Happy Birthday, Wakamotoharu!

Today is Wakamotoharu’s 27th birthday. Happy birthday, Wakamotoharu!

He was born in Fukushima, and belongs to Arashio stable.

For the record, the juryo rikishi is one of the Onami brothers – his real name is Onami Minato.

Last basho left me quite disappointed, as I wished him to break through makuuchi. After several years spent in makushita, Wakamotoharu finally reached the sekitori ranks, got relegated twice, and eventually looked to establish himself for good in sumo’s second highest division. He actually got his highest rank in Aki 2020, namely juryo 3. Unfortunately, he could not make it – for now – to the highest division, failing to reach makuuchi with a 6-9 make koshi.

Wakamotoharu Minato

Hopefully, he’ll do it in 2021!

I spoke about the Onami brothers – Wakamotoharu actually has one older brother, and one younger bro.

The oldest Onami brother is argubly the least known of the three, namely Wakatakamoto – Onami Wataru is his real name, and will turn 29 in December the 29th. The family’s oldest bro couldn’t reach the sekitori ranks, even if he came quite close in 2018: then ranked at his best, makushita 7, Wakatakamoto couldn’t follow with a kachi koshi, and ended up 2-5 instead. He is currently ranked makushita 22, from where he will slightly slide down the banzuke, following a 3-4 make koshi.

The youngest Onami brother is also the most successful one, and the most famous: Wakatakakage Atsushi!

Establishing himself as a new makuuchi force? Wakatakakage Atsushi

Wakatakakage is notably known for his paradoxical makuuchi debut, back in November 2019. The youngest Onami brother was actually the only rikishi to compete in makuuchi and not to lose one single bout on the dohyo! Sadly, an injury prevented him from competing from day 5, and he ended 4-1-10 – after having won his four first bouts.

He showed glimpses of his talent during the first days, and it was clear it was not the only time we would see him causing headhaches in sumo’s first division. Indeed, he came back in makuuchi after two basho, and got back to back double digit wins: 10-5 in July, 11-4 in September! He’ll turn 26 also in December, the 6th.

But today’s attention is focused on the family’s second born child: once again, happy birthday, Onami Minato!

Haru Day 2 Highlights

A Cake Worthy of a Yokozuna

A hearty “Happy Birthday” to perhaps the greatest rikishi ever to mount the dohyo – none other than Yokozuna Hakuho. Now a ripe 34 years old, Hakuho is the man to beat for any tournament he enters. That he can maintain this level of performance in spite of the rigors and injuries of sumo is a fantastic tale of someone who always seems to find a way to overcome. He has been sidelined several times in the past few years, and has had at least 4 medical procedures to keep his body together, but he keeps coming back. Truly one for the history books.

Highlight Matches

Yutakayama defeats Chiyomaru – Visiting from Juryo from the day, former Makuuchi ballast stone Chiyomaru shows off that amazing green mawashi, and gives Yutakayama some fierce competition. But in Chiyomaru style, he runs low on stamina against Yutakayama, who seems up to the challenge of taking that much force repeatedly to the upper body. As Chiyomaru fades out, Yutakayama attacks. Yutakayama gets high marks for surviving Chiyomaru’s initial attack, and staying patient.

Ishiura defeats Terutsuyoshi – These two have a 4 match history, and one would have to imagine that Terutsuyoshi was aware of Ishiura’s tendency to sidestep a tachiai. But for whatever reason, Terutsuyoshi launched strongly into Ishiura’s henka, and had nothing to show for it.

Kotoeko defeats Toyonoshima – Outstanding tachiai from Toyonoshima, but Kotoeko reads it perfectly, and sidesteps at the edge. It might seem like a small thing, but that move from Kotoeko was a thing of beauty.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze had the better tachiai, with Kagayaki ending up high, and Yoshikaze having his hands inside. But Mr. Fundamentals kept moving forward, and quickly left Yoshikaze no room to work. It’s tough to see Yoshikaze unable to generate much if any forward pressure. His mechanics are still excellent, but the strength is absent.

Meisei defeats Tomokaze – Great attack power from Tomokaze, but Meisei was simply faster, and was able to grab Tomokaze’s right arm and move to the side. With his opponent no longer in front of him, Tomokaze is in trouble, and Meisei quickly applies force to send him out. Very nice escape move for Meisei, and he made it work.

Ryuden defeats Shohozan – Shohozan decides he is willing to go chest to chest with Ryuden, and in doing so gives up his mobility advantage. Ryuden controlled the match after the first few seconds, and patiently worked to get a winning grip.

