-win scenario, nursing a number of injuries and not in good form. Yago has faltered this basho as well, but we expect the solidly-built Oguruma rikishi to recover for May.

Ishiura vs Kotoshogiku – Ishiura should dust off the attack profile he tried day 10 and bring it to Kotoshogiku, I think it has a good chance of paying off. Kotoshogiku is already at 8 wins, and everything from here on out will dial up the amount of promotion boost he ends up with for May.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Winner here will get their kachi-koshi. Ryuden will go for a mawashi grip, and I am going to guess that Asanoyama will start oshi-style, and Ryuden will go for the mawashi. In the past, Asanoyama has proven to be faster, but Ryuden has shown greater endurance. Could be an excellent clashes of styles.

Shohozan vs Abi – A loss today will be Abi’s 8th. He’s at no risk for dropping out of Makuuchi, but its looking more like Abi will need to improve his sumo, or at least come up with variations along the lines that Takakeisho has done to make him a less predictable opponent.

Okinoumi vs Ikioi – Under normal conditions, I would be talking about how these two veteran competitors would be bringing a bristling array of sumo skill to the dohyo. But Ikioi is requiring daily medical intervention to continue competing, and is in no condition to fight. The big question now is can he find a way to win a few more, and hold on to his Makuuchi rank?

Yoshikaze vs Onosho – Onosho is still struggling with balance issues following his knee surgery last year, and each of his losses can be chalked up to poor balance, or missed foot placement. Yoshikaze is on the cusp of his 8th win, after a dismal start.

Aoiyama vs Ichinojo – Both men are 1 behind Hakuho, and at the end of this match, only one will remain. Both are enormous, both are strong. Ichinojo has been grabbing mawashi this tournament, and Aoiyama always likes to pommel his opponents into submission. This will be close to half a ton of rikishi in battle on the clay. Possibly the highlight match of the day.

Shodai vs Myogiryu – Could Shodai turn it around now and “win out”? That would be quite an achievement, and it’s not beyond his abilities. Myogiryu has not been able to take many wins from his named-ranked opponents in Osaka, and he will need 4 out of the next 5 to hit a minimal kachi-koshi.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – Loser of this match make-koshi, and both rikishi have struggled in Osaka. Hokutofuji specifically seems to be losing stamina as his daily matches feature a lot of mobility, and a lot of frantic oshi-zumo.

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – It’s not out of the question that Mitakeumi could still finish kachi-koshi. But it will take 4 wins out of the next 5 to get there. Daieisho has the mobility to counter the injured Komusubi’s offense, but Mitakeumi has a great habit of keeping his opponents in front of him.

Takayasu vs Tochinoshin – Takayasu is probably out of the yusho race, but his sumo tune up is still paying dividends. Tochinoshin’s road to 8 requires that he take a win from someone in the Ozeki / Yokozuna ranks, and this basho that is a tall order. Tochinoshin is really up against the wall now, and I expect him to do everything he can, including sacrificing his body, to get his 8.

Chiyotairyu vs Goeido – Goeido struggles with Chiyotairyu, mostly because the big Kokonoe rikishi employs a variation of Goeido’s own sumo strategy. Attack up front with everything you have, leave nothing for a second chance. But Goeido is in solid form, he is kachi-koshi already, and in front of his home town crowd. You read it here first – I would applaud a Goeido henka for this match.

Tamawashi vs Kakuryu – Kakuryu is likely displeased with his day 10 loss to Ozeki hopeful Takakeisho. Facing another oshi/tsuppari specialist, I would expect him to be more mobile, and not engage Tamawashi at close range. Tamawashi will need to contend with the Yokozuna’s ability to switch offense in the blink of an eye.

Hakuho vs Takakeisho – A win today would not give Takakeisho his 10, and a loss won’t disqualify him from an Ozeki bid. But I can assure you that Takakeisho has been counting off the days to this match. Hakuho is in rare form, as seen by his reality defying wins this tournament. But Takakeisho will mount the dohyo with a solid battle plan, and absolute confidence in his ability to be the first man in Osaka to put dirt on The Boss.

