One of the interesting by-products of my dive into Miyagino-beya’s silver medal squad was uncovering a potential new jewel in Enho. For a stable that produces very little in talent behind possibly one of the greatest rikishi ever to walk the earth (and let’s be honest, Miyagino-oyakata can be forgiven for that), it was curious to see a newcomer blast his way to a 7-0 yusho in the lower levels.
When looking to see whether this was at all something he shared in common with the current crop of sekitori as a possible signal of success, the answer was overwhelmingly yes. Of course, it is not the only signal, and as with many other sports, so much can go wrong (injuries, confidence, new trainer, etc.). But several top level rikishi put up multiple such records in their early (first year) basho and many more did it at least once. So this then begs a new question: out of the hundreds of men trying to break their way into professional sumo, is it possible to use this indicator to pluck names from down the banzuke – and if it is, when do we expect to see them bringing honour to their heya? If they don’t manage it, how much harder is it to then reach the top? This will be the first part in a series to attempt to try and figure all of this out.
First things first, let’s look at the most recent crop of 70 sekitori. We can use the March banzuke as a guide to figure out if there’s a story here because any makuuchi/juryo promotions/demotions aren’t going to massively change the calculus and the turnover from juryo to makushita doesn’t meaningfully affect our sample size (and we’re not only interested in who might make it to Juryo 14W someday).
What I’ve done here is split the sekitori into four categories: those who managed multiple 7-0 records in their first 6 full tournaments (post-maezumo), those who managed it one time, those who didn’t manage it, and those who didn’t manage it but were already in Juryo well before their 6th tournament (owing to entering the banzuke at makushita level as an amateur champion). This doesn’t tell the full story but it is somewhat telling that half of the professional ranks managed an early zensho. Of course, you’d expect the wrestlers who have been contending for titles their whole career to float towards the top, and so let’s see if that’s what we’ve got:
This confirms those suspicions. Makuuchi contains a higher number of rikishi to have put a zensho on the board their first year at least once (Kisenosato registered his first in his 7th basho otherwise this would have been more extreme), and as you’d expect it also contains a larger number of amateur champions who fast tracked their way to the top (and stayed there).
For the next parts in this series, we’ll start to look at how long it took these sekitori on average to reach juryo, and then start to look at the success rates of those who score this record and start to identify commonalities among them (kimarite, stature, etc), to model out who we might expect to charge up the banzuke soon and give us some more lower level candidates to track over the coming year. Again, this is just one of many signals – and there are many other intangible variables (stable, personality/confidence, etc) but it will be interesting to dig in and get an understanding of how impactful it is.
With the banzuke announcement just a few days away, it’s time to revisit the Heya Power Rankings series. Thanks to everyone who commented on the first version of this post – this time I’ve been able to make the key update of stacking the bars vertically, and hopefully by the time August rolls around I can get them sorted properly and then we’ll really be off and running!
For a refresher on the methodology and calculations behind these rankings, visit the original post. I’m pretty happy with how this held up for the second version – for example the accomplishments of Tochinoshin (kachi-koshi and jun-yusho from M12) are ranked equivalent to Tamawashi’s kachi-koshi at S1, and that seems fair. Without further ado:
And in “Billboard” style Top 20 chart form (ties broken by previous ranking with the most recently better heya ranked higher):
(+1) Isegahama. 124 points (-1)
(+2) Miyagino. 107 points (+57)
(-2) Tagonoura. 75 points (-55)
(+5) Kasugano. 58 points (+24)
(-2) Sakaigawa. 50 points (-10)
(+5) Oguruma. 42 points (+15)
(-1) Kokonoe. 41 points (-2)
(-3) Izutsu. 40 points (-5)
(-2) Oitekaze. 34 points (-4)
(+3) Kise. 33 points (+9)
(+7) Isenoumi. 33 points (+18)
(+3) Dewanoumi. 30 points (+10)
(-5) Sadogatake. 29 points (-6)
(-2) Kataonami. 25 points (even)
(-5) Takanohana. 24 points (-6)
(-2) Hakkaku. 23 points (even)
(-1) Tokitsukaze. 20 points (even)
(**) Onomatsu. 20 points (+15)
(**) Takadagawa. 17 points (+8)
(**) Minato. / (-3) Tomozuna. (both 13 points)
Isegahama takes the top spot this month on a slightly diminished score owing to quality AND quantity: Terunofuji’s second straight jun-yusho and consistent levels of performance across the board push them up to the summit. Miyagino vaults up as the greatest gainer on points owing mostly to Hakuho’s zensho-yusho (we’re not currently giving a bonus score for a 15-0, but this is something to think about), and Ishiura grabbing a KK didn’t hurt.
Kasugano takes a big jump up the listing owing to a big performance from Tochinoshin which more than offset declines elsewhere. Yoshikaze’s special prize gives Oguruma a boost, while all four Kise rikishi grabbed winning records to propel the stable forward with modest gains. Isenoumi is the greatest chart gainer with just two rikishi, but Nishikigi’s Juryo yusho and Ikioi’s regained form give the heya a big boost. Dewanoumi’s sole contributor Mitakeumi grabbed a special prize and he’ll likely have a good shot to maintain his score next time out as he will in all likelihood fight at a higher level.
