Hatsu Day 14 Highlights

Photo from the Sumo Association twitter feed

The big story of day 14 is the Hakuho kyujo. The reason cited was a hematoma in the right knee and problems with the left foot. Hakuho also mentioned that problems began following his day 4 match with Hokutofuji, that featured some gymnastics on the tawara, and that the trouble has been steadily increasing. It is reported that the pain and discomfort had increased to where he could no longer sleep at night, and it was decided that he would withdraw from competition. All of that and he still had 10 wins.

Both yusho contenders won their day 14 matches, so it’s Tamawashi’s cup to take if he can win his final day match. Of course the sumo world wants to see an oshi-mega-match between Takakeisho and Tamawashi (Takakeisho beat him day 3) for the Emperor’s Cup, but the chances of that happening are not high.

Speaking of the Tadpole, with his 11th win day 14, he has a valid application to become Ozeki. We will find out next week if it will be accepted, or if the NSK will suggest that he do well in one more basho.

Highlight Matches (abbreviated)

Takarafuji defeats Daiamami – First kachi-koshi in a year, and the struggling Daiamami made him work for it. But after some truly pitiful performances in 2018, it’s good to see him back on the winning side.

Kaisei defeats Yago – Kaisei hits double digits, and will face Ozeki Takaysu on day 15.

Daieisho defeats Yutakayama – Daieisho picks up his 3rd consecutive kachi-koshi while dealing Yutakayama his 3rd consecutive make-koshi. The symmetry is lovely, unless you are Yutakayama.

Abi defeats Shohozan – Abi hits double digits, and he’s still working the same formula. Maybe that’s all we get from Abi.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji locks in his kachi-koshi in this match that featured a good start, but Nishikigi lost traction, and fell for his 8th loss.

Endo defeats Tochiozan – Endo hits double digits, and will be the rikishi who has the task of trying to throw the yusho into an elimination match when he takes on Tamawashi on day 15.

Onosho defeats Ichinojo – Onosho still looks kind of shaky, and I am hoping he will continue to heal and strengthen heading into March. Onosho kachi koshi / Ichinojo make koshi.

Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – The human cannonball racks up his 8th win for his first kachi koshi in 3 tournaments. Komusubi Myogiryu headed back to the rank and file for Osaka.

Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – The magic 11th win, and our tadpole qualifies to be considered for Ozeki. But the right conditions on day 15 could also see him contest for the Hatsu yusho. A win day 15 would underscore his Ozeki bid, and he needs to win against Goeido to do it. Goeido has physical issues right now, but he had day 14 to rest with the fusen win over Hakuho, and he’s been looking strong and fast in week 2.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu knew exactly what to do, and I can’t compliment him enough for quickly, efficiently and with minimal pressure getting Mitakeumi moving backward and over the bales. With any luck this will convinces Mitakeumi to not risk further damage to his knee.

Onward to senshuraku! Let’s see the Sekiwake fight for the cup!

Hatsu Day 12 Highlights

Heading into the final weekend, it's a brawl to the end. Stock the fridge and call in sick to work, you won't want to miss any of this.
Heading into the final weekend, it’s a brawl to the end. Stock the fridge and call in sick to work, you won’t want to miss any of this.

A brief reminder that Tachiai is not spoiler free.

Tamawashi succeeded in his task, and took Hakuho to the clay for a second day in a row, dropping him to 10-2, and blowing the yusho race wide open. There are 5 rikishi who have a shot at the Emperor’s cup, and that number grows to 7 should either of the co-leaders lose again. Though, in reality, the race is between Hakuho and Tamawashi, with an outside chance of Takakeisho – should he also prevail against Hakuho in their day 13 match.

It should be noted that Takakeisho defeated Tamawashi on day 3, and at 9 wins he needs 2 more over the next 3 days to stamp his bid to become Ozeki. Takakeisho’s final 2 wins are not a certanty, and many Ozeki candidates fail their first attempts. Should he finish Hatsu with 10 wins, his goal in Osaka is a mere 10 wins, thanks to his 13-2 yusho in November.

More than any prior basho in recent memory, the winds of change a blowing with purpose.

Highlight Matches

Sadanoumi defeats Meisei – Sadanoumi locks in his kachi-koshi, This lightning fast match saw the competitors switch from oshi to yotsu and then, in tandem, attempt a throw.

Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama is getting painfully close to a make-koshi, but Ikioi is some kind of battle-bot now, a mass of wounds and maladies that mounts the dohyo and defeats you. With his pain.

