Natsu Day 3 Preview

It’s fair to say we have had a solid start to the Natsu basho in the first two days. The lone surviving Yokozuna, Kakuryu, has won both of his opening matches convincingly in a manner that is an aggressive adjustment to his normally reactive style. He has shown power, guile and no shortage of excellent sumo in the first two wins, with his dispatching of Hokutofuji quite impressive. Hokutofuji blasted his way into another attempt at a handshake tachiai, but Kakuryu was faster still, and just denshamichi’d Hokutofuji half way back to the shitaku-beya.

Both Goeido and Takakeisho have opened strong as well, each day delivering a powerful reminder of why they hold the Ozeki rank. The upper ranks will get their “tough” matches in week 2, whereas this week they are culling the upper Maegashira.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Daishoho vs Takagenji – Takagenji brings his 2-0 Juryo record to the top division, looking to remain in the undefeated cohort. He and Daishoho are quite evenly matched, having battled each other in the lower divisions multiple times. Though Takagenji has added mass over the past 2 years, I think he would still qualify as a member of the “Pixies” group of smaller rikishi. (Hmm, not at 191 cm and 172 kg. -lksumo)

Enho vs Sadanoumi – First time match between these two, with Enho fresh to the top division, and Sadanoumi a long time dweller in upper Juryo and Makuuchi. Sadanoumi is happy to engage in a mawashi battle, but letting Enho get a grip has proven to be a surprisingly challenging event. The edge probably goes to Sadanoumi, as Enho seems a bit jittery still.

Shohozan vs Shimanoumi – When Shimanoumi posted to Maegashira 12 for his Makuuchi debut, I had my worries. Rather than easing him into the top division, he was landing in the middle of banzuke chaos, given the bizarre collection of bad to awful records that came out of Osaka. Now he is 0-2 going into his match against an 2-0 Shohozan, who does look to be in fairly good form.

Onosho vs Tomokaze – Dare I hope that Onosho has gotten his sumo back in tune? So far he has not gotten overly forward over his toes, and has kept his force center-mass against his opponent. Tomokaze is big, strong and will take your mawashi and make you suffer. It will be a race to see who can set the tone of the match out of the tachiai. This is my favorite bout for the first half of Makuuchi on day 3.

Asanoyama vs Meisei – Asanoyama has really been showing some speed and strength in the first 2 days of the basho. Readers know I have had my eye on him since he showed up in the top division, mostly because his attitude is one of the best I have seen. He works hard, he keeps himself positive and always takes each day as a chance to win. While his brother from another mother Yutakayama is regenerating himself in Juryo, we can enjoy all this great young rikishi has to offer.

Shodai vs Kaisei – It seems Shodai has gotten re-charged during some off-season visit to Toon Town, and his uncanny cartoon sumo is running well again. Today he has Kaisei who seems more frustrated and rusty than doing poorly. Fans around the world love Kaisei, as he is one of the most good-natured folks in sumo.

Yoshikaze vs Ryuden – Yoshikaze has been executing very minimalistic sumo for the first 2 days. The win on day 2 over Meisei was surprisingly un-energetic, but got the job done. This probably won’t work with Ryuden / Shin-Ikioi, who seems to be continuing his good performance from Osaka, where he was one of the few Maegashira who was able to post double-digit wins.

Chiyotairyu vs Abi – Chiyotairyu is off to an 0-2 start, and I think he will continue to struggle day 3. His tachiai is just as formidable as ever, but he seems to have challenges with his second step. When Chiyotairyu is in a winning grove, he flows smoothy out of his brutal tachiai into an all out assault. Both day 1 and 2 he seemed to lack that intensity.

Okinoumi vs Tochinoshin – Some fans were a bit unhappy that Tochinoshin unleashed the sky crane against Daieisho, but I am going to assume that he finally feels healthy, strong and it’s more of a jubilant celebration that he is back to his sumo more than anything else. I am going to watch him land that shallow left again day 3, and help Okinoumi keep reaching for the stars. (Their head-to-head matchup only favors the Sekiwake 7-5, with Okinoumi taking 3 of the last four, so this is another must-win bout in Tochinoshin’s quest for 10. -lksumo)

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Hey, Tamawashi – get it together man! You have an 0-2 start, and you are a better rikishi than that. Hell, you won a yusho a few months ago. The good news is that Ichinojo is not quite dialed in right now, so he might be able to get some attack in against the Boulder. (The head-to-head is even at 6-6, but has favored Tamawashi recently, so we could be in for a good bout. -lksumo)

Mitakeumi vs Takayasu – Both of these burly men are fighting hurt. Takayasu with a bad back and Mitakeumi with a gimpy knee. Both of them see to be a half step slow, so this will be match of attrition: whose pain will lose first? Takayasu holds a clear (12-5) career advantage.

