Shimanoumi and Myogiryu Kyujo

Word in the Japanese press that Shimanoumi and Myogiryu are kyujo as of day 11. There is no explanation given as to why they have both withdrawn. My concern is that they have contracted the Omicron variant, and we may see a rapid spread among the rikishi thanks to the last 11 days of competition. Should that be the case, there is a question in my mind about if they will be able to conclude the basho at all.

Whatever is plaguing the two of them, we hope they are able to recover soon.

Both were part of the “Darwin Funnel” group at with 5-5 scores. Their day 11 opponents, Endo and Wakamotoharu will each receive fused wins, with Wakamotoharu improving to 6-5, and Endo staving off make-koshi for yet another day, advancing to 4-7.

Hatsu Day 11 Preview

Welcome to the 3rd act. We are going to see increasingly large differences in ranks for daily matches, and some head to head fights that are more or less just for the fun of it. In act 3, we sort everyone into make and kachi koshi, and crown a yusho winner. There is also this matter of the Darwin Funnel, which is operating with greater efficiency this time around that I can remember it every running before. We won’t know for a couple more days, but there could be a bumper crop of 7-7 rikishi at the start of Senshuraku.

Hatsu Leaderboard

Leader: Terunofuji, Mitakeumi
Hunt Group: Abi, Takarafuji
Chasers: Tamawashi, Kotonowaka, Kotoeko, Oho

5 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Oho vs Kotokuzan – If you had taken a break from sumo, and came back on Hatsu 2022 day 11, you could rightly say, “Who vs who?”. Oho, whose name conjures up images of delicious pastries, is really Naya, with a new shikona. Kotokuzan is a long serving Makushita guy who found his way into Juryo in Kyushu, and racked up a really nice 11-4 score. Now he is 2 wins away from a make-koshi, and maybe he might just have enough mojo to step into the top division some time in 2022. So give him a sharp look. A win today by Oho will be kachi-koshi for him.

Kotoeko vs Ichiyamamoto – Kotoeko tries again today for his 8th with, and a coveted kachi-koshi. This is a first ever match up with Ichiyamamoto, who will be hitting hard with both hands extended. Kotoeko my take advantage of his shorter stature to duck under and inside, and get chest to chest. That move, should he pull it off, will likely give him the match.

Chiyomaru vs Aoiyama – Chiyomaru needs 2 more wins over the remaining 5 matches to reach his 8, and given how he has been fighting, I think he’s got a very good chance of pulling it off. Aoiyama at 5-5 is squarely in the middle of the funnel, and at M16E, he’s probably one of the rikishi on the bubble. He needs 3 more wins out of his final 5 to make it to the safety of 8, and it’s going to be a struggle given his injury challenges.

Tochinoshin vs Chiyotairyu – Tochinoshin has a 10-4 career advantage over Chiyotairyu, but the bulk of that was prior to 2020. So in 2022 at Hatsu, its somewhat an even match of two long serving veterans, both hurt, and both at a fraction of their normal fighting power. Chiyotairyu needs to be careful to keep Tochinoshin’s left hand somewhere other than his mawashi.

Yutakayama vs Terutsuyoshi – This is a brutal match, because the winner gets pushed back into the funnel. The loser steps closer to make-koshi. right now I would give Terutsuyoshi the edge today, even though he does not have a clear career advantage. Terutsuyoshi has been fighting better while Yutakayama seems to be in more pain each and every day.

Sadanoumi vs Kaisei – Another match that looks normal enough on the surface, but if you think of it in terms of the funnel, a ?Kaisei win would put both of them at 6-5, and keep both of them in the undertow. That being said, I do think that Sadanoumi which his matchless speed and excellent agility has a very strong opportunity to get behind Kaisei and move him out with something like an okuridashi.

Tsurugisho vs Akua – I am personally surprised that Tsurugisho has 4 wins, given that it seems he cannot move with power or confidence right now. We have assumed it was some manager of back / leg / pelvic injury since week 1. Is this a chance for Akua to take in his 3rd win? If so, it would push Tsurugisho to be one loss from make-koshi. But if Tsurugisho wins, its back into the funnel for him.

Myogiryu vs Wakamotoharu – Both men come in at 5-5, squarely in the middle of the funnel group. Sadly, one win or one loss is enough for either of them to escape. This is their first time meeting, and it will likely come down to how well Wakamotoharu can keep his balance.

Ishiura vs Tobizaru – Very excited for this match, it’s high speed sumo from both rikishi, and I am hoping for a lot of movement, a lot of combination offensive strikes, and with any luck, a real lightning storm of a match.

