On Day 1, I wrote this about the Jonokuchi Yusho race.
The eventual highlight bout between Kyokutaisei and Takerufuji will likely be all she wrote for this yusho race, hence the scope creep for my posts this tournament.Andy
The past 10 days were just the warm-ups for today’s bout between Kyokutaisei and Takerufuji. To recap, Kyokutaisei is a former Makuuchi wrestler who has fallen into the bottom division due to a knee injury. Takerufuji is a new recruit to the storied Isegahama stable, with solid high school and University experience. However, since he did not secure those all important tournament wins and a privileged sandanme or makushita debut, his professional sumo career has to go through maezumo and start here in Jonokuchi.
Both men tore through their early competition in distinctly different manner. Takerufuji has seemed to have something to prove with an aggressive, take-no-prisoners style. Kyokutaisei, on the other hand, has known that his skill out classes those of his Jonokuchi and Jonidan competitors and has been a bit gentler with his opponents to date. He’s been getting the job done but without the need to destroy.
Today was no different. Takerufuji charged out of the blocks like a defensive tackle and blasted Kyokutaisei backwards. As Kyokutaisei recovered, Takerufuji brought his arms down hard about the Oshima-beya veteran’s shoulders, trying for a quick hatakikomi. Kyokutaisei resisted but as Takerufuji charged forward again, Kyokutaisei’s left knee seemed unable to withstand the force and he stepped back over the tawara, oshidashi.
Takerufuji’s now in the driver’s seat for the lowest division yusho. One more win, and it’s his. He might face a 5-1 opponent or another 6-0 opponent from the lower reaches of Jonidan. If Kyokutaisei wins his next bout and Takerufuji were to get upset, there could be a rematch in a playoff but that Takerufuji loss is unlikely. I would think a Kyokutaisei kyujo would be more likely (though still unlikely) since he may have tweaked that knee and his promotion to Jonidan is already assured.
Now, Takerufuji is plainly not the average Jonokuchi wrestler. He could probably be dropped in upper Sandanme or lower Makushita and compete for a kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei’s knee will hold up against Jonokuchi and Jonidan competition with no problems and he’ll rise back into Sandanme in time for Osaka. It would be nice, but probably a bit optimistic, to see both men up in the Makushita promotion zone in late 2023 or early 2024. There’s a slew of talent there so I think we’ll see a lot of great action in the basho to come.