Goeido vs Endo - ENDO EJECTION PROTOCOL ACTIVE. WEST SIDE I/O PORT AVAILABLE. APPLY 12 METER/SEC FORCE LATERAL TO ENDO-UNIT TO ACHIEVE WIN STATUS. ENGAGE.

Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s bag’o sumo has worked pretty well on the upper Maegashira, but for the named ranks it seems to be quite ineffective. I love that this is happening, as I see quite a bit of potential in Hokutofuji, but he needs to get a winning formula together against these rikishi, and that comes by continued beatings at the hands of the upper echelon.

Kotoshogiku vs Kakuryu – Are we going to see hypersonic doom Kakuryu again on day 3? Kotoshogiku’s sumo relies on him grappling his opponent and hopping like an aroused Mastiff to propel himself to victory. Should Kakuryu once again launch of the shikiri-sen, we might be left with only blurry, smeared images of a blue mawashi and bouncing thighs launched in a high, arcing track towards a throng of excited fans. Each of them hoping that the Kyushu Bulldozer lands nearby. (This is the 50th meeting between the pair! -lksumo)

Haru Review: Biggest Winners and Losers

 

Hello sumo fans! As you know, the 2019 Haru Basho wrapped up this Sunday and boy was it an exciting one! From Hakuho’s 42nd Yusho to Ichinojo’s incredible 14-1 performance, Haru did not disappoint! In today’s video, I’m going to go over the biggest winners and losers of the Haru Basho.

Next week I will be bringing you the next instalment of Learning the Lingo, so stay tuned for more sumo content. As always, thank you for supporting the channel, and I will see you guys soon.

Haru Day 14 Highlights

I think the big, double-wide story of this basho is going to be the enormous pile of rikishi who own demotion worthy scores at the end of this basho. If you take a look at the records vs banzuke position, I count at least 10 rikishi who might be worthy of a return to Juryo. That does not mean there will be 10 men dropping to the 2nd division, as Juryo has 3-5 rikishi who could be considered promotion worthy.

Before the basho, Team Tachiai remarked that all of the really great action might be in the bottom ⅓ of the banzuke, and for folks who enjoy the Darwinian nature of sumo, this basho has been a banquet of slaughter. There are 3 veterans below Maegashira 6 who have double digit wins, and a vast crater of make-koshi devastation around them that fed those double-digit win scores. Do we stop there? No indeed.

There are no fewer than 8 rikishi who will decide kachi/make koshi on the final day, including the man at the bottom edge of the banzuke, Chiyoshoma. The competition in the rank and file has been so brutal that even getting to 8 wins has been a struggle for most. While its tough to see so many great athletes come up short, this kind of tournament breeds excellence. Haru is somewhat unique, in that most of the rikishi have not had to do anything other than train and improve their bodies since Hatsu. The old veterans, who feel the pains and injuries of years of battle, have enough time to pull their sumo together for another hard climb to day 15, and that extended rest as let them once again use their experience and years of skill to edge out youthful vigor and health.

Highlight Matches

Takagenji defeats Ishiura – Ishiura suffered from not picking a strategy and enforcing it, as this match was very much a “try anything” affair. With the loss, Ishiura joins the growing pile of demotion worthy rikishi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoeko – Sure, lets throw Kotoeko into the “return to Juryo” bin too! Terutsuyoshi gives us the “bounce” tachiai that works well when he uses it, and he gets a firm hold of Kotoeko, who can do little more than react. Both men are make-koshi and part of that pile of demotion capable rikishi.

Ryuden defeats Daishoho – Daishoho gets his 8th loss, and joins the incredibly crowded barge of rikishi who could find themselves in Juryo for May. Ryuden got a deep right hand inside grip and made it work, while Daishoho looked like he had nothing to give.

Tomokaze defeats Shohozan – While not in danger of heading to Juryo, Shohozan gets his make-koshi too. The fact that Tomokaze was able to out-slap him indicates that Shohozan is worn down from the lengthy competition.

Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – As the captain of the Juryo barge, Ikioi managed to take one from a horrifically demoralized Yutakayama, who seems to be capitulating for now.

Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Still no 8th win for Asanoyama. Kagayaki stays low and moving forward and just motors Asanoyama around the dohyo and finds him an exit.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yoshikaze – Kotoshogiku got the better of the tachiai, and never gave up the advantage.

Aoiyama defeats Meisei – Meisei somehow decided that taking on Aoiyama straight on was going to work for him, when in fact it threw away all of Meisei’s advantages. Aoiyama did not waste the gift, and slapped Meisei to the clay.