Kotonowaka vs Takarafuji – A big 7 rank gap between these two, and it’s to underscore the funnel machinery at work. Takarafuji is already kachi-koshi, and Kotonowaka comes up to face him in search of the one win he needs for his 8. Tough draw, Kotonowaka. Takarafuji is fighting the best he has in over a year, and he’s going to be tough to overcome.

Okinoumi vs Chiyonokuni – Again, the funnel at work. Neither of these guys will benefit much from a win. Maybe Chiyonokuni, but he’s going zenpai anyhow. So they take both of these guys and they fight each other so they can’t donate a white star to anyone in the funnel group. Brutal…

Shimanoumi vs Endo – This is a solid chance for Endo to stave off make-koshi for another day. Shimanoumi has never won a match against Endo in any of their 6 attempts. But Endo is a big sticky mess right now, so maybe he won’t even be able to pick up a white star in this “gimmie” match.

Abi vs Ichinojo – It’s time to see if Abi-zumo has him operating at a higher power rating than before his punishment and demotion. They have not fought since 2019, and this is not going to be an easy match for Abi. I hope we see Ichinojo grab a piece of Abi and hold him still long enough to put him to the test.

Tamawashi vs Kiribayama – Oh, another brutal match. Tamawashi needs 1 more win to reach kachi-koshi, and so who does he draw today? Kiribayama, whom he has never beaten in 4 tries. True, Kiribayama has not been fighting well this January, so maybe Tamawashi has a chance to take his 8th win today. Oh, and should Kiribayama win? He’s back in the funnel.

Wakatakakage vs Ura – Ok, with all of that ugliness, its time for a bit of fun. Wakatakakage and Ura are both in the funnel, they have never fought before, and they are going to throw the kitchen sink at each other. Will Ura’s grab and tug be able to dismantle Wakatakakage and carry the day? I can’t wait to find out.

Onosho vs Daieisho – I am looking for Onosho to bounce back from his 2 match losing streak today. Not because he’s better than Daieisho by nature, but Daieisho just does not have the mojo this month to really crank up his attacks. So I am looking for Onosho to hand Daieisho his make-koshi today.

Meisei vs Hokutofuji – The winner gets to rejoin the funnel, the loser moves one step closer to make-koshi. Now that Hokutofuji ruined Mitakeumi’s January, he can go back to his relentless drive toward the “Most Power Make-Koshi In All Of Sumo”. Maybe today will be a black star for him.

Hoshoryu vs Takanosho – There were some sumo fans who assumed that Takanosho was on some kind of Ozeki campaign thanks to his 11-4 finish in Kyushu. Well, I think the meter starts when he hits the named ranks, but I am not an Oyakata, and I have no vote in that decision. But at 6-4, Takanosho really needs to get 2 more wins out of the last 5. One of these guys will move ahead to 7-4, and the other is getting pushed back into the funnel.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Can Shodai further rally to drive a stake into Mitakeumi’s hopes for an Ozeki promotion? Will we once again hear the Original Tadpole shout “FORK!” or some similar word following today’s match? It would would be just too much for most sumo fans if Shodai suddenly remembers his sumo today, and bashes the curry out of Mitakeumi today. Oh yeah, if Shodai wins – back in the funnel for him.

Terunofuji vs Chiyoshoma – Well, Terunofuji had to fight someone today.

Hatsu Day 10 Highlights

What a satisfying end to act 2, the middle 5 days of the basho. The goal in act 2 is to narrow the field and find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and start sorting rikishi into make and kachi-koshi. With Mitakeumi’s first loss of the basho, he is now even with Terunofuji at 9-1, and we go into the final 5 days with a tie at the top if the leader board.

Likewise the funnel continues to run well, and the number of rikishi headed toward day 15 7-7 records is looking rather long right now. How many will make it through the funnel to face a Darwin match on the final day? Only 4 days of sumo to enjoy before we find out.

Highlight Matches

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – Shohozan immediately dove in at the tachiai and secured a double inside grip. Tochinoshin tried a couple of “test lifts” but could not get Shohozan airborne, and so they waited. After a time, Tochinoshin tried again, and was able to get Shohozan up, and carried him out to improve to 5-5.

Chiyomaru defeats Kotoeko – Chiyomaru’s opening thrusting attack was quite random, and it allowed Kotoeko to get in close and attempt “his brand of sumo”. In response, Chiyomaru employed a “stand him up, then pull him down” combo that worked well enough to get Kotoeko off balance. Chiyomaru kept contact and shoved Kotoeko out for the win, improving to 6-4.

