Some Juryo Hot Takes

The long title of this post is Some Juryo Hot Takes That Will Almost Certainly Be Proven Wrong, but that’s not good for formatting, and you get the point anyway.

Sumo Prime Time (in which Hiro Morita is rapidly achieving Cult Icon status of late) has recently done a Juryo spotlight which is worth checking out. It got me thinking about the state of the division at present, if it’s exciting and what makes it exciting.

I concluded that it is exciting and the reason for this is that we actually are seeing the realisation of what should be the next wave of makuuchi mainstays. Juryo has not been very good for the past several years. Lots of old guys have either retired or stopped clogging up the promotion lanes, and as a result we’ve seen an infusion of new, young talent.

I can’t write 6000 more words like I did for makuuchi after the last tournament [edited to add: apparently I can do 2300 though], so please don’t blame me for not writing absolutely comprehensive scouting reports about everyone’s sumo style. With some time you can find that on the web, there are lots of good sumo resources and hopefully we will be able to contribute some in-depth articles as well. But hopefully this can help some folks at least identify some names to watch.

J14W Gonoyama

As the name implies, he’s the first sekitori developed by former Ozeki Goeido. If this makes you feel old then you may not enjoy the next year as several of Goeido’s contemporaries will be bringing up their new stars as well. Gonoyama is a former Sandanme tsukedashi (accelerated start in sumo’s fourth tier for a formerly accomplished collegiate star), who picked up a yusho in Makushita and he’s hit the wall a bit in his first two Juryo tournaments. At 24 he needs a strong basho.

J14E Tsushimanada

The David Benjamin sumo book starts with a detailing of how newcomers to the sport might give rikishi a silly nickname. Sushi Man is a 29 year old journeyman from Kyushu making his sekitori debut at his home basho, who had come close on several occasions previously before being scuppered by performance or injury. This is the achievement for the Sakaigawa-beya man. The rest from here will be the icing on the cake.

J13W Roga

Before the pandemic, I sat down with Murray Johnson and he identified Roga as a lower division one to watch. Murray might well be right, and time is on the 23 year old’s side, but the Russian has made an awfully plodding run through Makushita (19 basho!) to get to his Juryo debut. He’s also the first sekitori produced by Futagoyama oyakata, former Ozeki Miyabiyama.

J13E Shimazuumi

The 26 year old enters his fifth Juryo tournament and hasn’t been entirely convincing. He’s been slightly better than average over the last several years and looks like he may be stuck in Juryo for a while, if he doesn’t drop out. He’s the first sekitori produced by the new Hanaregoma beya (former Sekiwake Tamanoshima), but in reality is a product of the former Nishonoseki beya and took his shikona later in his career in deference to the old shisho, former Ozeki Wakashimazu.

J12W Oshoma

Continuing the theme, here’s another first, the first sekitori produced by the new Naruto beya, led by former Ozeki Kotooshu. We’ve talked quite a bit about the heya’s comprehensive recruitment and lower division performance on this site but the Mongolian 25 year old is the first to make the breakthrough earlier this year, helped in no small detail by his Makushita tsukedashi debut placement (for the top collegiate champions). His May Makushita yusho (where he knocked off some very notable names) is looking more like an outlier at the moment, so hopefully he can properly bed into the division and find his feet. The expectation on a Makushita tsukedashi is that they will turn into a top division star, with names like Mitakeumi, Ichinojo and Endo achieving titles and notoriety, although in rare cares that doesn’t happen (Mitoryu, Daiamami).

J12E Tokushōryū

Not going to spend a lot of time here: the storybook champ is on the downswing of an unlikely end of career run. The blue jacket beckons for the man who made Nara proud.

J11W Takakento

The former Takanohana product is on his third Juryo stint, with only 1 winning record in his first six tournaments at the level before Aki’s 9-6. In the absence of an overpowering skill it may be a struggle to project the 26 year old as a makuuchi talent, especially with a tough crowd of prospects to fight through at the moment.

J11E Enho

Injuries and scouting reports have zapped the talented pixie of his mobility and unpredictability, but he is still able to be a chaos agent and others have shown there is still plenty of mileage in that approach, even in the top division. I hope he makes it back. He’s been largely a .500 rikishi over the last year, and while the new Miyagino oyakata (the legendary Hakuho) has been lauded for his recruitment, his coaching of Enho – who at 28 should be in his career prime – will be an intriguing watch.

