Kyushu Day 11 Highlights

After a rough and difficult start, this basho seems to have its act together. The sumo is solid and strong across the matches, and the rikishi are putting impressive effort into their matches. At the start of act 3, its time to start sorting the competitors into bins labeled kachi and make koshi, and some favorites are surprisingly close to a losing record for November. The yusho race will come down to Takakeisho’s attempt to defeat Hakuho, opening the door for a playoff if Asanoyama can continue to rack up the wins.

Highlight Matches

Ikioi defeats Terutsuyoshi – In a beautiful sumo moment, Ikioi visits the top division for a single match. As a result he secures his kachi-koshi, and quite possibly ensures he will once again be a Makuuchi rikishi for the new year. In March Ikioi was a physical wreck, nursing multiple injuries, and could only score 2 wins in the entire basho. Since then he has been relegated to Juryo, where he continued to struggle until Aki, when he turned in a 12-3 record and took the Juryo yusho. It’s been a hard road for this guy, and frankly I find it inspiriting. Terutsuyoshi gave him a full measure, and really made him work for the win.

Daishomaru defeats Shimanoumi – This was an even brawl until Shimanoumi gambled on a pull down attack and released forward pressure against Daishomaru. Daishomaru, one loss away from make-koshi, was not going to let that kind of opening pass him by. He rushes forward into the pull and blasts Shimanoumi out of the ring. Both men are now 4-7.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyomaru – I am fairly impressed with Yutakayama’s sumo today. Chiyomaru can deliver a lot of force to his front quarter, and today Chiyomaru was up to his normal slappy-face standard. Yutakayama dove into the punishment like a champ and just kept giving Chiyomaru about 20% more than he received. Yutakayama improves to 7-4 and is very much in the hunt for his kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Rather than his normal grapple, hug and chug approach, Kotoshogiku pivoted into a throw at the tachiai, and appeared to catch Chiyotairyu off balance. Only Kotoshogiku’s 3rd win, but I am happy to see it.

Shodai defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi yielded morozashi within the first few seconds, but even with a double-inside grip, Shodai found himself retreating. Carrying him like a full can of rubbish to the curb, Sadanoumi was in the midst of winning when a wonderfully executed “rescue” move by Shodai at the bales (utchari) turned the tables and sent Sadanoumi out first. How did Shodai get morozashi and not dominate Sadanoumi? Look at Shodai’s lower body.

Takanosho defeats Shohozan – Shohozan had a strong start, but took the chance of pulling Takanosho via his outstretched right arm. Shohozan did not have the foot placement to do it safely, propelling himself backward. Takanosho read this expertly and helped Shohozan complete the process.

Ishiura defeats Kotoeko – Another excellent match by Ishiura today. That tachiai was low and hard, and sent Kotoeko reeling. Kotoeko manages to break contact, but as he drove back to re-engaged, Ishiura improved his grip and rolled into a shitatenage. I am starting to have hope for Ishiura…

Kagayaki defeats Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho almost had this won at the tachiai, as Kagayaki came up too low, and too far forward. But Tsurugisho decided to try and finish Kagayaki with a pull. As its their first ever match, he may not have had a feel for just how stable Kagayaki is, and that was all the opening that “Mr Fundamentals” needed to rally and drive Tsurugisho out.

Enho defeats Daishoho – Enho did in fact use an alternate attack plan, and it worked. Should it have been a matta? Eh, maybe? But if the Gyoji says the fight is on, it’s on. Daishoho wisely lined up well back of the shikiri-sen, but Enho rockets off the line and blasts into Daishoho’s body. From there it was attack-circle-attack for Enho. Brutally effective and tough to counter for any big man. Your feet are never set for offense or defense, and whatever you want to do in terms of trying to win is disrupted as you try to make sure you keep Enho in front of you.

Kotoyuki defeats Nishikigi – This is a prime example of Kotoyuki’s “brand of sumo”, and it’s quite effective. Nishikigi wants to close the distance and take Kotoyuki to his chest, but Kotoyuki’s thrusting attacks are too well orchestrated to present an opening. Sadly Nishikigi is make-koshi, and may be a candidate for that Juryo barge.

