Natsu Day 12 Preview


Hakuho-dohyo-iri

Potential To Be The Pivotal Day

Yokozuna Harumafuji’s inadvertent step-out on day 11 appears to have set the stage for a number of resolutions to all the story threads, and we anticipate the resolutions may come day 12. With Harumafuji having a single loss, the yuchi is for Hakuho to lose. Hakuho certainly appears to be on a run towards a perfect score, but now with Kisenosato wisely focusing on recovery, the final match of the final day will be Hakuho vs Harumafuji.

That brings us to all of the stories that now hinge on day 12 bouts. This includes (there are probably more):

  • Goeido’s Kadoban Doom – He faces Aoiyama on day 12, whom he has beaten 17 of their 20 career matches. But Aoiyama gave Terunofuji (a tougher opponent this tournament) one hell of a fight on day 11. If Goeido loses this match, his chances of ending up with 8 wins becomes very small.
  • Ojisan Kotoshogiku’s Fade – We have talked about how it’s still quite plausible for Kotoshogiku to end up kochi-koshi and remain at Sekiwake for Nagoya. Obviously the NSK wants to continue to challenge Kotoshogiku, so he faces Mitakeumi on day 12. In one match we will have the bright future challenge the glorious past. Mitakeumi could end it for Kotoshogiku today.
  • Takayasu’s Ozeki Bid – One more win for the magic 33 for Takayasu, which is the minimum number of wins across 3 basho to be considered for Ozeki promotion. The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan must love Takayasu, as they have scheduled him to fight Takarafuji (who is already make-koshi, and obviously hurt) on day 12.

Add to that, many more rikishi are still battling to get their kochi-koshi and stave off demotion. We can count on the last 4 days being intense and competitive.

Natsu Leader board

Leader Hakuho
Hunt Group – Harumafuji
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Ura

4 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

*If there is one day to supplant your NHK Digest with the great works of Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama’s daily summary, it’s probably day 12. Too many crazy matches to let NHK pare it down.

Tokushoryu vs Onosho – The winner is kachi-koshi. There has only been 2 prior matches between these rikishi, and Tokushoryu has won them both. But it would be unwise to count out Onosho.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki seems to fly below the radar for now, but he is starting to get his sumo together at the Makuuchi level. He has a slight 2-1 career advantage over Chiyotairyu, who is heavier and more compact. This should be a pretty good match if nobody blows the tachiai.

Hokutofuji vs Ura – It’s clear the schedulers are setting up fun and interesting matches for the fans. Both of these sumotori have secured winning records, but now let’s see how two up-and-coming wrestlers battle. We have to wonder what trick Ura is going to deploy next, possibly linking the multiverse together and putting several dozen Ura’s on the same dohyo for a split second.

Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – Another in the “Let’s see what happens” series of day 12, Takakeisho is more or less a bowling ball with legs. What happens when you get a tall, super strong Tochinoshin to battle against him? Hey, let’s find out!

Chiyonokuni vs Yoshikaze – Time for Yoshikaze to get his kachi-koshi bid back on track. Chiyonokuni seems dispirited and maybe a bit injured, so perhaps the Berserker can rack up a win.

Takarafuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu is looking for win #10 and his bone fide for promotion to Ozeki. Takarafuji is looking hurt and disorganzied, so let’s see if Takayasu can seal the deal.

Kotoshogiku vs Mitakeumi – Kotoshogiku is one loss from further demotion, and Mitakeumi has been nominated to test his mettle. The concern I have on this match is that Mitakeumi will likely try to lock up Ojisan, and that plays directly into the infamous hug-n-chug. So it’s time to see if Mitakeumi can revert back to his pusher ways, or if he really has the strength to defeat Kotoshogiku chest to chest.

Terunofuji vs Shodai – Third in our series of “Let’s see what happens” bouts, let’s take two big, strong rikishi. Both are kind of sloppy in their techique, preferring to use brute force above technical prowess. My money is on Terunofuji, but this one is weird enough that you can’t discount Shodai doing something unexpected and scamming up Terunofuji’s sumo.

Aoiyama vs Goeido – Believe it or not, this one is probably the decider for Goeido. It would seem on paper to be a straightforward win for the Ozeki, but Goeido has struggled to be consistent this basho.

Tochiozan vs Hakuho – One directive now for Hakuho: don’t get injured prior to the day 15 showdown.

