Mock Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Our contestants shook off some of their ring rust, and brought a solid set of matches to day 2. Today featured a tadpole battle (Takakeisho vs Onosho) and a freshman battle (Yutakayama vs Asanoyama). Both of these rivalries are ones that I think are going to be driving factors for the next stage of sumo, and it was great to seem them on full display today. On to the matches!

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki (2-0) defeats Nishikigi (1-1) Oshitaoshi – Not sure what kind of chanko they are feeding Kotoyuki, but today was another great example of the “Genki” form of the Penguin. He blasted forward at the tachiai, using his taped hands to plant a painful looking nodowa on Nishikigi, who tried to counter and break Kotoyuki’s grip. While Nishikigi was distracted, Kotoyuki’s left hand found the back of Nishikigi’s mawashi, and a solid tug dropped Nishikigi to the clay. Wow.

Kotoeko (1-1) defeats Terunofuji (0-2) Hatakikomi – It’s disappointing to see Terunofuji struggle. Everyone wants him to do well, have a solid recovery and at least inhabit the lower reaches of the top division for a while. But today’s match was a great example of how his damaged knees have robbed him of some of the technique needed to be effective in Makuuchi. His weight was too far forward at the tachiai, and it was trivial for Kotoeko to just help him fall forward. The most painful thing? The look on Terunofuji’s face as the bowed at the end of the match. I think he’s worried too.

Kotoshogiku (2-0) defeats Chiyomaru (1-1) Yorikiri – Kotoshogiku steps onto the dohyo with so much tape each day – knees, shoulder, lower back, you have to wonder if that’s the only think holding him together. But for the second day in a row he showed he still has Ozeki skill. Chiyomaru opened strong, and got the inside position to begin his preferred thrusting attack. But Kotoshogiku kept up forward pressure and reduced the gap between them to limit how much Chiyomaru could push. Unable to reach around Chiyomaru’s enormous belly to land enough grip to use his gaburi-yori attack, Kotoshogiku focused on a hazu/armpit attack, and got Chiyomaru off balance. Chiyomaru took a small hop to try and re-center himself, and Kotoshogiku charged belly first and took him out.

Wakatakakage (1-1) defeats Kotoshoho (0-2) Oshidashi – Wakatakakage rallied to get his first win of the tournament. He came off the shikiri-sen like a wild man, throwing his body and hands into Kotoshoho’s chest and face, constantly pushing forward and up. Wakatakakage dropped his hips and charged forward while maintaining pressure, dumping Kotoshoho out of the ring in a heap. Solid, textbook sumo today from Wakatakakage.

Takayasu (2-0) defeats Sadanoumi (1-1) Oshidashi – Second time in 2 days we see Takayasu come out strong. I dare say that if he’s even somewhat healthy, this far down the banzuke, he is going to unleash complete hell. Again he led with a shoulder blast, today into Sadanoumi’s lightning tachiai. Sadanoumi tried to keep his elbow tight to his body, but the shoulder blast opened a route for Takayasu’s left hand to come inside and push, standing Sadanoumi up. Switched to defensive, Sadanoumi found it tough to counter volley after volley as the former Ozeki completely dominated this match.

Shohozan (1-1) defeats Kotonowaka (0-2) Yorikiri – Shohozan fans can rest easy, “Big Guns” is back. We saw a soft tachiai go directly into a face slap that rang out in the empty Kokugikan. This seemed to daze Kotonowaka, and once emboldened, Shohozan gave him two more. Rather than respond in kind, Kotonowaka dove for Shohozan’s mawashi, getting a right hand inside grip. But Shohozan was not unprepared, and lowered his hips, landed a grip and drove Kotonowaka out.

Shimanoumi (2-0) defeats Kaisei (1-1) Okuridashi – Kaisei came out strong at the tachiai, and met only token resistance from Shimanoumi who executed a very Hamumafuji style hit and shift mini-henka. With that much Kaisei in forward motion, it takes several city blocks for him to slow and stop, and it was trivial for Shimanoumi to circle behind and push the big man out to start the tournament 2-0.