Tamawashi defeats Onosho – Onosho got the better of the tachiai, but Tamawashi managed to get the inside path, with a brilliant running thrust combo to Onosho’s chest. Once a skilled rikishi like Tamawashi can set this up, you are going out or you are going down.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Crashing together like two seals fighting for a strip of dock space, Meisei gave out first as Daieisho ejected him on the south side of the dohyo. Meisei attempted to set for a throw, but when his hand missed its hold on Daieisho’s mawashi, the pivot was already in motion. Daieisho finished him with a strong push for the win.

Okinoumi defeats Abi – Woa! Okinoumi demonstrates yet another way to upend Abi-zumo. Abi misses the tachiai by a split second, rocking back on his heels as Okinoumi launches. Okinoumi gets his hands up first, and grab’s Abi’s enormous head, and gives it a firm twist. His balance now completely disrupted Abi tumbles to the clay in the blink of an eye.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – Another straight ahead yotsu-zumo win for Asanoyama, and he stays one behind Hakuho. Takarafuji had no chance to set up any kind of stalemate and wait gambit, as Asanoyama took charge of the match at the tachiai and marched Takarafuji out. Asanoyama now 9-2.

Myogiryu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was all over the place today, even more than his normal form. Watch this match and notice Myogiryu’s efficiency. While Hokutofuji is wildly flailing away, Myogiryu is focused, calm and careful with his moves. Hokutofuji falls to 4-7, and is in real danger of a make-koshi for the final basho of the year.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Exhibit 9 for Mitakeumi is not quite right. He was unable to put Endo into a defensive mode at the tachiai, and let the man in gold set up a mawashi grip, then gave him room to shift and improve that grip. Its good to see Endo on top of his high-skill sumo. I am starting to wonder how far he can take it.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – The Grand Tadpole hits his 8th win, and confirms his Ozeki rank in spite of the injuries he brought into the basho. I have huge respect for this young man for sticking it out and fighting to win every single day. Aoiyama controlled the early moments of this fight, but Takakeisho held his ground until he found his opening, and counter-attacked with power and focus.

Hakuho defeats Ryuden – Ryuden did in fact give Hakuho a solid match, fighting well and keeping the Yokozuna working until the last moment. Hakuho advances to 10 wins, or as he calls it a “Yokozuna kachi-koshi”. At this point, short of an injury, it will come down to Takakeisho to see if anyone has a chance of beating “The Boss”.

Kyushu Day 9 Highlights

There was some first-rate sumo today, and as expected the match between Takakeisho and Hokutofuji was the barn-burner highlight of the day. But Mitakeumi also seems to be shaking off the fog of his earlier concussion, and getting closer to normal fighting form. Plus great moves from Shohozan as he shifts gears and decides that while hitting his opponent is fun and good cardio, sometimes you just need to give the other guy a brutal battle hug.

Highlight Matches

Tochiozan defeats Daishomaru – Welcome back Tochiozan, you can see the experience he brings to the dohyo giving him the edge in controlling this match. Take a look at who holds the center of the dohyo for most of the match. Tochiozan has solid offense, but his defense was nearly unassailable today.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Ishiura – Terutsuyoshi drove harder into the tachiai, and Ishiura was unhappy with his resulting hand placement. As he moved to get better position, Terutsuyoshi advanced with strength and was the winner. Ishiura had solid defensive footing, but Terutsuyoshi showed a lot of strength today, and kept low.

Shodai defeats Daishoho – Hey, Shodai had a half decent tachiai today! He had both hands inside within a blink of an eye, and advanced. Daishoho had no answer and took the loss after it was clear he was beaten. Not sure what injury is plaguing Daishoho, but he may be an early favorite for the barge of the damned headed to Juryo.

Kagayaki defeats Shimanoumi – I love that Kagayaki is getting comfortable fighting, and now winning chest to chest with his opponent. His oshi-zumo form has been pretty good, but if he can get even a few solid yotsu moves in his toolkit, I predict he will frequent higher spots on the banzuke. I always preach that his fundaments are very good, and you can see them on display. His upper body is a bit awkward, but his defensive foot placement is excellent. I love how low he keeps his feet as he steps forward. That man can transmit power to ground.