Yago defeats Ikioi – And just like that, Ikioi looks broken again. Ikioi got the better position at the tachiai, and was inside Yago’s reach in a blink of an eye, but Yago was able to catch Ikioi off balance and slap him down, which seems to have aggravated Ikioi’s extensive list of injuries, miseries and pains.

Asanoyama defeats Sadanoumi – Even though Sadanoumi clearly had control of the match at the tachiai, he let Asanoyama set up a rather lethargic hatakikomi that evolved over several seconds. Less than amazing sumo from these two today.

Kotoshogiku defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji moved to bring his arms across his body to block Kotoshogiku’s grip, attempting to thwart the inevitable hug-n-chug deployment. But this is Kotoshogiku’s forte, and he repeatedly broke contact with Takarafuji, attempting to get him to reach out, which he eventually did. Inside got Kotoshogiku, and the Kyushu Bulldozer gets to work. Really nice, low tachiai from Kotoshogiku. I like how he has his eyes fixed on Takarafuji’s center-mass, and lands with maximum force. Now if only he could teach that to Shodai…

Aoiyama defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi had the upper hand at the start of the match, but failed to keep Aoiyama in front of him. Once Aoiyama got to the side, he wasted no time in getting Okinoumi off balance and moving sideways for the loss.

Onosho defeats Abi – Once again Abi finds his opponent attacking his outstretched elbows from below, disrupting his double arm thrust attack. With Onosho’s freakishly large hands, he breaks Abi’s offense and moves inside, and it only takes a moment for a couple of quick thrusts to Abi’s mawashi to propel him across the tawara.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan jumps early for a matta, and it appears to completely disrupt any offensive plans he brought to the dohyo. Chiyotairyu raises him up, then slaps him down.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – Lethargic tachiai from both, but once you get a Ichinojo on your chest, your options are limited. After a moment of trying to move Ichinojo, Shodai appears to start working on a way to break the Mongolian’s grip, but finds he is surrounded by acres of muscle and flesh. Ichinojo calmly moves forward, and takes the win. Solid sumo for two days from Ichinojo. Let’s hope the “mighty” version is in attendance in Osaka.

Takakeisho defeats Nishikigi – A straightforward “wave action” win for Takakeisho, as Nishikigi really had no counter-strategy ready for Takakeisho’s preferred sumo.

Daieisho defeats Tamawashi – Daieisho surprised Tamawashi at the tachiai, getting inside and starting to thrust against Tamawashi’s neck before he could set up any kind of offense. Tamawashi did rally for a moment, but was unable to keep Daieisho in front of him. With Tamawashi turned to the side, Daieisho pushed him down for the win.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – A fantastic match, with both men putting forth a maximum effort to win. Mitakeumi anticipated and absorbed Takayasu’s shoulder blast, which left the Ozeki in poor position (as it usually does) with Mitakeumi inside and at his chest. Takayasu quickly switches to defense and puts everything towards blocking Mitakeumi’s grip, but his body remains high and he is clearly in poor position. But then the match because an endurance test, and Takayasu has nearly inhuman endurance. Standing on a dohyo applying nearly a quarter ton of force against your opponent seems to be something Takayasu does with ease, and in Mitakeumi’s degraded physical condition, it was all about the Ozeki waiting him out. Running low on stamina, Mitakeumi broke his grip and Takayasu seized his chance and drove forward for the win.

Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – Excellent, match winning strategy by Myogiryu. He rushed the tachiai then kept his arms in front of him and close to his body, blocking any chance of Tochinoshin landing his deadly “sky hook” grip. With Tochinoshin’s arms pinned, Myogiryu moves forward and the Ozeki is out of room to counter.

Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji seems to be a bundle of nerves so far, and has not really been able to deploy his sumo. The matta really blew his rhythm, and against Goeido that’s more or less an instant loss, as the Ozeki is so fast and so strong in the first 5 second of any match that any mistake will equal your loss.

Hakuho defeats Endo – It was a rough win, but The Boss picks up a white star for his birthday. Endo was surprisingly slow at the tachiai, but Endo managed to keep his hips lower, and had good pressure against the Yokozuna. But Hakuho has so many change-up moves, and broke contact with Endo, giving him a face slap and re-engaging on his terms. Endo was never able to mount much of an offense after that, and Hakuho took the win.

Kakuryu defeats Kaisei – No way to say this other than Kakuryu managed to out-power Kaisei, and that’s quite an achievement. His fans are happy to see Kakuryu bounce back from his day 1 loss, and to do so in solid form.