J10W Kaisho

The first sekitori product of Asakayama oyakata, former Ozeki Kaio, he’s one of those guys that seems to have been around in sumo for absolutely ages. He had a laboured route to the salaried ranks, but despite mixed results (4 kachi-koshi from 10), the eye test does tell me he’s someone who could go a bit further than his Juryo 2 peak, and I feel like his belt work is projectable.

J10E Chiyosakae

The 32 year old made his debut nearly 14 years ago and now reaches his career high rank in his third Juryo basho, having successfully fought (by slim margins) in his first two. He’s on a wonderful 7 basho kachi-koshi run but is almost certainly due for a course correction sooner or later. It would be very surprising to see him continue his run into the top division.

J9W Daishoho

It’s been three years since the 28 year old last reached the top division, but he’s carved out a decent run for himself in the second tier. The Mongolian’s results have looked like a slightly less successful Azumaryu (albeit, he does have one top division winning basho), as he’s loitered mostly in the division’s bottom half since that top division spell. We shouldn’t expect too much more from the yotsu-zumo enthusiast.

J9E Daiamami

The rare former Makushita tsukedashi man that just doesn’t make the grade, Daiamami’s awkward oshi-zumo style has translated largely to good results in Juryo, but only 2 kachikoshi in 11 top division basho tells us he’s what baseball scouts would call a “AAAA” player – too good for the minors top AAA level, but not quite strong enough to hang in the majors. At 29 he’ll probably return to makuuchi a couple more times for the odd basho.

J8W Kotokuzan

The Arashio-beya vet has been a real success story for the new oyakata, finally making the breakthrough to Juryo in 2021 after years of near misses, and then making short work of the division en route to his makuuchi debut. But since getting absolutely leathered at Natsu where his pushing-thrusting style lacked power, he’s found the second division a bit tougher on the second go.

J8E Shimanoumi

It’s awful to say, but Shimanoumi has looked absolutely wretched and listless on the dohyo since his wedding earlier in the year. Hopefully it’s a coincidence. Assuming he doesn’t free fall right out of Juryo this time, he’ll reach 30 sekitori tournaments in January and become eligible to eventually take up the name he (allegedly) picked up the rights to upon marrying the daughter of the sadly deceased former Izutsu. He’s meant to be one of sumo’s nice guys, so hopefully he can turn it around.

J7W Kinbozan

Sumo’s lone Kazakh debuted a year ago as Sandanme tsukedashi and has rattled off six consecutive dominant performances including a pair of yusho. Entering Juryo at Aki, he posted double digit wins cementing his place in the prolific Kimura Sehei production line. Unlike many of his stablemates however, putting technique and experience aside he’ll be hoping to make Kyushu his second and final Juryo basho en route to a 2023 that could take him up to the san’yaku ranks at his current rate of progress.

J7E Tochimushashi

The top recruit formerly known as Kanno has blitzed his way from his Sandanme tsukedashi entrance to the middle of Juryo with just one make-koshi in ten appearances, and a very timely first yusho in his Aki debut in Juryo. He should easily chart the course to Makuuchi by early next year. And there are reasons why he draws comparisons to his stablemate Aoiyama…

J6W Kitanowaka

Tipped for big, big things for a long, long time, his star has dimmed a bit after experiencing a fairly indifferent couple years in Makushita. At 190cm he’s a tall drink of water and, although there are other talents in the heya, he may eventually represent one of 60 year old riji-cho Hakkaku’s last products to challenge in the top division.

J6E Hokuseiho

Derailed by injury and covid kyujo, the enormous Hokuseiho (21 years old as of basho-time) will look to continue his impressive development. Questions still remain about his ultimate ceiling: he has the physicality and apparently the determination to reach the top, but his sumo is a bit slow and lumbering. Still, with a career record of 74-21 heading into his third Juryo tournament, it’s hard not to dream on him.

J5W Chiyonokuni

Riddled by injury and with all of his former epic brawling opponents having ridden off into the sunset, it’s tough to see a path forward for the 32 year old energetic street fighter. He may well make his way back to Makuuchi for the odd appearance as he is still competitive at this level, but even being only 18 months removed from the joi-jin, it seems his best days are behind him.

J5E Akua

I never thought he’d make it to makuuchi, so I think it’s a great credit that he’s been able to hang tough and carve out a solid career in the second tier. Now 32, I think the realistic goal is to make it to the middle of 2024 in the salaried ranks to try and qualify for elder status.