Takarafuji defeats Yago – Yago drops his 4th in a row, and is suddenly looking a lot less genki. A Takarafuji kachi-koshi would be his first since this time LAST YEAR!

Abi defeats Daiamami – Abi gets his first kachi-koshi since March of 2018, and proves that his style of sumo can still be effective, if you are far enough down the banzuke.

Asanoyama defeats Chiyoshoma – A rough and tumble match that looked like Chiyoshoma was still battling after he had stepped out. These two threw everything into this match, and it switched styles and forms multiple times, but Asanoyama kept fighting. Great sumo from both.

Ryuden defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru will be relegated deep into Juryo for March. He seems to have no forward pressure at all, and we can assume some manner of injury is keeping him from his full potential.

Daieisho defeats Kotoeko – A quick, ugly match that suffered from a false start. Both men are struggling, and it will probably come down to final day matches for both of them.

Endo defeats Chiyotairyu – Massive, brilliant match from both. Endo gets high marks for absorbing Chiyotairyu’s tachiai and subsequent attacks, and a great effort from Chiyotairyu, who showed his trademark strength, and uncharacteristic stamina.

Kagayaki defeats Onosho – Hapless, make-koshi Kagayaki takes Onosho down. This underscores that Onosho is still not 100%, and is probably low on stamina at this point of the tournament. During the match you can see him favoring his right knee, and his ability to push against Kagayaki’s attack is certainly limited. The time he sat out to address his knee injury is impacting his sumo, at least for a little while longer. Onosho needs one more win for kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Okinoumi – Like many Kaisei matches, it as a low speed – high force affair that played to the Brazilian’s massive body size and immense strength.

Nishikigi defeats Shodai – Shodai suffered the painful side of a kotenage in his make-koshi loss. Nishikigi has been fading since the middle weekend, and is on the knife edge of make-koshi himself. Can he battle back and win out for his kachi-koshi?

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – High marks for Hokutofuji’s effort in this one. The much larger, much stronger Ichinojo fought him well up until he was backed to the bales, and then once again went soft.

Shohozan defeats Myogiryu – Shohozan engages in a surprising mawashi battle, and comes up the winner. Myogiryu resisted well, escaping at least twice from potential Shohozan wins, but “Big Guns” stayed with it, and took the white star.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochiozan – Now one win away from a kachi-koshi, walking wounded Mitakeumi applies a hit-and-shift tachiai, and follows it up with a strong grapple and forward attack against Tochiozan. I cringe watching him, but he’s getting results.

Takakeisho defeats Kotoshogiku – It was evident that Kotoshogiku was a bit lost on how to attack. Takakeisho’s thrusting attacks blocked him from setting up the gaburi-yori, and all attempts to return Takakeisho’s oshi attacks were blunted by the fact that Takakeisho is so damn short. Kotoshogiku found himself getting a lot of hair, and not much rikishi. Kotoshogiku make-koshi.

Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – To be fair, this is the depleted relic of Yoshikaze, but I applaud Goeido for battling back from doom to at least a 6-6 score. 2 more wins out of the last 3 and he can escape what seemed to be an almost certain kadoban.

Takayasu defeats Aoiyama – Impressive effort from Aoiyama, he managed to use his superior reach to keep the Ozeki’s offense more or less shut down, but even his mighty strength was not enough to close the deal. Takayasu took his time and waited for the moment he could get inside, and then powered Aoiyama out.

Tamawashi defeats Hakuho – The Boss has done a great job convincing everyone he was genki, but it seems that mask has dropped. Hakuho is an ace competitor, but he made a fatal mistake and broke contact with Tamawashi, resulting in him facing the wrong way. Tamawashi sprang to action and escorted the Yokozuna out in a rush. It’s not often we see Hakuho make a mistake that large, and my compliments to “The Crippler” for seizing the opportunity.

Hatsu Day 11 Highlights

Day 11 featured some of the best sumo action of the basho thus far, as the Ozeki – with their backs against the wall – found the strength to put up a good fight at last. Lower down the torikumi, many fan favorites are starting to reach the safety of their 8th win. But day 11 was marred with kyujo, as both Chiyonokuni and Kotoyuki withdrew with leg and knee injuries.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki is make-koshi yet again (now 4 times in a row), and we have to wonder what kind of chronic problem this lad is battling to overcome. His usually excellent sumo mechanics have been hit or miss this basho, and he seems to have lost confidence in his approach. In a perfect world we could see Araiso oyakata work with Kagayaki for a time, as their approaches are quite similar, but Kagayaki seems to have lost faith in his ability to prevail, something Araiso (Kisenosato) never lost, even in the depths of his injury.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – Daishomaru finally wins one, from Japan’s top ICU candidate Ikioi. How this guy keeps going, I will never know.