Harumafuji vs Takanoiwa – This could be really ugly for Takanoiwa, as I am sure Harumafuji is frustrated after his day 11 loss. Still hoping for the death spin this basho.

Natsu Day 11 Highlights


Day-11-2

And Then There Was One

Overnight in Tokyo, the yusho race narrowed when Harumafuji lost to Mitakeumi. This leaves Hakuho as the sole, undefeated leader of the basho going into day 12. The bout with Mitakeumi was lost when the Yokozuna inadvertently stepped out of bounds, and the Gyoji awarded the match to Mitakeumi.

Across the board the matches were a notch above the average thus far for Natsu, with a host of close contests that were hard fought and won.

Most impressive to me was the effort that Aoiyama put up against Terunofuji. For once Terunofuji battled an opponent who was too tall and too massive to lift and eject. To his credit, Aoiyama would not surrender, and gave Terunofuji a real challenge.

Selected Matches

Takakeisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Takakeisho racks up his kachi-koshi. While he has been a fairly standard pushme-pullyou to date, he fights with a lot of energy and vigor. With any luck he will take a page from Mitakeumi’s book and increase his skills in yotsu-zumō (belt fighting and throws).

Hokutofuji defeats Daishomaru – Last basho was the first tournament where Hokutofuji did not have a winning record, and it’s great to see him come roaring back. I continue to believe that if Hokutofuji can stay healthy, he is going to be a big deal. In today’s match, he blasted Daishomaru off the dohyo in a very convincing manner.

Ikioi defeats Kotoyuki – Crowd favorite Ikioi also secures his kochi-koshi, and in the process Kotoyuki is injured. This is notable in that he exited the dohyo in a wheel chair. Kotoyuki went kyujo for day 9 for a single day, and returned. Now he seems to be more severely injured.

Ura defeats Shodai – I am sure Shodai has watch full speed and slow motion replays of this bout a few times, and would really like to know what on wizardry took place. He had Ura pinned at the edge, and suddenly a tear in space-time opened again (as Ura is known to do), and suddenly Shodai is stumbling off the dohyo and Ura is high stepping back to his side. Centuries from know, physicists are still going to be working out the math this guy uses to phase between universes. Ura now has 9 wins and is cruising towards a special prize, as well as a possible visit by the Nobel committee.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – This match was all Yoshikaze, but he could not finish Endo. After multiple to throw, lift out and move over the tawara, Ends rallied and turned the tables on Yoshikaze. Very nice effort from both, and I am sure Endo was happy to avoid make-koshi.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyonokuni – Ojisan Kotoshogiku easily deploys the hug-n-chug against Chiyonokuni, and just like that the Kyushu Bulldozer lives on another day.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan put up a stiff fight, but Takayasu finally got his 9th win, and is now 1 win away from the 33 win threshold to be considered for promtion to Ozeki. This is likely to come day 12 when Takayasu faces already make-koshi Takarafuji.

Terunofuji defeats Aoiyama – A battle of two giants, this match raged as a contest of strength that was frankly, kind of epic. I have not been much of an Aoiyama fan ever, but today he impressed me. The man-mountain stood his ground against the Kaiju and stalemated him for an impressive length of time.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Goeido 2.0 showed up today, but we have the REAL Hakuho right now, and there is likely no one who can defeat him this tournament. Goeido is now in real trouble, as he needs to find 2 more wins in the next 4 days somehow to save his Ozeki rank. There is the very real and very silly possibility that Nagoya may see 4 Sekiwake, two of them dethroned Ozeki. Nuts.

Mitakeumi defeats Harumafuji – Mitakeumi clearly had control of the match from the tachiai, but the match ended when Harumafuji seems to have inadvertently stepped out. I would say that Harumafuji does seem to be favoring one leg over the other, and we might assume that he actually did injure himself on day 9.

Wakaichiro In Action Day 12


Wakaichiro Enters

Back For Match #6.

Our favorite American rikisi returns to the Kokugikan dohyo on day 12 to face Wakakoki, Jonidan 47w. Wakakoki, from the Shikoroyama heya, is another veteran of the Jonidan and Sandanme. He has been bouncing up and down between those divisions for some the past few years. His highest career rank is Sandanme 48.

This will be another great test for Wakaichiro’s improving skills and confidence. They are nearly the same height and weight, so this contests will come down to strategy and rapid adaptation on the dohyo. The winner of this bout secures their kachi-koshi, and a higher rank for the summer basho in Nagoya.

