Kyushu Day 14 Preview

As we enter the final weekend of the Kyushu Basho, there are some fans who will feel a genuine sense of relief. This tournament has seen a brutal number of rikishi exit competition due to injury, and long time favorites struggle. But looking past that, there are a number of interesting and promising developments. A few for thought

Small Rikishi Sumo – There was a time last year when the small guys were storming through Juryo, and looked to roll their way into the top division and disrupt everyone’s sumo. But as almost always the case, these rikishi had to work hard (and they did work hard) to pioneer adaptations to be competitive. Now we have 3 small rikishi that are fighting well, and winning matches, often with existing results.

Freshmen Rebound – The Freshmen, a cohort that I define as Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Hokutofuji and Kagayaki, are all doing quite well this basho, even if Hokutofuji is make-koshi. Two of them are recovering from tough injuries that pushed them back to Juryo, and two of them are in san’yaku. These guys are the stars of sumo, starting earlier this year, and we can expect their influence to grow as the old guard hang up their mawashi for the final time.

The Old Guard Rallies – This is mostly covered in Herouth’s reports, but if you wondered where beloved veterans like Ikioi, Kaisei, and Tochiozan went, they are in Juryo. They are all headed to double digit winning records, and it may put a lot of pressure on the make-koshi rikishi in the bottom half of Makuuchi. I think January could see a whole roster of beloved favorites make one more run into the top division.

I know some readers will find ways to take exception to this, but to me it’s a great time to be a sumo fan. The sumo world is changing, and we get to watch it happen.

Kyushu Leaderboard

A win today, and Hakuho takes the yusho. Team Tachiai expects this to be the outcome.

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: None
Hunt Group: Asanoyama, Shodai

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Chiyoshoma vs Daishoho – Chiyoshoma visits from yusho, hunting for his 8th win and yet another make-koshi in the top Juryo ranks. Daishoho has little to offer in terms of sumo right now, and is almost painful to watch on the dohyo.

Shimanoumi vs Takanosho – Evenly matched 5-5 career record, but there is little on the line today as Shimanoumi is already make-koshi, and Takanosho already kachi-koshi. Lets hope they can bring some energy to the match anyhow.

Kotoshogiku vs Daishomaru – Can sumo fans get excited for a wounded, aging former Ozeki who is already make-koshi? You bet! Kotoshogiku is on a 3 match winning streak, and may have already saved himself from Juryo demotion. But heck, pour it on Kotoshogiku. I would love to see you finish 7-8 at this point.

Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – What a great match. Both are Freshmen cohort rikishi, both are 8-5, and they have a 3-3 career record. Both prefer to use oshi-zumo, but have shown a willingness to grapple chest to chest this November. I would like to see Yutakayama hit double digits this tournament, and end up at the lower edge of the joi-jin for January.

Ishiura vs Sadanoumi – Winner of this match is kachi-koshi, and my money is on Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi has been absolutely tough this basho, and has kept his energy and fighting spirit high for both full weeks. Given that the prize is the coveted 8th win, I do expect Ishiura to throw some high agility combo sumo into this match, but Sadanoumi’s superior defensive stance and foot work is likely to foil what could be a great display of Ishiura 3.0.

Tsurugisho vs Nishikigi – Another pair of make-koshi rikishi who look like they have nothing left to give. They have to fight someone, so why not fight each other? Sure.. why not.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotoeko – Raise your hand if you want to see Chiyotairyu go chest to chest and gaburi-yori someone again today? I know I do! Kotoeko has a lot of mobility, so this may be a wild ride.

Terutsuyoshi vs Enho – A loss today and Enho is make-koshi. Now we don’t want any of that, do we? With Terutsuyoshi already holding win #8, we may see him turn down the intensity a notch and keep his body healthy for January. But even if Enho wins today, you know it’s Darwin time for him tomorrow.

Takarafuji vs Chiyomaru – Takarafuji holds an 8-0 career record over the bulbous one, and I see no reason for that to change today.

Myogiryu vs Shodai – Shodai did make it to double digits, much as Team Tachiai had expected. How much harder will he push it? If he runs the score up too much, he’s going to get another beat-down in January. But if Myogiryu gets the win today, it’s Darwin time for him, too!

Shohozan vs Meisei – With Shohozan kachi-koshi in front of his home town crowd, maybe it’s time for a celebratory slug-fest against the make-koshi Meisei

Daieisho vs Onosho – Winner of this one is kachi-koshi, and the loser is relegated to Darwin on day 15. Career record favors Onosho, and he seems to have fixed some of his week 1 problems.

Kotoyuki vs Okinoumi – Loser is make-koshi, and the winner gets a Darwin match. Sumo can be so brutal some times. Okinoumi leads the career series 9-5

Ryuden vs Asanoyama – Well, I expect Asanoyama to take care of Ryuden today, sending him to make-koshi land. But will Ryyden deploy another henka? If so, would Asanoyama fall for it? I want to see Asanoyama run up the score – we are running out of Ozeki, and this guy is young, healthy and has fantastic sumo. Hurry up, Yutakayama, we need you to slow this man down!

Hokutofuji vs Aoiyama – At the bottom of san’yaku, Hokutofuji’s make-koshi will in all probability send him back to the rank and file to sort out his sumo. But he can deliver a make-koshi today if he can keep Aoiyama from powering up the V-Twin attack.

Tamawashi vs Endo – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, hear our pleas. Bless Endo that he might defeat Tamawashi on this day, and send both of these guys into brutal, soul crushing Darwin matches on day 15.

Takakeisho vs Abi – I am sure Takakeisho wants to hit double digits this time, with his first shot being day 14 against Abi. The big issue there is that Abi has 2x the reach of our stump-armed Grand Tadpole. I think it comes down to if Takakeisho can get inside and blast away before Abi-zumo can send him reeling.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – This is probably the match that delivers the make-koshi to Mitakeumi, and resets any hopes he may have had to reach Ozeki. There are some fans who think Hakuho is still nursing that arm injury from earlier in the year, and maybe, just maybe if Mitakeumi can attack from that side he might gain advantage. He has beaten him twice before, but right now it’s a long shot. A win today would clinch the yusho for Hakuho.

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.