Haru Day 10 Highlights

Ichinojo Once Again Shows Us How To Deal With A Bad Pony

What a fantastic close to Haru’s act 2. Exiting act 2, the yusho race solidifies, and it seems that Hakuho will be the man to beat to take the cup. We also have a vast swath of devastation in upper Maegashira, and the churn between the top and the middle ranks will be impressive for May. Many capable rikishi are headed for make-koshi, some of them could see double digit losses. The Yokozuna and Ozeki are all kachi-koshi save Tochinoshin, who will probably struggle well into act 3 to clear kadoban.

Headed into act 3, we will see matches with an increasing banzuke gap, as the schedulers work to sort the winners from the losers, and try some rikishi likely due for a big move (up or down) out in something closer to their new slots. Will fans get to see Kotoshogiku face Toyonoshima? Many of us are hoping we do.

Tomorrow (day 11) will see Tachiai’s “man in foreign lands”, Josh, return to the EDION arena for another day of sumo. Looking at the Torikumi, it’s a full day of action, including lower division yusho battles featuring many of our “ones to watch”.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Daishoho – Chiyomaru, visiting from Juryo and wearing his “Safety Green” mawashi overpowers Daishoho to move one win away from kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru has a lot of fans around the world and on Tachiai, and his return to the top division will be welcome.

Chiyoshoma defeats Tomokaze – Chiyoshoma’s superior mobility was the deciding factor. Chiyoshoma fought quite a bit of this match in reverse, but his agility made it work.

Kagayaki defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi’s opening gambit was blown by multiple mattas, and as a result he had nothing to bring to the tachiai. Terutsuyoshi is now make-koshi and at risk of returning to Juryo.

Meisei defeats Yutakayama – This match was carried by Meisei’s superior speed and mobility. The match unfolded at a blinding pace, and the injured Yutakayama could not react quickly enough to counter Meisei’s attacks.

Toyonoshima defeats Yago – Toyonoshima won the tachiai, and never gave up the initiative, maintaining an inside position that forced Yago to react to Toyonoshima’s sumo.

Yoshikaze defeats Ikioi – Yoshikaze turns a ripe 37, and picks up a win against Ikioi, who is a little more injured each day. Already with 9 losses at Maegashira 9, could this mainstay of the top division be headed to Juryo?

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura had this one for a win, but could not maintain his grip on Asanoyama. I have to compliment Ishiura for an inventive and effective offensive plan, and Asanoyama for having the strength and mobility to escape it.

Aoiyama defeats Shohozan – Shohozan never gets close enough to really start landing blows on the Bulgarian man-mountain. Aoiyama employs his overwhelming strength to toss Shohozan around, and then off of the dohyo. Aoiyama remains 1 win behind Hakuho.

Abi defeats Sadanoumi – Abi finally gets another win, and does it with Abi-zumo. It looks like Sadanoumi did not get the memo…

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – Kotoshogiku is kachi-koshi, and Onosho is still struggling for balance nearly every day. Kotoshogiku’s 8th win, coupled with the obliteration in the top Maegashira ranks, signal a possible big move higher for May.

Shodai defeats Nishikigi – Shodai got his first win, and actually used good sumo to get there. The look of relief on his face at the end of the match gave everyone a happy feeling inside. Go ahead and watch that part… It’s like when they rescue a puppy who fell down a well.

Myogiryu defeats Kaisei – Its hard to know if Kaisei is injured or completely demoralized, but his sumo has gone sour, and the speed and power of Myogiryu made quick work of him today.

Mitakeumi defeats Endo – Mitakeumi is only at about 80% right now, but he managed to piece together a win against Endo. Endo’s opening move, a left arm bar pull, was premature, and opened him to Mitakeumi’s attack. When you watch this match, note how Mitakeumi holds ground at the center of the dohyo, and it’s Endo who is moving around. This is a solid strategy for someone with a bad knee.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are flailing franticly, and the whole mess is going nowhere. But as is his custom, Hokutofuji obliges by sloppy footwork and poor balance, and Daieisho seizes his chance to slap down the Komusubi.

Goeido defeats Tochinoshin – Excellent yotsu-zumo from Goeido today, and he takes the risk of going chest to chest with Tochinoshin, and wins. Did anyone else wince as Goeido rolled Tochinoshin left, forcing him to pivot on that bad knee during the throw? Goeido gets his 8th win for a kachi-koshi in Osaka.