As always, we will bring you coverage of his match, and video when we can find it.

Yokozuna Kisenosato Withdraws From Natsu


Kisenosato
Image From Sponichi Sports Annex

Pectoral Injury Concerns.

Word has come from blog reader Asashosakari that Kisenosato has withdrawn from the Natsu basho. Followers of tachiai will note that both Andy and myself have been urging Kisenosato to own up to the seriousness of his injury, and go kyujo. No, big K – you can’t gamberize you way out of this one. At some point the human body is unable to follow even the most indomitable spirit.

Official word from the NSK

Kisenosato injured his left pectoral muscle in the final days of the Osaka basho, and somehow believed that resting it would allow the muscle to repair. As we reported prior to Natsu, this injury typically requires surgery to repair, and even then the muscle is forever degraded. The NSK tweet above cites the left bicep, but its been clear since day 3 that his left pectoral is only functioning at a minimal level, and he had no power on his left side.

We applaud Kisenosato for doing what is best for his career and longevity, and hope that sumo fans will understand the chances of much more serious injury or complications were quite real with the upcoming torikumi. His withdrawal hands Tamawashi a default win for day 11, earning him his kachi-koshi.

Natsu Day 11 Preview


kaiju mode
Ozeki Terunofuji Headed to McDonalds In Ryogoku, 11:22 PM Tuesday

We Start The Final Act

As we begin the last 5 days of this awesome tournament, it’s time to check up on a few of our story threads

Takayasu’s Ozeki Run – I would declare this on uncertain footing but still quite possible. Takayasu needs to face another Yokozuna who is currently unbeaten, and both Ozeki, one of which is operating in kaiju mode. That leaves him with 2-3 plausible wins, so still possible.

Injured Yokozuna Corps – Kakuryu already has withdrawn. He is probably facing pressure now to retire. He can in fact hang his hopes of delaying that by his November yusho in Fukuoka. Kisenosato insists on competing even though he lacks the strength in his upper body to present a reasonable threat to the upper San’yaku. Harumafuji and Hakuho have reverted to their genki forms, and are unbeaten and undeterred. It’s wonderful to see them both back to their former potency, and we are reminded of how they dominated everything sumo for years.

No-Zeki – Goeido is kadoban, this tournament, and is only 6-4 as of today. It’s not too far of a stretch to think he can pick up 2 more wins, but that’s very weak performance for an Ozeki. This week he faces all 3 Yokozuna, so I would guess at least 2 more losses are inbound. His match with Tamawashi may be the decider. Terunofuji on the other hand seems to be in the same mode he was in during Osaka. That of a rampaging sumo powerhouse with unbeatable strength. He has yet to face any Yokozuna, and I am guessing that he has a fair chance of beating any of them, except Kisenosato. I think he could actually injure Kisenosato.

Mitakeumi’s Komisubi Residency – He was out to strong start, but then hit some very rough patches. Now, Mitakeumi is in real danger of going make-koshi and being pushed back to rank and file Maegashira. I personally don’t think that’s going to harm him, as there is still a bunch of brush clearing that needs to take place in San’yaku before the promotion lanes are actually open. He has faced all of the Ozeki, but still needs to get by Harumafuji on day 11. After that he should draw some easier matches, and may end up 8-7 if he is not too discouraged.

Ojisan Kotoshogiku – We are at day 10, and he is still not make-koshi. His next loss seals his demotion, but he has faced both Ozeki and all three Yokozuna. Is it possible he can win his last 5 matches and escape demotion? Yes, but it would be highly improbably. But look at who he is likely to face: Chiyonokuni (2-8), Okinoumi (1-9!), Daieisho (2-8), Aoiyama (2-8)? We get to Tochiozan before we find a rikishi who is looking strong. So don’t write of Kotoshogiku yet. Then there is the thought of a Shodai – Kotoshogiku match, which might be a big deal.

Upper Maegashira Blood Bath – Ranks M1 – M5 contain 10 rikishi, only 3 of them have even or winning records. This is not atypical by any means, as the upper Maegashira are frequently the punching bags of the San’yaku, but the last few basho had been relatively gentle on these folks. But Natsu has brought the pain back with vengeance.

Juryo Meat Grinder – Upper Juryo is in worse shape than anything I have seen in some time. None of the top 6 Juryo ranks has anyone with more than 6 wins. Without a strong leader or leaders, it throws the promotion picture into chaos. It’s clear that a number of rikishi will be booted out of Makuuchi, but are any of these Juryo guys worthy to replace them?