Finally, 3 new heya hit the chart as Onosho’s performance drives Onomatsu, Kagayaki and Ryuden’s solid performances put Takadagawa on the board, and Ichinojo grabs a kachi-koshi for Minato.
Tagonoura lose their grip on the top, but this is simply owing to Kisenosato not winning (in any capacity). Their top 3 spot should be relatively safe however, with Takayasu’s promotion confirmed, and both of them when on-form now represent title challengers. Elsewhere, Sakaigawa takes a hit just owing to Toyohibiki coming off a Juryo yusho onto a make-koshi and not much support among the rest of the crew beyond Goeido. Meanwhile, Kokonoe’s quality doesn’t translate to quality as despite 6 sekitori, only 3 could manage winning records and the toppermost – Chiyonokuni and Chiyoshoma – ran into a san’yaku slaughterhouse.
Takanohana could be set for another dip, with Takagenji heading out of Juryo and Takanoiwa and Takakeisho likely swapping ends of the banzuke. Tomozuna’s fortunes will also likely get worse before they get better, with Asahisho likely following Takagenji, moviestar Kyokutaisei set for a drop down to the nether regions of Juryo, and Kaisei looking like he may only be a couple tournaments behind.
Shikoroyama (not ranked) should grab their second Juryo rikishi as Abi should certainly be promoted (5-2 at Ms1), and one would think Iwasaki (6-1 at Ms2) would join him in the pro ranks to give Oitekaze a shot in the arm. If Daishoho can get his act together soon and join up later this year, the stable would have a truly impressive number of rikishi in the top 2 divisions.
Kise had a great basho at Natsu as outlined above and they may also be ready to call on reinforcements soon: they boasted 7 rikishi between Makushita 1 and Makushita 12 and while none look like certain promotion candidates for Nagoya… ALL of them scored winning records, as did 2 of the 3 just behind (so that’s 13 of their top 14 with a kachi-koshi – bear in mind some stables don’t even have that many rikishi in total!). As always with the larger stables, a number of these guys are journeymen and also-rans, but the names to watch here are Shimanoumi (5-2 at Ms5W won’t get the job done this time, but he’s scored no less than 5 lower division unbeaten yusho and will be determined to get back to Juryo after fighting back from a period out of competition), and former university man Kizaki (who has raced to the top of Makushita in a year with 7 straight KK, including a pair of yusho).
At the conclusion of every basho, the sumo kyokai award a series of special prizes. They are intended to recognize rikishi who have over-performed and achieved greatly in the basho. At the end of Natsu, 4 special prizes were awarded, and all but one went to members of the San’yaku.
Sumo fans may note that after most basho, there is a tour of regional cities by a cadre of available sumotori. They demonstrate their practice techniques, some of the culture and activities around sumo, and even sing songs! We have written on this in the past, and it’s known as Jungyo, literally “Making the rounds”.
But after Natsu, there is no Jungyo. The rikishi have 6 weeks to train with intensity, to undergo medical care, fly home to wherever that may be, or just take care of business. There are a handful of Makuuchi rikishi I am going to scan the press for daily, in hopes of catching some news:
Kisenosato – This guy needs surgical help. If he goes under the knife now, he could be back in fighting form in time for Aki. I really want him to be able to perform, as he would make such an awesome counterbalance to the resurgent Hakuho. The cultural counterpoint between the brash, enthusiastic Mongolian showman vs the quiet, almost bookish, but overflowing with confidence and strength Japanese master craftsman would be such a wonderful story arc.
Harumafuji – Not sure there is much that can fix his chronic undercarriage problems. He plays, perhaps, the most critical role in sumo right now. That of “the Hammer”. On any given day he can wipe out even Hakuho. He is explosive, relentless and driven to succeed. No one can advance to or survive San’yaku unless they can face him on the dohyo and put up a decent fight. As such, I hope there is something that can be done to get him well. I don’t see anyone in Makuuchi that might be able to take over this role.
Goeido – This guy is still not 100%, and frankly I don’t know if he ever can be once he had his ankle rebuilt out of lego and superglue. I would be delighted if he never went Kadoban again.
Terunofuji – The knee-less wonder somehow managed to keep on the offensive during Hatsu, even though it was clear to everyone that each day the pain in his knees became worse. When he is healthy he is an unstoppable beast of an Ozeki, and that’s very good news for sumo. Surgical knee treatment is very much hit or miss, so I don’t blame Terunofuji for seeing if there is some way to avoid it.
Okinoumi – This guy has been competing in spite of a very serious personal injury that would require surgery and about 4 weeks hospitalization to resolve. Would he still be able to compete once they are done with him? I don’t know. But it’s brutal to watch him mount the dohyo and get pummeled daily. I can’t imagine how brutal it is for him.