Myogiryu (1-1) defeats Tochinoshin (0-2) Yorikiri – Nice shoulder blast from Tochinoshin at the tachiai shut down Myogiryu’s attempt at a left hand mawashi grip. Instead Tochinoshin’s left hand went deep and found Myogiryu’s blue silk. I was waiting for the sky-crane to kick in, but it seems Tochinoshin’s knees just could not get ready. After a moment’s pause where Myogiryu seemed to be waiting for the lift, Myogiryu unleashed a brilliant makikae, changing his grip and advancing. Tochinoshin could not return the forward pressure, and found himself forced out.

Ishiura (2-0) defeats Tamawashi (1-1) Sukuinage – In the “what’s in this guy’s chanko?” department comes that ass-kicking throw Ishiura produced today to send Tamawashi to the clay. The match shifted from run-and-gun to Ishiura having a grip, loading the throw and pivoting in a blink of an eye.

Chiyotairyu (1-1) defeats Ikioi (0-2) Hikiotoshi – Sumo’s thunder god found an opponent that would not side step him in Ikioi. But Ikioi had a bandage on that right elbow that Tamawashi’s kotenage took a piece of day 1. Ikioi drove that damaged right arm inside, and endured Chiyotairyu clamping his arm to his chest, squeezing that injured joint. Ikioi seemed oblivious to the pain, and drove forward, but too strongly as Chiyotairyu opened a gap, and using a hand behind Ikioi’s neck, pushed him to the clay.

Terutsuyoshi (1-1) defeats Enho (0-2) Yorikiri – In this all pixie battle, they had a bit of trouble getting started, with a stare down and reset before we saw Enho try to go underneath diminutive Terutsuyoshi. He did manage to get inside, but could not find a grip with his right hand as Terutsuyoshi’s ottsuke shut him down. Enho tried no less than three times to load a throw, but Terutsuyoshi kept his feet and stayed in the match. The final pivot from Enho left him off balance, and Terutsuyoshi squared his shoulders and advanced for a win. Nice sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Tokushoryu (2-0) defeats Ryuden (1-1) Yoritaoshi – Tokushoryu made ample use of that huge belly of his to keep Ryuden struggling for grip. Twice Tokushoryu moved to advance, and twice Ryuden was able to shut him down by lowering his hips and returning pressure. But the third time apply some Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug attack, but Ryuden’s heels locked in against the tawara and held firm. Reaching around his belly, Tokushoryu lifted Ryuden and fell on forward, crushing him against the bales. Nice 2-0 start for the Hatsu yusho winner.

Kagayaki (2-0) defeats Abi (1-1) Oshidashi – Abi-zumo started strong and help a punishing rain of thrusts going into Kagayaki, who seemed to absorb it all. Most importantly he maintained his balance and his footing. This guy keeps reminding me of Kisenosato, I swear. Abi seemed to get frustrated, and put a bit too much power into his right hand, which Kagayaki used to brush aside the double arm thrust and grab Abi by the chest and lift him. With most of his weight no longer on his feet, Abi offered little resistance to Kagayaki’s finishing move.

Hokutofuji (1-1) defeats Aoiyama (0-2) Tsukiotoshi – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai found its mark, but Aoiyama had the V-Twin throttled up from the start, and one meaty blow to the face sent Hokutofuji reeling back. Again we saw Hokutofuji’s upper body take punishment, but his lower body seems to have its own command and control system. Forward went the hips and up went the right hand, gripping Aoiyama. Another blow from Aoiyama’s left unbalanced Hokutofuji, but did not break his grip, and his lower body was on the march. A follow up left left Big Dan off balance, and Hokutofuji swung him to the clay. Aoiyama starts the tournament with a disappointing 0-2 record.

Kiribayama (1-1) defeats Okinoumi (0-2) Yorikiri – Kiribayama went chest to chest with veteran yotsu-zumo practitioner Okinoumi and came up with a white star. While some may say, well it was just Okinoumi – it’s an important milestone for the young up and coming Mongolian rikishi. He got his preferred right hand outside grip at the tachiai, and controlled the flow of the match from the start. Okinoumi did manage to pivot and load a throw, but Kiribayama rapidly shut it down and prevailed for his first win of the basho.

Takarafuji (1-1) defeats Shodai (1-1) Yorikiri – Textbook Takarafuji defend and extend sumo today against a rikishi who can pull together random movements to constitute surprising sumo, or what I call “Shodai’s Cartoon Sumo”. Shodai got left hand inside but Takarafuji kept Shodai’s right hand tied up. Shodai was so focused on freeing his right hand, he seemed to not notice that Takarafuji was slowly dancing him to the bales. Then it seems Shodai’s heel touched straw, and he realized what had happen. As Shodai shifted to focus on forward pressure, Takarafuji rallied and pushed him out. Lesson here Takarafuji will try to give you a puzzle to solve while he is robbing you of a win. Stay focused.

