Ones To Watch – Post Haru Round Up (Makushita)

Why is this man smiling? Ah yes, kachi-koshi in Makushita joi can feel like winning a Powerball jackpot.

With the glorious Haru basho in the record books, we can now examine how our up-an-coming, and well loved rikishi fared in the lower divisions. While we remarked at length at how brutal the competition was in the top division, the carnage carried down the banzuke to a surprising degree, with many of our “Ones to Watch” going down to make-koshi or squeaking out their final win with their last match.

Today we are looking at the Makushita rikishi, with lower divisions following soon.

Wakamotoharu – The second Onami brother to break into the salaried ranks, he had a disastrous record for Osaka, with only 5 wins against 10 losses. Ranked at Juryo 10, this is quite possibly enough certain to return him to the Makushita joi for May, where he will once again face some of the most difficult matches in sumo.

Hoshoryu – The rising star from Mongolia faced a 3 match cold streak in the first half of Haru, and closed with 3 straight wins to end 4-3. Prior to this tournament, Hoshoryu had been able to dominate the bulk of his matches, and may have found the competition a bit sedate. Ranked at Makusihta 7 in Osaka, he came up against some of the highly motivated rikishi, seeking to mangle each other in search of the final step into Sekitori status. While all of his fans are happy for his kachi-koshi, we expect him to have to repeat this kind of brutal slog at least a few more times before he can make his Juryo debut.

Akua – Electric green Akua went down to his second make-koshi in Osaka, putting his 3rd trip to Juryo further out of reach. Akua has been nursing nagging injuries after being forced to withdraw from the Aki basho on day 12. He has drive, speed and talent, but like so many hopefuls, his body suffers from the brutal pounding that is the top ¼ of Makushita.

Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto blazed a 6-1 record from Makushita 11, earning him a solid berth in the Makushita joi-jin for Natsu, and possibly a shot at Juryo if he can excel one more time. This will be no easy feat given how many strong rikishi had winning records in the top 10 Makushita ranks, who did not end up making the Juryo cut. He’s made one trip to these elevated ranks last summer, but suffered a brutal 1-6 at Aki 2018, and has been pushing to recover ever since.

Midorifuji – Midorifuji came to Osaka at his highest ever rank, and looking to do one thing – bring home 4 shiroboshi and a kachi-koshi. He closed the deal on this proposition on the final day, and assured himself a modest move higher. We will likely see him test his sumo against some of the joi-jin in May, and this might present him his biggest challenge yet. Midorifuji has shown an impressive range of sumo this year, and it’s only March…

Wakatakamoto – The lowest ranking of the three Onami brothers, Wakatakamoto excelled in Osaka, ending with a 5-2 record. Its likely this score will see him in the teens of the Makushita division, and he may find the level of competition a degree more intense than Osaka.

Ura – After a crippling re-injury to his right knee at Hatsu, Ura wasted no time returning to an orthopedic surgical theater, and undergoing a second surgery. He is not likely to return to the dohyo this year, and his Oyakata has indicated to the press that they are in “no rush” and want his recovery to be “perfect”. We could not agree more.

Musashikuni – The scion of the Mushashigawa clan went into the final day of the Haru basho already with 4 losses, but took his third win from Kotodairyu, to ease his fall down the banzuke for Natsu. We know the big Hawaiian has been nursing numerous mechanical injuries, and may have been at less than full health. He is also one of Takayasu’s tsukibeto.

Naya – One of the great stories of Haru was Naya’s bold run to within arm’s reach of the Makushita yusho from Ms51e. He was toe to toe with rikishi ranking well above him in many cases, but continued to dominated his matches. After a less than spectacular result from Hatsu, fans hopeful that Naya may be driving for higher ranks were delighted with his effort.

For a complementary take on the state of Makushita, see Chris Gould’s video below. -lksumo

Haru Day 13 – Ones To Watch

Naya is ready to rumble

As we enter the final 3 days of the basho, the lower division rikishi are facing their final match. For a large number of our “Ones to Watch”, their final match will decide if they exit Osaka with a winning or losing record. In Day 12 action, Hoshoryu battled back to even his score at 3-3 with a win over Sakigake (video below). After a rough period with 3 straight losses in a row, Hoshoryu has battled back to even.

