Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Day 13

Naruto oyakata, on duty today, with his 7-0 deshi Sakurai

We’re back on track! Today, although there were few “big names” on the torikumi list, there were many important matches. All the yusho deciders in Makushita or below were played today, resulting either in yusho winners, or in playoffs to take place on Senshuraku. We’ll go through these bouts, as well as some of our usual ones of interest.

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Haru Day 5 Recap

We had an interesting day today at the EDION arena in Osaka. Before I dive into the Makunouchi bouts, I’m sure the fans will be happy to see this:

Aminishiki finally lands a win

Aminishiki is in dire straits down at the bottom of Juryo, but he managed to get his first win today vs. Akiseyama – and do that moving forward!

So, fast forward through Juryo (Arawashi doing well this basho, Enho gets his second loss in a row), we begin with Yutakayama vs. Kotoeko. Kotoeko looking good this basho, and may just be able to get that Makunouchi kachi-koshi which has eluded him so far. He attacks Yutakayama with a harizashi, lifts his arm high, and sends him off to the arms of the time shimpan.

Due to Chiyonokuni’s injury, we have a visitor from Juryo every day, and today it was 0-4 Hakuyozan facing Ishihenka, I mean, Ishiura, who was 4-0. Ishiura tried to get under Hakuyozan’s attack, but as he pulls, his knee folds below him and he finds himself rolling. His first loss, Hakuyozan’s first win.

Toyonoshima slammed into Chiyoshoma and intended to railroad him with his bulk, as he is wont. But the nimble Mongolian freed himself, stepped sideways, and left the veteran to ponder the difficulties of age and sumo.

Kagayaki launches himself head-first into newbie Daishoho‘s chest, keeps himself low, keeps his opponent upright, and clears him from the dohyo. Basic and clean.

The TomokazeTerutsuyoshi bout ended almost as soon as it started, with a plain, almost dismissive, hatakikomi. I believe something is wrong with Terutsuyoshi’s legs. He keeps ending up with his center of gravity way ahead of his feet. There is an expression used for this state: “ashi ga nagaremashita” – “his feet have flowed away”. His legs don’t work as fast as he needs to support his lunge.

And the Isegahama pixie is not the only one in trouble. Yoshikaze also didn’t show up for today’s bout. He leads head-first into the tachiai, but Ryuden immediately lands a morozashi – two arms under the opponent’s arms – and Yoshikaze just goes limp. Ryuden is haveng a good basho with 4-1.

Meisei tries to take the initiative against Yago. Doesn’t quite land a grip. Short tsuppari ensues, and then the two engage in migi-yotsu. Meisei only has one layer of Yago’s mawashi, and the Oguruma man patiently maneuvers into a better grip and leads Meisei out.

An impressive Shohozan showed up today to face Sadanoumi. Starting his bout with a harizashi, he lands a grip, and then throws Sadanoumi in a beautiful uwatenage. I want more of this Shohozan.

Ikioi tries hard to keep Kotoshogiku‘s pelvis as far away from him as possible. But eventually the former Ozeki decides to use the pressure against him, moves, and shows him out. Ikioi limps back to his spot to give the bow.

Asanoyama has a good tactic against Aoiyama. Since he is a yotsu man and Aoiyama is known for his fierce tsuppari and soft knees, Asanoyama quickly drives in and gets a fistful of mawashi. But Aoiyama shows versatility, uses a kotenage to release himself from the Takasago man, complements that with a nodowa, and hands Asanoyama his second loss.

Abi starts his bout with Takarafuji, as usual, with that morotezuki and follows with tsuppari. Takarafuji is quite ready for that, patiently weathers it, moves slightly to the left and grabs Abi’s mawashi. Abi manages to release himself, tries a half-hearted hikiotoshi, and fails. Instead, the Isegahama man slaps hard, and Abi rolls all the way to the other side of the dohyo. Olé!

The next bout, Chiyotairyu vs. Okinoumi. Chiyotairyu does his locomotive tachiai. Okinoumi backs up and sidesteps. Chiyotairyu dives into the janome, hands first. And Kimura Konosuke calls it Chiyotairyu’s win! No monoii. I guess the shimpan trust Chiyotairyu’s heya-mate, Konosuke, too much. The replay clearly shows this was a mistake. Okinoumi’s feet are firmly on the tawara, so he is very much alive when Chiyotairyu hits the dirt.

Ichinojo starts off with a harite – it’s not a harizashi as there was no attempt to go for the belt – then follows with a kachiage, and finally paws Onosho down with both arms. Scary. Onosho finds himself in a heap as Ichinojo, as usual, worriedly checks if he hasn’t overdone things. I guess Ichinojo left his sleepy secret twin in Tokyo.