Osunaarashi In Trouble – He is 1-9 right now. Given that the NSK has given him brutal demotions in the past, it’s reasonable to ask how far down the banzuke he will fall. It was clear from watching him in person that his multiple, unrecovered injuries have robbed him of the physical presence he used to command.

Natsu Leader board

LeadersHarumafuji, Hakuho
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Shodai, Tochinoshin, Ura

5 Matches Remain

* Note, we are almost to the point where the math required for anyone to catch Hakuho or Harumafuji becomes unworkable.

Matches We Like

Kaisei vs Toyohibiki – In spite of his injuries, it seems Kaisei decided he is not going back to Juryo, no matter what. He needs 2 more wins to make that a reality. He has a 10-5 career advantage over Toyohibiki.

Tochinoshin vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu trying for kachi-koshi against a resurgent Tochinoshin. I am looking for Tochinoshin to employ his massive strength and size advantage if he can grab the mawashi, Tochinoshin will be thrusting with everything to keep the big Georgian away.

Chiyotairyu vs Takakeisho – Less of a mismatch than a M7 vs M14 bout should be. If Takakeisho wins, he claims his kachi-koshi. But Chiyotairyu has beaten him 2 out of their 3 times they have matched before. I would guess Chiyotairyu is going to try for a quick slap down before Takakeisho can set his feet and start his sumo.

Ura vs Shodai – Also a match likely better than you would expect with a M10 vs M5 bout. Ura deploy his quantum sumo against Shodai’s flawed tachiai. As Ura will probably go low and crazy, it’s going to be fun to see how Shodai reacts. This is their first ever match. May be the best match of day 11.

Endo vs Yoshikaze – Time to see if Endo learned anything from the Mitakeumi vs Yoshikaze bout. I am guessing he did not. Interestingly enough, these two are tied 5-5 over their career. Endo is looking a bit off now, and may be hurt, where Yoshikaze seems to actually be enjoying himself almost as much as Hakuho is.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyonokuni – Yes, Chiyonokuni is already make-koshi, but he has not been phoning in his matches. He has stepped on the dohyo each day with a plan to win, and he has given it his all. Kotoshogiku has a narrow path to hold onto Sekiwake, and the next step is defeating Chiyonokuni.

Tochiozan vs Takayasu – This is a must win for Takayasu. Given the brutality of the rest of his schedule, he needs to bank this win. Tochiozan is stronger this basho than he has looked since Nagoya 2016, so it’s not a foregone conclusion. Also of note is Tochiozan leads the career matches 18-5, so he has a habit of beating Takayasu. Much as Kintamayama seems to play on it, it does seem true that Takayasu is a chronic worrier, and it may restrain his sumo on day 11.

Terunofuji vs Aoiyama – The only question is what look of pain Aoiyama will have on his face moments after the tachiai. Kailua for the win over the man shaped meat mountain.

Hakuho vs Goeido – Only Goeido 2.0 has a chance here, and it would be so very magical if he appeared and battled Hakuho to a win. But reality says Hakuho is going to play with Goeido for a bit, then toss him around. Success here means that Goeido can come out of it without an injury.

Harumafuji vs Mitakeumi – I am still hoping to see the death-spin. It’s been many months since Harumafuji tried to put a man in orbit, and I do so hope he can pull that one out this basho. Mitakeumi is still going to be a big deal in a while, but day 11 he gets to “enjoy” Harumafuji.

Kisenosato vs Tamawashi – Although Kisenosato has won all 9 of their prior meetings, Tamawashi has a fair chance against the one-armed Yokozuna. I am still looking for Kisenosato to do the responsible thing and go kyujo.

Natsu Day 10 Highlights


Takayasu

The Hard Chargers Already Achieve Kachi-Koshi.

Day 10, we saw a number of hard charging rikishi achieve their tournament winning records, known as kachi-koshi. This includes

  • Takayasu (actually secured day 9)
  • Terunofuji
  • Shodai
  • Tochinoshin
  • Ura

Kisenosato is in a tough spot – he is too injured to be competitive against the other Yokozuna and probably Terunofuji. There is a real chance he could end up with a make-koshi. Does he go kyujo? I think everyone would understand, but his pride would prevent him from sitting out the rest of the tournament. I am sure the NSK is worrying about what to do next.