Shodai defeats Sadanoumi – Is that the second day in a row where Shodai came close to a proper tachiai? Sadly it looks like Sadanoumi may have hurt his good knee in this match.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Should Abi end with a kachi-koshi, it will simply delay the time when he diversifies his sumo. Sumo fans around the world are eager for that transition, and we hope it comes soon. Today’s win was a standard Abi-zumo attack that Daieisho did nothing to avoid.

Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – Myogiryu used superior strength to out muscle Okinoumi into a throw position. Okinoumi’s final day match will decide his winning or losing record for March.

Kaisei defeats Onosho – Two things for Onosho to focus on. 1) Improve your balance, it seems to have taken a big hit from your injury / surgery / recovery, and everyone knows it now. 2) Bring back that red mawashi. Some powerful kami inhabited that one, and when you wore it onto the dohyo, it gave you some kind of edge.

Endo defeats Nishikigi – It seems that this match is a bit of a controversy. There is a point where Endo steps aside of a charging Nishikigi where toes on Endo’s left foot would seem to hit the janome. But the gumbai went to Endo, and there was no monoii. Endo did show some solid sumo today.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi went flat out at the tachiai, attempting to overpower the mighty Chiyotairyu. Interestingly enough, today it worked. Mitakeumi got a double inside arm position, dropped his hips and marched forward.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan joins Captain Ikioi in holding a dismal 2-12 record. Though not as visible beaten and broken as Ikioi, for Tochiozan to perform this poorly, he has to be having body problems.

Ichinojo defeats Takakeisho – Not sure what Takakeisho had in mind here. He seems to channel Abi, but lacks Abi’s height, his reach or his technique. Ichinojo looks puzzled for just a moment, and the all to familiar “hand of god” sweeps down and pulls Takakeisho to the clay. Ichinojo stays 1 behind Hakuho.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin keeps his hopes alive, overcoming Tamawashi in what was an odd hybrid between oshi and yotzu. At times chest to chest, at times pushing and shoving. Tochinoshin as throwing everything he could into this win (as well he should), and looks rather sore at the end. He needs 1 more win to clear kadoban, and it will be decided by his day 15 match with Ozeki hopeful Takakeisho.

Hakuho defeats Takayasu – A lot of posturing, dominance display and tension in the run up to this match. Hakuho wins the tachiai, and was faster off the shikiri-sen. Takayasu is immediately balanced too far on his heels, and Hakuho digs in. Try as he might, Takayasu cannot connect with that left hand, and his struggle to land a grip continues to put him high and balanced unevenly. Hakuho capitalizes on this, and gets moro-zashi, and moves to put the Ozeki away. Takayasu’s last ditch attempt at a throw collapses into abisetaoshi, and Hakuho takes the match to remain undefeated.

Goeido defeats Kakuryu – As we expected, Goeido’s approach to this match was an all or nothing opening salvo so fast and so powerful that either Kakuryu would not have time to react, or Goeido would have no recovery. Goeido’s plan payed off, and Kakuryu had no time to react.

Haru Day 14 Preview

The Miyazaki Prefecture Trophy – A Delicious Cow Held Aloft By Strong Men

It’s all come down to the final weekend. With everyone but Ichinojo mathematically eliminated now, it’s up to Takayasu or Kakuryu to put dirt on Hakuho, or watch him go home with his 42nd cow, lifetime of gasoline, and giant trophy full of mushrooms. In fact, I would wager that Hakuho’s house is made of vitrified beef steaks, stacked high and painted to look like wood. Seriously, what does this guy do with all of these prizes? What does he do with all of that money?

The answer is, of course, a whole lot of good. American sumo fans don’t get a full media diet about sumo, and so we don’t see some of the amazing charity that the kanban rikishi undertake. Most of them have personal community enrichment projects, and the ones from Mongolia (I am looking at you, Harumafuji) work hard to improve life in that poor and isolated country. Some of my favorite photos of Harumafuji include him visiting children, some of them critically ill, in his yellow and black “hornet stripe” yukata. Hakuho has a laundry list of good deeds and causes he attends to and funds. In general these guys really do live up to a higher standard than what most western star athletes do.

Again lksumo takes on and explains how the final weekend will decide several important story lines for Haru, and I encourage everyone to read it. Part of that story are the 12 rikishi who can still mathematically reach kachi-koshi, who will be increasingly fighting for rank. This portends a great weekend of sumo ahead. For myself, I am going to be once again cooking a pot of chanko for Sunday, and taking it all in.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Takagenji – Loser is make-koshi, and the list of rikishi in the bottom third of the banzuke who have 8 or more losses will be most impressive. There will be a veritable train-wreck of rikishi who could mathematically be demoted, if only there were stronger rikishi with winning records in upper Juryo.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko could join that group with a loss today. Terutsuyoshi seems to have found his sumo again, and his over the top mobility and agility might be more than Kotoeko’s strength can overcome.