J4W Yutakayama

While it feels fairly shocking to see him ranked here, such have been the disappointing results from the former top prospect that it’s hard to make a case that he belongs even at the back end of the top division right now. While it’s easy to argue he might benefit from a couple confidence boosting 9-6s to keep expectations in check, that’s more or less what’s happened on his last few Juryo demotions. He may be playing yo-yo for the next couple years, but at 29 and with 26 sekitori basho under his belt, he at least looks a lock to secure the 30 basho required to qualify for a kabu.

J4E Hidenoumi

While his brother is getting all the plaudits right now, 33 year old Hidenoumi continues to solidly motor along. Demoted due to suspension, he was making a decent go of it in makuuchi and probably belongs somewhere at the bottom division at the moment. Although, with the wave of new talent pushing upwards, his comfortability slugging it out in Juryo bodes well for the final stage of his career.

J3W Mitoryu

The former Makushita tsukedashi took forever and a day (27 basho) to make it out of Juryo and his debut Makuuchi performance was… not good. Overpowered and short of mobility, he was sent packing with double-digit losses. At 28, the Mongolian is looking like another for whom Azumaryu’s career (lots of Juryo time with the odd Makuuchi make-koshi thrown in) looks like a reasonable ambition.

J3E Tsurugisho

Another Juryo lifer who benefitted massively from the reduction in top division quality, Tsurugisho has been pretty OK at doing a whole lot of things on the dohyo and not particularly incredible at any one. The jack of all trades dropped down for this latest spell after a pair of 5 win tournaments and may yet yo-yo some more, but he surely reached his ultimate ceiling 3 years ago.

J2W Bushozan

Former Ozeki Musoyama’s starlet performed admirably in his first year in Juryo after spending an eternity (six whole years) in the third tier. This year though, he’s hit a bit of a wall. He’s been in promotion range several times before and not been able to get the job done, but after the basho he’ll be 27 and should be firmly arriving soon into the peak of his powers.

J2E Churanoumi

Churanoumi reaches his career high-to-date at Kyushu, and it’s not been a straightforward ride for him to navigate the penultimate division. He’s has several promotions and demotions back to Makushita, and while his current span in the salaried ranks has only been disrupted for a single basho since the start of 2020, he’s spent very little time in the top reaches of the division or fighting against the occasional top division opponent. This basho, then, is a real test for a guy who somewhat notably once defeated the likes of Kiribayama and Oho in title-clinching bouts in the lower divisions.

J1W Chiyomaru

This lovable character has made a career out of jostling at the top end of Juryo and lower end of Makuuchi and will go again as he enters his 10th year as a sekitori. He is what he is.

J1E Tōhakuryū

I often lament the lack of creativity in shikona assembly, and while the characters in play for Tohakuryu are fairly common, the order and reading is a little less so. I enjoy that. He’s yet another former Sandanme tsukedashi who made more or less quick work of the lower divisions (with one blip). But he’s not the biggest, and his run through Juryo has been plodding, steady if unspectacular. Here he arrives at his career high rank, in his prime at 26, at the position from which a kachi-koshi will certainly deliver him a promotion. However, should it be tight going into the second week, he’ll find many of these aforementioned talents breathing right down his neck…

Aki Day 15 Highlights

Tachiai congratulates Tamawashi on his second yusho, which is a considerable accomplishment on many levels. At 37 years and 10 months, he is the oldest rikishi in the modern era to claim the title. The man is completely dedicated to his craft, and has not missed a match ever in his career. Well done Tamawashi; your sumo this September was indeed the best.

Thus ends Aki 2022, with everything more or less how you might want it to end. I have to admit that the final day was the least surprising day of them all, with nearly every match going the way you might expect. As has been the case over the last 4 years, when there is no Yokozuna in the tournament, it opens the door for unexpected performances, and for new champions to rise.

There were outstanding performances from a variety of rikishi, and I note with some enthusiasm that Tobizaru not only reached kachi-koshi at his highest ever rank, he scored a hearty 10-5. Likewise, Wakatakakage’s Ozeki run has started again with his 11-4 finish. As long-suffering fans of both, I was very happy to see both Hokutofuji and Takayasu score double digits, and participate in the yusho race up to the final weekend. Great effort by many, and some rather enjoyable sumo for us all to share.