Tochinoshin – He’s in the same boat at Terunofuji. That knee has been his bane for a while now. With it working and healthy, he fights at at least upper Maegashira level. Hurt he’s day by day between upper Juryo and mid Maegashira. It would be great to see him return healthy and not face any further leg and foot problems.
Osunaarashi – I wish we could pull this guy out of sumo for a few months and let him get healthy. He’s another dauntless competitor whose spirit won’t give up, but his body seems to be failing him. But such a move would likely end his career effectively. But out of everyone on this list, he seems to possibly be the most in need. He has not been healthy for several basho now.
As always, we accept tips in the comments section if you read something that helps us know and share with the world how these or any rikishi are faring over the next 6 weeks before we start Nagoya basho.
Thank you to all the sumo fans who chose to spend part of their day with us. We are eternally grateful for what is our biggest basho, and our biggest month ever. We would be nothing without the support of our readers and fellow fans of sumo. The site and all that goes into it is a labor of love between a handful of people. Why do we do it? Because we all think that sumo has global appeal, and the catalyst for broader enjoyment of sumo is media presented in a native language for fans outside of Japan.
So thank you, we will continue to report, but at a reduced intensity, until we ramp up again in June for what will be a barn-burner of a basho in Nagoya.
In completing his perfect yusho, Yokozuna Hakuho has made it clear that he is back in form and ready to resume his reign as the dai-Yokozua. It’s been a long, difficult road for Hakuho. After he injured his foot in Nagoya, he chose to miss Aki and undergo an operation to reconstruct his big toe and to fix parts of his knee. The recovery was not easy. The surgery and immobility afterwords had a bigger impact than I am sure he expected. As a result he has been under performing for months.
In that period, we have seen some rikish who would normally be eking out kachi-koshi scores here and there truly excel. This is in part because to top predator (and some of his cohorts) have been under performing, in culling rikishi from the ranks.
You can think of it this way, for Hakuho to get to 15 wins, the rest of Makuuchi had to absorb 15 losses. With Hakuho kyujo, someone else got those 15 wins. Everyone’s score increased. You got to see Kisenosato finally make Yokozuna, you got to see Goeido take a zensho yusho. You got to see Kakuryu rack up (at last) a yusho himself. It’s been a great year without a Hakuho. But now he is back, and he is genki and he is ready to rule once more.
A sign of that include his late pushes after a match have returned, so maybe he feels he is fine and will stay fine, and he is free to be Hakuho the great. This has huge implications for sumo for the next year or two. Specifically the other Yokozuna and anyone wishing to follow Takayasu up the Ozeki trail.
For a long time nobody but Hakuho could yusho. When he is / was healthy he is / was unstoppable. We saw that again here during Natsu. Is he back to that level? He wants you to think he is, to be sure. But is he? Maybe? But it’s clear that the one armed Yokozuna needs a repair job if he wants to contend once more. It would be brutally sad if Kisenosato had to follow Kakuryu into a series of revolving kyujos due to a combination of untreated and unresolved injuries, and a mighty, nearly unbeatable uber-sumotori at the top of the heap.
Chiyonokuni finished 2-13. He’s much better than that, and I think he still has a lot of promise. He just peaked hard when a lot of other sekitori were flailing, and he got caught in a storm of beat downs by everyone. He will recover, he will be back. He’s one to watch.
Okinoumi & Takarafuji finished 3-12. Both are old for rikishi, both have various performance limiting injuries. This is one of the problems with Makuuchi at the moment, its full of guys in their 30s. As a pure meritocracy, it’s full of people who can win, and those that can’t win go away over time. We are in one of those times, but because of the way the banzuke works, it could take a long time before fading veterans make way for the up and coming hard chargers.
Daieisho, Aoiyama, Takekaze, Toyohibiki, Myogiryu & Yutakayama finished 4-11. You might expect there to be a brutal banzuke thump down for these rikishi, but for every down there must be an up. And many of the pressure from the lower ranks you might expect did not materialize due to near absolute parity in Juryo. 13 Juryo wresters ended with 8-7 or 7-8.
Matches That Mattered On Day 15
Ura defeats Daishomaru – Ura does a reverse tachiai. You can rightly ask “what the hell was that?”, but hey! it worked! Was it a henka? No, not really. Was it strange? Yes. I thought I saw Daishomaru smiling and maybe giggling a bit over what had just happened, but then I had already had a glass of sake, so who knows.
Tochinoshin defeats Toyohibiki – Kind of sour ending by back to back henkas from Tochinoshin. I am going to guess he re-injured that mummified knee, and that’s why he henka’d his last two matches.
Ishiura defeats Takekaze – Ishiura gets to be Hakuho’s standard bearer – very happy for Ishiura, he pulled out a kachi-koshi on the last day. He has some work to do, and hopefully a healthy Hakuho can provide some assistance. His deshi needs some upgrades.
