Natsu Day 9 – Ones To Watch

Amakaze – Ready To Compete In the Sandanme Undefeated Bracket

For fans of the lower divisions, day 8 was obliteration, with many of our cohort in the “Ones to Watch” going down to defeat, and others finding their fortunes dashed on the dohyo. With all of our rikishi now having 4 matches complete, only Naya and Amazake are still undefeated, with everyone else taking at least one loss.

Action from day 8

RikishiOutcomeScore
HoshoryuLoss2-2
MidorifujiWin2-2
NayaWin4-0
MusashikuniLoss1-3
TerunofujiLoss3-1
ShojiLoss2-2
AmakazeWin4-0

Some highlights and lowlights: Amakaze tossed Shinyashiki like a sack of rice being loaded onto a truck; it’s really the only way to describe it. He picks up his kachi-koshi, remains undefeated and enters the yusho playoff bracket that holds 12 rikishi. Unless something odd happens, there WILL be a playoff for the Sandanme yusho.

Terunofuji’s match was a stumbling mess, and the former Ozeki looked completely off tempo and was ripe for a loss. This gives him his first black star, and takes him out of the yusho race. It also considerably slows his rise back toward the salaried ranks, and he may not find himself out of Sandanme for a bit longer.

Naya remains unbeaten, and he will enter the bracket for the Makushita yusho for the second consecutive tournament. Does this mean that Naya is suddenly better than his rival Hoshoryu? No, it underscores how brutal and effective the meat grinder is at the top of Makushita.

Hoshoryu found himself on a fast track to the south side zabuton when he squared off against another young fast-riser in Ryuko, who made quick work of Hoshoryu. Focus on 4 wins, Hoshoryu – you are in fine shape to get there.

Now on to day 9. You will note that most of the 4-0 lower division rikishi are in action on day 9, as they start to winnow the undefeated pool and try to get to a yusho winner within the remaining 3 matches. In Sandanme and Jonidan, it’s almost certain there will be playoff matches on day 15, but it’s going to be a great adventure to get there. Day 9 is heavy with the Makushita side of our roster, so it’s another late night for Team Tachiai!

Wakamotoharu vs Jokoryu – In this 1-3 bracket match, the loser goes away make-koshi, and facing demotion for Nagoya. Both of these men are trying to return to Juryo, one of them will face disappointment today.

Ichiyamamoto vs Hoshoryu – Two of our “Ones to Watch” up in the same match, it’s a 2-2 bracket that brings two scrappers face to face and underscores that fierce nature of the top ranks of Makushita. Ichiyamamoto won their only prior match.

Midorifuji vs Takakento – Another rematch will see Midorifuji try to even up the career record in this 2-2 bracket fight. Former Takanohana rikishi (now Chiganoura) Takakento is fighting at his highest ever rank, and needs 2 more to advance higher on the banzuke.

Naya vs Tsukahara – A 4-0 bracket match, the winner advances into the ever decreasing pool of rikishi who will compete for the Makushita yusho. Naya will face off against another fast risking young star in Kasugano’s Tsukahara, who has a Jonokuchi and Jonidan yusho to his name.

Roga vs Kototora – Young Roga finds himself in an upper Sandanme 2-2 bracket match, looking for 2 more wins to reach the safety of kachi-koshi. Kototora is fighting at his highest ever rank, but his 55 basho experience may provide a decisive edge.

Amakaze vs Tsugaruumi – Sandanme yusho bracket match sees former Juryo mainstay Amakaze go to work against Sandanme mainstay Tsugaruumi. Tsugaruumi has struggled with injury, and is one of the lighter rikishi in Sandanme. This might set up a second consecutive “grab and toss” from Amakaze.

Kitanowaka vs Oba – Former high school Yokozuna finds himself in a 3-1 bracket, but surprisingly he still has a path to a Jonokuchi yusho. With 3 matches left, there are only 3 rikishi with a 4-0 record, meaning there is a fair chance that the eventual yusho winner will not be undefeated. To remain in the hunt, he needs to get past Oba.

Hattorizakura vs Higohikari – Congrats to Higohikari who will pick up his first win today against perpetual soft-sumo expert Hattorizakura.

Natsu Day 7 – Ones To Watch

Day 7 is loaded down with action for our “Ones to Watch”; it’s the middle weekend, and some of our favorites will be 4-0 by Sunday. Day 6 saw Musashikuni finally get his first win of the Basho to improve to 1-2, and hopefully put himself on the road to kachi-koshi. Elsewhere in Makushita, Wakatakamoto picked up his first win as well against Ayanoumi, while Akua lost his first to drop to 2-1. In Sandanme, Roga won to improve to 2-1, as did Shoji. Amakaze won against Hikarifuji to improve to 3-0.

