Nagoya 2022: Day 13 Highlights

Well, instead of getting serious, tonight was when this basho became a joke. Not one, not two, not three but FOUR stables were forced into Covid kyujo: Shibatayama, Kataonami, Isenoumi, and (gasp!) Oitekaze. This eviscerated the heart of makuuchi action. Tamawashi, gone. His perfect attendance streak, reaching back to 2004, over. Nishikigi, Endo, Tobizaru, Daieisho, Daiamami, Tsurugisho…sidelined. News from Herouth is that Endo actually tested positive. We hope that if he has symptoms, they’re mild and he recovers quickly.

The nonsense really hit home in the last half of makuuchi “action” with a streak of five consecutive fusen, broken by three bouts, only to have yet another fusen, and then the final two bouts. The gasps and groans from the audience were audible to those of us viewing at home. Well, let’s take a look at how it went down.

Tonight’s bouts

Mitoryu vs. Tsurugisho: I was jazzed for this bout because of the promotion/demotion implications of both wrestlers. Unfortunately, Tsurugisho’s late covid scratch meant this match would not take place. As a consequence, Mitoryu is 8-5, kachi-koshi, and Tsurugisho is 5-8, make-koshi*…with a corona-virus-shaped asterisk. Mitoryu is likely to be promoted but Tsurugisho’s status for the next banzuke is suddenly uncertain, not to mention stablemate Daiamami.

Terutsuyoshi vs. Oho: Terutsuyoshi went for the submarine attack at the tachiai. What surprised me was that Oho obliged and went for the belt. Oho sure knew what he was doing, though, because one quick pull brought Terutsuyoshi forward to the floor. Uwatedashinage. Oho claims his first kachi-koshi in the top division and looked pretty chuffed as he walked to do do his sankyo. Terutsuyoshi is make-koshi.

Yutakayama vs. Midorifuji: We got a decent brawl. Yutakayama’s plan may have been to beat Midorifuji into submission. But Midorifuji well-executed plan lured Yutakayama to the edge…and then disappeared, causing Yutakayama to tumble from the dohyo. Hatakikomi, rather than katasukashi, but close enough. Midorifuji secures his kachi-koshi while Yutakayama falls to 6-7.

Myogiryu vs. Meisei: A quick bout which didn’t go the way I thought. Myogiryu already had his winning record but was more motivated than Meisei, and drove him back and out with little-ado. Myogiryu is 9-4 and looking at his first double-digit record in nearly a year. Meisei falls to 7-6.

Chiyotairyu vs. Onosho: Onosho didn’t fall for it this time. Chiyotairyu had the strong tachiai, driving Onosho back. But when he executed his pull, Onosho was unfazed, following without losing his balance or pitching too far forward, then shoved Chiyotairyu over the bales. Onosho kachi-koshi at 8-5, Chiyotairyu falls to 6-7.

Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru: Shimanoumi continues to have a terrible tournament. He locked up with Chiyomaru in a lean-fest. He even strategized with a sufficiently loose shimekomi. This time the gyoji did not intervene and attempt to fix it as it started to unravel. This did give Chiyomaru significant difficulty in trying to lift or drag Shimanoumi forward. Chiyomaru’s left hand, while firmly gripping Shimanoumi’s belt, was up at Shimanoumi’s shoulder!

Wisely, Chiyomaru decided to push him down from that shoulder. I’d almost call that a katasukashi but they’ve given him an uwatedashinage, likely because his hand was all over Shimanoumi’s belt. Shimanoumi is Juryo-bound at 1-12. Chiyomaru improves to 5-8.

Tochinoshin vs. Chiyoshoma: No double henka. Long stare down, they reset. One-way henka. Chiyoshoma henkas and Tochinoshin falls for it, literally. They call it an uwatedashinage because Chiyoshoma got his hand over on Tochinoshin’s belt. Tochinoshin is 7-6, Chiyoshoma is 6-7.

Pestilence Strikes

Nishikifuji vs. Tobizaru: A first-time bout here, which we miss out on because of Covid. Tobizaru rests, kachi-koshi at 8-5, Nishikifuji improves to 9-4.

Daiamami vs. Sadanoumi: Sadanoumi won this but I did not foresee the Covid kyujo. Daiamami is 2-9-2 but will he save his makuuchi rank with the covid kyujo? Sadanoumi improves to 5-8.

Endo vs. Takarafuji: Endo kyujo. 3-10* with a covid-asterisk. Takarafuji improves to 7-6 and may actually get a kachi-koshi.

