Nagoya Day 11 Highlights

With great relief, we have seen Takayasu and Kaisei have both withdrawn from the tournament to address their injuries. Neither rikishi was really up to competing at this point, and both were risking more serious complications to their injuries. A number of rikishi showed up hurt (Kaisei, Tochinoshin) or did not show up at all (Yoshikaze, Takakeisho) coming from 2 months where there was no jungyo, and the rikishi were free to get themselves healthy.

The question begs to be asked: Is the state of treatment so poor, so haphazard that these athletes, who are worth millions of yen to sumo’s bottom line, left to fend for themselves when they get injured? Fans have noted the caviler attitude taken to injuries around rikishi like Ikioi, Kisenosato, Ura and Terunofuji. What the hell, sumo? I know Japan is not the US, but maybe it’s time for the NSK to take a look at how the NBA, NFL and other pro sports leagues keep their stars and mainstays healthy and on the field.

Highlight Matches

Sadanoumi defeats Enho – Enho throws the kitchen sink at Sadanoumi, but Sadanoumi will not go down. While this is a fantastic example of just how much energy Enho puts into a match, it’s also the most wide ranging display of Sadanoumi’s defensive skill that I have ever seen. Sadanoumi improves to 7-4.

Kagayaki defeats Yago – Yago continues to struggle with his lower body, as he achieves a position to over power Kagayaki a couple of times, but he’s not able to deliver any power or pressure against Kagakayi’s relentless attacks. Yago is another future bright star, but he needs some repairs.

Tochiozan defeats Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima opens strong with a lot of forward pressure against Tochiozan, but as has been the case this whole basho, he gets too far forward to sustain his balance. Tochiozan reads this, and steps back for the win.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Nishikigi – Terutsuyoshi gets inside at the tachiai, and grabs Nishikigi’s armpits and pushes upward. With his center mass raised that high, Terutsuyoshi pushes him out for the win. Nishikigi is now make-koshi as Terutsuyoshi rack up win #9.

Chiyomaru defeats Takagenji – Takagenji committed to finding a belt grip out of the tachiai, and while he struggled to get a hand of Chiyomaru’s mawashi, the round one was pushing him around and finally out. This was a lack of plan B for Takagenji, and that will come in time.

Tomokaze defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki tries a hit and shift, but Tomokaze is too “dialed in” to over commit, and is able to pivot and attack. Kotoyuki’s shift was on the clumsy side, and his feet were poorly placed. Tomokaze reads this with great skill, calmly grabs Kotoyuki’s head and pulls.

Okinoumi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu brought the intensity, Okinoumi brought his patience and overflowing sumo skill. It is in fact a valid (though not widely used) sumo skill to not initially go for the winning move, but rather stalemate your opponent and wait for them to make a mistake. Of course Yokozuna Kakuryu has perfected this ability, but it was nice to see Okinoumi employ it today.

Kotoeko defeats Shimanoumi – Kotoeko got the better of the tachiai, and put Shimanoumi into a reactive mode. This worked brilliantly as Shimanoumi could not get his offensive plan together, and Kotoeko dominated the match.

Daishoho defeats Chiyotairyu – Daishoho takes full advantages of the slippery Nagoya dohyo and Chiyotairyu’s innate compulsion to blunder ahead at ramming speed.

Takarafuji defeats Shohozan – Shohozan had control of this match, but could not finish Takarafuji. Both of these vets look surprisingly worn out for men who have had 2 months (without Jungyo) to prepare.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Shodai once again blows the tachiai, giving Daieisho a perfect mawashi grip, and the foot position to make it work. Shodai does advance Daieisho to the tawara, but it was really only to set up the uwatenage that put Shodai on the clay. Great sumo execution from Daieisho today.

Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji preferred handshake tachiai missed its mark, and he was left wide open to Asanoyama’s opening gambit against center-mass. The Natsu yusho winner did not even pause for a moment as he scooped up Hokutofuji and shoveled him out.

Endo defeats Ryuden – Both rikishi engaged in a tactical battle over grip and stance, and we once again saw Endo employ that right hand shallow / mae-mitsu grip, even if it was just for a moment, to unbalance Ryuden. Both of these guys are excellent technicians, but all too frequently fail to win. But they produce some really great technical sumo!

Aoiyama defeats Abi – Battle of the “Big Oshi” came down to footwork and balance. Here, Aoiyama can really shine as he repeatedly gave ground to Abi, who kept putting his balance further and further forward, until Aoiyama had him extended and could easily shove him across the bales.