Endo gets a grip on Tochiozan‘s belt right off the tachiai, and rolls him like his favorite barrel of beer. Makiotoshi, Endo’s first win this basho.

Mitakeumi and Hokutofuji clash head-to-head. Mitakeumi leads at first, but Hokutofuji manages to stop the pressure, and it’s Mitakeumi who starts pulling back. Maybe it’s the knee, but whatever it is, the Mitakeumi magic is not working against his fellow komusubi, and after a short halt, again he pulls and finds himself below the dohyo.

After three losses, Tamawashi vindicates himself somewhat in this fierce battle with Takakeisho. Takakeisho leads at first and nearly bounces Tamawashi out the front side of the dohyo, but Tamawashi takes it in his stride, and returns with his own windmill. Tamawashi proves that even in oshi, Takakeisho is not invincible. With two losses in the first trimester, Takakeisho’s Ozeki run seems less certain than it looked before the basho started.

Nishikigi has run out of luck this basho. Takayasu slams into him with all his bear-power. Nishikigi tries an arm lock on the Ozeki’s left arm, but to no avail. Nishikigi is 0-5.

Kaisei and Tochinoshin lock into a “gappuri” stance – firm yotsu. Tochinoshin’s first attempt doesn’t work. There is a short impasse, and then Kaisei makes a mistake and tries to gaburi him, or at least, that’s how it looked. As a result, his center of gravity ends up just where the Ozeki wants it, and he actually lifts the heavy Brazilian – though he quickly abandons the idea. He then adds a couple of pelvis thrusts of his own, to bring his thick opponent across the tawara. 3-2, and his chances of clearing kadoban look slightly brighter.

Goeido treats Shodai like a ragdoll, and the Tokitsukaze man finds himself out of the dohyo almost straight out of the tachiai. What version of Goeido is this? Has his kernel been replaced?

Kakuryu butts heads with Daieisho (not a smart move in the long run, Yokozuna), then immediately pulls. Hatakikomi, and Kakuryu is visibly annoyed with himself. Trouble always begins when Kakuryu pulls. But the win is a win.

I’m not sure what’s going on with Hakuho. The bout itself looked fine. No dominance, but the Yokozuna leading with a kachiage, Myogiryu fending him off, and the Yokozuna coming in again and slapping his opponent to the ground. But like yesterday, he couldn’t quite stop his own movement after finishing his work. Yesterday he ended up in the crowd, and took quite a while to get up from there, and today he ended up doing the splits on top of myogiryu. Control of legs? Dizziness? We won’t know unless he goes kyujo and needs to publish yet another public proof of injury

So that’s the end of Act 1, and we have four men in the leader group – Hakuho, Goeido, Ichinojo and Kotoshogiku. Let’s see what the second trimester brings!

Haru Day 1 & 2 Comments

Mitakeumi Calls The Tune During His Day 1 Match With Yokozuna Kakuryu

Although Andy was kind enough to put together a day 2 preview, I wanted to add a few comments as well. My thanks to Team Tachiai for covering during my day 1 kyujo!

It’s great that everyone in the top division was able to start the basho, with the exception of Chiyonokuni. For those of you who might have missed it, he destroyed his knee during Hatsu, and frankly I would be surprised to see him back before summer or fall.

It was evident that Hokutofuji was not mentally ready to bring any sort of serious challenge to Hakuho day 1. Though he lined up well and launched into the tachiai with vigor, you can see him close his eyes and almost wince as he comes up against the Yokozuna. Hakuho, who I am convinced sees at about 240hz, had a brief “what is this?” Look on his face before grabbing Hokutofuji’s forearm and guiding him to the clay. For day 2, Hokutofuji faces Goeido, who is in front of his home-town crowd. My biggest worry about Goeido? That day 1 match where Endo was propelled out of the dohyo – some fans noticed Goeido had stepped out. Rather his foot slipped off of the top of the tawara onto the janome. That’s the same foot he underwent reconstructive surgery for, that took titanium screws to rebuild.

Hakuho will get Endo for day 2. Frankly we don’t know what kind of condition Hakuho is actually in yet, and as happens in prior basho, his first match (or several) he finds way to win without using much in the way of mobility. As cited above, Hokutofuji did most of the work himself. Endo had little to offer Goeido on day 1, and I think he won’t have much luck with Hakuho either.

Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin did not reduce the worry level of his fans day 1. His reverse-gear sumo with a pull was not the kind of move you expect from Tochinoshin, who wins with his overwhelming strength applied vigorously in a forward direction. Can we assume that Tochinoshin’s still fairly injured? Too soon to tell. But his day 2 match against Myogiryu is no push-over. Myogiryu is a tough competitor who knows how to beat Tochinoshin, even when the Ozeki is healthy.