Ryuden vs Daishoho – Daishoho is also in a must-win situation, or join the herd that will be frustrating the banzuke committee.

Shohozan vs Tomokaze – Shohozan is safe from joining the Juryo candidate dog-pile, but he still needs to win both of his last 2 to end with a kachi-koshi. This first time match against Tomokaze will feature some energy.

Chiyoshoma vs Yago – Chiyoshoma’s match today could have him reach safety, if only he can overcome Yago’s giant head tempting him to just give it a tug… pull it down. Just a little hatakikomi… GIANT HEAD! G I A N T H E A D ….. There, I said it. The guy reminds me of Juggernaut from the X Men.

Asanoyama vs Kagayaki – Asanoyama has lost 3 straight looking for that 8th win. Kagayaki seems to be very calmly going about his sumo, and I have to wonder if Asanoyama has run out of steam now 2 weeks into this tournament.

Yoshikaze vs Kotoshogiku – In the battle of genki veterans, we will see what happens when you let seasoned rikishi go almost 4 months without a jungyo. You get sumo masters who have regained their strength and stamina, beating the tar out of the younger crowd. Now they face each other, both with 10 wins, both of them facing a huge leap higher on the banzuke for May. Kotoshogiku holds a 24-7 career lead.

Aoiyama vs Meisei – Another battle of the mega-genki, Meisei is quick enough that he does not have to let Aoiyama hit him if it’s not in his plan. Aoiyama has trouble with quick, busy guys like Meisei (see the day 13 match with Yoshikaze), they can duck and dive and get behind the man-mountain, and send him to the zabuton zone.

Daieisho vs Abi – We have Daieisho one win away from kachi-koshi, and Abi one loss away from make-koshi. If Abi were to pull out an 8th win this tournament, it would be amazing. But I think he might just do it. Thus it would postpone the day he figures out what more he can do in sumo now that everyone figured out his “one weird trick”.

Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – Okinoumi needs one more win for his 8, and the chances are good he will get it today. He tends to win against Myogiryu when his health is good, and he has been “well enough” for Haru.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu needs one more for kachi-koshi, and possible big bounce up the banzuke for May. Mitakeumi will be vacating his Komusubi slot, and we know he will be back in the named ranks once he can get his undercarriage repaired.

Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – The records state that Takakeisho holds a 7-2 career advantage, but statistics cannot tell the story of this match in this basho. Ichinojo has uncovered a seemingly endless well of fighting spirit, and is using it to flatten every opponent save one. Takakeisho knows how to beat Ichinojo, but can he beat this version of Ichinojo? A win today would give Takakeisho his 10th, and punch his ticket, validating his bid to be considered for Ozeki.

Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – Tochinoshin needs two wins, and his day 14 match against Tamawashi is probably his easier match. He has a 16-10 career advantage, and Tamawashi looks only about 80% of his normal self. Of course Tochinoshin has been less than the awesome rikishi he was a year ago.

Hakuho vs Takayasu – This is going to be fun to watch, for the reason that Takayasu seems to once again be under Kisenosato’s active tutorage. Kisenosato had a specific ability to confound and dismantle Hakuho’s sumo, and many times when no one else could stop the dai-Yokozuna’s winning streaks, up would step Kisenosato and drop the boss. Can Takayasu deploy some of that knowledge on day 14, and bring one last surge of excitement to a throughly enjoyable Haru Basho?

Goeido vs Kakuryu – Rapid attack vs rapid react. I am going to guess Goeido will go for a massive opening attack that either works before Kakuryu can counter, or will leave Goeido in such an indefensible position that it’s a quick loss.

Haru Day 13 Highlights

What? Commentary? No! On to the good stuff….

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – As anticipated, Kotoyuki ends the match half way to the shitaku-beya, and with a make-koshi to boot. Terutsuyoshi’s high mobility was the deciding factor in the win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Ryuden looked downright lethargic in this match. Chiyoshoma’s failed pull down led to a rather nice deep right hand grip near the knot on Ryuden’s mawashi. Much as all of the little old ladies across Japan thrilled at the chance of a wardrobe malfunction, Chiyoshoma is a consummate professional, and the mawashi stayed firmly in place.

Shohozan defeats Yutakayama – This match really showed where Yutakayama’s problem lies. He could produce no forward pressure against Shohozan, and it’s going to be that knee and that foot acting up. Until he can get them in better condition, Yutakayama is going to continue to slide down the banzuke, which is a real shame as he has solid sumo skills.