Day 13 Matches

Akua vs Chiyosakae – A 3-3 bracket match, the winner will be kachi-koshi, and the loser make-koshi. Chiyosakae is a 39 basho Makushita veteran who will not be an easy match for Akua.

Ichiyamamoto vs Irodori – Ichiyamamoto takes on Makushita 1 East Irodori in a 5-1 bracket match. Irodori is already likely headed to Juryo, but this match might determine if Ichiyamamoto joins him.

Naya vs Churanoumi – The Makushita yusho playoff match, both rikishi are 6-0 heading into their final match. The winner takes the tournament, the loser gets a nice promotion.

Torakio vs Sekizuka – Neither of these rikishi have a single win. For Torakio this has been a total collapse, and I have to wonder what kind of injury has prevented him from executing really any good sumo for the past 2 weeks.

Shoji vs Komakiryu – Both rikishi are already make-koshi (2-4 bracket), so this match determines how stiff of a demotion is coming to them.

Roga vs Kotomiyakura – Split Jonidan / Sandanme playoff, due to the odd number of undefeated rikishi in both divisions. If Roga wins, there will be a follow-on playoff match later in the tournament to decide the Jonidan yusho.

Terunofuji vs Sadatsuyoshi – Jonidan yusho playoff match, this one may or may not determine the yusho given how the Roga match turns out. Sadatsuyoshi is another young rikishi, who has never before had 6 wins in a tournament, so this is a big moment for him. If Terunofuji repeats his day 11 performance, Sadatsuyoshi will get a rough ride.

Hattorizakura vs Hakuyo – The found someone in Jonikuchi for Hattorizakura to lose to! Hakuyo has been kyujo up until now, but returns for his final match against sumo’s most losing Jonidan.

Haru Day 12 – Ones To Watch

After the full roster and day 11, day 12 brings only a few of our “Ones to Watch” to the dohyo for their 6th match. Day 11 action saw wins by Terunofuji, Amakaze, Roga, Naya and Midorifuji. Sadly Wakaichiro lost his 6th match, and will face make or kachi koshi his final bout. Naya remains in the Makushita yusho hunt, picking up his 6th win. Terunofuji and Roga won their day 11 matches to advance to 6-0 and remain in the yusho hunt.

Day 12 Matches

Hoshoryu vs Sakigake – Loser of this match is make-koshi. Sakigake is a former Juryo rikishi who has been working in Makushita for the last 4 years. Typically in the top 15 ranks of Makushita, Sakigake is one tough competitor, and he will be a handful for Hoshoryu.

Akua vs Ryusei – As with the match above, this is a 2-3 bracket fight, and the loser will take home a make-koshi. After a strong open, Akua has struggled to make headway against a very competitive Makushita Joi-jin. Ryusei is a 32 year old veteran, and this match may come down to who gets the inside position at the tachiai.

Ichiyamamoto vs Kototebakari – Both rikishi are kachi-koshi, and have a single loss. So this match is simply to run up the score. For Ichiyamamoto, there is a slim, outside chance that he might be promotable if he wins the remainder of his matches. Kototebakari is yet another fast-risking young hard-charger. At 19 years of age and 144 kg, he is in a “sweet spot” for Makushita.

Shoji vs Tsuyukusa – Yet another 2-3 bracket match, with the loser being make-koshi for Osaka. Musashigawa heya’s Shoji faces another young, up and coming rikishi looking to press into Makushita.

Haru Day 10 – Ones To Watch

This is Roga – He wants another yusho
Image from futagoyama_sumo instagram feed

We reach the end of act 2, and the yusho races are in full swing. Sadly for several of our “ones to watch” they are out of the yusho race, and some are already make-koshi. Ichiyamamoto lost his bout on day 9, and dropped out of the yusho race, but will be moving higher for May, thanks to his kachi-koshi. Meanwhile in Sandanme, Torakio is still looking for his first win of the basho. The Makushita yusho is down to 4 rikishi, and should be decided by the 7th match sometime later this week. Included in the group still in contention is none other than Naya, who returns to the dohyo and day 10.