Tamawashi vs. Ura: Tamawashi kyujo for the first time ever. Now make-koshi (5-8*) while Ura improves to 6-7.

Nishikigi vs. Ichinojo: Nishikigi kyujo, 8-5*. Ichinojo improves to 11-2 and surely enjoys the stress-free W.

Action Resumes

Kiribayama vs Okinoumi: Both wrestlers showed up today! We have a bout, after five consecutive fusen. After the solid tachiai, Okinoumi set in for a long lean fest. But just when Okinoumi’s weight was rested full on Kiribayama, Kiribayama suddenly twisted and spun out of the way. They call it a kotenage but there was no arm bar, Okinoumi just fell because Kiribayama wasn’t there anymore. Kiribayama 6-7, Okinoumi 4-9.

Hokutofuji vs. Abi: Hokutofuji did not quite make it off the dohyo when he fell forward. Other than that, this bout went pretty much as expected. Hikiotoshi. Abi improves to 7-6 while Hokutofuji falls to 6-7.

Hoshoryu vs. Wakamotoharu: A long stare. Dud bout. The stare down ended up being longer than the fight. Hoshoryu won by quick kotenage after a solid tachiai, not giving Wakamotoharu any chance. Hoshoryu kachi-koshi, Wakamotoharu make-koshi.

Aoiyama vs. Daieisho: Daieisho fell to covid kyujo. Aoiyama 6-7, Daieisho 6-7*.

Takakeisho vs. Shodai: I’m a sumo Einstein. Shodai’s run came to an end tonight. Like I said, Takakeisho is no Aoiyama. Takakeisho’s nodowa forced Shodai back to the edge where T-Rex’s lethal shove helped Shodai over the bales.

Terunofuji vs. Wakatakakage: Terunofuji just too dominant. Wakatakakage tried to get inside but the Yokozuna wasn’t having any of it. This bout resembled a schoolyard version of King of the Hill, when a first grader took on the biggest fifth grader in school. Oshidashi.

Well, that’s it for the action today. Unfortunately, rather abbreviated. Hopefully tomorrow’s bouts won’t be quite so sparse. They’re actually pulling four blokes up from Juryo to fill in! I’ll have more details later today in the preview post.

Miyagino beya kyujo for Aki basho

Photo: Miyagino Beya Instagram

On September 5th, a PCR test was administered to the entire NSK workforce. The results revealed one low-ranking rikishi from Miyagino beya was positive. Given Hokuseiho’s positive result and this new case, it has been decided the entire heya will be absent from Aki basho.

Although the rikishi have tested negative in a PCR test following Hokuseiho’s infection, a rikishi has already complained at the time that he is feeling unwell.

Takashima oyakata, gyoji Shikimori Kandayu, and yobidashi Ryuji, who belong to the heya but have not been attending it, will all participate in the basho.

This will be the second time the heya goes on “COVID kyujo”, after Hakuho’s infection barred the other members of the heya from participating in Hatsu basho.

In other heya

At Oguruma beya, a sewanin (Nishikikaze) has tested positive on September 2nd. Although he was at the heya, he was observing practice wearing a mask, rather than participating in the activity, so the rikishi were not deemed close contacts. In yesterday’s PCR test, they all tested negative. They are therefore cleared to participate in Aki basho.

As for Minato beya, Ichinojo’s heya, Shibatayama oyakata says the NSK has not received information from them about their status at the time he was interviewed. But he said that if Ichinojo tests negative, then at least as far as schedule is concerned, he will be cleared to participate as well.

We wish the infected rikishi and sewanin a speedy recovery and no long term effects. We hope no further cases turn up.

Sumo debates for 2020 – 2/3

6. Will Terunofuji compete in maku’uchi in 2020 ? Where will he end up this year ?

The nostalgic question. If Tochinoshin produced the mother of all comebacks back in 2014, rising again from makushita to maku’uchi, Terunofuji’s remarkable comeback is a very impressive one. Still an ozeki in September 2017, he started 2018 as a maegashira 10, lasted two bashos in juryo, and, after finally taking care of his health, went as low as jonidan 48 in March 2019. He just lost three bouts during his return to the salaried ranks, which he achieved at the end of the past year.

Terunofuji’s return has been even more impressive that he stayed weakened. Pictures were circulating on social medias, with Terunofuji’s knees horribly taped. He only managed to do suri-ashi by the end of 2019 – which should significantly improve his chances.

Is he back ? Former ozeki Terunofuji

Many followers – myself included – have fantasied about the former ozeki’s return. Will he return to maku’uchi ? Will he, incredibly, regain his ozeki rank, as prophetized by Murray Johnson ? Or will his progress be halted ?