Aoiyama defeats Yutakayama – From the look at it, that was one hell of a face slap / thrust from Aoiyama’s right hand, as it put Yutakayama directly on the clay. Kind of a surprising match, but Aoiyama gets to stay in the middle of the funnel at 5-5.

Ishiura defeats Kotonowaka – Ishiura’s win was not pretty or graceful. It reminded me of a stubborn piece of masonry that had to be pounded into place. Kotonowaka did everything he could to stop Ishiura’s attacks, but it was never quite enough to put Ishiura on defense. The shitatenage that ended the match was, I think, the 4th attempt at that combo. Ishiura improves to 6-4, and Kotonowaka will need to wait another day to try for kachi-koshi.

Oho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu had a good opening combo with a face slap and a pull down attempt that was not too disastrous. They locked up chest to chest in the center of the dohyo to try and sort themselves out. Oho could not quite reach around Chiyotairyu’s belly to get a handful of mawashi, and so it was stalemate for a bit. Oho decided to gamble, took a step back and pulled Chiyotairyu from the back of his neck, sending him down for the win. Oho improves to 7-3.

Sadanoumi defeats Wakamotoharu – When I describe Sadanoumi as being one of the fastest men in sumo, here is a prime example. Wakamotoharu could barely get any kind of grip at the moment he toppled backwards over the tawara on his way to his 5th loss. It was a “blink and you will miss it” match. Sadanoumi takes the win to improve to 6-4.

Akua defeats Kaisei – Akua may have launched a moment early at the tachiai, and went for an immediate hazu-oshi attack against Kaisei. Akua was able to convert that to a solid left hand mawashi hold, which set up the leg sweep that brought Kaisei to the clay. Akua picks up his second win of Hatsu, improving to 2-8.

Tsurugisho defeats Chiyonokuni – No, today was not the day that Chiyonokuni won his first match of Hatsu. I think its zenpai for him. As expected, Chiyonokuni employed his favored oshi-zumo style, and took the fight to Tsurugisho, landing solid blows time and again. But as we have seen all January, Chiyonokuni just can’t generate any forward pressure. Tsurugisho responded by pressing ahead, and drove Chiyonokuni out of the ring, and is now 4-6.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tobizaru – Well, the hope here had been for a lot of back-and-forth attack and counter attack. Instead, we had Tobizaru a bit too low at the tachiai, and Terutsuyoshi pushed him to the clay for a quick win. Terutsuyoshi finishes the day at 4-6.

Takarafuji defeats Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto delivers the obligatory double arm thrust at the tachiai, but can’t move Takarafuji, who is already in a strong defensive stance. Ichiyamamoto is not discouraged at all, and just keeps thrusting away, with almost zero effect. Takarafuji sees that Ichiyamamoto’s chest is wide open, and decides to give Ichiyamamoto a shove back. After the first one succeeds, Takarafuji delivers a few more, and sends Ichiyamamoto out the west side for his 8th win, elevating to 8-2 and is kachi-koshi for Hatsu.

Shimanoumi defeats Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu really wanted to push against Shimanoumi’s neck and face, to the exclusion of everything else. Even when there was a clear route to Shimanoumi’s chest, Hoshoryu was not interested. Shimanoumi had the sumo sense to let Hoshoryu have his target. Shimanoumi broke contact, lunged inside and took Hoshoryu to his chest with a right hand inside grip. With Hoshoryu off balance, Shimanoumi twisted to his right and threw Hoshoryu to the clay. That’s the best sumo I have seen from Shimanoumi in a good long time, and he ends the day 5-5.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyoshoma – The tachiai was a draw, with neither rikishi having any kind of offensive advantage. Rather than continue to engage Myogiryu and let the match evolve, Chiyoshoma decided to pull. These pulls are always a gamble, and many times they are a fast path to a loss, as it was for Chiyoshoma today. Myogiryu charged ahead, took the win, and centered himself in the funnel with a 5-5 score.

Abi defeats Okinoumi – Traditional Abi-zumo to start, he drives Okinoumi back to the bales in a hurry. But as Abi moves to finish him off, Okinoumi grabs an arm and for a moment has control of the match. He swings Abi around, but Abi counters by grabbing Okinoumi’s arm in return. With his balance nowhere to be found, Okinoumi gets a fast route over the bales, and Abi gets his 8th win and is kachi-koshi for January. Okinoumi gets his 8th loss and is make-koshi as of day 10.

Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – Tamawashi understood that if you let Ichinojo grab you and set up shop in the center of the ring, he will wear you down and throw away the husk. Tamawashi solved this by planing a right arm nodowa attack on Ichinojo’s throat, and then marched him straight out the West side. Tamawashi improves to 7-3.

