Time for match #4 for our “Ones to Watch” team. For some of them, they mighty pick up kachi-koshi on Saturday, and there are still a few who remain in the hunt for their division yusho.
Akua vs Kototebakari – A 3-0 bracket match, Akua won their only prior match, which was in May of this year. Kototebakari, at 19 years old, has been moving rapidly up the banzuke, and is likely to be someone who will be a sekitori sooner rather than later. Winner is kachi-koshi.
Midorifuji vs Daishoryu – Another 3-0 bracket match, with kachi-koshi on the line. Daishoryu is a Makushtia mainstay who has been ranked as high as Ms9e, but has never quite seemed to have enough fight to break into the top 5 ranks of Makushtia. A kachi-koshi here would more or less ensure that outcome for September. Midorifuji won their only prior match.
Wakatakamoto vs Hokaho – This 2-1 bracket match features one of Hakuho’s stable mates in Hokaho. He has struggled to consistently rank in the Makushita top 10 ranks. Wakatakamoto won their single prior match.
Shoji vs Fujitaisei – Another 2-1 bracket match (Sandanme this time), Fujitaisei has never been ranked higher than Sandanme.
Wakaichiro vs Narumi – Wakaichiro brought in his second win on day 6, blasting Hamadayama from the dohyo. His opponent for day 7 was on an extended kyujo, and actually dropped off the banzuke and had to re-enter via Maezumo. Now fighting his way back up the banzuke, Narumi will be looking to best our favorite Texan sumotori in this 2-1 bracket match.
Kitanowaka vs Tokisakae – A 3-0 bracket match in Jonidan, Kitanowaka has beaten Tokisakae in Jonikuchi in May. This rematch will see one rikishi with his kachi-koshi.
Day two, and we had a lot of big names in the lower divisions. Let’s work our way from the bottom.
We would be remiss, of course, if we didn’t share Hattorizakura’s first bout with you. In 4k. Yes. Aliens researching Earth culture 1000 years from now will find footage of Hattorizakura matches in 4k.
Our lad is on the East, right, facing Kotoyamato from Sadogatake beya on the left.
The yobidashi is… fitting. But why would Kotoyamato be using such a fierce nodowa against Hattorizakura?
The following bout is interesting, not so much because of its sumo content, but because of Roman’s hairdo. Roman is a young rikishi, recruited in May 2018, who suffered injury in Haru 2019, and was kyujo for the entire Natsu. He was then rumored to have retired, because he was seen with a crew cut, also, not in the same city as his heya.
Then, all of a sudden, here he is, back on the dohyo, taped massively like any rikishi coming back from kyujo. I would have written this all down as some silly Internet rumor. Only… the haircut part seems to have been true. That’s not rikishi hairdo. There have been some strange goings-on at Tatsunami beya – Hitenryu, who was supposed to have started working as a Wakamonogashira (was listed as such in Wikipedia) but hasn’t, their latest recruit, who resigned with a broken arm, and this strange thing with Roman’s hair.
Roman on the left faces Mogaminishiki from Kise beya on the right.
For someone just back from injury and who knows what else, he is pretty genki.
Our journey into Sandanme starts with Tachiai’s favorite, Wakaichiro, who faced Kotootomo from Sadogatake beya for his first match. Wakaichiro is on the East, right, and Kotootomo attacks from the left.
Very good deashi on Wakaichiro’s part, for a straight up oshidashi. It was Wakaichiro’s birthday yesterday. It’s good to start another year in one’s life on the right foot!
Next up I have Narutaki, one of my Jungyo favorites, not least because of his huge big brother Kyonosato. Narutaki himself is not so huge, and looks especially small in this match, in which he faces Hokutoo, the 196cm wrestler from Hakkaku beya. Narutaki attacks from the right, but I’m sure you can see that for yourselves.
Very convincing sumo! Hit-and-shift, then push for an oshidashi.
Next up is Daitenma. I couldn’t find any bouts of his last basho, so I’m excited to find one now. He is Azumazeki’s beya recently recruited Mongolian. This is only his fourth ranked basho, and he had solid 5-2 in each of his previous ones. He is also as thin and gangly as you’d expect a young Mongolian with a bright future to be… Here he is on the East (right), facing Nakao from Onoe beya.
It’s nice to see this kind of yotsu battle in Sandanme. If he manages to put on some serious weight, the 187cm Mongolian will get far.
We reach the top of the Sandanme division with the representative of the USA, Musashikuni. He faces Asakishin from Takasago beya who is attacking from the left.
Ah… well. I’d like to see him start low and bend his knees.
We’re up to the next division, and start straight off with the former Ozeki Terunofuj, facing Aoi from Shikoroyama beya. Although Aoi is about the same age as Terunofuji, he is just a Sandanme-Makushita regular. We are informed that in June, Terunofuji started practicing moshi-ai for the first time since his dropped. So we expect him to be less rusty than the previous two basho. Let’s take a look. Teru on the left, Aoi on the right.