Tochiozan defeats Shohozan – Both end with 6-9, both are in the older crowd that is lingering around, due to lack of pressure from Juryo. Don’t get me wrong, Makuuchi is good sumo now, but it could and should be better. But right now Juryo is kind of broken for some reason I have not figured out. There should be a crop of early 20’s rikishi who stand these old guys on their ear daily, but that is not happening.
Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Hokutofuji joins the joi next basho, I would assume. It will be time to see if the up-and-comer has the mojo to really make a stand against the San’yaku. With a healthy Hakuho, it could be a blood bath again (as the basho were before he was hurt a year ago). Yoshikaze at this point is just running up his personal score. While we fans out side Japan mostly focus on what the NHK video shows us, it’s important to note that inside the sumotori community, everyone loves Yoshikaze, and I predict that once he retires and exercises his kabu, he is going to be a very big deal in sumo management indeed.
Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – Whatever they put in Shodai’s chanko the last few days, do keep it up! Next basho, we get Shodai back in the joi, and it’s bloodbath time for him, too!
Kotoshogiku defeats Ikioi – Well, that was like the Kotoshogiku of old. We should all enjoy it while it lasts. It’s sort of sad to see him fade, but I guess he is still calling his own outcomes, so I praise his persistence. Ikioi is still hit or miss, but then he has been for a while now.
Tamawashi defeats Goeido – Goeido 1.0 came back for old time’s sake. Now that Kadoban is lifted for a few months, he can afford to be unfocused. Please go get rested, ready and strong Goeido. Nothing would confound the critics and delight the fans more than a second basho full of Goeido 2.0. Who knows, you might even convince Hakuho to retire…
Terunofuji defeats Takayasu – I love the Kaiju when he’s on his sumo. Although I am a ginormous Takayasu fan, it was very good to see Terunofuji deploy all of his moves against the man who will be Ozeki. Even to the point of crushing his arms, which we have not seen in some time. People use to be afraid of facing this guy because they would leave the bout hurt. If Kisenosato can be restored to working order, Takayasu will make a great Ozeki. But while he is training on his own (like he was the for the past 2 months) he is vulnerable. The two are a team, and together they will excel.
Hakuho defeats Harumafuji – Kind of one for the ages. It was a great match, especially the series of moves Hakuho used to change the dynamics of the match and get Harumafuji un-stuck and moving backwards. Given Harumafuji’s re-injury to his ankle, I think he put on a hell of a performance. My complements to both men
What a great tournament we just had! To me, what stood out is the large number of outstanding performances throughout the banzuke, from Hakuho‘s zensho yusho all the way down to Onosho‘s 10-5 record in his Makuuchi debut. Terunofuji got his Jun-yusho, and would have been in contention on the final day if not for his early hiccups on days 1 and 2. Takayasu handled the pressure and will be ozeki in Nagoya. Tamawashi may have started his own ozeki run, and has been fighting at that level. Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze held their own in San’yaku, and Shodai, Takakeisho, Tochinoshin, Hokutofuji, Ikioi, and Ura all put up great numbers in the maegashira ranks.
We don’t get the official Nagoya banzuke until June 26, but here are some early thoughts on the top and bottom of the banzuke.
The yokozuna ranks should get reshuffled as follows:
We will have 3 ozeki: Terunofuji, Goeido, and Takayasu.
Tamawashi will keep his sekiwake rank, and Mitakeumi should join him.
Yoshikaze will keep his komusubi rank, and I think Kotoshogiku did just enough to only drop down to the other komusubi slot.
We should have a strong new crop of upper maegashira, who may even fare better than their predecessors at these ranks:
At the other end of the banzuke, Yutakayama, Myogiryu, and Toyohibiki will find themselves in Juryo, replaced in Makuuchi by Sadanoumi, Chiyomaru, and Nishigiki. I think Kaisei will just barely hang on to the top division at M16. They could swap him with Gagamaru, but what would be the point?
Full banzuke prediction to come once I’ve had some time to digest Natsu.
Completing his sweep this morning, Hakuho went undefeated for Natsu, finishing his championship run with a perfect 15-0 record. It’s a stunning achievement, and the 38th championship victory for him.
I have called him “The Michael Joran of Sumo” in the past, and his performance during Natsu simply underscores that comparison. His balance between strength, speed, technique and showmanship is unrivaled in any Yokozuna I can remember. As a sumo fan I feel privileged to be alive when he was fighting fit, and even so luck as to see him live at the Kokugikan, which is ringed with his yusho pictures.
His match against Harumafuji was excellent, in spite of Harumafuji’s obvious and limiting injuries. Harumafuji pushed hard to gain control out of the tachiai, but Hakuho took his time and worked to secure a belt grip on his challenger. Once he had that secure, it was all Hakuho.
Tachiai congratulates “The Boss”, it was really nice to see the greatest Yokozuna of our day reign supreme again.