Call it a simple hunch, but Takayasu looked a lot less frantic on day 1 than I recall for many moths. Takayasu is at his best when he is calm, strong and forceful. This really gets put to the test day 2 when he draws Mitakeumi, who in spite of an injury that he might want to see surgery for, delivered a win against Yokozuna Kakuryu. Mitakeumi did little to practice before the basho due to the injury, and I am certain that every day is a struggle for him.

On the subject of Kakuryu – I don’t think that his chaotic day 1 loss to Mitakeumi is a sign he has problems. Kakuryu’s matches are frequently a “seat of the pants” affair, and it’s clear that the Yokozuna’s first gambit failed, and left him with little room for recovery. Against Kaisei, he won’t have to worry as much about mobility as he did against Mitakeumi, but there is the question of the Brazilian’s enormous mass.

Tamawashi struggled a bit more than might be expected against Nishikigi, who seems to be in the joi-jin for the long haul now. As Tamawashi himself noted prior to the basho, the number of collateral obligations he had as the yusho winner impacted his training program leading up to the basho. Daieisho may not provide too much of a challenge on day 2, and I expect the Hatsu yusho winner to continue to file down his ring rust for the first 5 days.

Takakeisho’s day 1 match was as close to his preferred blueprint as you might ask. He was low, he went for center-mass oshi straight away and he kept the pressure going for the win. His day 2 match against Nishikigi might have a surprise or two, as Nishikigi continues to show remarkable persistence, and an unexpected tendency to find ways not “not lose”, usually to the frustration of his opponents.

A few more quick hits

Ichinojo – Whoa! That was big, strong sumo day 1. I wonder about his posture post-match. He did not look right. But let’s hope the boulder is strong for the next 14 days.

Shodai – I do in fact think he is getting better on his tachiai. If this is real, watch out. His sumo mechanics are excellent otherwise.

Tochiozan – After a fairly dismal Hatsu, the “good” Tochiozan seems to have shown up day 1. Though aging out, he’s a sumo force of nature when he’s feeling healthy.

Aoiyama – Day 1 match featured some really excellent combat sumo from the Man-Mountain. Abi had no way to really keep Aoiyama from doing exactly whatever the big Bulgarian wanted.

Kotoshogiku – He sumo looked strong at Hatsu, even though he ended with disappointing 6-9 record. His day 1 tachiai was especially sharp. Day 2 he’s against Takarafuji, who always seems a half step behind now.

Ikioi – If you have not seen his day 1 match, it ended with a shove worthy of Superman himself. Shohozan nearly took flight from the force of it, and it was a welcome change from seeing Ikioi as the walking wounded.

Ishiura – Wow, this guy! I remember him! He burst into the top division at Kyushu 2016 – he was strong, fast and always had 2 attacks going at the same time. Then he devolved into a henka machine, and got boring. But look who is back! More of this, please!

Yutakayama – It hurts to watch this guy. Once the leader of the Freshman cohort, his visit to the joi at Aki 2018 saw him kyujo for 3 days, and never quite right since. I personally hope he can pull it together, as I think he has a lot to offer sumo in the years to come.

Hatsu Day 9 Highlights

The kadoban watch continues on day 9, where we find both Ozeki continuing to struggle with injuries, and finding the mathematics of the remaining 6 days crushing their hopes against reality. Meanwhile there are fewer routes where the undfeated Hakuho might drop enough matches (short of injury) to allow anyone to even challenge him for the yusho.

Many other rikishi who had surprised early in the basho have reverted to form, and in some cases it’s disappointing for fans. At the end of the day, for most rikishi, the goal is 8 wins and a kachi-koshi. Some have lost the blazing momentum of their act 1 starts (Aoiyama, Nishikigi, Hokutofuji) while others seem to have finally awoken their sumo (Asanoyama, Chiyotairyu) and somehow Ikioi keeps fighting in spite of all of the battle damage.

Highlight Matches

Takanosho defeats Daiamami – Takanosho visits from Juryo and delivers top-vision sumo against a flagging Daiamami. Daiamami is one loss away from make-koshi and a return to Juryo. Takanosho was kyujo for a couple of days, and is on the bubble himself.

Kotoeko defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama’s bulk and stability saw him dominating the opening moments of the match, Kotoeko’s superior agility and maneuverability let him set up a partial throw / tsukiotoshi that won the match. Yutakayama, once the start of the “Freshmen” bounced hard off of the joi-jin and has been struggling to recover ever since.