Terunofuji vs Daiyusho – Day 9

In the Jonidan race, Terunofuji overpowered Daiyusho to improve to 5-0, and remain in the hunt. The Jonidan race is 6 rikishi wide, and that means it’s likely going to require a tie-breaking match or two. Top of the yusho race is 20 year old rising star from Mongolia, Roga. Roga has yet to lose a match in professional sumo, and took the Hatsu Jonikuchi yusho.

Day 10 Matches

Hoshoryu vs Kairyu – Its clear that young Hoshoryu is getting frustrated with his poor performance at Osaka. Some fans have pointed out a lapse in post-match manners, which is easy to improve. Given that he has had little resistance up to this point, the fact that he can’t blow through the Makushita joi may be a new enlightenment for him. But I am certain that given his fighting spirit, it’s going to drive him to train for higher levels of performance. This is a 1-3 bracket match, and the loser will get a make-koshi. In fact Hoshoryu has to “win out” to get a kachi-koshi.

Akua vs Nogami – A 2-2 bracket match, Nogami beat Akua in their only prior match. Kachi-koshi is still quite possible for Akua, and would allow him to take a step closer towards the Juryo-Makushita line, and possibly contest to return to the lime green mawashi for Nagoya.

Musashikuni vs Oki – These two have had 4 career matches against each other, and Oki has won 3 of them. Right now Mushashikuni is at 2-2, so like Akua he still has a clear, wide path to a kachi-koshi. But he is going to have to overcome Oki to get there.

Shoji vs Tagonofuji – Shoji won their only prior match. Once again the schedulers have stacked up all of the Mushashigawa clan on the same day, and most of them are 2-2! Tagonofuji is about 20kg lighter than Shoji, so I am expecting he will retain an upper hand.

Wakaichiro vs Kaorufuji – Up from Jonidan, Kaorufuji is a 180kg bunker-buster of a rikishi. As we have seen in the past, Wakaichiro is still working to figure out how to overcome the big ones, and today is another chance for him to get a win on the board. Hint to our Texas rikishi – aim for center-mass and accelerate your thrusts through his body. Oddly, visualizing the endpoint of that shove on the other side of his body seems to increase the transfer of energy….

Kenho vs Terumichi – A 1-3 bracket match, the loser will go home with a make-koshi. We hope Kenho can rally and bring his “big man sumo” out today. He has looked hurt and immobile for the past 3 matches.

Haru Day 7 – Ones to Watch

A quick update on the lower divisions for day 7, another roster full of action. Day 6 action saw Amakaze, Terunofuji and Naya bring in white stars.

Akua vs Toyohibiki – Former Makuuchi mainstay Toyohibiki takes on Akua, as the next stop on Akua’s drive to return to Juryo. Toyohibiki has struggled since going kyujo from Juryo in Hatsu 2018.

Midorifuji vs Kototebakari – A 2-1 bracket match, compact powerhouse Midorifuji will face fast rising star Kototebakari from Sadogatake heya. Kototebakari has been in professional sumo for 8 basho, and has been on a rapid upward ascent. Given their size and sumo style, this could be a barn-burner match.

Musashikuni vs Takaryu – Like Musashikuni, Takaryu rose quickly into Makushita, and has been trying to find a way past “the wall”. This 2-1 bracket will see who advances, and who will struggle to get to kachi-koshi this tournament.

Naya vs Kotoryusei – This 3-0 bracket match does in fact have Makushitia yusho implications. The winner will take home a kachi-koshi on day 7 (quite a feat) and advance to the increasingly narrow yusho contender group. Naya continues to look strong, confident and absolutely sure of his sumo.

Shoji vs Hagane – A 1-2 bracket match, Musashigawa’s Shoji will be fighting to pick up his second win, and pull even for the tournament.

Wakaichiro vs Kotourasaki – Our Texan sumotori will be facing Sandanme 100 Kotourasaki from Sadogatake heya. A relative light weight (68kg), he has a Jonidan yusho to his name. After an opening win, Wakaichiro has left the dohyo disappointed for the past 2 matches. A win today would put him even for the tournament.

Terunofuji vs Teraosho – After dispatching the gargantuan Sakaefuji on day 6, Terunofuji is 3-0 for Haru, and faces a long serving lower division rikishi, Teraosho. Thus far, Terunofuji seems to be maintaining his knees well, even against truly massive opponents.