Meisei defeats Kotoshogiku – Fantastic showcase for Meisei’s speed and lighting quick reactions. Kotoshogiku gets the hug-n-chug started, but Meisei kept fighting to get his right hand on Kotoshogiku’s mawashi. Meisei’s patience and staying calm once the bumpity-bumps get cranking pays off, and that right hand not only takes Kotoshogiku out of attack mode, but provides the leverage for the uwatedashinage that wins the match.

Tomokaze defeats Asanoyama – One sided match that favored Tomokaze all the way. Tomokaze picks up his 8th, and Asanoyama is still shopping. [Tomokaze has still never had a losing record since entering professional sumo! He likely needs two more wins for a special prize, and is the only top-division debutant who can feel good about his chances of staying there. -lksumo]

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – What makes this one interesting is that Kagayaki is so methodical, and that comes up against Takarafuji’s approach of being patient and waiting for his opening. The result is a fairly slow moving match that showed a lot of thinking and calculation from both.

Yoshikaze defeats Aoiyama – Both men are now 10-3, which is really impressive given the devastation in the lower ranks this basho. Aoiyama lands a couple of big hits, but Yoshikaze lights him up and takes him down.

Abi defeats Ikioi – Ikioi has the right idea, attack Abi’s arms from underneath, but no strength to do it. Sad times.

Shodai defeats Okinoumi – Shodai surprised Okinoumi, and frankly surprised me. The pounding he took in the opening days of the basho seems to have not caused him to just give up. Good stuff!

Nishikigi defeats Tochiozan – Nishikigi’s “sumo style” is starting to become distinctive. He locks his opponents arms, and then uses his good leg strength to take control. Today’s match is one of the better examples of it in action, and while simple and not flashy, it really does seem to work.

Daieisho defeats Onosho – Onosho opened strong, but lost contact when Daieisho side-stepped his advance. Daieisho rallied, stuck Onosho with a potent nodowa and tossed him out. Onosho is still regrouping following his surgery, but is now make-koshi and will work from lower on the banzuke.

Endo defeats Kaisei – After the first match resulted in both rikishi stepping out together, the second was all Endo, who showed much better sumo the second time around.

Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Hokutofuji, when he is healthy, can generate so much forward pressure that any loss of traction is more or less an instant loss for his opponent. Myogiryu could not maintain his footing and hit the clay.

Ichinojo defeats Mitakeumi – For most of this basho, Ichinojo has just been swatting down everyone. In hindsight it makes total sense, he is already higher than all of his opponents, with plenty of strength and leverage. So he may as well drop them in place. He made Mitakeumi look like a bag of potatoes. He faces Takakeisho on day 14, and I am going to be very curious to see what happens then.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tamawashi – Chiyotairyu exceeds expectations, and stays in the fight past the tachiai, and survives Tamawashi’s pull down attempt. Chiyotairyu rallies and drives Tamawashi from the dohyo, giving him his 8th loss.

Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Like so many great moments in sports, this all came down to a split second. If you watch the match in slow motion, you can see Takayasu roll that left shoulder forward, while he reaches for the mawashi with his right. Takakeisho is lower and faster, and is inside and underneath that shoulder with his first push before that right hand can find its mark. That was, in fact, the match. Once Takakeisho launched the wave action attack, Takayasu could not recover his footing, and could not generate any offense. As mentioned in the preview, the outcome of this match was likely the decider on Takakeisho’s Ozeki bid.

Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin – Masterful sumo from the Yokozuna today, as Kakuryu successfully prevents Tochinoshin from ever getting his working grip set up. The fact that Tochinoshin is always going for the “one thing” makes it easy for a reactive sumo master like Kakuryu to confound, frustrate and distract Tochinoshin, all the while moving him steadily towards defeat. Tochinoshin must win the remainder of his matches to preserve his rank.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Team Goeido was out in force, and the EDION arena was rocking as Goeido mounted the dohyo to face off against the undefeated Hakuho. Excellent tachiai, and Goeido’s opening gambit was to go for mae-mitsu, and his hand could not maintain contact. Goeido stays with Hakuho, and they trade blows, and settle down chest to chest. Goeido held the center of the dohyo, but Hakuho’s superior body position drove Goeido back and won the match. Great sumo from both. As with Takayasu, the whole match hinged on that opening move that failed.

Haru Day 13 Preview

With lksumo doing a fantastic job of spelling out exactly what is at stake for the remainder of the tournament, let’s talk a bit about the continuing transition period. As we saw at Aki 2018, the transition from the old warriors to a newer generation will not be a straight line. Many of these rikishi are some of the highest skill the sport has seen in some time. In fact the current dominant cohort has had an impressively long and stable tenure. Many of these rikishi have been fixtures of the top division for several years, some of them more than a decade.