Day 7 matches

Wakamotoharu vs Tamaki – Wakamotoharu finds himself in the 1-2 bracket going into the middle weekend, needing 3 more wins out of 4 matches to make kachi-koshi and likely punch his ticket back to Juryo. The problem with that plan is that out of the 3 prior matches with Tamaki, Wakamotoharu has won only one.

Kotokamatani vs Takanofuji – This 3-0 bracket match will determine who goes into the yusho playoff ladder, and it features both Makushita 2 rikishi, both of which have yet to lose. Kotokamatani has really been impressive thus far, and looks to be a good candidate for promotion, which the winner of this bout likely clinches -lksumo.

Ichiyamamoto vs Kizakiumi – What a difference a win makes, as Ichiyamamoto has 2 wins and only needs 2 more out of 4 to get to kachi-koshi. His Juryo promotion is not as certain, due to him being ranked Makushita 3, but his first goal has to be that 4th win. Okinawan Kizakiumi has rocketed up the banzuke after joining Kise heya from Nihon University’s sumo program. Ichiyamamoto is going to have his hands full.

Wakatakamoto vs Takakento – It’s an Onami brothers day of sumo, with all 3 on the dohyo during the afternoon. Wakatakamoto won the previous match against Takakento, which took place a year ago.

Akua vs Kototebakari – Kototebakari has been on a rocket ride up the banzuke since he joined Sadogatake in 2017. He is fighting at his personal highest rank ever, and could present a lot of fight to Akua, who I am convinced is still not completely recovered from his September 2018 injuries that caused him to withdraw from the Aki Basho on day 12.

Roga vs Wagurayama – After taking the first loss of his professional sumo career, Roga is back to dominating every match. Perhaps some of the pressure was relieved, and he can focus more on each match as it comes? This 2-1 bracket match means that Roga is most likely not going to contest for the Sandanme yusho, which may have also relieved some worries.

Wakaichiro vs Harimanada – After a cold 0-2 start, Wakaichiro looked like a completely different rikishi for his 3rd match, confidently launching Amamidake across the tawara and into the zabuton. With any luck we will see that kind of sumo again on day 7 as Wakaichiro goes up against Onoe heya’s Harimanada. Harimanada has never been ranked higher than Jonidan, and in fact was banzuke gai for about a year.

Kitanowaka vs Ito – Mr Fabulous takes on Ito in this Jonokuchi 3-0 match, where we will watch a former high school Yokozuna battle Saitama native Ito, a graduate of the Tokyo University of Agriculture. Will this one be less lopsided than the prior 3?

Hattorizakura vs Garyu – Good news for Garyu! He finally gets to pick up his first win. Perpetual soft sumo pro Hattorizakura shows no sign of getting fierce any time soon. It’s ok, the fans adore him.

Natsu Day 4 – Ones To Watch

After a fairly light schedule on day 3, we are back in the thick of things for day 4. Sadly Wakaichiro lost his second match after a shaky tachiai led to problems with balance and foot placement. He starts Natsu with 0-2, which I am sure is frustrating the daylights out of him. In Jonokuchi, Kitanowaka improved to 2-0 over Tokisakae. Watching Kitanowaka fight, you can see there is a great deal of potential in need of refinement. The good news is that the Hakkaku heya has a strong program, and he will have every chance to make the most out of his sumo years.

Ichiyamamoto dispatched Fujiazuma to improve to 1-1, Hoshoryu took Jokoryu apart with a yoritaoshi, and improved to 2-0 as well. In the battle of the “Ones to Watch”, Akua forced out Midorifuji to take the white start and join the 2-0 cohort, joined by Naya, who slapped down Koba. There is a lot of potential for the “Ones to Watch” to face each other even before they cross the kachi-koshi line, and the next few days may see so very exciting action in Makushita. Many of these young men may be the stars of the near future, and we could be witnessing the beginning of rivalries.

Day 4 Matches

Wakatakamoto vs Nogami – Midorifuji defeated Nogami on day 2, and now he faces another of our cohort. Nogami is close to his highest ever rank, and I am sure he is going to be a chew-toy for all of the budding sumo monsters that are stomping around the top echelon of Makushita this basho.

Musashikuni vs Higonojo – Musashikuni still looks really rough, which is a huge disappointment of his fans. Higonojo is a 34 year old former Juryo man, who is fairly far down the banzuke after taking a 7-0 Makushita yusho at Osaka 2018. Good luck Mama!