The former Ozeki was aiming straight for that shoulder.
One thing to note is the yobidashi who calls Terunofuji’s name. That’s Yobidashi Teruya from his own heya. The two (together with Shunba) transferred from Magaki beya to Isegahama and are very close friends. Not sure Teruya ever expected to call his friend’s name on his shift.
Next up, we have Shiraishi, who won the Sandanme yusho after having landed straight in that division (Sandanme-tsukedashi). Shiraishi on the left faces Kotorikisen from Sadogatake on the right.
Shiraishi seems to continue just where he left off in Natsu. I wouldn’t be surprised if they match him with Terunofuji next.
Kyokusoten is one of my old favorites, though he is not one of the strongest rikishi around, especially not for a Mongolian. He’s just a nice guy, who is sought after as a tsukebito by other Mongolians. Currently he is serving under Kakuryu. Here he is facing Hokaho, from Miyagino beya. What was Miyagino oyakata thinking when he named him that? Anyway, Hokaho on the left, Kyokusoten on the right.
Hokaho seems to be the stronger of the two. Next time, Kyokusoten!
We continue on the theme of Mongolians in Makushita. Let’s take a look at Roga, Futagoyama’s star. He is facing Keitenkai from Onomatsu beya on the left.
Another Mongolian down. Roga is still lacking in experience.
Naya, the scion of Taiho, has been showing a lot of improvement lately and was expected to, maybe, surpass his rival, Hoshoryu, this time around. Here he faces a serious obstacle in the form of Akua from Tatsunami beya, who had a couple of stints in Juryo. But I think Naya wasn’t expecting the bout between them to develop as it eventually did. Akua on the left, Naya on the right:
Naya thought this was a matta. He looks at the shimpan, he looks at the gyoji, but to no avail. At least he is not standing at the base of the dohyo trying to monoii the decision. Hard life lesson: if the ref didn’t call it, it’s not a matta. No matter if your hand didn’t touch the ground.
But anyway, ouch.
The last bout in Makushita today was between Hoshoryu and Irodori. Again, there were many expectations of this bout. Irodori (right) has some sekitori experience. But Hoshoryu (left) is not letting that intimidate him. Quite the contrary. The bout starts with a long stare-down, and Irodori eventually gives in. Then there’s a matta, but Hoshoryu is unfazed.
When they get down to the bout itself, it’s all too easy. The psychological warfare was clearly favoring the young Mongolian.
I’m not going to share the bout which may or may not have been Aminishiki’s last. Instead, let us concentrate on the newcomers to Juryo. Two of them who lost the previous day are facing each other today. Kotonowaka on the left vs. Kizakiumi on the right:
Kotonowaka The Second doesn’t seem to find his Juryo legs yet. It’s his second loss, to exactly those people he should beat to avoid the return to Makushita.
The third Juryo newcomer is Ichiyamamoto, and he actually seems to feel right at home in Juryo. Ichiyamamoto on the left faces Akiseyama on the right.
Wait a minute… why does this seem familiar? Hey, Ichiyamamoto, Abi called and asked for his Sumo back. Come to think of it, he really needs it back quickly.
For all of the sumo fans that were able to watch the lower division action on day 13 were treated to a prime example of why I consider the lower ranks, with specific focus on the Makushita joi, the most brutal part of sumo. Many rikishi are at 3-3, and will throw all caution to the win to get that 4th win and secure their kachi-koshi. We saw a lot more dives off the dohyo, and people coming back up looking pained than in all the prior days combined. That will continue day 14 as some of the last of our rikishi finish out their Haru matches.
In the yusho races, Both Terunofuji and Roga won their bouts, finishing the tournament with perfect 7-0 records. They will meet on day 15 for a tie-breaker match, which will decide the yusho. Naya lost his match against the higher ranked Churanoumi, but finished with a stellar 6-1. We will see him much higher on the banzuke for May. And just to make sure the universe still works as expected, Hattorizakura finished the basho with a flawless 0-7 record.
Terunofuji’s day 13 win, he throws Sadatsuyoshi like a sack of fertilizer.
Day 14 Matches
Hoshoryu vs Kaisho – One of the deadly 3-3 bracket matches, this pits fan favorite Hoshoryu against Makushita 4 Kaisho. This is a Darwin match, with the winner kachi-koshi, and the loser make-koshi. All stops will be off for this match, and I expect a throw-down of epic proportions
Midorifuji vs Hokaho – Another dreaded Darwin match, this time these two are also settling a 1-1 career record. Both of their prior matches featured them tossing each other about with vigor. Given their speed and mobility, it could get brutal.
Wakaichiro vs Hokutoshin – Our own favorite Texan, Wakaichiro, is in a Darwin match as well, against a hefty fellow from Hakkaku heya named Hokutoshin. Winner advances, loser probably ends up in Jonidan.