Highlight Matches

Tsurugisho defeats Yutakayama – Well, you can see Yutakayama’s right leg / foot trying to give out again, and after that it’s easy for Tsurugisho to take the win. It’s tough to watch these guys fight hurt. Tsurugisho finishes Aki at 5-10.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Mitoryu – Mitoryu had a solid enough defense that he was enduring Ichiyamamoto’s initial attacks, but he took an off-balance step forward when Ichiyamamoto released pressure. That was enough to unbalance Mitoryu, and Ichiyamamoto put him on the clay. Ichiyamamoto finishes Aki at 6-9.

Ryuden defeats Terutsuyoshi – Well, that was odd. Terutsuyoshi’s had a typical submarine tachiai, Ryuden was able to maintain a hold as Terutsuyoshi tried to circle away, and as a result was behind him for a second. They both kept trying to circle and break contact, and it came to an end when Terutsuyoshi stepped out. Ryuden finishes with 11-4. Welcome back to the top division indeed!

Kotoeko defeats Chiyoshoma – Today Chiyoshoma did not mind his foot placement, and had his right foot on the janome as he went to throw Kotoeko. They called it yorikiri, so… ok. Kotoeko picks up a final day win to avoid double digit losses at 6-9.

Aoiyama defeats Hiradoumi – Aoiyama has been in poor condition this basho, but it was good to see him put together enough of his old sumo to dispatch Hiradoumi. He finishes 6-9 with a hatakikomi.

Takarafuji defeats Okinoumi – Interesting to watch, as neither of these guys could really generate or withstand a lot of force with their hips or lower back. Takarafuji’s frontal right hand grip did most of the work, and he secures a final win to finish 5-10.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyotairyu – Everything Chiyotairyu had went into the first combo. He tried to stand Nishikigi up and slap him down, but Nishikigi was ready, and his balance remained stable. From there it was an easy win, and both end the Aki Basho at 6-9.

Ura defeats Oho – First of our Darwin matches, if you blink you may miss it. Oho pulls Ura on the second step, and gets him tumbling. But Ura manages to push Oho out before he hits the clay. Ura finds his 8th win and kachi-koshi on the final day to finish 8-7.

Meisei defeats Kotoshoho – Second Darwin match, Kotoshoho opens up with a lot of power to Meisei’s face and neck. But as Meisei has done so many times this basho, he times a move to the side and breaks Kotoshoho’s balance. Kotoshoho falls forward, and Meisei takes the win to finish Aki 8-7.

Nishikifuji defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka takes command of the match, but does not keep his opponent in front of him. Nishikifuji escapes near the bales, and moves Kotonowaka out from behind. Nishikifuji finishes the tournament at 10-5. His first two basho in the top division both end with 10-5 scores, wow.

Midorifuji defeats Onosho – Onosho opened his chest to Midorifuji, and it only took a moment. Midorifuji gets both hands on center mass and drives forward with everything he can muster. Onosho ends up in the timekeeper’s lap, and Midorifuji finishes Aki at 7-8. Not bad for his first shot at the top of the Maegashira ranks.

Tobizaru defeats Takanosho – While it’s acres of fun to watch Tobizaru go “kitchen sink” against his opponents, I have to compliment Takanosho in this match. He was able to absorb and defend against multiple waves of chaotic sumo from the flying monkey, and kept his feet. I wonder if he practices in the heya by having 2 or three Jonidan guys all try to attack him at the same time. Tobizaru wins a special prize for just crazy man sumo, has a 10-5 kachi-koshi at his highest ever rank, and is simply on fire right now.

Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – The big match for all of the gyoza, it was a callback to the delightful days of 2017 when these two used to beat the stuffing out of each other once per basho. Sadly we got Takayasu “wild man” sumo from the start. You can see him load so much energy into that initial hit that he ends up completely off balance. He’s easy meat at that point, and Tamawashi finishes him off. Tamawashi wins the yusho with a powerful 13-2 final score. His sumo has been excellent for the past 15 days. Well done sir!

Kiribayama defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu has still not figured out how to beat Kiribayama, as Kiribayama extends his career record to 4-0 over Myogiryu. Today it was all down to hand placement. Kiribayama finishes Aki 9-6.