Roga vs Yamaguchi – I know a number of fans have Roga fever, and there are good reasons why. But his first ever professional sumo loss came on day 2, and hopefully it has helped re-focus the young man on the match at hand. Today he faces on of my favorites in former Maegashira and Nihon University man, Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi’s rank has been falling since he went kyujo at Hatsu 2018, and it’s likely he is fighting hurt. Good luck Roga, you may be in for a rough ride.

Terunofuji vs Kasugaryu – Terunofuji looks less pasty, flabby and worried than he did in Osaka. He seems to have some of his ring sense back, and a good measure of his aggressive fighting spirit. Kasugaryu’s highest ever rank was near the bottom of Makushita, so this may be one-sided.

Shoji vs Tokimaru – A bright spot for Mushashigawa heya is that Shoji seems to be in good health and fighting well. He faces another young, hard charging rikishi in Tokimaru, who hails from Miyagino heya, where Hakuho practices.

Amakaze vs Daishoki – I should also mention that Amakaze continues to look solid. The Oitekaze heya returnee seems to be over his physical issues, and is fighting well. He’s on a shallower climb back up the banzuke than Terunofuji, but I am liking what I see thus far.

Hattorizakura vs Yamamoto – Hattorizakura did in fact state he was going to try to achieve kachi-koshi during the Reiwa era. These eras can last a few decades, so don’t try to set your calendar by Hattorizakura’s prediction.

Lower Division Bouts – Day 2

Hoshoryu, wearing a severe expression before his bout

Here is a brief collection of lower-division bouts I found interesting. Some of these have been summarized by Bruce earlier.

Jonokuchi

We can’t start the the new era without seeing Hattorizakura lose his first bout of the Reiwa era. And no, you can’t tell me that was a spoiler.

Hattorizakura – here facing Kitajima – vowed to make a kachi-koshi in Reiwa. It will probably not be in Reiwa 1.

Our next bout features Hakuho’s most recent uchi-deshi. Reminder: an uchi-deshi is a wrestler who has been recruited by a senior member of a heya (usually an oyakata, but apparently Yokozuna also qualify) who has plans to form his own heya. While he is still in his original heya, the uchi-deshi belongs to that same heya and answers to the stablemaster there. But when the time comes for the man who recruited him to form his own heya, the uchi-deshi will join him there.

So Hakuho has four uchi-deshi to date – Yamaguchi, Ishiura, Enho and – most recently – Toma. Toma is 18 years old, fresh out of high-school – the famous Tottori Johoku high-school where Ishiura’s father is head coaching. And he weighs more than Kaisei. 206kg. He faces Tomiyutaka here:

I don’t think he should have too many problems getting through Jonokuchi, given both his weight advantage and obvious sumo capabilities. But Hakuho commanded him to lose weight, and I think we can see mobility issues even at this stage, which will manifest themselves once he gets to the higher levels. I just hope Hakuho’s command will be more effective than the one he gave Enho.

Also in Jonokuchi – and I do not have a video, sorry – is Hanakaze from Tatsunami beya. He made history today getting his first win in the Reiwa era, being the only active rikishi having fought in official matches in three different eras. Born in 1970, he joined Sumo in 1986, which was in the Showa era, continued through the entire Heisei era, and is now trying to complete at least one basho in the Reiwa era. He won his bout with a rather convincing uwatenage.

Sandanme

Other than telling you that Satonofuji won his bout, I don’t have much to say of Jonidan, so I’ll skip directly to Sandanme. First, here is Yoshoyama, whom we have met in Jungyo. Although Mongolian, he has not blazed his way through the lower divisions. Nevertheless, so far he only has one make-koshi to his name.

His rival in this match is Ryuseio, who has both height and weight advantage. But as you can see, Yoshoyama is no weakling.

Next, let’s take a look at Roga, the Jonidan Yusho winner from Osaka. By the way, like Toma, he is a graduate of the Tottori Johoku high-school, which he joined on Hakuho’s recommendation. He faces Hokutotsubasa in this bout:

Looks like he is going to have a chon-mage by Senshuraku. But alas, this is his first career loss, probably due to ring rust.

For many of us (read: me), the highlight match at Sandanme this day was, of course, Terunofuji vs. Daishomune. The former Ozeki has been working on his upper body, and seems to be slightly less bloated and slightly more mobile than he was in the previous basho:

Harizashi? Really? Oh well, all is fair in love and Sumo.

Makushita

Naya, Taiho’s grandson, remember him? A few days ago I lamented the fact that there are no sekitori at his stable to pull him up. Well, guess what? He has been assigned as tsukebito to Takakeisho, no less.

Here he is vs. Sagatsukasa:

No worries!