Takanosho (2-0) defeats Mitakeumi (1-1) Okuridashi – Takanosho takes another high profile match to start the basho 2-0. At the tachiai, Mitakeumi got superior position and what seemed to be a working grip, but Takanosho was able to shift / slide to his left, and Mitakeumi found himself misaligned with his opponent. Rather than moving forward, Mitakeumi put all of his force and focus on trying to square himself with Takanosho, who turned Mitakeumi and pushed him out with less dignity than a bouncer might apply to an irate, drunken salaryman.

Takakeisho (1-1) defeats Onosho (0-2) Tsukidashi – As much as I hate to see my two favorite tadpoles fight it out, this match is all about why I was hoping that Onosho could bounce back and become a mainstay of the joi-jin. Onosho got the inside position at the tachiai, but focused on Takakeisho’s face, which I think he long ago has written off. The answer? Yes, the long awaited return of the wave-action tsuppari attack. Much as I love the wave-action, I would rather it not be used on Onosho. But use it he did, and it was only 3 blasts before Onosho’s arms and legs were moving in different directions and he left the ring in a chaotic jumble.

Asanoyama (1-1) defeats Yutakayama (1-1) Yorikiri – Sure, next have my two favorite Freshmen fight. Asanoyama was taking no chances at starting the basho 2-0, and he evaded Yutakayama’s opening gambit and went straight for the belt. You know what I saw? Remarkable improvement on the part of Yutakayama on his belt sumo. He dug in and gave Asanoyama a real fight for about 30 seconds, before Asanoyama’s ozeki grade sumo kicked in and pushed Yutakayama over the bales. Glad Asanoyama got his first win, but I am absolutely giddy to see Yutakayama reach into the yotsu-zumo bag and pull out some candy.

Hakuho (2-0) defeats Endo (0-2) Uwatenage – Hopefully Endo has fond memories of that Hatsu 2020 win fixed firmly in his mind, because the boss is going to work hard to own him utterly every time they meet from here on out. Hakuho’s face slap hit home, but Endo got that shallow left hand grip he loves. Pivoting, Hakuho unleashed that right elbow to Endo’s face, breaking his grip. With Endo now fully exposed, in went Hakuho’s right hand, but only for an instant as he rolled his shoulders and put Endo in the air. Brutal and humiliating. I am curious to see what Endo does in their next match.

Kakuryu (2-0) defeats Daieisho (1-1) Yorikiri – Daieisho came out strong from the tachiai, and Kakuryu let him think he was doing well, draining his energy. But the master of reactive sumo gave him no opportunity to take control of the match. Daieisho would thrust and move ahead, Kakuryu would deflect and shift, waiting Daieisho out. The Yokozuna found the smallest loss of balance in his opponent, and drove in for the kill, with both men falling over the tawara locked together. The gyoji gave the match to Kakuryu, but the Shimpan wanted to review it, and confirmed the win.

Osaka Day 4 Highlights

The basho turned ugly today. And with the empty hall echoing the pained crys of a former champion, the brutal nature of sumo was on full display – video and audio. If you are a highly empathetic person, you may want to be careful watching today’s video on YouTube. I have no idea if NHK World will edit that down, or not. I am forced to remind myself that sumo is a Japanese sport made by Japanese people for Japanese people living in Japan. So my western perspective is not the mainstream. But I have to wonder if this kind of spectacle is ok in Japanese culture. I am aware from the time I lived in Japan that what constitutes cruel or gratuitous is profoundly different between Japan and the Anglosphere. But I have a hunch that today’s final match may have crossed a line.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Meisei – Meisei had the better position at the tachiai, but looks to have rushed ahead at Azumaryu after the two broke contact. This set him up for an easy hatakikomi, and an Azumaryu win. Meisei really struggling now at 1-3 to start Haru.

Kotonowaka defeats Tsurugisho – Nice versatility from Kotonowaka today, but we should keep in mind that Tsurugisho’s left side is mostly held together with tape and courage. After a good tachiai, Tsurugisho let Kotonowaka change his grip, and really take over the match.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru was totally dedicated to pulling Shimanoumi down, to the point of throwing this match out the window. Shimanoumi’s no slouch, and this kind of sumo, coming from Chiyomaru, is easy to predict. Chiyomaru picks up his first loss.