Takanosho defeats Yutakayama – Takanosho exceeded my expectations today, his tachiai took him inside, and he did not waste a moment of his superior position. Yutakayama had a good defense ready, but Takanosho was able to pin Yutakayama’s right arm against his body, and lift Yutakayama as he advanced. Unable to generate much forward pressure to counter Takanosho’s attack, Yutakayama stepped out and took the loss.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Wow! Look at that tachiai from Chiyotairyu. But even more impressive is Sadanoumi skids to a halt and drops immediately into attack position as Chiyotairyu rushes in. With an opponent like Chiyotairyu lumbering into him, Sadanoumi absorbs the second hit and rolls to his right, and no force on earth can slow Chiyotairyu’s advance. Down he goes. Great defensive gambit and execution by Sadanoumi today.

Kotoeko defeats Nishikigi – Kotoeko seems to finally be on a rally, and I am happy to see him fighting well at last. Nishikigi owned the first part of this match, and Kotoeko put all of his strength into slowing down Nishikigi’s attack, and keeping his feet in the ring, waiting for his chance. That chance came soon enough, as Nishikigi surged to finish Kotoeko, but Kotoeko evaded and send Nishikigi out. Defensive sumo done well, and a well earned win for Kotoeko.

Chiyomaru defeats Tsurugisho – I suspect the matta disrupted Tsurugisho’s battle plan, as the second attempt at the tachiai was all Chiyomaru.

Enho defeats Kotoshogiku – Watching Enho busily harry Kotoshogiku was kind of a wonder. I would guess that Enho was executing 2 moves to every 1 of Kotoshogiku, and it completely overwhelmed the former Ozeki. In typical Enho style, he grabs any stray body part that is closest to him and starts tugging with enthusiasm. Much like some over amorous terrier addressing your leg, the immediate reaction is “get that thing off of me!”. During this visceral, human reaction, Enho merrily defeats you. You can’t be too upset about it either, because let’s face it – he’s adorable.

Shohozan defeats Onosho – Wow! Big Guns starts his day with rapid fire double hand face massage to Onosho, and scales it up to volleys of haymakers to Onosho’s enormous head. In self-defense, Onosho closes the distance and goes chest to chest. Ever the full-service opponent, Shohozan obliges and gives Onosho a jolly heave-ho via an expertly delivered uwatenage, with a spicy leg lift to give it an extra flair. Great match.

Aoiyama defeats Takarafuji – As happens most times these two match, Takarafuji suffers terribly and gets a trip to the clay at the hands of Big Dan and the V-Twin attack.

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Meisei expertly deployed a hard tachiai, a quick thrust combo into a side step at Myogiryu charged to take advantage. Exquisitely timed by Meisei.

Asanoyama defeats Daieisho – Daieisho tends to dominate his matches with Asanoyama, I think in part because Daieisho can really move hard into the tachiai. Today Asanoyama was able to get a workable outside grip and focused on getting Daieisho off balance, and succeeded. Asanoyama stays 1 behind Hakuho.

Okinoumi defeats Endo – Another great match, both of these rikishi are master technicians, and they brought out their extensive sumo toolboxes today, and put it all into the match. Feel free to watch it a few times, because it’s a guidebook on attack, counter-attack and improvisation.

Abi defeats Ryuden – As predicted, Ryuden was struggling, and by the time Abi landed the second volley, he was completely disrupted and headed for the clay. You can see him using his best counter-attack strategy, lifting Abi’s elbows from underneath. This has managed to shut down Abi-zumo a couple of times, but Ryuden can’t make it stick today.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi expertly closed the distance to Tamawashi, and used his massive body as both a shield and a plow to contain and eject Tamawashi. Given that Mitakeumi still seems to be suffering from the effects of that blow to the head, this was a simple, and quite effective plan.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – We thought this might be a barn-burner, and indeed it set the dohyo on fire. Both men through everything they could muster into this fight, and I was quite impressed by Hokutofuji’s speed and combination attacks. Takakeisho knew he could not out-reach the Komusubi, or out maneuver him, but focused on what he does best, overwhelming force applied center mass. Hokutofuji landed solidly, but left his chest wide open. Good match, and I dare say that we sumo fans can look forward to these matches for years to come.