Chiyoshoma defeats Takarafuji – Readers know I am not fan of henkas, but when Chiyoshoma unloads his “Flying Henka” the entertainment value is off the charts. Takarafuji rolls out into the zabuton zone, and gets “encouragement” from an enthusiastic fan.

Asanoyama defeats Yago – Yago seems to have stalled 1 win from the kachi-koshi line. Yago also seems to be following the route of going soft at the bales, is it an approach to avoid injury? Asanoyama’s win keeps his kachi-koshi hopes alive.

Ryuden defeats Meisei – The two go chest to chest and it quickly evolves into both men trying to finish a throw of the other first. Both go down in tandem but Ryuden touches last. Ryuden stays away from make-koshi for another day.

Onosho defeats Yutakayama – Onosho got the better of the tachiai, and focuses on a series of nodowa, which Yutakayama seemed able to withstand, and waited for Onosho to release, then took Onosho to his chest. Now outside his comfort zone, Onosho continues to try to thrust, and find some way to break contact. Yutakayama moves to the edge and throws, but the gumbai goes to Onosho.

Kaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Great example of Kaisei-zumo. Chiyotairyu puts so much power into the tachiai, but Kaisei absorbs it all, and works to land his left hand outside grip. Once hooked, Kaisei advances and escorts Chiyotairyu out. Kaisei is kachi-koshi.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – Rather the ghost of Yoshikaze. Whatever that sad remnant of Yoshikaze has going on, he has my sympathy. But with this rather disappointing match did give Endo his kachi-koshi.

Shohozan defeats Ichinojo – Shohozan does a great job of executing a Harumafuji style mini-henka, and Ichinojo’s combination of mass and forward velocity do all of the work.

Tochiozan defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi is fading toward make-koshi, and the surprisingly genki guy from Kyushu and the first half of Hatsu is just a fond memory. I suspect we will see him again, and he will turn up throughout the coming year.

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – If Shodai goes make-koshi and stays in the joi-jin I am going to be outraged. This puffball rikishi gets an insane amount of banzuke grace applied to him, and frankly it’s hurting his sumo. Make him grind through the bottom, or take a trip back to Juryo. It’s the only way he’s ever going grow into his potential.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – For an old timer with bum knees, Kotoshogiku shows remarkable agility and persistence. Tamawashi throws the kitchen sink into this match, and responds with skill and strength when Kotoshogiku lands his grip and begins to push. Holding Kotoshogiku’s head down, Kotoshogiku breaks off and rallies, but Tamawashi has him on the run, and knocks him out. Good sumo from both.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – As good as the prior match was, this match took things a notch higher. Both rikishi were blasting away with tsuki and oshi attacks, with advantage shifting every moment. Most opponents succumb to Takakeisho’s wave action attack after a few cycles, but Hokutofuji took them all, and kept fighting. Hokutofuji’s big weakness is his reliance on a nodowa, and Takakeisho defended against that with great skill, and it kept Hokutofuji from getting into a winning position. Meanwhile Takakeisho focused center-mass, and carried the day. Dare I hope for a long running rivalry between these two?

Takayasu defeats Okinoumi – Takayasu is back in form, and makes quick work of Okinoumi. Takayasu is now above the .500 line, and I am getting hopeful he can rescue a kachi-koshi out of this basho.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – It was clear that Aoiyama was nervous going into this match, and Goeido knew what to do. Aoiyama has a habit of being very far forward the step after his tachiai, ands Goeido used that problem with Aoiyama’s balance to bring him down. Dare we hope Goeido can avoid going kadoban, even with that manky arm?

Mitakeumi defeats Hakuho – Day 11 had one more gift to offer. Coming back from kyujo, fans noted that injured Mitakeumi was given Hakuho for his first match. Thoughts of body parts being torn asunder and landing in the balcony came to mind. Instead we saw Mitakeumi come in low, hard and fast – he took the fight to the Yokozuna and kept control of the match. Hakuho immediately found himself in trouble, as Mitakeumi stayed Kisenosato low, and advanced. Normally Hakuho would have have an emergency exit move or two he could deploy, but Mitakeumi gave him no room to work with. Damn impressive effort from Mitakeumi, think I will go watch it again…

Nope, it’s even better the 4th time

Hatsu Day 10 Highlights

Kotoyuki Injured

It was a rough day in sumo, full of heartbreaking injuries. We saw Ura, Chiyonokuni and Kotoyuki all go down hard, and wheeled away with injured knees. For fans of sumo it can be tough to watch, but sumo is a combat sport, and people do, sadly, get hurt.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Takagenji – Takagenji is up from Juryo for day 10, and picks up his 7th loss. This was a high intensity, high entertainment thrusting battle. Both men fought well, but Takagenji picked up his 7th loss.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – Kagayaki reverts to his simple, basic sumo and wastes no time moving still winless Daishomaru (0-10) out of the ring.