The mess in Juryo continues to decay into radioactive slag. The chances of anyone being really worth to promote to Makuuchi is quite slime, as everyone in the top half of Juryo (and could be considered for promotion) has a record no better than 6-4. While there are several rikishi in Makuuchi worthy of return to Juryo, it’s going to be a real wild guess how the July banzuke is going to end up.

Takayasu’s Ozeki run has some problems, though he is likely to overcome. It’s the same issue that Kisenosato and Goeido face. With either Harumafuji or Hakuho healthy, it’s really tough towards impossible to be too dominant. With both of them healthy, you have to be thankful for every win in the upper ranks you can score. Fans will recall that this was the status quo for many years, and it’s one of the primary reasons Kisenosato stayed an Ozeki.

Selected Matches

Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – This was a bit of a strange match. It quickly went to Yutakayama holding Ishiura by the armpits, with Ishura bent over at the waist with a firm grip on Yutakayama’s mawashi. They stayed like this for quite a while until Yutakayama broke the stalemate, and tossed Ishura like a pizza crust into the Shimpan.

Tochinoshin defeats Daishomaru – Another weird one, there were two mattas, each time Daishomaru attempted a very poor henka without putting his hands on the dohyo at the tachiai. The third try? Henka again, but Tochinoshin was having none of it, and Daishomaru was done. Congratulations to Tochinoshin for a fairly early kachi-koshi

Ura defeats Kaisei – Kaisei seemed to struggle to figure out what to do with Ura, who once again was very low at the tachiai. Ura established a firm double hand flab-hold and began to lead Kaisei around like some kind of farm animal. Ura finished Kaisei off with a rather clever leg trip, and had his 8th win. Congratulations to Ura for his kachi-koshi, too.

Ichinojo defeats Takanoiwa – Very good bout right from the tachiai. Both rikishi struggled for control back and forth several times, and it seemed that Takanoiwa finally got the upper hand. Ichinojo was able to halt Takanoiwa’s charge at the tawara, and applied a rather well executed tsukiotoshi for the win.

Shodai defeats Sokokurai – Sokokurai had early control of this match, and looked to be in charge. But he could not put Shodai away. Shodai allowed Sokokurai to do all the work, and as Sokokurai tired, Shodai battled him back to the center of the dohyo. Sokokurai rallied and moved Shodai to the edge, but once again could not finish him. With his heels on the tawara, Shodai applied a somewhat clumsy tsukiotoshi to win the match. Shodaim also picks up his kachi-koshi

Terunofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze started out with an attack plan, and engaged with vigor. However, he was up against a kaiju, who had no interest in playing with the berserker. Terunofuji picked him up like a puppy and set him outside the tawara. Yoshikaze to his credit knew the match was lost and went along with it. Terunofuji also hits 8 wins and claims his kachi-koshi.

Goeido defeats Chiyoshoma – Looked like Goeido 2.0. Keep in mind Goeido is kadoban this tournament, and is still 2 wins from reaffirming his rank. He has some tough matches coming up during the rest of this week.

Harumafuji defeats Tochiozan – Showing that he was not as injured as we feared yesterday, Harumafuji launched off the line and pushed Tochiozan directly out. It was no contest.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kisenosato – The sad tale of Kisenosato’s injuries continues. In his loss, the Japanese Yokozuna prolonged the inevitable for Kotoshogiku by another day.

Hakuho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu put everything he had into this match, but he was completely out-classed by Hakuho. Hakuho secured a solid mawashi grip early, and Takayasu struggled to get any traction. As Takayasu struggled to set up a throw, Hakuho decided he was done playing, lowered his head and his hips and drove them both off the dohyo, landing in the first row of zabuton. Some really good sumo. But it’s clear that the last 2 wins Takayasu needs to secure a bit to be promoted to Ozei will not be an easy run.

Video of Wakaichiro’s Day 10 Match.


Video courtesy of Kokugikan stalwart One and Only, and it’s worth the watch. After the tachiai, Asanoshima side steps Wakaichiro’s second charge, and gets Wakaichiro gets turned around and nearly forced out from behind, but manages to recover and escape. Wakaichro gives up further ground circling backwards until he can plant his feet and renew his attack. His victory improves his record to 3-2, and places him one win away from a tournament kochi-koshi.

Fantastic effort by Wakaichiro, and really a very nice recovery.