Ichinojo defeats Tamawashi – Whatever injury Tamawashi is nursing, he has very poor stability on his feet this basho. Ichinojo plays with him for a time before he uses his enormous strength to dunk him into the clay. Tamawashi now has double digit losses.

Mitakeumi defeats Meisei – Meisei but up a huge fight for a rikishi who has only won 2 matches this July. He coaxed Mitakeumi into a mawashi battle, but quickly found the mechanics of holding up that tadpole to be exhausting. Points to Meisei for keeping his hips lower than Mitakeumi for the whole match.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku threw everything he had at the Yokozuna, and had the advantage at least twice. But as Kakuryu is prone to do, he kept his cool, stalemated Kotoshogiku and waited for his opening. The opening came with Kotoshogiku did not have his weight evenly on his feet, and went to shift his stance. That momentary easing of forward pressure opened up the gap between the rikishi, and Kakuryu pushed hard and drove Kotoshogiku back and out. Great effort by the former Ozeki, and masterful display of Kakuryu’s sumo style by the Yokozuna.

Ozeki Takayasu Withdraws From Nagoya Basho

The Japanese sports media (such as NikkanSports.com) is reporting that injured Ozeki Takayasu has decided to withdraw from the tournament. Takayasu injured his left arm in his day 8 match against Tamawashi, when the Mongolian Sekiwake employed an arm-lock hold that has claimed more than one injury.

Takayasu scored his 8th win to reach kachi-koshi on day 10 against Meisei, and if needed can skip the Aki Basho to devote almost 4 months to recovery, should surgery be needed, without risking his Ozeki rank.

As a result, Yokozuna Hakuho gets a default win, and remains 1 loss behind tournament leader, Yokozuna Kakuryu.

Nagoya Day 11 Preview

Welcome to the start of Act 3, the final act in what has been a grueling and brutal basho. We are down to about half of an Ozeki, and 1¾ Yokozuna.It has been a parade of injuries and misery, with the dohyo getting slick, and the stadium getting hot. But the fans are loving the fantastic sumo.

Act 3 is where we crown a yusho winner, and everyone gets sorted into make and kachi koshi. As lksumo has pointed out so well, the named ranks situation will be complicated by the insertion of Ozekiwake Takakeisho, and everyone else is going to face a shuffle for September.

Starting Act 3, it’s still Kakuryu’s yusho to lose, and we have to wonder who will have the mojo to put dirt on the only fully functioning member of the Ozeki and Yokozuna corps.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Hakuho
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Myogiryu, Tomokaze, Terutsuyoshi

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Enho vs Sadanoumi – Enho needs one more to reach kachi-koshi, and he can do it today with a win over Sadanoumi. They only had one prior match (Natsu) which Enho won. I am ready for more crazy wild sumo from Enho. Lets go!

Yago vs Kagayaki – A loss today and Yago is on the barge back to Juryo with Kaisei. Although I expect him to fight with a palpable sense of urgency, I think whatever injury that has wrecked his balance is going to need time to repair. We will see Yago in the top division again soon, I would think.

Tochiozan vs Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima is not quite ready to join the Juryo barge, but he is getting dangerously close. He faces a relic of Tochiozan, who is a faction of his formerly fearsome self.

Terutsuyoshi vs Nishikigi – Terutsuyoshi tends to be more power and less mobility than Enho, and that might be very good news for a struggling Nishikigi, who is one loss away from make-koshi. I keep reminding myself it was Hatsu (January) that he won a kinboshi.

Chiyomaru vs Takagenji – Identical 4-6 records, and it will come down to who can establish the form of the match first. Takagenji will go for the mawashi, and Chiyomaru will want to stay mobile and pushing.

Onosho vs Kaisei – Its depressing watching Kaisei each day. But I think that Onosho could use the win.

Kotoyuki vs Tomokaze – Kotoyuki continues to surprise me. Today he has a chance to really outdo himself if he can manage to defeat Tomozake. Tomokaze is on a serious hot streak, and I hope he can reach double digits. I expect him to be ranked in the joi-jin for Aki.

Myogiryu vs Okinoumi – One of the over-arching themes of this basho seem to be the fading out of the over 30 crowd. Okinoumi is doing better than some, but he’s not anything close to the sumo he had on offer even 2 years ago. How high Myogiryu will run up the score before Sunday?

Kotoeko vs Shimanoumi – A pair of 6-4 rikishi face off to take a step closer to kachi-koshi. I would expect that whomever loses this match might end up in a “Darwin” match on day 15.

Chiyotairyu vs Daishoho – This first time meeting comes down to the tachiai. Even if Daishoho can get inside, it will be decided by how much yield Chiyotairyu dials into his initial charge.