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – Takayasu brought the shoulder blast back for his day 10 match with the Boulder, and he paid for it. It was worth a try, but Ichinojo in his Boulder form is too solid, too massive and too strong to be pushed around by Takayasu. The two go chest to chest, and Takayasu has an excellent grip. But he miscalculates in trying to raise Ichinojo, and instead brings his center of gravity too high. Ichinojo expertly reads the situation, and swings the Ozeki around and thrusts him down. Quality sumo, excellent execution and a well deserved with for Ichinojo, who persists in the 1 loss group.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Once again, Hakuho gets his body into a losing position, just to turn it to his advantage in the blink of an eye through sumo that would be tough to believe if it were not recorded to video. I had to watch it a few times just to sort it out myself. Tamawashi manages to get The Boss turned to his side, and is applying force from behind the Yokozuna. But Hakuho’s super-human agility and ring sense kick in, and he pivots as Tamawashi pushes forward, ending up behind Tamawashi. Hakuho faces Takakeisho tomorrow. What kind of unthinkable sumo will come from that?

Takakeisho defeats Kakuryu – This win puts a big bold line under Takakeisho’s bid to become Ozeki. This was a “quality” win. Kakuryu went toe to toe in a oshi-battle with the Tadpole, and finds himself overpowered. Takakeisho gets his 8th win, and will be seeking out at least 2 more to once again claim the credential for promotion.

Haru Day 10 Preview

Time To Make Your Case…

Welcome to the end of act 2! Act 2 was where we sorted the survivors from the damned, and we started to see who was going to contest for the cup. As Josh pointed out in our weekend podcast, the old guard has decided they were going to make a stand, and re-assert their dominance over sumo. The result has been a return to form that we saw at Aki 2018, where the named ranks devastate the upper 3 Maegashira, and the final week is dominated by the greats of sumo blasting each other around the dohyo. From all appearances, everyone remains genki and in increasingly good fighting condition each day right now. It portends a tumultuous and entertaining finish to the tournament.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: Kakuryu, Takayasu, Ichinojo, Aoiyama
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takakeisho, Kotoshogiku

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Daishoho vs Chiyomaru – Beloved Chiyomaru returns to the top division in his new “safety” mawashi, which may or may not have been picked up from Akua when he had to return to Makushita. With a 6-3 record, Chiyomaru is just 2 wins away from securing a bid to return to the top division.

Tomokaze vs Chiyoshoma – First time meeting between these two, with Chiyoshoma having a distinct advantage in speed over Tomokaze. It’s been a few matches since we have seen a Chiyoshoma henka, so be ready…

Terutsuyoshi vs Kagayaki – A loss today would give Terutsuyoshi a make-koshi and put him at risk to return to Juryo. Kagayaki has shown that he is effective against a fast rikishi (he beat Ishiura), so Terutsuyoshi has his work cut out for him. We know his sumo is up to the task if he can get a good position at the tachiai.

Ryuden vs Kotoeko – Shin-Ikioi will take on micro-hulk today. Kotoeko had nothing but problems with Meisei’s “speed sumo” on day 9, and we can expect that Ryuden learned from that match. Ryuden is not always known for rapid offense, so it’s likely he will leave an opening for Kotoeko to employ his superior strength to weight ratio with great effect.

Yutakayama vs Meisei – Yutakayama is already close to the Maku-Juryo line, and he is clearly struggling for wins. Normally he would have no problems overcoming Meisei, but in his injured state, there is no telling how this will go.

Toyonoshima vs Yago – Experience vs youth, and both are in dire need of wins. Toyonoshima especially must be worried about his lack of wins headed into the heard of week 2. Toyonoshima looks just a touch too slow right now. Something happened between Hatsu and Haru. Chances are we will never find out what.

Yoshikaze vs Ikioi – Oh come on! Ikioi will put on a brave, limping fight. Yoshikaze will get his his 7th win, and may exit the dohyo with blood on his face (a Yoshikaze specialty).

Asanoyama vs Ishiura – Both have matching 6-3 records, but their 4 prior matches all went to Asanoyama. Frankly, Asanoyama seems to have consolidated his sumo in the last couple of months, and everything seems to be connecting more smoothly. Ishiura is fighting well, and even winning matches without having to resort to cheap moves. This could be a solid match.