Kaisei defeats Daiamami – Kaisei picks up his first win, and breaks out of the quarantine club. Most times in sumo, being enormous is not a valid sumo strategy. But Kaisei makes amble use of his enormity today to leave Daiamami no option beside a hasty retreat.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Not sure what happened to Aoiyama, but he will get a couple of basho per year where he looks like an unstoppable sumo machine. He completely dominated Nishikigi today, and my sole worry was that both of them had set up arm-breaker holds on the other. Nishikigi remains winless as Aoiyama has yet to lose a match.

Ishiura defeats Chiyotairyu – I have to say, there are days (like today) where Ishiura’s slightly bulkier frame and higher strength allows him to do small man sumo better than Enho. We are only 4 days into this basho, but I am really impressed with Ishiura’s sumo right now. He threw blisteringly fast combo attacks at Chiyotairyu, who had no chance to even respond. Sadly it looks like Chiyotairyu may have been injured in the match. The giant wheelchair makes its first appearance.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ah, poor Kotoshogiku cannot generate much forward pressure at all any more against those knees. Terutsuyoshi kept Kotoshogiku from really pushing forward in any meaningful way, although Kotoshogiku’s defensive foot placement was excellent. Terutsuyoshi’s make-kai was the key to this win, and it left the former Ozeki struggling to respond.

Ikioi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan remains in the winless self-isolation group, and I can only assume that some injury has completely robbed him of his sumo. Today’s effort was an attempt to pull Ikioi, who was quite prepare for it. Ikioi starts March with a solid 3-1 score.

Takanosho defeats Tochinoshin – Also solidly in the “injured veteran” cohort is dear former Ozeki Tochinoshin, who is visibly struggling with that right knee. Takanosho improves to 4-0 with solid, straight ahead sumo.

Kiribayama defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi had the early advantage, but Kiribayama hit a very well timed shitatenage at the bales to rescue the win. Sadly, Sadanoumi, who is fighting well, drops to 1-3 now, and really needs to peel off a few more wins in the first week.

Takarafuji defeats Tamawashi – Once again Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo pays off. Tamawashi had a solid armpit attack running, but rather than try to fight to break Tamawashi’s grip, Takarafuji decided to work with it, and put all of his focus on keeping Tamawashi turning to his right, and moving forward in reaction to Takarafuji’s retreat. It was a struggle, but Takarafuji got his opening when Tamawashi missed a step, and down to the clay he went. This match is a great example of the form, worth study.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Shohozan went for a deep right hand mawashi grip at the tachiai, but missed. He was able to convert it to an inside position, and began to put the pressure on Kagayaki. But look at Kagayaki’s foot placement. His feet are wide and at a 45° angle, his hips are low and he’s ready to repulse the attack. Kagayaki engages forward engines and just pushes ahead for a win. Mr Fundamentals strikes again.

Onosho defeats Ryuden – I know Ryuden was working to stay mobile, and to encourage Onosho to over-extend, and fall on his face. But Ryuden let himself get bracketed by Onosho’s oshi attack, and provided an effective balance point / counter weight for Onosho’s forward rush. Onosho improves to 3-1.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu just cant seem to make it out of the quarantine group, as he succumbs to an enormous load of Abi-zumo applied to his face. Remember to wash your hands, gents, at least 20 seconds, after any match with Abi.

Mitakeumi defeats Yutakayama – This match just showcased how well Mitakeumi is fighting week 1 this March. I point out week 1 because sometimes the “Original Tadpole” fades into week 2, so lets savor his excellent, heavy sumo while it lasts. Freeze frame on that tachiai if you can. Both rikishi are in excellent form. But Mitakeumi was just a half step ahead, and Yutatakayma ended up with poor foot placement. Unable to generate enough forward pressure against Mitakeumi, he was forced out.

Endo defeats Tokushoryu – We still love Tokushoryu, but he is completely outclassed at this rank. We did see another of his rescue moves at the tawara, but like the prior 3 days, it was fruitless.

Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – As much as I like Asanoyama, he operates in a fairly narrow range of sumo outcomes. The reason why we are talking about his as an ozeki is he is very good at that narrow range, and he is an expert at guiding a match into that narrow range where he excels. Today’s match against Hokutofuji is a first class example. Hokutofuji will look to pin his opponent with a nodowa and call the cadence for the match. His right hand failed to find its mark, and suddenly its in Asanoyama’s power range. To his credit Hokutofuji realizes this within the first 3 seconds, but his go-to move, a pull on the back of the neck, only gives further advantage to Asanoyama. Now off balance and far too high, Hokutofuji is an easy mark for Asanoyama’s sukuinage.

Shodai defeats Enho – Shodai has an excellent recipe for shutting down Enho’s sumo, and turning him into a light weight practice target. That slow, high tachiai that Shodai seems to execute instinctively is actually an excellent first line of defense against Enho, as it leaves Shodai with an easy reach to grab a deep grip on Enho’s mawashi. From there its Shodai who drops his hips, widens his stance and shuts down any chance Enho might have had to convert to a throw.

Daieisho defeats Takakeisho – Daieisho escapes the quarantine group by capitalizing on Takakeisho’s blunder of trying to pull Daieisho down moments into the fight. This move by Takakeisho was so monumentally bad, that its worth watching in slow motion on replay. With any luck we won’t see that one again this basho.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi is a high-skill yotsu-zumo practicioner. Hakuho took his time and worked his way to get that left hand outside grip. Once he had a handful of black silk, it was a fast route to a win. The Boss remains at 4-0, and looked more solid today than the prior two.

Kakuryu defeats Takayasu – It was clear that Takayasu was in trouble early in this match. He put himself in a bad position with Kakuryu controlling Takayasu’s body quite effectively. But the former Ozeki’s mass and strength left the match stalemated for a time. As sometimes happen when two high-strength rikishi grapple, they loaded simultaneous throws. When this happens, it is a battle over power and body control to see who throws whom. Today, sadly, it was resolved not when Takayasu’s mighty strength overwhelmed the Yokozuna, or when Kakuryu’s superior body mechanics overcame Takayasu’s power, but when Takayasu’s knee bent outward, and the 175kg Tagonoura lead rikishi hit the clay, moaning in pain.

Kyushu Day 14 Highlights

Some fantastic sumo today, especially the Terutsuyoshi vs Enho match, and the mad-cap chaos war between Tamawashi and Endo. But the headline is the much expected 43rd yusho for the winningest rikishi in recorded history, the dai-Yokozuna for the ages, Hakuho. I don’t think he’s even close to 100%, but even banged up with a gamey right arm, he’s quite capable of another yusho.

Much as expected, we have a host of rikishi headed for Darwin matches on day 15. This is where two 7-7 men face off, the winner gets the kachi-koshi. In fact we have 7 rikishi in that situation, which is much higher than I have seen in quite some time.

On to the matches!

Day 14 Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishoho – Chiyoshoma comes to visit the top division…. annd… HENKA! Anyone who was surprised by this should go re-watch a few dozen Chiyoshoma matches.

Takanosho defeats Shimanoumi – Poor tachiai timing, should have been a matta, perhaps. But hey, the gyoji called “hakkeyoi”, so they fight. Takanosho (who was early in the tachiai) claimed the inside lane and never gave up the advantage.

Daishomaru defeats Kotoshogiku – Poor tachiai timing, should have been a matta, perhaps. But hey, the gyoji called “hakkeyoi”, so they fight. Daishomaru was early in the tachiai and was able to get the inside grip with Kotoshogiku at his chest. With that sort of advantage, there is little Kotoshogiku could do. Perhaps Team Gyoji was out kind of late at the pub last night?

Kagayaki defeats Yutakayama – A clean tachiai, thankfully, and Yutakayama goes to work on Kagayaki’s face. But Mr. Fundamentals is intent on attacking Yutakayama center-mass. Yutakayama goes for a nodowa, Kagayaki stays center mass. Yutakayama finds he can’t maintain forward pressure, and Kagayaki shoves him out. Once again, solid sumo fundamentals carries the match for Kagayaki.

Ishiura defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi gets the better of the tachiai, grabbing Ishiura by the arm-pits and lifting. Ishiura gives ground and grapples with great effect, and now has at least partial control over Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi advances, but Ishiura masterfully re-directs his forward motion to the side, and swings him to the clay. Ishiura is kachi-koshi, and Sadanoumi heads to a Darwin match on day 15.