Shohozan vs Takarafuji – Given the 11-3 history between these two, I am expecting that Shohozan will find his 5th win.

Shodai vs Daieisho – Both come in 5-5, and both are fighting well enough to make it to 8 wins. They have spit their 4 prior matches, so this is about as even as you might hope to see on day 11.

Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – Yes indeed! The previous yusho winner goes up against the faster than ever Hokutofuji. They have split their 2 prior matches, and both are coming in strong and eager to win. For Hokutofuji, a win would mean kachi-koshi. A win for Asanoyama mean his chances of reaching 8 improve.

Endo vs Ryuden – Ryuden has had a tough time at Komusubi, which is typical for that rank. I jokingly say it’s origin is ancient yayoi for “human punching bag”. Many Komusubi find that even once they are done with the “hard” part of the schedule, they area too shattered to win consistently in the “Easy” part.

Abi vs Aoiyama – I want to see Abi-zumo 2.0 again. Please show us another demo on Aoiyama.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi is having a terrible basho. He has only one 1 match (against Asanoyama no less), and today he faces the Boulder. Now Ichinojo has not been consistent this July, so there is no telling which version of the Boulder you will get on day 11.

Mitakeumi vs Meisei – Another rikishi with an abysmal record, Meisei will have to suffer the a fairly frustrated Mitakeumi, who probably wants to get those last 2 wins and safely hold his rank. Mitakeumi won their only prior meeting.

Takayasu vs Hakuho – Today’s WTF match, we have damaged arms galore on display. Both of these men have their 8, yet they decide they are going to fight on. This is the part of sumo I think is a bit odd. Hopefully no one compounds their injury today.

Kakuryu vs Kotoshogiku – I look past their 29-22 career record, as Kotoshogiku has no power to generate forward pressure. The dohyo is also increasingly slick, and that robs Kotoshogiku of the ability to push forward effectively. Should Kotoshogiku manage to score an upset, it would put the Emperor’s Cup back in play.

Nagoya Storylines, Day 10

The Yusho Race

Undefeated Yokozuna Kakuryu has a one-win lead over fellow Yokozuna Hakuho (9-1). The 8-2 hunt group contains one-armed Ozeki Takayasu and three rank-and-filers: M7e Myogiryu, M7w Tomokaze, and M16w Terutsuyoshi. On Day 11, the leader will face M5e Kotoshogiku (5-5). The two have met on the dohyo a remarkable 50 times, with Kakuryu holding a 29-21 edge.

If Takayasu is reckless enough to show up tomorrow, he will face none other than the Dai-Yokozuna. Schedulers, what are you thinking? It can’t be a good feeling for Hakuho, himself not 100%, to have to try to defeat an obviously seriously injured opponent while attempting to avoid aggravating his condition. The 8-2 maegashira are all fighting typical maegashira opponents tomorrow, but their fight cards might get tougher starting on Day 12.

The Lower San’yaku

Sekiwake Tamawashi, who I’m sure can’t wait to get out of Nagoya, dropped to 1-9 and will be back in the maegashira ranks in September. Fellow Sekiwake Mitakeumi (6-4) has, as is often the case for him, hit the second-week wall, dropping two in a row to lower-ranked opponents. The good news for him is that one more win will keep him in san’yaku, two will save his rank, and he is up against hapless Meisei tomorrow, who only has one victory in the ring (the other coming by default) and who today couldn’t beat a man literally fighting with one arm.

Since my last update, the two Komusubi have gone in opposite direction, with Abi evening his score to 5-5 and Ryuden dropping to 3-7, one loss away from losing his rank. At this point, one open san’yaku slot seems the most likely option after accounting for Takakeisho’s drop to Sekiwake, and M1w Hokutofuji (7-3) has emerged as the clear favorite to fill it.

Demotion Danger

In addition to absent Yoshikaze, M15w Kaisei (1-9) has pretty much punched his ticket to Juryo—he would need to win his last 5 and be on the receiving end of remarkable banzuke luck to survive. M15e Yago (3-7) is in only slightly better shape—he needs 4 wins, or 3 and rare banzuke luck. Others needing more than one victory to stay in the top division are M14e Toyonoshima (4-6), M12e Tochiozan (3-7), M13e Chiyomaru (4-6), and M11w Nishikigi (3-7).

The Juryo promotion queue, in order, consists of Ishiura, Tsurugisho, Azumaryu, Chiyoshoma, Yutakayama, and Takanosho, all of whom still need 3-4 victories in the remaining 5 days to stake a real promotion claim.