Kiribayama defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage again shows a bit limit to his balance, he comes inside at the tachiai, and looks like he has an offensive advantage. Kiribayama counters with a right hand lateral move, a grab for a right hand outside grip, and a quick pop on Wakatakakage’s neck, and Wakatakakage is on the clay. Both end the day at 4-6, and are very much in the funnel.

Endo defeats Meisei – Endo found himself at the end of the tachiai with no grip, no hand placement, and no chance of offense. Meisei was in no better condition, but Endo decided he would improvise. He drove inside, and again missed any kind of mawashi grip, and converted to pushing Meisei center mass. This worked pretty well, and resulted in an oshidashi win for Endo, only his 3rd white star of Hatsu. He ends the day at 3-7.

Ura defeats Daieisho – Daieisho picks his mark, Ura’s head, and unloads again and again. Ura responds with some attacks against Daieisho’s arms, but is generally reduced to soaking up the damage and hoping for a chance to turn the tables. As we expected, Daieisho left his right arm extended a bit too long, and Ura employed his grab-and-tug attack against it, breaking Daieisho’s balance. As Daieisho lunged to re-engage, Ura grabbed him bodily, planted his head in Daieisho’s chest, and ran Westward with everything he had. A “rescue” pull by Daieisho one step before the exit only compounded the ugliness of his fall from the dohyo. Ura advances to 5-5, and remains in the middle of the funnel.

Hokutofuji defeats Mitakeumi – Hokutofuji put all of his chips on hazu-oshi (armpit attack). This is a change up from his normal right hand “aim high” nodowa opening, and I think it caught Mitakeumi by surprise. When Hokutofuji is on his sumo, which he was today, he can really surprise everyone. He stayed impressively low, and was able to attack from underneath the entire time. Mitakeumi really had no escape once Hokutofuji took his second step. With that loss, Mitakeumi falls to be even with Yokozuna Terunofuji at 9-1, and Hokutofuji improves to 4-6.

Takanosho defeats Shodai – Is Shodai suffering some physical malady, or is he now just completely thrown in the towel mentally? This is the “bad old Shodai” that we made fun of quite a bit, rather than the burly, aggressive guy who stomped his way to Ozeki. I want the Ozeki guy back. Takanosho runs him amok and discards the carcass. He advances to 6-4.

Terunofuji defeats Onosho – Terunofuji again does exactly what is needed. Onosho tries a thrust, find Terunofuji at close range, and chooses to pull. Well, all you have done now is to bring the Kaiju even closer to your chest, and that’s what he wanted to begin with. On the 4th step, Onosho understands this, but its too late and Terunofuji has him out. Terunofuji improves to 9-1 and maintains his share of the lead.

Hatsu Day 10 Preview

Wow, here we are at the final day of act 2 of the Hatsu basho. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. Done and done. We have Mitakeumi vs Terunofuji for the cup. We have 4 rikishi with 7-2 scores that may get their kachi-koshi today, and a whole host about 18 rikishi currently in the grip of the torikumi mechanism I call “Darwin’s Funnel”.

With it being day 10, the goal for the funnel is to have as many rikishi as possible end the day with 5-5 scores. A few 6-4s and 4-6s will work too, but the sweet spot for the funnel will be 5-5. While us sumo fans can marvel at the machinery, for the rikishi I think it’s got to be very annoying, and maybe a bit demoralizing, too. Sumo life is never easy, and I think almost never gentle.

Hatsu Leaderboard

Leader: Mitakeumi
Hunt Group: Terunofuji
Chasers: Abi, Takarafuji, Kotonowaka, Kotoeko

6 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Good old Shohozan, he’s back in the top division for a visit, but given his 3-6 score, the chances of him taking a promotion slot are slim. Worse yet, Tochinoshin tends to wipe the floor with him, holding a 16-9 career advantage. But that may not matter at all today with these two, as they are both well below their physical optimum, and will just do whatever their bodies can manage today.

Chiyomaru vs Kotoeko – The goal here is a Kotoeko win, security kachi-koshi and handing Chiyomaru his 5th loss at the same time to keep him squarely in the funnel. The obstacle to this outcome? Chiyomaru is adept at beating Kotoeko (8-5) and is fighting well this basho. Could be a rowdy fight.

Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – The winner stays in the middle of the funnel at 5-5, the loser edges closer to make-koshi. You can see the pain on both of their faces as they mount and dismount the dohyo each day, so its kind of brutal to see them carry on, but again – sumo is tough.

Ishiura vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka has never won a match against Ishiura, in 4 attempts. But if he can do it today, it will be kachi-koshi for him, and it will kick Ishiura into the middle of the funnel with a 5-5. Can Kotonowaka overcome the odds?