Herouth answers this question cautiously. Will that change, with the Mongolian’s condition having improved ? Terunofuji set his aim: reaching maku’uchi before the Olympics.

My prediction: it’s hard going against my inner wishes. I’d be foolish, though, not hearing Herouth’s wisdom. I’d say Terunofuji to finish the year in juryo after a stint in maku’uchi.

7. Where will Ichinojo finish the year ?

Makushita or below / juryo / maku’uchi (maegashira) / maku’uchi (san’yaku)

Another question related to injury issues. Ichinojo’s talent is obvious. After a good 2018 year (five tournaments spent in san’yaku), the Mongolian started 2019 equally well – two kinboshi despite a 6-9 record in January, and a career best 14-1 in March led people believe he’d start an ozeki run.

However, Ichinojo’s strength caused him serious back problems – his weight rose up to 230 kg. He had to sit out of the Kyushu basho after having finished the Aki basho with a 1-4-10 record. As a consequence, he will start the new year sitting deep at juryo 7.

I can’t help but have depressing thoughts of a crossed interview of then newbies Ichinojo and Terunofuji in 2014, as they set up a “race” between them towards ozeki promotion. If Terunofuji achieved that feat, they now find themselves together, sadly, in juryo, more than five years later.

Back to fitness ? Ichinojo Takashi

Hopefully, Ichinojo will be rolling back the years. Having lost 24 kg, his weight will appear close to the one he had in 2014, when he got promoted to maku’uchi.

My prediction: I see him back to the maegashira ranks.

8. Will Enho stay in maku’uchi in 2020 ?

A provocative question. Enho is a crowd favorite, and did wonders in 2019. He started the past year at juryo 8, and will start the current one at a career best maegashira 5. He displayed a great variety of techniques, and finished the year with three straight kachi koshi. In his whole career, Enho just had two make kochi – one in juryo in March 2018, and one during his maku’uchi debut in May 2019.

The question is, of course, related to his weight. So far, it is tempting to say that weighing less than 100 kg has been more of an asset than a weakness for him.

Nevertheless, Enho will have some issues to face: will he be able to maintain his impressive form? The crowd favorite started using more deliberate henka’s during the last tournament of 2019. Will he be able to renew his range of techniques, and will he be able to surprise again his opponents ? Or will the surprise effect vanish, and will he slide back to juryo ?

Currently at career best maegashira 5 : Enho Akira

Comparison has been made with former wrestler Mainoumi, who was about the same size as Enho, and had a successful maku’uchi career from 1991 to 1998, being as high as komosubi. True, the average size of rikishi has increased since…

Another example, former Czech wrestler Takanoyama, was less successful back in 2012. He was able to stay in the top division during four tournaments, that year (and in September of 2011, too).

My prediction: Enho’s techniques will continue to work, in the middle of an injury prone field. After a san’yaku stint, he’ll end up safely in maegashira ranks.

9. Will Takakeisho win a second yusho in 2020 ?

I believe Takakeisho’s picture of 2018’s rising star needs an update. Last year, the ozeki was seen as the future of sumo and a possible future yokozuna, assuming he could adapt his variety of techniques. He finished that year on a bang, clinching his first yusho in Kyushu.

Ozeki Takakeisho Mitsunobu

Twelve months later, the picture has changed. His ozeki promotion had to wait until the last day of the March tournament, with decreasing results – 13-2, 11-4 and 10-5. He sustained a first serious injury on his knee, which hampered further steps, and even cost him the newly acquired rank. He went back strongly during the Aki basho, where he was defeated during a playoff, injuring himself on his chest in the process.

Will he bounce back in 2020 ? Can his knees sustain so much weight ?

I express doubts concerning the latter question, and would answer no.

Ichinojo Tops Kyujo Waitlist

Before Hattorizakura kicks off shonichi this Sunday, our eyes will be glued to the papers and social media for early indication of who’s on the Kyokai Not-Genki list, and thus kyujo for Kyushu. Though not officially on the list yet, we fully anticipate Ichinojo will be on it by the weekend, as Herouth notes below.

Given the state of Takakeisho, and more troublingly, Takayasu, one would expect the kyujo ranks to swell…though it may not be until after salt meets clay. We’re also keeping our eyes peeled for whether Ura will be listed or not. If he competes, he will be restarting his career at Jonidan 106 West. Having seen recent pics of Swole Ura, if I were Daishojo, I think I’d sleep in that day.