Aoiyama vs Shohozan – Oh goodie, I have been waiting for this one. Two sluggers ready to trade heavy fire at medium range. If Shohozan can get close, it’s going to be tough for Aoiyama, who seems to receive less well than he gives.

Sadanoumi vs Abi – I am sure that Sadanoumi knows by now how to shut down Abi-zumo. Will this be the day that Abi decides to try something else?

Chiyotairyu vs Takarafuji – Chiyotairyu put a lot into his day 9 match against Takakeisho, and I think that he might be a bit depleted when he faces off against the highly technical Takarafuji. If Takarafuji can dodge the initial Chiyotairyu gambits, he likely has a win.

Kotoshogiku vs Onosho – Onosho’s balance is still off due to his lengthy recovery from knee surgery, so I am going to suggest that Kotoshogiku has the upper hand. A win today would secure a kachi-koshi for the Kyushu bulldozer.

Tochiozan vs Okinoumi – Another great match for day 10. Both are high stamina, high skill sumo technicians who will put a lot of thought into their day 10 match. We may see some rare sumo today.

Nishikigi vs Shodai – Shodai holds a 3-1 career advantage over sumo’s Cinderella Man. Already into make-koshi land, a win today would hand Nishikigi his maki-koshi, too. Shodai holds a 3-1 career advantage – is day 10 the magic day for Shodai?

Kaisei vs Myogiryu – Speed vs size today, and I am going with speed. Myogiryu has a terrible record for the basho, but his tour through the named ranks is done now, and he has a real chance to exit with a winning record.

Mitakeumi vs Endo – This could also be a fun match. Mitakeumi’s injured knee is keeping him from showing us his “good” sumo, but he is still quite formidable. Their career record is a balanced 3-3.

Daieisho vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji seems to be improving into week 2, and I expect he will disrupt and overcome Daieisho’s offense. Hokutofuji will go for an early nodowa courtesy of his “handshake tachiai”.

Tochinoshin vs Goeido – Ozeki fight! If it goes longer than 8 seconds, I would expect Tochinoshin to win. Goeido is going to go for an immediate kill – blasting off the big Georgian from the Osaka dohyo.

Takayasu vs Ichinojo – I am positively giddy about this one. Ichinojo is looking his toughest in a long time, and Takayasu has been tuning up his sumo. Both men are in the chaser group, and the winner will remain 1 behind Hakuho.

Hakuho vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi gets a Hakuho flying lesson. We love you cookie-man, but The Boss is genki and you are today’s practice ballast.

Takakeisho vs Kakuryu – Takakeisho has never beaten Kakuryu, whose sumo is tailor made to disrupt and defeat someone like Takakeisho. A win today by the Sekiwake would put a very bold stroke on his potential Ozeki bid, and give him his kachi-koshi. Great final match for the final day of act 2!

Haru Day 9 Highlights

Who’s Been Training? – Yes, You Have…

Possibly the best day of sumo in several months, it was packed wall to wall with solid action from everyone in the top division. Frankly, I don’t think anyone really just phoned it in today, and we saw good sumo in every match. The yusho race is going to be a barn-burner, and may go to day 15. The intra san’yaku matches are becoming the focus, and we are going to see some of the greats of sumo battle it out for the cup, with a couple of maegashira rikishi in the mix for good measure.

I have mentioned it already, but today we got another clear look at Takayasu’s subtle, but highly effective, change to his sumo. While I expected him to bring the shoulder blast back for this Tamawashi match, he stuck to his more focused, yotsu-style approach. The fact that I find Araiso Oyakata’s influence returning to Takayasu’s sumo makes me very happy. Without the pressure of trying to keep up appearances, and conserve himself for Honbasho, Araiso now is back to what made him great—relentless sumo, driving himself and his deshi to higher levels of performance. I predict many good things will flow from this man, who may end up being more powerful that he imagined post-retirement.

Highlight Matches

Shimanoumi defeats Yutakayama – The Juryo yusho leader brings his best sumo to his Makuuchi match, and flagging Yutakayama finds himself a half step behind. In a raging oshi-zumo battle, Yutakayama delivered more punishment, but Shimanoumi kept moving forward. Yutakayama needs to get his knees fixed; he can only generate token forward pressure. Shimanoumi is kachi-koshi and headed to Makuuchi for May.