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Tochinoshin does a masterful job of capturing Ichinojo and shutting down any attack mode he might have. They take a moment to figure it out, but the moment that Ichinojo gets a left hand outside grip, Tochinoshin knows he is on the clock. So forward march, and walk the Boulder out. Tochinoshin finishes at 7-8.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – I am a bit sad that Hokutofuji could not muster a final win in a tournament that has seen some of his best sumo in several years. But he did not keep his hips square to his opponent, and Daieisho moved to the side and sent him into Endo’s lap. Daieisho finishes Aki at 7-8.

Hoshoryu defeats Endo – Last of our Darwin matches. Not too happy with Hoshoryu pulling a Harumafuji style mini-henka, but I guess he is super fond of that Sekiwake title. He finishes 8-7.

Wakatakakage defeats Sadanoumi – Looks like the Ozeki run is back on, and started in glorious fashion. Sadanoumi was off balance nearly the whole time, and that robbed him of any real chance to lay down much of an attack against Wakatakakage. Wakatakakage drives him out, and takes his score to 11-4.

Wakamotoharu defeats Mitakeumi – In this condition, Mitakeumi is not even proper practice ballast. He has a bit of power at the tachiai, but once Wakamotoharu gets his hands set, it’s a quick walk forward to take the soon to be former Ozeki out. Wakamotoharu finishes with double digits at 10-5.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Takakeisho continues his dominance over Shodai, who almost attempted some kind of head lock pull for the briefest of moments, but Takakeisho already had him at escape velocity. Takakeisho ends the tournament 10-5.

Thank you, dear readers, for following along with Team Tachiai during this Aki basho. We have enjoyed bringing you daily coverage, and hope you will join us in our post-basho analysis, and the days that lead up to this year’s final tournament in Kyushu, just 6 weeks away.

Aki Day 15 Preview

The finale of yet another oddball Aki basho is upon us. Today we decide who gets the Emperor’s Cup, and the most likely winner is none other the 37 year old iron man of sumo, Tamawashi. When I say iron man, I mean he’s not missed a match or a day of practice. He’s some completely dedicated his life to the sport, that is his sole focus most days. If he can take the cup, it’s his second yusho, and the rest of his stats just amaze.

  • 111 Basho
  • 78 Basho ranked in the top division
  • 1(2?) Yusho
  • 7 Kinboshi
  • 1 Jun-yuso
  • 1 Gino-sho
  • 1 Shukun-sho
  • 1 Kanto-sho

He also bakes. Quite well I understand. Oh, you think this is another one of Bruce’s tall tales? From Wikipedia

Tamawashi married a fellow Mongolian in 2012.[18] His second child was born in January 2019, on the same day as his tournament championship was confirmed.[7] Tamawashi is a talented baker, known for his cakes and cookies.[19]

There is no need for a leaderboard today, We have one match of consequence, Tamawashi is going to fight Takayasu near the middle of the top division match roster. If Tamawashi wins, he takes the cup. If Takayasu wins, it’s a playoff following the Ozeki match to end the tournament. Much as I adore Takayasu, I recognize that Tamawashi has to win one, Takayasu has to win twice to take the yusho, and the odds therefore favor Tamawashi.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Tsurugisho vs Yutakayama – Both are 4-10, and I would not be surprised if this match was to determine who gets to stay in the top division on double secret probation. Yutakayama has a 6-3 winning record against Tsurugisho, and Tsurugisho makes faces like he is getting poked with a hot iron before, during and after the recent matches. So he’s wrecked.

Ichiyamamoto vs Mitoryu – Both are 5-9, deeply make-koshi, and Mitoryu is probably headed for the Juryo barge this evening to make a slow and smelly trip back to the second division. At Maegashira 16e, Mitoryu did not have any room to spare, and a 6-9 or 5-10 record nominates him for demotion.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ryuden – I think this is one of those “leftovers” matches, where the schedulers have all of the matches they want, then they have a set of rikishi they toss together because that is who is left. So we have kachi-koshi Ryuden at 10-4 against 6-6 Terutsuyoshi. I kind of want to see Ryuden go double digits in his “welcome back” tournament.

Chiyoshoma vs Kotoeko – I am certain that Chiyoshoma would like to improve from his current 9-5 to a 10 win record. All he has to do is beat 5-9 Kotoeko, who would certainly welcome the win. The wrinkle? With one exception, Kotoeko has been taking Chiyoshoma’s lunch money since 2019 (10-5).