The end is nigh! Well, for this basho anyhow. It’s been great fun to write like a madman once more, and it’s hard to fathom that just last week I was in Tokyo. The whole thing turned into giant, sumo encrusted jet-lag blur. A very nice blur, but a blur none the less. But now all the clothes I took smell like those tatami mats, and I find I kind of like it. I am also having withdrawal symptoms due to a lack of Katsu Curry, or any real source of soup soba.
Much has been decided, and there are a few interesting things left to resolve. With Kotoshogiku and Takayasu out of Sekiwake, the promotion lanes are finally open again, and it’s a mad dog-pile to see which up-and-comer is going to stand out for a slot as a punching bag in Nagoya.
Then there are the rikishi who are on a knife edge to try and get a kachi-koshi bolted down.
Ishiura (fights Takekaze)
Kaisei (fights Kagayaki)
What’s going to happen in Juryo? Good lord, who knows! Well, actually the Juryo yusho will either be Nishikigi or Aminishiki, by some magic they both ended day 14 with 9 wins, and had not fought each other. I am sure the schedulers were doing high fives. Does Aminishiki get promoted to Makuuchi from Juryo 8 if he takes the Juryo yusho? Does Nishikigi get promoted if he takes the Jun-Yusho? I don’t envy the banzuke team for this one. I suggest the get well drunk, eat a giant box of Takoyaki, and make up something that rhymes.
Matches We Like
Daishomaru vs Ura – Special prize time for Ura? Can he crack 11 wins with some kind of win over Daishomaru? The only other time they fought, Daishomaru took him apart. I am hoping Ura still has a few magic beans left to eat before his match tomorrow.
Tochinoshin vs Toyohibiki – I call shenanigans! Paul Bunyon with 11 wins going against Shin-Juryo Toyohibiki? Ah well, double bonus points for a henka this time. Triple bonus if they do simultaneous henkae (sp?). Ceremonial Tonkatsu helmet for Toyohibiki if he can actually beat him.
Onosho vs Takakeisho – Both contenders for a special prize, winner should be given said prize, loser gets to drive around the streets of Tokyo in a go-kart dressed as a mini-Bowser.
Hokutofuji vs Yoshikaze – As noted there is some kind of weird San’yaku triangle / drinking game going on, and I am pretty sure it’s a good thing. Who gets to be crowned Sekiwake? Well, I am guessing it comes down to who wins matches today. This one should be good, as Hokutofuji is “strong like bull!”, while Yoshikaze is the kind of guy who can win against nearly anyone.
Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Another part of this triangle, will Mitakeumi take Shodai down? I will admit, Shodai has been looking rather solid the last 3 days, is he genki enough to contain Mitakeumi? Mitakeumi wants that Sekiwake slot, he has really been at Tamawashi levels for the last two basho.
Tamawashi vs Goeido – Winner gets double digits, I would love to see Goeido finish with 10 wins, but I am guessing that Tamawashi wants to go out on a win too. Get Goeido 2.0 on the phone, he needs to make an appearance at the Kokugikan today.
Terunofuji vs Takayasu – Time to try on the Ozeki rank one stop early. Hey, Takayasu! Today, move forward, no pulling, no moving backwards. You are one of the best yotsu-zumō around. How about you uncork a bucket of that and let the Kaiju have a whiff of the aroma of Ozeki Takayasu?
Harumafuji vs Hakuho – Well, this one is zensho-yusho. Harumafuji is hurt, but I am sure the rivalry between him and Hakuho will drive him to peak performance. I just hope that he comes out of it in an recoverable condition. Harumafuji is, in my opinion, unique in sumo for the present day. I hope he can stick with us in good condition for a few years more. Oh yes, in his interview today Hakuho looked really very happy. Like I have not seen Hakuho in a long time. It was quite pleasant.
I have recalled many tournaments where things fade a bit on the last few days, the yusho is kind of a foregone conclusion, or there are no really competitive things going on except maybe a few top matches. Given the number of sekitori that have withdrawn, this seemed quite possible this basho, but it has kept fans engaged right up until the end. This is a fine example of the schedulers spinning gold out of straw, and I complement them without reservation.
We were following the Komusubi, and both of them locked up kachi-koshi today, which is a fantastic and interesting development. There is one Sekiwake slot open for July, and it’s going to come down to the final day and total win count to see who gets it. Either of them would be a great choice, but in spite of being a huge Yoshikaze fan, I think Mitakeumi is the better fit.
Although no one in the Japanese sumo press discussing this much, it’s clear that Harumafuji’s performance took a step down after his bouts earlier this week. He had very little power to ground with Goeido today, who (thankfully) had the mojo to exploit the weakness and drive to a win. There had been some cat calls over Goiedo’s easy path to lift kadoban, but with a win over a Yokozuna, he’s got nothing to hide from now.
Juryo keeps refusing to behave. We now have two rikishi at 9-5, and 12 (!) at 8-6. Furthermore, the two leaders right now are none other than long suffering sekitori Nishikigi, who would be welcome back in Makuuchi, and the relic Aminishiki, who is now 38 years old! Never give up, never surrender!