Like Aki, we have a point in the transition where the old guard can muster a strong basho, and compete like the “old days”. Frankly I love it, and I am sure the fans love it too. It’s great to see the named ranks laying waste to the upper Maegashira, and fierce action at the bottom of Makuuchi as the staple for each day of the tournament. As much as folks like to gripe about Hakuho, his reign as the king of the ring has been very stable, but it is fading. We don’t need to look back too many years to find Hakuho taking 4-6 yusho a year. Now we see him taking 2, or maybe 1. He has taken to (wisely) sitting out any tournament where he is not strong and healthy. As a result, if Hakuho shows up, he is the man to beat for the cup.

As the old guard comes out the dominate again, we see the tadpoles taking it in the shorts, we see the Freshmen faltering, and we see at least 2 more waves of fresh faces forming up to attack the top division. But make no mistake, we are in the twilight of this era, and setbacks for rikishi like Mitakeumi, Takakeisho and Hokutofuji are part of the evolution of sumo. This will be a big year for the tadpoles, the freshmen, and we are going to see the pixies start to elbow their way into Makuuchi too. I think this year we lose at least one Ozeki, and maybe two. I think we may also gain a Yokozuna if you-know-who can take advantage of the next time Hakuho rests up in his sumo-life-extension project.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chaser: Ichinojo
Hunt Group: Goeido, Aoiyama, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Ishiura vs Daishoho – A whole lot ‘o make-koshi out for offer in the lower matches. Daishoho is one loss away, and if Ishiura can deliver the goods, it adds another rikishi to the hopper of demote-able guys with lots of pomade in their hair. What are they going to do with this mess – especially if (as lksumo points out) there are not a whole lot of Juryo guys who are making the case for promotion.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoyuki – Once again Mr 5×5 comes to town, ready to crowd surf his way through another match. Terutsuyoshi won their only prior match, and winning again today would push Kotoyuki to make-koshi, further hashing the group of the top Juryo men into an even smaller promotable pile.

Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – It’s shin-Ikioi’s time to beat on the ever elusive Chiyoshoma. He’s in a tight spot with wins, so I am going to look for every move, trick or gambit he can think of. And he can think of a lot. Fortunately Ryuden is already kachi-koshi.

Kotoeko vs Yago – Will Kotoeko be able to save his muscular hinder from joining the demote-able, pomade covered dog-pile? Somehow I think the lure of that much hair-grease, and that many mawashi clad fellows might be more than a small town boy from Miyazaki can resist. Aim for the rafters, Yago!

Shohozan vs Yutakayama – Shohozan’s happiness is proportional to the number of times he hits somebody. And lately he’s been losing matches, and he just seems… Well, a little blue. As Yutakayama is close to the squishy center of that pile of demote-able folks right now, he may as well do something benevolent, and help cheer Shohozan up.

Sadanoumi vs Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima did not muster quite the victory lap in the top division that Uncle Sumo managed. It was less of a “here comes awesome” and more “oh, you again? I had no idea you were still doing sumo”. As a bonafied old person, I can relate. Sadanoumi is no spring chicken, but maybe the two of them can yell at Onosho and Takakeisho to get he hell off their dohyo, then go to the Izakaya and pound a few cold ones while singing 90s tunes.

Meisei vs Kotoshogiku – We can think of Kotoshogiku as some kind of “old guard” barometer. When he’s a mess, it seems many of the other vets are just limping by. Right now Kotoshogiku is really racking up the score, and I think that he may not stop at 10. Meisei has the speed and the high-adhesion feet to make some wild maneuvers in a match. But Kotoshogiku is a master of bracketing these kind of rikishi.

Asanoyama vs Tomokaze – The schedulers love these matches. The winner gets their kachi-koshi. The other one gets a face full of dirt. Asanoyama has kept his spirits up and his outlook positive, so I think he can make it happen. This is their first ever match.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s sumo is defined by patience. But sometimes we wish he would just throw down like someone had dented his wife’s Toyota Harrier in the Aeon parking lot. We can be sure that Kagayaki will do his utmost to make this match as colorless and basic as possible, but will execute with absolute form.

Aoiyama vs Yoshikaze – I love me some giant Aoiyama slap-happy sumo. Which will carry the day – a couple of big hits from the heavy guns, or a stream of burning hell from the berserker? They have an 11-11 career record, so give thanks you are not in the front row of the arena, as I suspect that we will see blood.

Ikioi vs AbiEt Tu Abi?

Okinoumi vs Shodai – At this point I think Shodai is so demoralized, he would be happy to have this end. I am guessing this may be his worst spanking since his disastrous 5-10 at Nagoya in 2017 (which included a fusensho), and he may even exceed that basho’s terrible performance.

Nishikigi vs Tochiozan – Both of these guys join Shodai and Kaisei in the “broken toy” box. All of them have had a terrible tournament and are probably going to be happy for Sunday night parties and the start of the spring jungyo. All 4 of them are worthy members of the top division, but this tournament they were little more than target practice for the more genki elements higher up the banzuke.