Aoiyama vs Hiradoumi – First ever match, I had been hoping that Hiradoumi’s (5-9) survival in the top division would be settled today by a Darwin match, but instead he gets Aoiyama (7-7). This probably comes down to if genki Aoiyama shows up, or orthopedic ward Aoiyama ounts the dohyo instead.

Takarafuji vs Okinoumi – Another battle of the make-koshi. We get 4-10 Takarafuji probably donating a win to 6-8 Okinoumi. They have a 29 match history fighting each other that splits 17-12 in favor of Takarafuji. But given both are some degree if injured, this may not matter one bit.

Nishikigi vs Chiyotairyu – Still more battles of the terminally make-koshi, now it’s 5-9 Nishikigi against 6-8 Chiyotairyu. If Nishikigi can keep his feet at the tachiai, I think he has a decent shot here to win. Since both of them are mid to upper Maegashira, none of them is likely to risk dropping out of the top division.

Oho vs Ura – First of our Darwin matches today. Ura has failed the last 2 day to get his 8th win, and now has to face bulky Oho, who likewise can’t seem to find another white star anywhere. I am sure he has checked the cushions, and the bottom of his rice bowl three times today already. Ura won their only prior match. With Ura looking far to static the past few days, I would really enjoy if he gave Oho a proper grab and tug sumo demonstration today.

Kotoshoho vs Meisei – Second Darwin match, this time its Meisei and Kotoshoho both at 7-7. Meisei comes in having won the last 4, and Kotoshoho has lost the last two. That gives an advantage to Meisei by my reckoning. As with all Darwin matches, winner is kachi-koshi, the loser make-koshi following this match.

Kotonowaka vs Nishikifuji – Both rikishi have wining records, but I think this is to see if Nishikifuji (9-5) can hit 10 wins and score double digits for his second consecutive tournament. Granted, last basho he had an odds defying 3 fusensho when his opponent would withdraw from competition. But a pair of back to back 10-5s for your first two basho in the top division is pretty nice. He just has to beat Kotonowaka for the first time ever (0-3).

Onosho vs Midorifuji – Back to the battle of the make-koshi, it’s off balance Onosho (5-9) against “over promoted” Midorifuji (6-8). He has won their only prior match, and if he can finish 7-8 in his first time as Maegashira 1, that’s actually quite noteworthy, as all of his Ozeki matches were first ever in his career.

Tobizaru vs Takanosho – Lets switch back to the kashi-koshi track, and we get sumo’s flying monkey, who did indeed go flying against Tamawashi on day 14. When asked by an interviewer, “How do you feel about your match with Tamawashi today” a disoriented Tobizaru replied “Thursday!”. Takanosho (8-6) has a 7-3 career record against him, but their last match was in May, and since then Takanosho has gotten hurt, and Tobizaru’s sumo has made a significant improvement.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – The big match of the day, if 12-2 Tamawashi wins, he’s making cookies for everyone, including Takayasu’s children. If Takayasu (11-3) wins, its playoff following the last match of the day. Takayasu has a narrow 16-14 record on the clay, but Tamawashi took their last match in November of 2021 (oshidashi).

Myogiryu vs Kiribayama – This is likely to be a Kiribayama pick up to have him finish 9-6, just to increase the logjam in the Sekiwake ranks. How about Sekiwake 4 North? Sure, why not. Bring Yoshikaze out of retirement and have him terrorize everyone for 15 days. Back in reality mode, both men are 8-6, and if Myogiryu wins it will be his first ever over Kiribayama.

Tochinoshin vs Ichinojo – Battle of the make-koshi mega-fauna! Or in Pokemon terms, Snorlax vs Ursaring. Whomever gets this white star will have a coveted 7th win, which for Ichinojo would cushion his drop out of the named ranks. We know Ichinojo tends to show up for fights that matter, perhaps this will be one of those days.

Daieisho vs Hokutofuji – I do hope that Hokutofuji (10-4) receives some manner of special prize this basho. He really did fight very well, perhaps his best in many years, and for want of a proper fight on day 12, he might still be in the yusho race. Daieisho is already make-koshi at 6-8, but he seems to have once again found his sumo. You can expect high powered frontal attack from each of these men today.

Endo vs Hoshoryu – The final Darwin match of the tournament, it’s Endo, who has been sputtering along for the past year, going against occasionally brilliant Hoshoryu. It’s your last fight until November in front of the fans, please make it a good one. If Hoshoryu wins, he keeps his Sekiwake rank, and increases the logjam for the named posts. Endo, who would only move up a notch or two in the rank and file, does love to play spoiler.