Chiyotairyu defeats Gagamaru – Chiyotairyu picks up his kachi-koshi, and holds onto Makuuchi in a match against Planet Gagamaru. Gagamaru is a real mixed bag, like Ichinojo, he probably relies too much on a lot of mass as a defensive system. There is a lot to be said for bulk in sumo, but there are a host of sumotori who lose mobility and attack power as their weight climbs. I would count Gagamaru among them. I bet he would improve greatly if he shed 10-15 kg before July.
Onosho defeats Arawashi – Arawashi is now make-koshi, and Onosho keeps rolling on. It’s really kind of impressive the sumo he has been able to put together on his Makuuchi debut, and I hope it’s a sign of good battles to come. Arawashi was late in setting up his throw, and was out before he could swing Onosho down.
Shohozan defeats Kaisei – Kaisei’s demotion to Juryo or persistence in Makuuchi comes down to the final day, he is now at 7=7 after his loss to Shohozan.
Takakeisho defeats Ura – Ura has still never beaten Takakeisho in a match. Today Ura looked out of control, vague and confused. Takakeisho had Ura under control and off the dohyo in a hurry, and it was really impressive.
Hokutofuji defeats Endo – Ok… Endo beats two Ozeki and a Yokozuna this basho. He even put Yoshikaze away on day 11. Yet he is deeply make-koshi, and lost to a Maegashira 7 today. Granted, Hokutofuji is a powerful up-and-comer, but Endo either has some mechanical injury, or needs to get his mind in his sumo. We hope the stretch between now and July can help him get things together.
Yoshikaze defeats Tochiozan – Solid match from both, but it was all Yoshikaze today. He gets his kachi-koshi and will stay in San’yaku for July. I also get the impression that Yoshikaze is really have fun with his sumo this basho. He has not looked this dialed in since last summer.
Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – HENKA! The NHK commentator, Hiro Morita, was really upset by this. But let’s get real here, Tochinoshin was squirrels before the tachiai, he practically telegraphed this to Tamawashi. Tamawashi, keep your head up and eyes on your opponents center of mass during the tachiai. Everyone who plays a football lineman in the US understands this. It’s not that tough.
Kotoshogiku defeats Daieisho – Ojisan seems really sullen and resigned now, and it’s a bit depressing. I am sure he is trying to figure out if he stays in as he floats down the banzuke, or if he takes his kabu and transitions into a behind the scenes role. He is now and can always be a big deal in sumo, but he continues to diminish.
Shodai defeats Takayasu – This one was a bit of a surprise, and in my book, it was Takayasu who made a few mistakes and Shodai who had the sumo sense to make him pay. It’s possible he was out celebrating with his mother and father (and friends) last night, and may have been a bit ragged during the match. Shodai kept moving forward, no matter what, thus he won.
Goeido defeats Harumafuji – Harumafuji is back to suffering from his lower body problems. It robs him of mobility and a strong stable platform to bend opponents into odd shapes and hurl them into the sun. He will close out the basho with a respectable double digit record, and what could be a really fun match with Hakuho. Much respect to Harumafuji indeed!
In day 14 action from Tokyo, Yokozuna Hakuho clinched his 38th yusho (tournament win) Saturday by defeating injured Ozeki Terunofuji. A couple of notables from the bout: Terunofuji gave Hakauho more of a fight than nearly anyone else has this basho, in spite of the fact that he has only one good leg. Hakuho gave Terunofuji a little extra shove after the match was over, the first time we have seen Hakuho do that in a while. It was curious as Hakuho had already “applied the breaks” to keep Terunofuji from going off the dohyo as a result of Hakuho’s winning yorikiri.
As someone who has admired Hakuho’s sumo, his history, and his showmanship, I find it magical that we get to see him fight at his natural level again. For today, he seems free of any limiting injuries, and comfortable once again on the dohyo.
Congratulations to The Boss, and we cheer him on towards the final meaningful record that does not yet bear his name – the total career wins. We hope to see him smash that record in July.
The Dai-Yokozuna is running away with Natsu, and I am delighted. I had feared that we were in the slow fade of the Hakuho era, and that we might never see him genki again. His day 14 match is against our favorite kaiju, none other than Terunofuji. Now Terunofuji is clearly banged up, and his problematic knee or knees are once again bothering him. But I am quite sure he wants to deliver some solid sumo on Saturday. If Hakuho wins, he wins the tournament. If he loses, there is one glimmer of hope for Harumafuji in the final match of the final day.
As it’s now Saturday morning in Japan, I expect to start seeing reports on Takaysu hit the sumo / sports press in Japan. We won’t know about his Ozeki promotion for a bit, but I am sure they are speculating like mad about it. I was a bit bemused to see that his parents had to sit in the Kokugikan rafters today. Did no one affiliated with Tagonoura beya not have a pair of tickets they could give up for Big T’s folks? Did I mention he gets to play with Shodai on day 14? Maegashira 5w is a lot tougher than it normally is this time.