Chiyoshoma defeats Meisei – Chiyoshoma attempted multiple times to pull and slap down Meisei, and one of them finally took. Not amazing sumo but Chiyoshoma needed the win.

Sadanoumi defeats Daiamami – Sadanoumi took to the mawashi immediately at the tachiai, and marched Daiamami out for his make-koshi.

Ikioi defeats Chiyonokuni – A straightforward match, with Chiyonokuni flailing away as normal, and Ikioi using his strength to drive forward. But Chiyonokuni collapses at the end, and is immobilized by pain, as his left knee sustains damage. Chiyonokuni needs help off of the dohyo, and is placed in a wheelchair, and taken for examination.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – As expected, Kotoyuki attempts to keep the battle focused on oshi while Takarafuji wants to go chest to chest. The match was a fantastic battle of styles, and it ended with Kotoyuki being turned around and boosted into the crowd with a firm shove from Takarafuji. This is usually not too big of an issue, as Kotoyuki loves to crowd surf. He lands face down next to Abi, and does not move. He is likewise hauled away in the wheelchair for medical examination.

Yutakayama defeats Abi – Pure thrusting battle, but when Abi goes down on one knee as he loses, fans gasp that perhaps a 3rd rikishi has injured themselves. Luckily, Abi seems to be ok, and Yutakayama picks up a much needed win.

Endo defeats Ryuden – Lengthy mawashi battle that saw Endo’s belt get loose with Ryuden’s hand on Endo’s mawashi knot, causing little old ladies across Japan to offer millions of hopeful prayers up at the same moment. Both men showed solid technique and fought with all they had. Excellent sumo.

Daieisho defeats Yago – Another wild thrusting battle that raged across every part of the dohyo, it seemed that Yago simply got tired at the end and Daieisho and grabbed a hold and walked him out. Yago may need to work on that stamina?

Asanoyama defeats Onosho – Onosho drops his 4th straight, and as I have been working to remind fans, Onosho is really aiming for a kachi-koshi at this rank. I am sure that given the surgical recuperation, he’s going flat out, and he dominated Asanoyama for most of the match, but Asanoyama caught him off balance and deftly applied a hatakikomi.

Aoiyama defeats Kaisei – It was over quickly, with Aoiyama’s getting inside, applying a nodowa and never letting up. Aoiyama really needed that win.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze really seems to be in poor condition right now, and I feel sorry for him underperforming to this extent. He picks up a make-koshi today.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan got one face slap in, and then Chiyotairyu went to work, overwhelming his opponent and tossing him out the North side of the dohyo.

Ichinojo defeats Tochiozan – Ichinojo decided to bring his energy to the dohyo today, and made quick work of Tochiozan by grabbing Tochiozan’s mawashi, containing him and just marching forward.

Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Hokutofuji was able to get in inside position with the “handshake tachiai”, and kept low throughout the match. Myogiryu attempted to rally at the tawara, but could not produce.

Tamawashi defeats Nishikigi – Tamawashi has not looked this dialed in for many months. He took command at the tachiai, and kept moving Nishikigi back with little trouble. Tamawashi scores his kachi-koshi.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – Goeido skillfully protects his injured right arm, and prevents Kotoshogiku from engaging his primary gaburi yori attack. I am impressed with Goeido’s ability to fight and win while this hurt.

Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – The tadpole took the Ozeki out for a rough ride, blasting him backward at the tachiai, and keeping the pressure up with wave after wave of double arm thrusts. But Takayasu timed his move with skill, and stepped to the side just as the next wave was landing, sending Takakeisho to the clay for a loss. Takakeisho’s campaign to 11 got a bit tougher, as he needs to win 4 of the next 5.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – Really no contest here, but it’s great to see Hakuho execute his sumo.

Hatsu Day 10 Preview

Day 10 marks the end of Act 2 and presages the start of Act 3—where we crown a champion, while the survivors fight for kachi-koshi. The red-letter match for today is Takayasu and Takakeisho, with the Ozeki below .500 with a miserable 4-5 record, and Takakeisho pressing hard for 11 wins and a chance to make the case that he should join the Ozeki ranks.