Chiyonokuni defeats Meisei – Significantly under-ranked, Chiyonokuni picks up another win, and is 1 behind Hakuho. Be aware, Chiyonokuni is no real threat to Hakuho at this time in terms of speed and power, and his position in 2nd place is a function of match and his position too low on the banzuke.

Kagayaki defeats Chiyoshoma – After spending most of the first half of the basho all over the map, administering head woulds to everyone, Kagayaki goes back to fundamentals and wins. But as Kagayaki has 7 losses already, a make-koshi is likely for him.

Ikioi defeats Yago – Ikioi continues to remind us of Monty Python’s Black Knight, who continues to fight no matter what injury he suffers. Yago showed excellent form, but Ikioi produced a surge of strength that overpowered Yago for the win.

Sadanoumi defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru continues winless after Sadanoumi’s superior experience and ring sense carries the day.

Abi defeats Kotoyuki – The shine is off of Abi-zumo, but it worked against Kotoyuki today. Can Abi end his string of make-koshi tournaments since last March? Kotoyuki attempted a slap-down that almost worked, but Kotoyuki ran out of ring before Abi landed face first on the clay.

Takarafuji defeats Daieisho – Takarafuji is the embodiment of “slow and steady wins the race”. Maegashira 10 is an easy rank for him, and he has little trouble with Daieisho, working him over a piece at a time until he pushes him out from the side / behind.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Some surprising sumo from Ryuden, he manages to block Kaisei from putting his right hand to work, and uses his body to keep Kaisei high. Without a solid grip, Kaisei was unable to generate much forward pressure, and Ryuden kept moving forward.

Endo defeats Onosho – Have no fear, Onosho fans. As much as you want to think that Onosho is fully genki and ready to battle the top men of sumo, he’s still recovering a bit from surgery. Going into Hatsu, we said that Maegashira 6 was a great rank for him, and would allow him to tune up a bit more before his predicted run at the San’yaku later this year. His goal is kachi-koshi plus an extra white star or two, and he seems to be on track for that. Meanwhile, Endo is clearly in his “good” phase, and is fighting well.

Chiyotairyu defeats Asanoyama – Chiyotairyu henkas a win, much to the dismay of many, but most specifically Asanoyama. All of the Freshmen have been struggling since Nagoya, when the heat seems to have baked the fighting spirit right out of them.

Yoshikaze defeats Shohozan – Yoshikaze found some energy somewhere in the back of a closet at home, and showed a brief flash of the drive and vigor that has made him a legend. Yoshikaze staves off a likely make-koshi for another day.

Shodai defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama’s loss to Chiyotairyu has put him on a losing streak, which now extends into a 3rd day. After a strong start, his sumo has lost its edge, and his mobility is down from the first week. Shodai exploits this well and pulls a win out of what should have been Aoiyama’s match after Shodai’s traditionally poor tachiai.

Tochiozan defeats Hokutofuji – A number of rikishi have figured out that Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai” leave him quite far forward, and that can be exploited to slap or thrust him down in the first moments of the bout. I think Hokutofuji’s opening gambit is useful, but needs some variations and refinement.

Myogiryu defeats Ichinojo – Gone is the fierce Ichinojo of the Act 1, and we have reverted to the hesitant, contemplative Ichinojo from Kyushu. To be fair, Myogiryu tends to be trouble for Ichinojo, but for fans of the big Mongolian, this kind of sumo from his is frustrating.

Takakeisho defeats Nishikigi – Takakeisho’s sights are fixed on double digits, and Nishikigi’s act 1 magic is nowhere to be found today. Solid “Wave Action” work from the Ozeki aspirant. Nishikigi still has a solid chance at kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2.

Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – Regardless of rank, these former Sekiwake rivals are an even match. Add to that Takayasu’s health questions, and it was advantage Tamawashi. Of concerns were signs of pain from the Ozeki following the match, when it seems his right knee may have been bothering him. Takayasu is dangerously close to make-koshi and joining the kadoban corps.

Okinoumi defeats Goeido – If you want an honest indication of how banged up Goeido is, watch Okinoumi man-handle him like a Sandanme debutant. I am predicting that Goeido will join Ozeki Tochinoshin in the kadoban corps in Osaka, where his home town fans will likely carry him to victory.

Hakuho defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku gave it his best shot, but there was no chance that the former Ozeki was going to best Hakuho today. In spite of his shaky start, Hakuho is on his sumo, and there are very few upper ranked rikishi (see the Ozeki corps) who are genki enough to give him much of a challenge. But everyone waits to for his much anticipated match with Takakeisho coming up in Act 3.