Lower Division Yusho Aki 2022

We’ve still got one undecided lower-division yusho race. But since most of them are already in the books, I wanted to give you all an update.

Juryo

If you despair of the parity in Makuuchi, you may not want to see Juryo. Last night, Tochimusashi clinched the yusho when Hokuseiho lost to Kotokuzan — even though he lost his own bout to Atamifuji. Hokuseiho had been leading the yusho race into Week 2 until he lost three bouts in a row, falling to Kitanowaka, Kagayaki, and Tohakuryu. Tochimusashi’s win comes in his first tournament in the division, a feat Tomokaze accomplished back in Kyushu 2018.

 

Pardon me while I get a little teary-eyed, remembering Tomokaze’s charge up the banzuke, devastating knee-injury, and struggles to make it back to sekitori status. Sadly, he closed out Aki 2-5 from within the Makushita promotion zone. He’ll need to look to 2023.

With the news of Jokoryu’s retirement this week, we get another reminder of how grueling this climb is. Jokoryu began his career with a memorable, pace-setting string of white stars (27 w/ 3 division titles + one playoff loss). And then when Enho made his run, Jokoryu stopped him at 21 wins. Bringing us back full circle, today’s yusho hopeful, Hokuseiho, had his eyes on the streak to start his career but lost his first bouts after returning from Covid kyujo.

Makushita

In the biggest upset of the tournament, Asanoyama did not win the Makushita title. As Leonid covered, the Coyote got caught out by a wily Roadrunner who goes by the shikona, Yuma. Instead, Daiseiryu won, using much the same technique as Asanoyama. I think Yuma just had designs on taking Daiseiryu on head-on, trying for one pulldown — not as intimidated by the journeyman as he was by the former Ozeki. If he’d used his roadrunner tactic, he might have won the yusho.

I am also encouraged by Setonoumi’s strong performance. We’ve seen him come back from serious injury and win lower division yusho. Now, he’s gone 6-1 from his best rank ever at Makushita 56, opposite Asonoyama (not to be confused with Asanoyama, the former Ozeki). He’ll be thrown into the middle of the division in Kyushu so it will be exciting to continue to watch him.

Sandanme

Oshoumi blitzed poor Wakanosho at the snap, capping off his zensho-yusho in Sandanme. That string of wins included bouts against Hakuho recruit Ishii and former Jonokuchi title winner and Oshiogawa recruit, Kazekeno. Kototebakari’s hopes were dashed in an earlier loss to Shosei, who is competing in Makushita. Kototebakari will fight for a 6th win tonight. While he’s likely earned his promotion to Makushita, that 6th win will lock it in and probably a 20-rank difference when the Kyushu banzuke comes out.

Jonidan

The Jonidan title comes down to a senshuraku playoff between Takahashi and Chiyodaigo. I will post an update after that is decided. Takahashi won the Jonokuchi yusho race back in Nagoya, defeating Kazuto in the playoff. Chiyodaigo is a journeyman whose peak rank was in Makushita, so clearly no slouch but he’s had several non-Covid kyujo lately, along with the Kasugano-beya Covid kyujo. Given the way he knocked out Toshunryu, I’d say this kid wants it. Those were some haymakers. They say hatakikomi but that’s one of the most fierce hatakikomi I can remember.

Jonokuchi

In a surprise to absolutely no one, Miyagino-oyakata’s mammoth-thighed recruit, Otani, obliterated all comers in the lowest division to claim the yusho. His dame-oshi (shoves “after the bell,” so-to-speak) will hurt his chances at growing a significant fanbase. Aoiyama comes to mind as someone who fans dislike because of this, while Kaisei gets plaudits for helping his opponents avoid falls. ダメ, pronounced “DAH-MEH,” (not like the title as in, Dame Judi Dench), is a Japanese admonishment which basically translates as, “don’t!” and oshi is from “push,” as in the kimarite oshidashi. If you’ve already won the bout, you’re not supposed to shove your opponent off the dohyo.

Hopefully our regular Jonokuchi division coverage will make its return in Kyushu, but there’s a rather small recruiting class again which might make for another dud of a race. I may double-up by following the Jonidan (or Juryo?) race, as well. But we’ll see.

Nagoya 2022: Jonokuchi Match Day 7

Who said that winning anything would be easy in this tournament? Well, it sure looked like it for about two weeks in the bottom division. A win for Takahashi here would have clinched the Jonokuchi division yusho. Kazuto would not go quietly into that good night. After the tachiai, Kazuto buried the crown of his head into Takahashi’s chin. This disrupts Takahashi’s game plan, lifting his upper body.

Kazuto tried to get some forward momentum going but when Plan A failed, he moved to Plan B and tried a quick slap-down… but missed. Plan C? RUN! Kazuto backed away, cycling around the dohyo with Takahashi in hot pursuit. Seeing no options, Kazuto planted at the tawara and made a last ditch effort, collecting it all to launch forward into Takahashi. What do you know, it worked! He corralled Takahashi squarely and drove through the dohyo, sending Takahashi to his first loss. This win sealed a ticket for a rematch in a prime time yusho playoff on senshuraku.

