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.

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

Kisenosato Hatsu 2019
Photo from the Japan Sumo Association’s twitter feed

What a way to start a basho! Day 1 action was fierce and at times surprising. As a reminder to our readers, I tend to see a basho as a set of 3 acts, each 5 days long. Each act has its own feel and its own goals. Act 1 is all about knocking the ring rust off of the competitors, and finding out who is hot and who is not. It’s also usually the period where we will see if any Yokozuna are going to take an “out” by going kyujo.

The big news coming out of day 1 has to be that all 3 Ozeki went down to defeat. For Takayasu, it’s not a huge surprise, as he came into Hatsu with a case of the flu and a substantial fever that he should probably keep to himself. For Tochinoshin, it was clear he had hurt a thigh muscle, but was going to gamberize. Goeido, however, simply got beaten. By Nishikigi. Let that sink in. The guy who was doing everything he could last year to cling to the bottom edge of the Makuuchi banzuke took an Ozeki scalp in what looked to be a fair and straight-up fight. I have been pulling for the guy for a while now, but it’s amazing to see how far his sumo has come.

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Daishomaru – Welcome to the top division! Terutsuyoshi is only visiting, but it was his first win in the big leagues, and it came with a few envelopes of kensho as well. We will be seeing quite a bit more of Terutsuyoshi soon, I would think.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Tsuki? Oshi? Yotsu? Hitaki? These two threw everything including the kitchen sink into this match. It was rough, it was chaotic, but Chiyonokuni prevailed. He needs to get a kachi-koshi secured and escape the banzuke danger zone he finds himself in for Hatsu.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki starts strong, but in his normal pattern, as soon as Yutakayama mounts his response, Kotoyuki starts moving backward in a fairly reckless fashion. Not amazing sumo, but Yutakayama held on through Kotoyuki’s opening gambit and took the match.

Yago defeats Meisei – In Yago’s first top division ranked bout, he shows us why he’s going to be a mainstay of the future. Unlike most of the newer rikishi, he grabs Meisei’s mawashi and proceeds to go chest to chest. Meisei looks ready for the fight, and starts with a stronger, inside position. But give Yago that right hand outside and he gets to work. With his greater mass and exceptionally stable stance, Yago overpowers Meisei for a straightforward yoritaoshi.

Ikioi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki leaves Ikioi bloody in this loss, with the die-hard warrior bleeding from his nose and face following the match. Ikioi looks to have gotten the jump on Kagayaki at the tachiai, and wasted no time in raising up Kagayaki. Both of these rikishi are better than their lower Maegashira rank, so I see this tournament as a “recovery” period for them.

Sadanoumi defeats Abi – It would seem that Sadanoumi has Abi-zumo cracked, and Abi could not produce much in the way of offensive pressure against Sadanoumi, who propelled Abi around the dohyo like a squeaky shopping cart headed back to the store. Come on Abi, unleash some new sumo. We know you can win!

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Firstly, congratulations to Takarafuji, who welcomed a new baby to his family in the past few weeks. Takarafuji gave Endo a good fight (and the crowd was happy), but Endo had superior position rom the start, and never let Takarafuji do much more than react to his sumo.

Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei came to the dohyo in a mood to be strong and heavy today. When he uses his heavy sumo, there are few men in the world who can move him. A quick battle-hug to Asanoyama, and a drive forward for a win. The tachiai had a nice satisfying “whack!” to it as well.

Onosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Even Chiyotairyu’s somewhat legendary cannonball tachiai did not seem to impact Onosho much. Onosho stayed focused, and drove forward. With his opening blast expended against a prepared opponent, Chiyotairyu seemed to have little resistance to offer.

Aoiyama defeats Yoshikaze – Aoiyama looked on form today, and was able to focus his amazing strength against a fading Yoshikaze. Much as I love the old berserker, he is fading each passing tournament. Aoiyama kept the pressure coming, landing alternating thrusts against Yoshikaze’s upper body, keeping him high and off balance.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – We anticipated that this would be a brawl, and it began to look like a running battle until Shohozan lost his balance and went skidding to the clay. Good action from two rikishi who love to duke it out.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo today. Takakeisho in what I think is a new steel-gray mawashi gets the inside advantage at the tachiai, and Shodai never recovers. Shodai is high from the start, and Takakeisho sets up the wave-action attack with great effect. Shodai attempted to return in kind, but his footing was poor and it threw him off balance. Takakeisho advances, and wins.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Handshake tachiai? – Check! Nodowa to keep Tochinoshin from starting any moves against the mawashi? – Check! Tochinoshin was packed, boxed and shipped in a manner of seconds. The Ozeki could not switch to offense at any point and was left trying to react to Hokutofuji’s sumo.