Oho vs Chiyotairyu – First time ever match, and I would love to see Chiyotairyu blast into Oho at full power, just to give him the experience of what it’s like to take that kind of hit. I don’t know if Chiyotairyu has any of those in him at this point. Looking at the stats, I am somewhat amazed that these guys are not too far apart in terms of height and weight.

Sadanoumi vs Wakamotoharu – Loser of this match gets shoved back into the funnel at 5-5, and the odds are that fate will befall Wakamotoharu. He has an 0-2 career record against Sadanoumi, who is fighting well enough to put up a credible fight today.

Kaisei vs Akua – Kaisei needs 3 more wins out of the next 6 matches to hit kachi-koshi. This should be possible for him, and I would hope he can pull it off. He has an easy one today, with Akua looking like a human shipwreck in terms of his sumo. The biggest risk is that Akua would get behind Kaisei, and hurry him out.

Chiyonokuni vs Tsurugisho – Could today, at long last, the THE day that Chiyonokuni wins his first match? Or is he destined to hit the rare zenpai (zero wins) and pick up one of the most ignoble marks in sumo? He has a 5-2 career advantage over Tsurugisho, who has lost the last 2 in a row. But we really don’t know how banged up Chiyonokuni is.

Terutsuyoshi vs Tobizaru – Oh good, after a series of fairly grim pairings, now we get these two high action, high agility rikishi head to head near the middle of the top division schedule. They are nearly tied at 6-5 over their career, and I think we could see some intense action from this match.

Ichiyamamoto vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji has won their only prior match, which was back in Nagoya last year. If he should pick up this match (which he should) it will be kachi-koshi for Takarafuji.

Hoshoryu vs Shimanoumi – I would favor Hoshoryu in this match, as his sumo is looking well rounded, and he’s fighting well in multiple forms this January. But Shimanoumi needs to win today in order to keep pace with any chance of pulling out a kachi-koshi this tournament.

Myogiryu vs Chiyoshoma – The winner gets to advance to 5-5, staying centered in the funnel. The loser goes to 4-6 and inches closer to make-koshi. Their career records is 3-3, so this is about as even as you can get.

Okinoumi vs Abi – An Abi win today would put him at 8 wins, and Okinoumi at 8 losses. The schedulers love these “resolution” matches, where they can clean up multiple records with a single fight. The kink in that plan is that Okinoumi is aware of at lest a few ways to defeat “Abi-Zumo”.

Tamawashi vs Ichinojo – After the day 9 late hit, I sort of want Ichinojo to get a face full of dirt today. Tamawashi is quite skilled at putting people in painful holds and then taking them down. But with the Boulder finally learning to be patient, enormous and stand his ground, it may be tougher than ever to get him to supply the force and momentum to throw such a big man around.

Wakatakakage vs Kiribayama – Maybe the goal here is for a Wakatakakage win, taking him to 5-5. Kiribayama is fairly close to a lost cause at 3-6, so maybe this is the match where we see if he can claw himself back to fight his way into the funnel, or if he is just going to coast to a make-koshi.

Meisei vs Endo – Endo leads the series 5-2, but he has been terrible this basho, and comes in with a 2-7 record. A loss today is make-koshi for him, and maybe that is the point. Get him decided early and get him out of the way of the funnel. A win would give Meisei the desired 5-5 score, as well….

Ura vs Daieisho – Mega thruster Daieisho is a great opponent for Ura’s grab-and-tug sumo. Daieisho will be sending arms and hands flying in Ura’s direction with great speed and high frequency. One of them will get caught, twisted and used to pull the rest of Daieisho into an uncomfortable position, followed by a quick excursion out or down. At least that’s what Ura has in mind. Daieisho just needs two big hits amidships to send Ura out. Who will run their attack plan better? I can’t wait to find out.

Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – A very even match with 12-10 over their career. I would really think that Hokutofuji can give the Original Tadpole the business today, but he has only been at about 80% genki, while Mitakeumi is in what may be his best form ever.

Takanosho vs Shodai – If Shodai should win today (8-3 career advantage) they would both head to day 11 with matching 5-5 records, and be the highest ranking people in the funnel. Given that neither of them has really fought well this basho, this is what I do hope happens.

Terunofuji vs Onosho – Surprise surprise! Onosho holds a 4-3 career record on Terunofuji. But I will also state that includes a spectacular Onosho loss on day 4 of Kyushu via kimedashi. Since returning to the top division, the record is 3-2 in favor of Terunofuji. Given that Onosho is fighting well this basho, I expect sparks to fly in the final match.