Hakuho defeats Kotoyuki – Points to Kotoyuki for taking the fight to Hakuho, but The Boss is not even susceptible to this kind of sumo. Right now The Boss looks a bit bored. Sadly none of his usual challenges are around this November.

Ozeki Train Wreck, Part 7, Takakeisho

Image From The Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

The last of the Ozeki corps facing a tough November tournament is none other than the grand tadpole, Takakeisho. After a string of dominant tournaments and a yusho, Takakeisho has found himself bouncing from injury to unfortunate injury since achieving Ozeki. A lower body injury in May sidelined him for most of the Natsu basho, and completely out of Nagoya. He returned to competition in September as an Ozekiwake, needing 10 wins to return to rank, which he picked up easily, finishing 12-3, securing his 3rd jun-yusho and competing in a senshuraku playoff for the cup. Sadly during that final playoff match against Mitakeumi, Takakeisho suffered a muscle tear to his left pectoral muscle and has been working to recover since.

Though not as severe as the tear that ended Kisenosato’s career, the extensive bruising left sumo fans worried that he might never return to good health. Skipping the fall jungyo tour, Takakeisho focused on healing his body and keeping his sumo sharp. He did not return to practice until November 1st, a short 8 days before the start of the tournament.

Since then, he has been fighting well, but not without concern to the ichimon Oyakata. He began by fighting the likes of Takanosho, Kagayaki and Onosho, winning more than he lost. His training sessions have been punctuated by bouts of pain in his left pectoral muscles, causing him to sit out on some practice matches. In recent days, Takakeisho has resumed matches against the likes of Maegashira 1 Daieisho, finishing 10-3. While the sumo elders overseeing the work up to Kyushu are starting to be more optimistic about Takakeisho, he is clearly going to need to nurse his left side in every match.

Team Tachiai loves that compact powerhouse of an Ozeki, and hopes he can come through at Kyushu in good form with no new injuries or physical problems. With both Yokozuna looking healthy, Takakeisho will face strong competition on his way to 8 wins.

Aki Day 12 Highlights

大蝌蚪

A pair of story threads for Aki came to a close today, and one more hangs by a thread. Ozekiwake Takakeisho scored his 10th win today, and returned to Ozeki status. It’s a remarkable story, and a great come-back from treatment for knee damage. In addition to getting his 10, he is (for the moment anyhow) the sole leader in the yusho race. Following Takakeisho’s win over Myogiryu, Goeido scored his 8th win, beating Ryuden, and clearing kadoban for the 8th time in his somewhat puzzling career.

But as one Ozekiwake exits, the final match of the day saw injured Ozeki Tochinoshin take one step closer to the drop. At 5-7, he needs to win all 3 remaining matches to clear kadoban, or he will be the shin-Ozekiwake for November. Tough times continue in the top ranks.

Highlight Matches

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – Yutakayama picks up his 8th win, and with his kachi-koshi moves away from the bottom edge of the banzuke, which has already gobbled up Toyonoshima and Takagenji.

Nishikigi defeats Takagenji – Nishikigi gets a left hand inside at the tachiai, and Takagenji is trapped. A valiant attempt by Takagenji to change his grip, but Nishikigi is latched on tighter than a tick in Texas, and uses his opponents gambit to escort him across the bales.

Daishoho defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan has zero forward pressure today, and Daishoho stampedes him back and out. Tochiozan is perilously positioned should he end the tournament make-koshi.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki meets Onosho’s push at the tachiai, but can only hold his ground for a few moments before the Onosho starts advancing. In spite of Kagayaki getting a good armpit attack going at the start, Onosho’s hips stay much lower, and his feet are much better set. Kagayaki cannot find a break to get lower, as Onosho is relentless. Much as I love Kagayaki, I think his long legs rob him of some natural sumo mechanics at times.