Daishoho defeats Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima opened strong, but could not finish the match. With Daishoho’s heels on the tawara, Toyonoshima’s foot placement went haywire, granting Daishoho an opening which he did not ignore. Toyonoshima is likely headed back to Juryo, and I am going to guess he has some issue with his undercarriage.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyoshoma – Do you know how we can tell Yoshikaze has at least some of his genki back? He’s bleeding. This bout turned into a mawashi duel, with Chiyoshoma’s loose outer wrap trending towards a mighty prime-time wardrobe malfunction. Yoshikaze showed no fear at Chiyoshoma’s threatened nudity, and battled on, renewing his left hand grip on his opponents failing mawashi. Both men showed remarkable balance and stability, resisting multiple pivots and throw set ups.

Meisei defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko unable to active his “Hulk mode”, and Meisei taps his superior speed and maneuverability to win the tachiai, and the match. Kotoeko never had a chance to establish either an offense or a defense, as Meisei was left hand high, right hand on the mawashi.

Ishiura defeats Ryuden – Ishiura’s gambit of keeping Ryuden (aka Shin-Ikioi) at distance payed off. Ishiura used his size and mobility to prevent Ryuden from closing the distance for a yotsu-hold or any effective oshi-target. As a result, Ryuden chased Ishiura around, until his balance was poor and Ishiura could slap him down. Very effective small guy – high mobility sumo today from Ishiura. His footwork was quite impressive. Note Ishiura’s efficiency, and how he keeps his feet near the shikiri-sen most of the time – he owned the center of the ring.

Yago defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi tried everything against Yago, but Yago’s excellent balance, low center of gravity and mass made it tough for Terutsuyoshi to take the initiative. I think both of these rikishi may end up with losing records, this tournament. For Terutsuyoshi that could mean a return for a time to Juryo.

Shohozan defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki may have great fundamentals, but he foolishly ended up steering this match directly into Shohozan’s comfort zone. Any time you decide to trade blows with Shohozan, you are probably going to lose, and you are most certainly going to get beat up. Reminder to Kagayaki – you want to do “your brand of sumo”.

Tomokaze defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji worked to stalemate Tomokaze from the tachiai, and was clearly on defense. For a good period of time it was working, and Takarafuji held the center of the ring, and his sumo was both efficient and effective against his younger opponent. But a mis-timed step left Takarafuji vulnerable to a hatakikomi, and Tomokaze delivered.

Aoiyama defeats Ikioi – Because of course he did. Will the sadist in the Torikumi committee please take the day off? I am impressed that Ikioi managed to generate a fair amount of forward pressure out of the tachiai, but Aoiyama just kind of waited for him to stumble a bit due to his banged up left leg. To me it almost looks like Aoiyama catches him and eases him to the clay. Ikioi now has a painful, limping make-koshi.

Kotoshogiku defeats Abi – I think Abi-zumo, in its current form, is past its sell-by date. Kotoshogiku can’t quite come in for his favored close coupling, but manages to break up Abi’s form and run him out anyhow. Abi did have Kotoshogiku perilously off balance for a moment, but as Abi was moving backwards, he could not use that moment to his advantage.

Okinoumi defeats Sadanoumi – Okinoumi’s sumo, taken over a period of months, is very hit-or-miss. But when he is healthy and his sumo is working well, the man is a library of smooth, controlled sumo excellence. We had a great exposition of that today, as the match shifted gears a few times, and Okinoumi stayed with everything Sadanoumi unleashed.

Asanoyama defeats Onosho – Asanoyama continues to improve his sumo, and we can get a good feel that Onosho is having balance problems. Some of that may be due to him favoring his good knee for a few months while he had been healing. This changed his natural sense of balance, and has left him susceptible at any moment he has more than 50% of his weight on that repaired right knee. Asanoyama works this brilliantly, and Onosho ends up with a face full of Osaka clay.