The basho has not lost it’s interest, as there is still the Juryo jumble, and a number of solid rikishi (including both Komusubi) fighting it out for a kachi-koshi. This makes me think about Yoshikaze. I am sure it would be a fun bragging point to make it back to Sekiwake at 35, but at this point he’s got to be wondering about the wear and tear on his berserker frame.
Ichinojo vs Daishomaru – Ichinojo can get his kachi-koshi today, believe it or not. He has not been really bold this basho, and one has to wonder if he is once again suffering his chronic back problems that have sapped his performance. The good news – there is no Jungyo tour after Natsu. So everyone has a chance to rest, get medical attention or go see mom and dad. Maybe Ichinojo can get his back fixed and return to being Kaiju-Jr.
Tokushoryu vs Kagayaki – Tokushoryu also pressing to close out his kachi-koshi, while Kagayaki wants to run up the score. While Kagayaki has shown some great sumo this past two weeks, he got rolled like crepe on day 13.
Shohozan vs Kaisei – Dangling by his fingertips at the sharp and rocky edge of Makuuchi, Kaisei has a shot today to cement himself as a July Maegashira rank by beating Shohozan. This won’t be too easy, as Shohozan probably bench presses more the Keisei weighs.
Ura vs Takakeisho – After a pride obliterating slap down from Ikioi on day 13, Ura tries to recover and bid for a special prize against Takakeisho. A win for Takakeisho would take him to double digits, and give him a healthy shove up the banzuke. Did I mention the dread I am feeling when I think about trying to put this chaos into my spreadsheet? I will beg our readers to only laugh a little.
Hokutofuji vs Endo – Well, Endo has a make-koshi now, and Hokotofuji will be eager to see if his improved sumo is enough to defeat a Maegashira 1. Depending on the final win tally on Sunday, we may see Hokotofuji in the dreaded upper 4 Maegashira slots for Nagoya. Personally, I am eager to see how he does against the San’yaku. Endo on the other hand will need to regroup and fight his way back up the banzuke.
Mitakeumi vs Ikioi – Will Ikioi shut down Mitakeumi’s bid for a winning record? Ikioi looked very solid, very powerful in his day 13 match against Ura, and I am hoping he brings that sumo back out for day 14. Mitakeumi is a great power sumo rikishi, and it would be great to see a strength battle between these two.
Tochiozan vs Yoshikaze – Tochiozan had a great start and then ran into trouble. I do suspect that some injury started closing in, and he reverted to his prior form. Yoshikaze is also trying to clinch his 8th win, and hold onto San’yaku. This will be an exciting match between sumo’s senior class.
Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – Lumberjack Tochinoshin goes against Tamawashi, who really knew how to get Hakuho enraged on day 13. This time it’s going to be speed vs brute strength. Tochinoshin’s match against Shodai was incredible in the amount of force that was being exchanged back and forth between the two rikishi. Tamawashi will, I predict, stay away from that kind of match, and keep it on his terms.
Shodai vs Takayasu – Shodai gets to train with the pre-Ozeki on day 14. As some have pointed out, this might be win #12 for Takayasu, further putting a punctuation on his Ozeki bid. Then again, Shodai has a chance at bringing Takayasu back to earth for a moment, and should take every advantage of this match.
Terunofuji vs Hakuho – The Boss against Kaiju. I predict this one is over in seconds. Terunofuji is hurt. He knows it, Hakuho knows it, the fans know it. A win here would clinch the yusho for Hakuho, and maybe there is no valor to be won for Terunofuji this time. Not to imply, but he might need a favor later if his knees continue to bother him.
Harumafuji vs Goeido – I would imagine that Harumafuji is rather frustrated after his day 13 loss. I would not be surprised if he give Goeido a right proper launch into the 3rd row, and I just hope that Goeido is not injured. He and Harumafuji have a 40 match history, with Harumafuji winning 30-10. So, it’s going to be ugly. Up side, mighty fine pile of kensho should come out of this match.
As written early this morning, my sumo fandom is still ringing with Takayasu’s win over Harumafuji. I have seen some fans state that the gyoji got in the way, and that’s why Harumafuji lost. These things happen, and it’s all part of sumo. The Goyji tries his best to stay out of the way, but when both rikishi are going pell mell all over the dohyo, it’s tough to get out of the way. I would urge those who are fixated on the gyoji to focus on two things. First, I think Harumafuji re-tweaked his knee a couple days ago (we pointed it out), and has been a bit tender on his feet since. Second, the Harumafuji of last week (healthy and full of fight) would have recovered better from the boutus-interruptus at the tawara than what happened today. We may as well be asking if an army of mini-Mike Ditkas could overcome a two headed John Elway and Happy Gilmore in a game of golf.
In other big news, Goeido successfully erased his kadoban status for at least a couple of months. As we suggested when Kisenosato went kyujo, that move pulled upper and mid Maegashira up to bouts with the San’yaku, and all of them had really terrible records. I personally think Goeido still has more recovery to do from his ankle surgery, and I hope we can get a full time Goeido 2.0 basho some time soon.