Wakatakakage vs Sadanoumi – Wakatakakage (10-4) would be well advised to find a way to win his match today, and bring his score to 11-4. This “11” would put him one third of the way toward the notional goal to be considered for Ozeki promotion. He has a 2-0 career record over speed demon Sadanoumi (9-5), who is right how fighting some of the best sumo of his life. I would love to see Sadanoumi get his second double digit finish this year.

Wakamotoharu vs Mitakeumi – Why does this match exist? 4-10 pre-demoted Ozeki Mitakeumi should be kyujo already. Maybe we will get word this morning that he has throw in the towel, and decided to “listen to his body”. That would bring Wakamotoharu to a nice 10-5 finish for September.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – Shodai (4-10), please, you are kadoban, you are struggling. Give us a henka today? What a way to finish regulation for this Aki basho. I am sure Takakeisho would understand.

Aki Day 14 Highlights

Three matches of consequence today, Takayasu vs Hoshoryu, Wakatakakage vs Hokutofuji, and Tobizaru vs Tamawashi, which shaped the yusho race that will finish on day 15. They were all quick, and borderline brutal. I think the big news for me out of day 14 is that Wakatakakage’s second Ozeki run is now open for business. He’s at double digits, and could finish 11-4 if he can best speed demon Sadanoumi in his final match. I think if he can get rid of his habitual cold starts, we are actually seeing near Yokozuna grade sumo out of Wakatakakage at this point. Depending on how long Terunofuji is rehabbing that knee, and the continued weakness in the Ozeki corps, there is probably a promotion lane open. I would very much love to see a new Yokozuna some time in 2023, I think it would be good for sumo, and good for the fans. It would also take a lot of pressure off of Terunofuji, who needs to feel like he can take a break and mend his body when it gets in a state like it was this September. Could be the case if young Wakatakakage can start tournaments strong. Let’s hope he solves that puzzle.

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Hiradoumi – Happy to see Terutsuyoshi finally get one of his ashitori leg pick attempts to pay off. It’s pretty spectacular when it works. He knocks Hiradoumi to 7-7, and misses kachi-koshi yet again. Terutsuyoshi improves to 6-8.

Chiyoshoma defeats Yutakayama – When Chiyoshoma plants that right hand outside grip, you have to know he is setting up his beloved uwatenage. He wiggles in to get the right body position, and make sure he has Yutakayama as tall as possible, then pivots and slams him to the clay. I will be thrilled if Chiyoshoma can hit double digits this September. He’s up to 9-5 after today.

Chiyotairyu defeats Ichiyamamoto – Some sports fans revel at champions who can “dig deep” and expand their dominance. I tend to admire atheletes that are busted, broken and in a deep hole, yet somehow manage to push through the problems and recover as best they can. In spite of having a terrible start, probably due to injuries, Chiyotairyu has now won 5 of his last 6 matches. I think Ichiyamamoto was waiting for the slap down attempt, and so he tried his own, only to find Chiyotairyu plowing him into the ringside fans. Chiyotairyu advances to 6-8.

Ryuden defeats Takanosho – Takanosho maintained a nodowa for most of the match, but Ryuden decided that was not going to stop him from giving his opponent a personal meeting with the head shimpan. Ryuden runs up the score to double digits to celebrate his return to the top division, and is now 10-4.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshoho – Myogiryu was offense to begin, but I compliment Kotoshoho on being able to break contact, and take initiative in the second stage of this match. But Kotoshoho was unable to keep his eye and his focus on Myogiryu’s center mass, and did not see him shift to his right, sending Kotoshoho tumbling off of the dohyo. Myogiryu picks up his kachi-koshi at 8-6 to end day 14. Kotoshoho heads off to a day 15 Darwin match.

Tochinoshin defeats Tsurugisho – The look of agony on Tsurugisho’s face. Man, just go kyujo already. Tochinoshin wins as gently as possible, improving to 6-8.

Aoiyama defeats Mitoryu – So now, Aoiyama can do powerful forward sumo? Glad he’s got it working for him, just wish it had been there earlier in the basho. Aoiyama grabs a meaty double handful and pushes forward, taking Mitoryu out three steps later. Both end the day 5-9.