Nishikigi defeats Goeido – I have watched this maybe a dozen times, and it simply does not get old. I have no idea where this version of Nishikigi came from, but this sumo is unquestionably simple, sound and potent. This is not Goeido making some kind of mistake while trying to be slippery, he delivers his expected “speed” tachiai, but Nishikigi absorbs it, and breaks the Ozkei’s grip. Goeido continues to have superior body position as they go chest to chest, but Nishikigi seems to be intent on stalemating Goeido, which he somehow manages to do. Locked up in the center of the dohyo, Nishikigi has a deep right hand grip, but is a bit too high. The match ends as Nishikigi overpowers, then throws, Goeido! What a match!

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – Two items of note – Takayasu is clearly ill, and Ichinojo’s sumo machine was switched to “attack” mode today, and it’s great to see him fight with vigor. Takayasu managed to back Ichinojo to the bales, but then the counterattack started, and there was no stopping that. Ichinojo was in great form, and I hope we can see more of that. [Ichinojo turned the tide with surprisingly nimble later movement. -lksumo]

Kakuryu defeats Tochiozan – When Big K is on his sumo, it’s amazing to watch. I tend to call his style “reactive”, and today is a perfect example. Tochiozan tries a hit-and-shift at the tachiai, but Kakuryu maintains contact with his right hand, and lets that right hand guide him to a now high and unweighted Tochiozan. The trap sprung, the Yokozuna powers into his response and drives Tochiozan back and out.

Hakuho defeats Myogiryu – Hakuho wanted to beat him twice, as Myogiryu hit the clay and bounced up, with Hakuho looking to continue the match. The boss seems to be hungry for sumo action after 4 months in dry-dock. Watch out.

Mitakeumi defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato was high, his sumo was sloppy, and he really could do very little against Mitakeumi who seemed poised and in control the entire match. Might be time to sharpen the scissors. Josh, my toilet paper stash is ready.

Kyushu Day 13 Highlights

Takakiesho

We had a solid day of sumo for Friday, a good number of ‘koshis were decided (make- and kachi-), and everyone works their sumo while fans wait for what Team Tachiai stalwart PinkMawashi calls the “Taka Bowl”. With the basho in a No-kozuna status since Act 1, the completion has been impressively equal. With no grand champions harvesting white stars from the upper Maegashira (like we saw at Aki), and the Ozeki corps only ⅔ genki, the field has been wide open. The result is not quite the sumo that some fans are used to, with a handful of ur-rikishi winning everything every day with overwhelming sumo.

The Juryo ranks finds Mr 5×5 – Kotoyuki, with double digits wins. At Juryo 3, we will likely seem him return to the top division yet again, where he always seems to struggle, and frequently crowd-surf. The other story is the strength of Yago and Kotokaze, two rikishi from Oguruma who are young, strong and on the ascent. With Yago on the ferry to Makuuchi for January, and Kotokaze on the path for later in 2019, we could see a lot of new power from the stable that gave us long-serving veterans Yoshikaze and Takekaze.

Highlight Matches

Daishomaru defeats Yutakayama – Don’t blink. Solid tachiai, then Daishomaru outright decks Yutakayama, sending him sprawling to the clay. Boom! Yutakayama gets a headache, and his make-koshi.

Chiyoshoma defeats Sadanoumi – Chiyoshoma hands Sadanoumi a make-koshi while avoiding one himself. Impressive lift and twist at the tawara! There was a brief mono-ii as the shimpan wanted to make sure Chiyoshoma’s toe did not touch out during the lift. Sadanoumi went from a solid opening week to a string of losses. Injury? Stamina?

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – Onosho succumbs to the Kyushu Bulldozer’s preferred attack, and rides the hug-n-chug express all the way to kuroboshi (black star) land. Kotoshogiku secures kachi-koshi in front of his adoring home town crowd, and everyone can celebrate that.

Takanosho defeats Ikioi – Takanosho maintains his enthusiasm and finds a way to stalemate Ikioi’s repeated attempts to throw him. To be fair, Ikioi is a big, sore mess right now. Takanosho uses Ikioi’s perpendicular throwing stance to advance and motor him out. Both are now 4-9.