Now, let’s take a look at Midorifuji. He is one of two Isegahama sekitori hopefuls and a pixie. His style seems to follow that of Terutsuyoshi, adjusted for his lower weight, of course.

The bout is good, but his final win seems to be due to Nogami’s leg collapsing. Nogami barely makes it to the bowing spot.

Finally, the one you have all been waiting for. Well, maybe. It’s Hoshoryu, Asashoryu’s nephew and the guy shown in the top photo with a very severe expression on his face. Hoshoryu does not want to end up like Roga. He wants to be sekitori, and he needs every win he can muster.

This video, by the way, is taken from NattoSumo’s channel, where you can watch full daily Makuuchi digests, including stats and some commentary. It’s my personal substitute for Kintamayama’s channel for this basho.

Hoshoryu shows superb oshi work, especially for a wrestler who is a typical Mongolian and an expert thrower.

Natsu Day 2 – Ones To Watch

Wakaichiro On Deck!

The day 2 roster of our “Ones to Watch” is loaded to the brim with our lower division favorites, and we are banking that we can get a video stream up in time to enjoy it. From day 1, I can share that Kitanowaka completely outclassed Garyu for a commanding win of his first ever sumo match in the professional ranks.

Who is on day 2? Well, everyone!

Wakamotoharu vs Seiro – Wakamotoharu lost his day 1 match, but thanks to the banzuke imbalance created by Hakuho going kyujo, there is an upper Makushita rikishi tasked to fill in a Juryo slot each day. For day 2, we see Wakamotoharu return to Juryo and face off against Seiro. Might we see Hoshoryu at some point?

Ichiyamamoto vs Takanofuji – For the final match in Makushita (which will happen after the Juryo dohyo-iri), we get this high-voltage clash. Ichiyamamoto is taking his second run at the ceiling of Makushita against the former Takayoshitoshi, who was dropped from Juryo last basho due to poor performance.

Hoshoryu vs Tamaki – First match for Hoshoryu, who is attracting a lot of attention the closer he gets to the salaried ranks. His opponent today is no slouch – Tamaki bounced off the top of the Makushita wall as a Ms3 East rikishi in Kyushu, and is taking his second run at the top.

Midorifuji vs Nogami – Fighting at his highest ever rank, Midorifuji has his first match against veteran Aomori-ken rikishi, Nogami, who fights under his given name. Nogami has been splashing about at this rank for a while, and is probably near his theoretical peak. But this is the kind of Rikishi that Midorifuji will need to master to break into the top echelon.

Naya vs Sagatsukasa – As if day 2 were not yet stuffed full enough of sumo awesome, here we go. Naya is finally starting to catch up to his rival Hoshoryu, but he is entering the thick of Makushita’s under-ranks. Sagatsukasa is a former Maegashira on the downward slope of his career, but he will bring an arsenal of technique and experience to the dohyo to measure against Naya’s youth and vigor.

Musashikuni vs Higoarashi – Musashikuni is coming off a two basho make-koshi streak, and really needs to turn things around. His day 2 match against Higoarashi is their third meeting, with Higoarashi holding a 2-1 edge. Come on Mamu! You can get it done!

Roga vs Hokutotsubasa – I am sure Hokutotsubasa looked at the torikumi Sunday evening and said, “Oh crap”. While that is not normally the reaction that a former Makushita rikishi would give when finding out they were facing who was about to have their first Sandanme match, but this is Roga. He wants your lunch money… and your chanko. We get to see how Roga handles himself against a well skilled and tough opponent.

Must… find.. way… to connect… to… Japan….

Terunofuji vs Daishomune – The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan laughs at me, trying to find a way to watch sumo from the land of the big hats and broad cattle. Sure, the wolf’s match (above) needs even more goodness. Let’s throw in the Kaiju as well. Everyone is curious if Daishomune will face a Terunofuji that looks just as terrible as he did in Osaka, or if Terunofuji is getting his health under control. We all want him in fine shape and fighting well.

Shoji vs Asanojo – Another fast rising rikishi, Shoji, will face off against Asanojo, a 32 year old veteran who has never ranked higher than Sandanme. If Shoji has his health back in line, this should be an easy match. Let’s hope he’s finally back to fighting form.

Wakaichiro vs Miyakogawa – I make no bones that I am a die-hard Wakaichiro booster. Today he’s facing a rematch with Miyakogawa, who he holds a career 2-1 advantage against. We hope America’s finest rikishi can apply some of that newly developed muscle against his rival and start Natsu out with a white star.

Hattorizakura vs Kitajima – Sadly, unless we can get a stream running, we will miss sumo’s perpetual loser – Hattorizakura. Free win day for Kitajima.