Daieisho vs Onosho – Onosho has his back on the make-koshi line again today, and he has to take a win from the speedy Daieisho to stay out of the losing column for Haru. Daieisho has a 2-6 record against Onosho, but as we have seen from this tournament, Onosho is having balance and foot placement issues.

Kaisei vs Endo – Both in the make-koshi bracket with the rest, both of them capable rikishi who were strip mined for shiroboshi for the past 12 days, and are in no mood to continue. But the show must go on, and we will see size vs agility on display.

Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – Actually, this match has a lot of potential. Myogiryu has been a tough competitor in a really brutal joi-jin, and he still holds on to a chance to win out and be promoted. Hokutofuji has bounced off his first trip to San’yaku, and will have to regroup for a couple of tournaments before we see him test his mettle again. It’s going to come down to that handshake tachiai and nodowa, I think. Land it – and you have control Hokutofuji. Miss and Myogiryu is going to make you dance, and then eat dirt.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Should we start by saying that Mitakeumi has a 6-3 career advantage over Ichinojo? Maybe we should point out that Mitakeumi is hurt, and Ichinojo seems to have adopted Terunofuji’s kaiju form – at once both dazzling and terrifying to behold. I think this one is Ichinojo’s to lose, but I am also going to assume that Mitakeumi is going to work to make sure he does not drop out of the san’yaku.

Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – The time for Tamawashi to rally is now. He has trouble with Chiyotairyu’s big hit tachiai, but I am certain that the Hatsu yusho winner can take the cannonball and push for a win.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – Sumo fans, we can see this one coming from over the horizon. Takakeisho is going to attack with the wave-action, and Takayasu is going to use the smooth tachiai he has shown for most of the basho. If he can land even one hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi, it’s likely the end of an Ozeki bid. I am looking for Takayasu to finish with at least 11 wins, and to me it looks like his next will likely come day 13 if he boxes up Takakeisho.

Tochinoshin vs Kakuryu – This is not a good match for Tochinoshin. He is 3-22 against Kakuryu, who is one of the few rikishi (along with Hakuho) who can escape the “Skycrane”. But we are to the point now where he must win to defend his rank. As I said at the beginning, Tochinoshin is not beyond sacrificing his body to protect his rank. He might do something that leads to worsening his condition, knowing that he might have a few months to try to overcome it, if he can just clear kadoban. A desperate man might unleash some wild sumo power. I am going to watch for it, as he is nearly out of options.

Hakuho vs Goeido – The rikishi with the best chance of putting dirt on the sole leader of the yusho race will face Hakuho today. Goeido in his genki GoeiDOS 2.2 form has been a damn fine rikishi, and he has delivered wins with speed and brutality that match some of his best sumo from Aki 2016. I predict no matter what way this goes, it may only last single-digit seconds.

Haru Day 12 Highlights

Its looking increasingly difficult for anyone to catch Yokozuna Hakuho, and the chances are growing that he will capture not only another yusho (his 42nd) but another zehsho yusho as well. Whatever his injuries or problems, Hakuho has fought with overwhelming skill and determination, and he has demonstrated an almost inhuman ability to escape even the most dire situations.

The only rikishi who might have a reasonable challenge to Hakuho is the amazingly genki Ichinojo. The chances that they would face each other in anything other than a playoff are slim to none, and to get to a playoff, someone would have to win over the dai-Yokozuna this tournament. Frankly, I don’t see it happening. Much like other great athletes, any time he chooses to compete, he completely dominates the event, and at times makes even the ridiculously impossible look easy and natural.

There are 3 days left in the basho, and for the most part, everything has been decided short of the yusho. But true to form for this tournament, each day continues to deliver great sumo.

Highlight Matches

Enho defeats Toyonoshima – Enho edges closer to his kachi-koshi, and possibly a bid to enter the top division in May. Hapless Toyonoshima really has sputtered and failed this tournament, after working very hard to return to Makuuchi. As is typical for Enho, he uses combo attacks to keep his opponent from settling to a single defensive strategy.

Tomokaze defeats Ishiura – Ishiura can be frustrating to follow, as he seem to be very easily disrupted from the tachiai, and when that happens his sumo quickly falls apart. Tomokaze did apply quite a vigorous series of jostles to Ishiura’s skull, treating it like a poorly mixed bottle of kombucha.

Kagayaki defeats Kotoeko – Kagayaki scores his 8th win, and finally can claim a kachi-koshi for the first time since May of last year. Kagayaki kept his hands low into the tachiai, and went immediately for a highly effective right hand hazu / armpit pin that kept Kotoeko from generating any offense at all.