The Jonidan yusho was claimed by Hitoshi. That’s his second yusho in Jonidan. He won last year but after several tournaments kyujo, re-entered Jonokuchi last tournament. He featured in the opening days of the yusho race in May before losing to Yamato and Kazekeno, both of whom eventually fought in that play-off, Kazekeno claiming the title.

Speaking of Kazekeno, he finished with a strong sixth win. His only loss was to Miyagino prospect Ishii. This is another strong group of competitors who will find themselves in Sandanme in September. Unfortunately, Yamato won’t be able to join them yet because he got caught up in Musashigawa’s covid kyujo earlier in the tournament, and will finish with a 2-2-3 make-koshi including a loss to veteran Tochihayate. It will be very interesting to see where he ends up on that banzuke.

Moving up to Sandanme, Asanoyama claimed the yusho there. But, as Leonid covered, the Makushita yusho was also a bit of a surprise with Yoshii’s close win over Kinbozan. Lastly, Ryuden claimed the Juryo title with his win over Myogiryu last night.

Nagoya 2022: Jonokuchi Match Day 6

A quick one today.

Undefeated Takahashi faced 5-1 Noguchi and completely outclassed the youngster. Takahashi is 6-0 and will face Kazuto tonight in tonight’s opening bout and what should be more of a challenge. If Takahashi wins, he will claim the yusho outright. If not, Kazuto will have a shot to snatch the title in a senshuraku playoff. Sadly, Jokoki gets robbed of his opportunity due to Musashigawa’s Covid kyujo. Covid may end up being the biggest risk here in Takahashi’s otherwise direct run to the yusho.

Up in Jonidan, Hitoshi defeated Aron with similar ease and likewise moves to 6-0. Rinko had a bit more of a challenge with Tanji but also won a one-sided bout. The excitement here is that this sets up a battle between Hitoshi and Rinko for the Jonidan title tonight. Both men will climb into Sandanme in September where they will face more stiffer competition.

Speaking of Sandanme, Asanoyama will face Daiseizan with an opportunity to take the yusho outright tonight if Shinohara falls to Hanafusa. If Shinohara wins, the winner of the Asanoyama/Daiseizan bout will fight Shinohara in a playoff on senshuraku. Lastly, as Leonid has mentioned, Yoshii will face Kinbozan for the Makushita title tonight. So lots at stake, that’s for sure!

Men, you know your assignment…DON’T GET COVID! DON’T LET YOUR STABLEMATES OR OYAKATA OR OKAMI OR GYOJI OR HAIRDRESSERS OR YOBIDASHI OR HOUSE CATS CATCH COVID!!

Nagoya 2022: Jonokuchi Match Day 5

And then there was one. Our first bout today is that of our final two undefeated wrestlers in Jonokuchi. After Takataisho’s defeat of Dairinzan and Takahashi’s win over Toshunryu, the two faced each other yesterday. Takahashi bullied Takataisho out for a very quick win. The yusho is now his to lose. If he does falter, we will have a playoff on senshuraku between any remaining 6-1 wrestlers.

Waiting in the wings would certainly be Toshunryu who seemed to want to take out his revenge on poor Kotofuno. The way he approached this tachiai, and hatakikomi attempt, it looked like he wanted to bury Kotofuno with the squid that’s buried in the middle of the ring. Yeesh. Fortunately for Kotofuno, Toshunryu’s attempt failed but he was sadly still no match for the tsuppari that followed.

So, what’s left? Well, we’ve still got a good deal of entertaining bouts. For the second and third videos, we’ve got Ikazuchido, fighting two nights consecutively. He’s got the athleticism and flexibility but not quite the form and technique, so his style’s a bit hectic at the moment and the bouts seem a bit disjointed but they’re certainly action-packed and entertaining.

First, he took on Toramusashi. The difference in styles here is apparent as Ikazuchido had little response to the forceful tsuppari of Toramusashi. Ikazuchido kept trying to power through and force a yotsu-style grapple, but he sure took a beating in this match. At one point, he got shoved half-way back across the dohyo. Toramusashi then rapidly moved in to finish him off with oshidashi.

Next, he faced Najima. Now this allowed for a very evenly-matched yotsu-battle as both men battled to get a solid grip on his opponent’s mawashi. In the end, Najima prevailed with an uwatedashinage, made more flashy by yet another Ikazuchido cartwheel. As he moved toward the edge, Najima nearly lost his balance but his foot plants along the straw bales. That may have given him the leverage to execute his throw. In both cases, their technique seems rather raw. A lot of shuffling around and I feel that both men missed a couple of chances to execute trips but both, along with guys like Gaia and Byakuen, make for fun bouts.

Lastly, we go up to Jonidan to watch Rinko take on Tatsuosho. Rinko and his brother Hayashiryu had high hopes in Jonokuchi but came up in a very challenging group. Up in Jonidan, Rinko’s form seems to be coming together nicely, as we see in this bout. We all love that forward-moving sumo, amirite?