With veteran Takekaze announcing his retirement from competition, we seem to have the start of the long awaited period of cnange. There are a number of rikishi over 30 who are headed into the final stages of their Sekitori careers. For many who have been long term members of sumo’s elite, the thought of soldiering on through the un-salaried ranks makes the choice clear. It’s likely that more veterans will hang up their silk mawashi before this year comes to a close.

As a result, we will see a healthy upward draw of fresh talent from the top of the Makushita “wall”. Many of these rikishi have been Sekitori in the past, or are just on the cusp of being ready for Juryo. In addition to the normal up / down motion that comes at the end of every basho, there are 3 additional slots that might be open in the Sekitori ranks due to the retirement of Kisenosato, Takanoiwa and now Takekaze. This means exciting times for the year ahead, and a healthy crop of fresh talent to enjoy.

What We Are Watching Day 10

Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – Normally I would say Kagayaki has make-koshi on the line, but he is fighting winless Daishomaru.

Chiyonokuni vs Ikioi – Possibly time to trim back Chiyonokuni’s commanding 8-1 record, as he faces battle damaged but formidable Ikioi. Chiyonokuni matches are frequently flailing madhouses of body parts moving with violent speed, so we are hoping that Ikioi can avoid further injury.

Takarafuji vs Kotoyuki – These two have a 13 match history, with Takarafuji having a respectable advantage. With Kotoyuki always taping his hands into “flippers”, we know he is not looking for any kind of mawashi battle. Although Kotoyuki is below .500, a kachi-koshi and a safe spot in March’s Makuuchi line up is still possbile.

Yutakayama vs Abi – Two of the “Freshmen” battle it out with an even 2-2 career record. Yutakayama has bulk and strength, Abi speed and reach. Yutakayama needs the win more, but Abi is fighting somewhat better this basho.

Ryuden vs Endo – Surprising to me this is their first ever match. Endo is on his sumo now, and Ryuden has been very rough. I would expect Endo will come out ahead.

Yago vs Daieisho – Another first time match, but as this is Yago’s first upper division basho, it’s not much of a surprise. With the the shin-Maegashira fighting this far up the banzuke, it’s a good test for where he might rank for Osaka.

Asanoyama vs Onosho – Onosho is looking to bounce back from his three-bout losing streak, and another hapless member of the Freshmen group (Asanoyama) is not fighting well this tournament. If he should pick up at least 2 more wins, we can expect Onosho to join the joi-jin for Osaka, and begin his battle for rank in the upper levels of sumo.

Aoiyama vs Kaisei – This battle of the super-heavies favors Aoiyama historically, but Kaisei has been fighting better this basho, his day 9 loss to Ryuden not withstanding. Will their battle break pieces from the dohyo?

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Both of them are doing terribly. But maybe Yoshikaze, staring at a possible make-koshi, can muster some of his flagging fighting spirit.

Chiyotairyu vs Shohozan – Chiyotairyu holds a clear advantage, and I would guess he will launch his “cannonball” tachiai at Shohozan, who if he considers all things, might be well served to move out of the way at the right moment.

Tochiozan vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo has gone back to being soft and timid, which is a shame. Tochiozan tends to dominate their matches, and unless “angry” Ichinojo shows up, this will be played to the tune of Tochiozan’s sumo.

Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – Much as I would love to see Hokutofuji win, I think that Myogiryu has a better handle on this sumo this basho. Hokutofuji seems to have stamina problems, and frankly has never been back to his best form since that Ryuden delivered concussion.

Nishikigi vs Tamawashi – I expect Tamawashi to swat Nishikigi around and leave him for Tuesday pickup with the rest of the landfill material in Ryogoku. But Nishikigi must never be counted out. Coming in with a 4-5 record, one has to wonder if he will be able to squeeze out yet another kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – Pretty clear that Goeido is banged up enough that his sumo is quite limited, and he struggles to generate forward pressure. Most folks assume its his arm, but his reconstructed ankle has never been quite right. Against Kotoshogiku, there is a decent chance that the Kyushu Bulldozer will trap Goeido and belly bump him out for a win.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – The match of the day. This one, in all likelyhood, will decide of Takakeisho can make his 11 and vie for a promotion to Ozeki. He faces a battle damaged and flu ravaged Takayasu. Takayasu has him on strength, reach, stamina, mass and sheer aggression. Takakeisho has maneuverability and a total confidence he can win on any given day, no matter who his opponent is.

Okinoumi vs Hakuho – Barring some unfortunate injury, it will be win 10 for Hakuho (1105 career), and ratchet him one win closer to the yusho. His magic number is currently 14.