Okinoumi defeats Shohozan – Okinoumi goes to double digits with a big win over Shohozan. It’s impressive that Okinoumi managed to get Shohozan contained, and then packaged for shipment for a clay facial. When Okinoumi is in good health and his body cooperates, he is a solid sumotori for mid-rank Maegashira. May his fine health continue.

Meisei defeats Abi – Abi-zumo seems to be past its sell-by date for now, as fellow shiko-peacock Meisei shrugs off the double-arm attack in the opening seconds. A quick left hand to the armpit and a strong lateral shove and down goes Abi.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s normally un-glamorous sumo seems to have taken on a lethargic sludge in week 2, and Endo finds his 8th win against the increasingly make-koshi Kagayaki. We know Kagayaki is strong, and is becoming quite the master of sumo mechanics, so we have to wonder if he’s nursing an undisclosed injury.

Nishikigi defeats Daiamami – Maegashira 3 vs Maegashira 15, you have to wonder what this match was for except to transfer a white star to Nishikigi. Granted, I am really impressed by what Nishikigi has been able to do in Kyushu, and he made fairly easy work of Daiamami, who ends the match with a make-koshi.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – The experience and efficiency of Tochiozan’s sumo was on display in this match. Asanoyama put a lot of vigor and energy into his sumo, but it’s striking to see how minimal Tochiozan’s body movements are. The bout ends with Tochiozan hurling Asanoyama from the dohyo in dramatic fashion. Tochiozan kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, interesting times indeed.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi expertly executes a mini-henka (a completely different animal from the henka), and Hokutofuji buys it. I still see a great potential for Hokutofuji, but in this basho he has gotten himself too far forward more than a few times. Part of it is that handshake tachiai, which – when it works – gives him a half-step advantage in the match. But it also broadcasts he’s coming forward with authority. If you can watch the match in slow-motion replay, note that Hokutofuji lowers his head and takes his eyes off of Tamawashi’s center mass. Tamawashi times his move to the left perfectly to coincide with this breaking of focus, and by the time Hokutofuji senses the opening gambit, he is unrecoverable. Tamawashi is also kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2. There’s going to be a scramble for the higher slots, I think.

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai has found an interesting solution to his tachiai mechanics. He has become increasily skillful at absorbing the initial charge and rapidly gaining control of the initial merge. Myogiryu was fast enough and strong enough to maintain the inside position, and kept Shodai reacting.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Notable in that it looks like Kaisei appears to have tweaked his left leg as he resisted Ryuden’s effort for a throw. Kaisei went down in an awkward way, and was visibly hurt following the match.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – Takakeisho remains in the lead, but Aoiyama made him work for it. Aoiyama can deliver a IJN Yamato class pounding when he can get set up, and certainly brought the big armament out today. But what really caught my eye was that Takakeisho was not quite able to set up his wave action attack. Aoiyama’s solid offense and long reach (compared to Takakeisho’s much shorter reach) seems to have kept the yusho race leader constrained. But impressively, Takakeisho adjusted and tossed the man-mountain to the clay anyhow.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – Excellent example of just how powerful Ichinojo is. Yoshikaze was tossed around like a pony, and had almost nothing to say about it.

Chiyotairyu defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi inches closer to the make-koshi line against some off-balance but effective sumo from Chiyotairyu. I don’t think Chiyotairyu had a firm stance for any moment of this bout, but he managed to maintain control of Mitakeumi and win. For Mitakeumi fans (which includes me), many Ozeki applicants fail their first attempt, and are forced to swallow demotion, re-group and re-ascend in stronger form. I look forward to the next evolutionary stage of Mitakeumi!

Tochinoshin defeats Takanoiwa – A much needed win for the Ozeki, who struggled a bit even though he was able to land a left hand grip on Takanoiwa. Takanoiwa’s athleticism and keen balance were on display today, as he managed to thwart Tochinoshin’s offense against several solid, strong moves to win. The match ended with Takanoiwa losing grip on the dohyo, and falling backward, with the kimarite listed as koshikudake (inadvertent collapse), and is considered a non-winning move.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Though the outcome was fairly certain, Daieisho put up a good fight, and the Ozeki put up an odd offense. Multiple attempts to pull Daieisho down left Takayasu off balance, but Daieisho was too reactive to capitalize on these moments. Will Takayasu uses this strategy in the Taka Bowl on day 14? I think that Takakeisho won’t pass up these openings. Bring on the doom-match of day 14!