Nishikigi defeats Daieisho – After Nishikigi’s drubbing in the san’yaku, it would seem that many of his opponents (and some sumo fans) decided to write him off. With his normal calm, calculating sumo, he has won the last two with some fantastic form. Nishikigi slow-rolls the tachiai, and while Daieisho is pushing on Nishikigi’s head and shoulders, Nishikigi is pushing center-mass. Of course this works, and Daieisho finds himself moving in reverse gear, and unable to attack.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – Could we be seeing Endo bouncing back? Myogiryu focused on landing a face-slap during the tachiai, which is a bad move against Endo, as it gave him an open path to move inside and control the match. He wasted no time in getting Myogiryu turned sideways, and off balance.

Hokutofuji defeats Kaisei – Kaisei used his strength and size to great effect, and Hokutofuji was struggling to react after his initial pull down attempt cost him the initiative. Kaisei managed to bring Hokutofuji to his chest, but put his weight too far forward, and Hokutofuji dropped Kaisei to the clay.

Takakeisho defeats Chiyotairyu – An intense, violent succession of canon-ball collisions. Chiyotairyu continued to throw his massive weight against Takakeisho, who absorbed it all. Takakeisho looking very genki right now, and I am keen to see him start his “hell week” against Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 10.

Ichinojo defeats Goeido – Goeido put it all into this match, but when Ichinojo is genki, he brings so much mass, so must stability, and a lot of strength into every match. Ichinojo was clearly in “boulder” mode today, as Goeido could barely move him. Goeido tried multiple times to load a throw, but Ichinojo could not be moved. Ichinojo picks up his kachi-koshi against the hometown favorite. Fantastic match from both.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Again we see this “smooth” tachiai from Takayasu, and rather than going for the mawashi, he keeps his hands high, and moves immediately to block Tamawashi’s thrusting attack, but it’s only partially effective. Tamawashi drove Takayasu back, but Takayasu continued to focus on center mass. He rallied at the bales, and charged forward for the win. Once Tamawashi was off balance, it was all Takayasu. I still think he may play a role in the Yusho race. Takayasu gets his kachi-koshi.

Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Shodai made an excellent match out of it, and actually was able to get Tochinoshin on the defensive. But in doing so, he allowed the Ozeki his “sky hook” grip, and once that’s in, you are opening the door to Tochinoshin’s massive strength. Shodai continued to put up a great fight, but it was not enough. Stop it now, I am starting to feel sorry for Shodai, and that’s not right.

Kakuryu defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan had zero chance to do any sumo. Kakuryu gets ideal hand placement and advances straight out of the tachiai for the win.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi, fighting hurt, gets Hakuho chest-to-chest, and holds him in the center of the ring. The Boss is patient, and waits for Mitakeumi to shift a grip for his balance. He does not have to wait long, and is rewarded with mae-mitzu and forward momentum. Textbook Hakuho sumo. Hakuho remains unbeaten, and leading the yusho race.

Haru Day 8 Highlights

The middle day of the basho brought a welcome change in tone, as some long-suffering upper Maegashira finally got relief from the san’yaku pounding that was their daily lives. In response, we saw some rikishi score their first wins of the basho, and begin their long trek towards a more respectable final tally.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu visits from Juryo, and Chiyoshoma abandons any hopes of forward motion and pulls him down.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Yutakayama – Terutsuyoshi gets his second win of the tournament, and gets Yutakayama moving faster than I have ever seen before. I would guess that Yutakayama is headed back to Juryo.

Kotoeko defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze seems to have the stronger opening, even batting Kotoeko’s head around a few times for good measure. But while Tomokaze was busy doing all of this, Kotoeko lands a solid grip and takes control. The much larger, stronger Tomokaze gets suprised when Kotoeko “Hulks out” and employs some Kotoshogiku style offense, driving Tomokaze from the ring. Kotoeko is having a really good basho, and if he can keep this form he may be destined for a posting up the banzuke.

Yoshikaze defeats Daishoho – Yoshikaze seems to have turned a corner now, and is once again mustering at least enough power to win matches. Daishoho, for no reason I can think of, decided he was going to try to pull Yoshikaze down. A veteran like Yoshikaze can read your weight shift before you can apply force, Daishoho. Yoshikaze advances strongly into the pull, and wins.

Ryuden defeats Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima continues to struggle in his return to Makuuchi. I really like Ryuden’s tachiai today, and you can see he lands that right hand grip immediately, and turns Toyonoshima to the side. Toyonoshima is never able to square his body, and is left trying anything to establish any offensive sumo.