Wakamotoharu defeats Oho – For the fourth day in a row, Oho loses and fails to complete his 8. So now he gets a day 15 Darwin match. Congrats, you earned it. Oho started strong, but did not keep his hips square to his opponent, and Wakamotoharu shifted to his right just a bit, and lowered the off balance Oho to the clay. Wakamotoharu 9-5, and could hit double digits as well.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka put his focus on an armpit attack against Sadanoumi, and it worked pretty well at first. But Sadanoumi’s agility and speed meant he was able to break contact. Kotonowaka stayed in control, but not enough to win. The match was lost when Kotonowaka tried to hold his ground and passivate Sadanoumi, but Sadanoumi rushed forward with all that power, and broke Kotonowaka’s stance, sending him over the bales. Sadanoumi improves to 9-5.

Meisei defeats Okinoumi – Well, Okinoumi lost his footing on the second step, and Meisei was able to convert that into a solid oshidashi, even as he himself stumbled about. Okinoumi picks up his 8th loss and is make-koshi, while Meisei heads off to a day 15 Darwin match.

Tamawashi defeats Tobizaru – Traditional Tamawashi shinkansen-denshamichi sumo. Konosuke could not even finish shouting “Hakeoi!” and Tobizaru is flat on his backside into the salt basket. I am sure Tobizaru had a clever set of moves worked out to take the yusho leader down, but none of that mattered when the Tamawashi express came thundering through. Wow, Tamawashi still in sole lead for the yusho at 12-2. Thirty seven years old, and he’s the top man in sumo.

Midorifuji defeats Kotoeko – Much as I love Kotoeko sumo, I am happy to see Midorifuji improve his score to 6-8 and minimize his move down the banzuke. He was probably a bit over promoted, but as long as he can stay healthy, he’s going to be a big deal soon enough.

Ichinojo defeats Onosho – Ichinojo decided today he was going chest to chest (wise choice), which blunted Onosho’s thrusting attacks. Onosho was able to break Ichinojo’s battle hug twice, but then Ichinojo closed the match by setting Onosho over the bales with a yorikiri, advancing to 6-8.

Kiribayama defeats Ura – Well, Ura seems to have run out of sorcery for now, and he seems to be resorting to absorbing what he can for as long as he can. Kiribayama was happy to pour on the power, and finished Ura off with a hatakikomi, gaining his kachi-koshi at 8-6. Ura gets a Darwin match for senshuraku.

Wakatakakage defeats Hokutofuji – A match of considerable consequence, Wakatakakage’s win sets the stage for his second Ozeki run. The ability to win in high stakes matches is an indicator of Ozeki or higher rank, and it seems Wakatakakage is starting to even out his sumo at an exceptional level of performance. Now if he can just get rid of those cold starts. Hokutofuji came out of the tachiai with no working hand placement, while Wakatakakage had a useful grip. It was short work following that. Both end the day at 10-4, and Hokutofuji is eliminated from the yusho race. I expect to see him in the joi-jin in November.

Daieisho defeats Nishikigi – Traditional Daieisho sumo, he stopped Nishikigi’s attempt to land a grip, laid down a volley of thrusts to stand Nishikigi up, and then the hatakikomi brought him down. Daieisho improves to 6-8.

Takayasu defeats Hoshoryu – The final high consequence match of the day, and while it was quick and a bit disorganized, that was a brilliant opening combo from Takayasu. I am quite surprised that Hoshoryu was not minding his countermeasures better at the tachiai. The hikiotoshi put Hoshoryu on the deck, and Takayasu moves to 11-3, with a head to head match against Tamawashi on senshuraku. Hoshoryu gets a Darwin match.

Takakeisho defeats Nishikifuji – Well, Nishikifuji, when you decide to fight Takakeisho using his favorite sumo, it’s not going to end well. I note with interest that we did not really see Takakeisho do any forward offense, the win came via tsukiotoshi after Takakeisho repeatedly batted Nishikifuji’s thrusts up and away. Both end the day at 9-5.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Ah, Mitakeumi. Just go kyujo already. Get the shoulder fixed up and come to Kyushu (as long as Sakurajima does not cover it in ash) and get your 10. Endo advances to 7-7, gets a Darwin match on day 15.

Shodai defeats Takarafuji – This match was a “gimme” for Shodai. Why? No clue. Shodai’s already deeply make-koshi and will be kadoban for November. Takarafuji is not going to get dropped out of the division even with his terrible score. I guess Shodai had to fight someone today. Both end the day with miserable 4-10 records.