Tsurugisho defeats Sadanoumi – I think this kimarite should be renamed neko-nage, or “cat’s throw”. I see my cats do this to each other all the time. Grab your opponent by the whiskers and pull him down. Of course this would (in the cat world) be followed by biting and kicking, but… yeah whatever.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Azumaryu – Well, that was a henka. Sort of a crab-henka with a pincer move to the knee, so it had some interest to it, but it was still weak sumo.

Kotoyuki defeats Shohozan – This match tells me 2 things. First, the “fierce” Kotoyuki may be the next brawler we look to during honbasho. He takes it to Shohozan and overwhelms him at his own sumo. Second, Shohozan is only operating at a fraction of his power right now.

Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Former co-leaders battle it out, and the veteran takes the white star. Both are still in the hunt, as the group chasing the post day 12 leader is 5 men wide. Okinoumi prevents Meisei from setting up any offense at all, and just moves him away for the win.

Takarafuji defeats Enho – Takarafuji has always been a first-class sumo technician, and today we see that he has solved his version of the Enho puzzle with great results. Again and again Takarafuji stalemates everything Enho tries, and when Enho finally gets super-low and moves for the mawashi, Takarafuji gently lowers him to the clay.

Kotoeko defeats Ishiura – Ishiura brought all of the offense, but a great defensive pivot by Kotoeko at the tawara saved the match, and kept him from make-koshi. First rate effort.

Kotoshogiku defeats Tomokaze – Kotoshogiku had a superior tachiai, and just advanced well. Tomokaze could not respond in time to keep himself inside the ring. Perhaps some of Kotoshogiku’s frustration is now eased…

Daieisho defeats Asanoyama – Daieisho kept Asanoyama at arms length, frustrating the Natsu yusho winner in his efforts to get a mawashi grip. As Asanoyama’s efforts become more vigorous, they lead to him becoming unbalanced, which Daieisho reads perfectly to roll him to the clay.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu opens with his big tachiai, but Hokutofuji surges back after hitting the bales. Chiyotairyu is still looking wrecked after yesterday’s bloody result with Goeido, and as soon as Hokutofuji starts attacking Chiyotairyu’s face, he goes soft and concedes the match. I think a wise most given how painful that lip must be.

Aoiyama defeats Shimanoumi – Aoiyama takes his two-piston / V-Twin sumo out of the garage and runs over Shimanoumi. After some poor sumo from the man-mountain, it’s good to see him revert to “his brand of sumo” for a win.

Abi defeats Shodai – Well, now I am at the point where I am feeling sorry for Shodai. He is not really a 2-10 rikishi, he’s just having a bad basho. I am sure there are distractions outside of the dohyo that may have his mind less than sharp right now, and his chaos sumo is just not paying out like it normally would.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Endo clearly had a high-skill match in mind, with a nuanced opening gambit with that left hand of his. But then Tamawashi just gunned the throttle and plowed him out of the way. The up-side being all of the fans along the west-side hanamichi who got up close to “Endo the Golden” for a moment as he struggled to bring himself to a halt.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – Takakeisho stood Myogiryu up, and threw him down. Simple, effective and elegant. Welcome back, Ozeki Takakeisho. I once again anoint you as the Grand Tadpole – (大蝌蚪)

Goeido defeats Ryuden – So Goeido blows up Ryuden at the tachiai, but somehow it was a matta too. Shikimori came very close to a handing out a second jicchuugi-sho in as many days. Ok, let’s try again. Then… matta-matta-matta mo’matta. When they finally get things going, Ryuden is able to lure Goeido into a yotsu battle, and even Murray thinks Ryuden has the advantage here. But Goeido keep his cool and dominates Ryuden, expertly swinging him into an uwatenage for his 8th win, clearing kadoban. Crazy ass match.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – You know what this match needs? That would be matta with a tart matta gravy. Is this because there are so many kyujo that they need to stretch the broadcast? It seems really out of place. Once they get going, it’s all Mitakeumi, but to be honest I am sure both contestants were probably expecting Shikimori to call them back again. Just one fan’s suggestion here, let the rikishi battle it out, sir. I know in the US, a lot of fans abandoned the NFL because the referees too frequently got in the middle of what should have been legitimate plays, and ruined the sport.