Shohozan defeats Ishiura – Ishiura has returned to a low, “submarine” tachiai, which can work. But it’s a very narrow range between an advantageous body position, and a venerable one that surrenders any offensive sumo. Today Ishiura was too low, and Shohozan capitalized on his mistake.

Kagayaki defeats Yago – Kagayaki seems to have overcome his ring-rust, and is back to solid fundamentals. Yago seemed to have no answer to Kagayaki’s relentless drive forward, and strong pressure center-mass.

Meisei defeats Ikioi – Go to the hospital, Ikioi, you are too injured for proper sumo.

Aoiyama defeats Sadanoumi – Aoiyama’s sumo is right in his “butter zone” now, and he is sort of unstoppable at this level of the banzuke. A win tomorrow will net him a kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Okinoumi’s technical library on display again today, as he masterfully shuts down Kotoshogiku’s offensive gambits, and shows his superior balance and footwork. Kotoshogiku did get his hug-n-chug running, but Okinoumi is an old hand at defending against it, and was able to shift the match back in his favor by holding ground against the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Asanoyama defeats Abi – Abi again opens with his typical thrusting attack, and Asanoyama counters by moving closer and grabbing Abi’s mawashi. You can literally see Abi go slack as Asanoyama goes through a series of hip swings that keep Abi dancing to Asanoyama’s tune. Abi, you have a lot of potential, sir – we hope you can diversify.

Takarafuji defeats Onosho – “Ice Man” Takarafuji absorbs Onosho’s powerful opening attack, and focuses on getting himself in position to counterattack. Onosho can be counted on to over-commit, and Takarafuji takes him apart the moment his balance is too far forward. For Onosho backers, remember he just needs 8 wins.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyotairyu – Oh yes! Nishikigi gets his first win, with smart tactics against a pulling Chiyotairyu. When the Kokonoe man goes for the pull down (easy to anticipate), Nishikigi shows superior balance and footwork, and drives the big man out.

Daieisho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu has nothing in this match, and Daieisho makes him pay for trying to pull him down.

Kaisei defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi’s kryptonite strikes again, and Kaisei racks up his first win of the basho. A combination of a lot of pent up sumo offense on Kaisei’s part, and that knee injury on Mitakeumi’s part made this fairly one sided, but its good to see Kaisei get a win at last.

Takakeisho defeats Endo – I almost think Takakeisho is getting stronger, more aggressive. I am eager to see his week 2 matches really test him out, with most of the top-rankers now looking to be in good form.

Takayasu defeats Shodai – Ok, now I am starting to feel sorry for Shodai. Somebody shoot me. He has a pride-obliterating 0-8 make-koshi on day 8. Again we see a more “grab” focused Tachiai from Takayasu, and points to Shodai for a solid escape as the Ozeki can’t secure his grip. This moment of “escape” is where Shodai really shines, but Takayasu maintains focus and wins with an oshidashi.

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo picks up his first loss of the basho, as Tochinoshin affirms he can still lift Ichinojo. Tochinoshin sidestepped the tachiai, and landed his left hand “doom grip” at the start. From there it was obvious that he was going to use his “lift and shift”, and he took several swings at that gambit before it finally payed off.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – When Goeido gets like this, you are in for a rough ride, no matter who you might be. Tamawashi has a strong start, which includes a slap to the face. But while Tamawashi is focusing on Goeido’s head, his hands have found their mark in a mae-mitsu grip, and it’s all over for Tamawashi. Goeido’s little flourish at the end, as if he has taken the trash to the curb, is a nice touch.

Hakuho defeats Tochiozan – I call Hakuho the “Michael Joran of Sumo” for good reason. Like Jordan, Hakuho will at times do things that defy explanation except to chalk it up to overflowing natural ability that is beyond anything a typical human could expect. Tochiozan had him boxed up, labeled and on the loading ramp. But somehow Hakuho used his poor body position (sideways, being pushed out) to form a leverage point and throw Tochiozan via kotenage. I had to watch this several times, Hakuho is probably the greatest rikishi of my lifetime.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji opened strong, with a lot of energy in his pushing attack, and it was great to see the Yokozuna’s opening pulling attack defeated by Hokutofuji. But its very tough to outmaneuver Kakuryu, and he is a master at taking whatever you throw at him and waiting for you to make even the smallest mistake.