Oh, and that flaming mess in Juryo? Someone threw some old tires in there too. We have SEVEN rikishi at 8-5, thats a 7 way tie for the lead. Who’s going to get the yusho? My money is on that mutant two headed John Elway and Happy Gilmore monster we left back at the Wal Mart. He had a shopping cart full of Corona and a questionable looking frozen breakfast burrito.
Chiyotairyu defeats Ishiura – Pocket dynamite Ishiura needs to win both his final matches to avoid a make-koshi. He has been vague and inconsistent since his really excellent premier in January. We hope he can get his sumo back, because he has a lot of potential.
Arawashi defeats Toyohibiki – It’s clear Arawashi is not at 100%, but he is putting his all into avoiding a make-koshi. Toyohibiki on the other had is probably a candidate for return to Juryo.
Ichinojo defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu limps off the dohyo, so we are now curious if he is hurt. A guy of his mass can sometimes fall hard (rikishi practice like mad falling safely), so we hope he is all right. Ichinojo is still looking slow and clumsy.
Daishomaru defeats Takakeisho – Congratulations to Daishomaru on his kachi-koshi, Takakeisho did a nice roll off the dohyo, much like a (ahem) bowling ball.
Onosho defeats Hokutofuji – It was a close one, and they had a monoii to discuss after the gyoji awarded the match to Hokutofuji. Really impressed with Onosho’s performance this basho, great way to make a point entering Makuuchi.
Ikioi defeats Ura – It does seem that Ikioi did find a way to dispel Ura’s magic today, it helps that Ura was sloppy in his mini-henka, and submarined into Ikioi’s brutal charge. I would point out the Ura is still fairly new to Makuuchi, and is still working on upgrading his sumo, so he is learning on the road.
Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Tochinoshin now at double digits win. I think it would be fantastic if Tochinoshin could end up with a special prize for his fantastic turn-around this basho.
Yoshikaze defeats Chiyoshoma – The Berserker is still chasing his kachi-koshi, and he moved one step closer today. Like most of the upper Maegashira, Chiyoshoma has been nuked this basho, and is just hoping to get out of here with all of his internal organs intact. Note both rikishi made it to the 3rd or 4th row of zabuton today.
Mitakeumi defeats Endo – Mitakeumi is also one win away from his kachi-koshi, and a possible elevation to Sekiwake, which would be a fantastic development for him. Endo gets his make-koshi, and will be bumped a small amount down the banzuke.
Goeido defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji put up a really good fight this bout, but there was enough Goeido to win. Allow me to suggest to Goeido that flowers, a nice bottle of sake and a night on the town eating Okonomiyake would be suitable for Kisenosato. He saved your bacon in a big way. You faced hapless Maegashira rather than a Yokozuna, and you were able to get rid of the kadoban flag. Some booze and pancakes are the least you can do.
Terunofuji defeats Tochiozan – The Kaiju is clearly hurt, but he’s still mighty enough that he was able to resist Tochiozan’s bunny hop attack (nicely done Tochiozan!). Tochiozan gets high marks for always moving forward, but was rolled at the edge of the dohyo. Terunofuji hops back to his side to receive his kensho.
Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Generous portion of pre-match aggression, both men aborted the tachiai, and it was clear they were really sizing each other up, and Tamawashi was not intimidated. The crowd in the Kokugikan loved every moment of it. Of course, there was a henka involved, as Hakuho decided Tamawashi needed a lesson. Hakuho now 13-0, and running head long towards a perfect yusho.
That’s all for now, the mini-Ditkas are yelling at me to drop them off at the bar.
Day 14 action in Tokyo saw a belter of match between Yokozuna Harumafuji and Takayasu. Having achieved his 33rd win in the last three basho, Takayasu was eligible for promotion to Ozeki, but it had been widely said that it was more or less contingent on his performance over the last 3 bouts. With his stunning victory over Harumafuji, that condition is for all practical purposes, lifted.
Given that his day 14 opponent is Shodai, Takayasu could even finish the basho with 12 wins, which would be his tie his Jun-Yusho in 2013 (and his thunderous performance at Osaka).
We have been stating for over a year that Takayasu represented the best hope to become the next Ozeki, and we are so very happy that he has reached sumo’s second highest rank. The Ozeki corps has been very shaky for some time, and Tachiai hopes the infusion of new blood will bring order and stability to upper San’yaku.
American sumotori closed out his Natsu matches overnight in Tokyo, scoring his 4th win by deploying a henka against veteran rikishi Gagyusan. As most readers know, I am no fan of the henka, but as many will point out, there are times to use it.
The deployment of a henka strategy, and done I might add correctly, is yet another tic mark that shows Wakaichiro’s maturation as a rikishi. The improvement of both his offense and defensive sumo since Osaka has been distinctly noticeable and impressive. It will come as no surprise to readers that the Tachiai crew will continue to closely follow the progress of this impressive young American.