Yoshikaze defeats Yutakayama – With his 9th loss, we can pretty much wave goodbye to Yutakayama, the one time leading rikishi of the Freshman group. Since he was injured at Aki 2018, he has not been even 80% genki at any point. Like most sumotori, there is little or no word on what is still wrong with him, but hopefully he can get himself and his sumo together in Juryo and come roaring back. Great to see Yoshikaze with 9 wins after a very weak start.

Meisei defeats Chiyoshoma – Meisei took the initiative at the tachiai, and Chiyoshoma knew he had to do something straight away. Chiyoshoma’s gambit was to attempt a throw, which failed when he could not plant his feet, and Meisei plowed through the pivot point. Meisei gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi.

Daishoho defeats Ikioi – If I had a cat in Ikioi’s kind of condition, I would take it to the vet.

Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – The Aoiyama recipe is still paying off every time, so he keeps using it. Lift them up, slap them down. Ryuden is already kachi-koshi, so this match was all good fun.

Takarafuji defeats Yago – Takarafuji prevented any offense from Yago, except on Takarafuji’s terms. Yago gets his 8th loss, but is safe in the top division unless something terrible happens. Yago is a solid rikishi, but his second Makuuchi tournament has been a real struggle.

Okinoumi defeats Shohozan – Okinoumi’s deep sumo library brings us more fascinating technical action today. He took Shohozan’s primary offensive style off the table and kept himself firmly in control of the match. When this guy is a coach, he is going to produce some excellent future rikishi.

Abi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Added to the slow barge back to Juryo is one Terutsuyoshi, who many hoped would bring his high-energy, small-man sumo to a top division that is increasingly dominated by behemoths. Abi continues to rack wins with his back to the make-koshi wall.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Kotoshogiku now has double digit wins. How high can he run up the score? Chiyotairyu has only beaten Kotoshogiku once, and his typical cannonball tachiai has little effect on the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – After 5 straight losses, Onosho claims another white star. Onosho got the better of the tachiai, and his overly forward posture was supported by Sadanoumi’s efforts to find his footing.

Ichinojo defeats Asanoyama – When Ichinojo is operating in this form, I am not sure anyone below Sekiwake can do much to slow him down. So the boulder will keep rolling down the hill, crushing anyone who tries to hug him. I am still confident that Asanoyama will get his 8th win this basho.

Daieisho defeats Tochiozan – As Tochiozan ages up, he increasingly has hot and cold streaks. I would chalk this up to his hit or miss health problems, whatever they might be. But for Haru he is clearly quite cold. Daieisho is operating at speed, and today he employed a well executed arcing turn to apply torque to Tochiozan that set up his defeat.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – Kaisei did not take my advice to change format to a dance-off, but he managed to score his second win, even without employing his moon walk skills.

Myogiryu defeats Mitakeumi – This match surprised me a bit, in that Mitakeumi let Myogiryu bracket him. (Bracketing – when used in naval gunfire, means the enemy has your range and can land shells on you at will. In sumo it means that your opponents feet straddle your stance, and you are going down). Myogiryu’s nodowa was especially effective, and Mitakeumi could not really decide on offense or defense, and paid the price.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji’s lightning fast “handshake tachiai” left Nishikigi unable to do much other than try to push back against Hokutofuji’s forward pressure. Its great to see that the pounding Hokutofuji took has not dampened his fighting spirit.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Endo had this one, but failed to maintain close cover on Tamawashi during an osha-match. As a result, Tamawashi’s perilous toes-out pose at the tawara was not his moment of defeat, and he was allowed to resume the fight. Endo now make-koshi.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – A battle of local favorites, Goeido boxes and ships Takakeisho back to Hyogo in short order with a face full of Osaka clay for a souvenir of his fun on the dohyo today. I am eager for the day 13 match where Goeido brings his genki self up against Hakuho. Just a hunch that this might be the one match that could take Hakuho off the pace.

Hakuho defeats Tochinoshin – Quite the battle, as Tochinoshin lands his deadly left hand outside grip at the tachiai, with Hakuho lower and inside with a mae-mitsu. With his right hand now deep, Hakuho masterfully breaks Tochinoshin’s “Skycrane” setup, and it’s all down hill from there. The Yokozuna patiently sets up, with his feet in excellent position while Tochinoshin continues to work back towards his offensive stance. The end comes when The Boss goes morozashi and advances. Tochinoshin gets Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 13.

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – Takayasu made it clear he was coming out fast, but Kakuryu took the inside at the tachiai. But again, watch Takayasu’s position on the dohyo and his feet. He’s lower, he owns the center and he has enough of Kakuryu to advance. Kakuryu’s excellent mobility and balance keep him in this fight, but the improved Takayasu sumo is really paying off in this match.