Nishikigi defeats Tsurugisho – I have to wonder what happened to Tsurugisho. This is his 6th consecutive loss, and to hapless Nishikigi no less! Tsurugisho’s balance seems to be shot, so I have to wonder if it’s some injury.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko gets the better of the tachiai, but he makes the mistake of giving Chiyotairyu strong pressure to push against. Chiyotairyu advances with gusto and throws in a few thrusts to break Kotoeko’s balance. That’s kachi-koshi for Chiyotairyu.

Enho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Enho picks up win number 7 to advance to the Darwin round after submarining the diminutive Terutsuyoshi. Getting a deep left and shallow right hand grip, Enho gives Terutsuyoshi a ride on the tilt-o-whirl, showing how effective he is, even nearly doubled over.

Chiyomaru defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji does his best to stalemate Chiyomaru, but there is just too much of Chiyomaru to really contain. When Takarafuji lunges to go chest to chest with Chiyomaru, Chiyomaru turns to the side and guides him to the clay for his 9th win. Nice return to the top division you have going there, Chiyomaru!

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai drops out of the group 2 behind Hakuho with the loss, but at least we can enjoy that Myogiryu gets sent to a Darwin match for day 15! Shodai was effective at keeping Myogiryu from setting up any kind of planned offense, but Myogiryu was happy to improvise for the win.

Meisei defeats Shohozan – Meisei bravely invites Shohozan to a slap fest, and gives as well as he receives. But he soon realizes that a right hand grip would be better, and tries to swing Shohozan into a throw, which he disrupts. At this point the match gets wild and disorganized, as both rikishi throw whatever they can into the mix. Meisei emerges victorious as Shohozan can’t maintain balance against Meisei’s pull. Meisei advances to a Darwin match on day 15.

Daieisho defeats Onosho – Even clash until Onosho decided to try to pull, and gave up forward pressure on Daieisho. Daieisho reaches his kachi-koshi, and Onosho heads for a day 15 Darwin match.

Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Kotoyuki gets the better of the tachiai, he gets inside Okinoumi’s reach and goes to work with his “Flipper Attack”. Okinoumi has the strength to push back, and advances into Kotoyuki’s attack. The two exchange volleys until Kotoyuki closes in and delivers a might shove to Okinoumi’s neck. Okinoumi is make-koshi, and “The Penguin” heads for his Darwin match on day 15.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama secures the jun-yusho, and is clearly working toward an Ozeki bid in January. Ryuden absorbed Asanoyama’s opening gambit, converting it into a solid attempt at a throw, but Asanoyama kept his footing in spite of his poor stance. Asanoyama rallied, and used Ryuden’s left hand grip to swing him around and out for win number 11. With 11 wins, he may force a Sekiwake slot to open for January, if necessary…

Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Hokutofuji is less helter-skelter today, and focuses his energy on Aoiyama’s expansive whishbone region. Although he could not pick up kachi-koshi in his second trip to Komusubi, his sumo was greatly improved over his March visit to san’yaku.

Endo defeats Tamawashi – What a great match. These two threw it all at each other, and when that did not carry the day, they found new energy and kept going. I lost count how many times the match style changed: Yotsu, Throws, Oshi, and around again. At the end it looks like Tamawashi lost balance at a poor moment and Endo applied the yoritaoshi (one of my favorites) for the win. BOTH men advance to Darwin matches on day 15.

Abi defeats Takakeisho – Abi’s superior reach allowed him to land his hands first, and Takakeisho pushed forward to close the gap. Abi adroitly moved to the side and Takakeisho found nothing but clay to meet him. I would call this a damn clever delayed henka, and it worked brilliantly. Did you know this is Abi’s 3rd straight kachi-koshi as Komusubi 1 East?

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – And just like that, we have Hakuho yusho 43. Congrats to the boss. Mitakeumi looks completely disrupted at this point, and hits his 8th loss for a make-koshi. The question now is: will he vacate san’yaku entirely?

Kyushu Day 11 Highlights

After a rough and difficult start, this basho seems to have its act together. The sumo is solid and strong across the matches, and the rikishi are putting impressive effort into their matches. At the start of act 3, its time to start sorting the competitors into bins labeled kachi and make koshi, and some favorites are surprisingly close to a losing record for November. The yusho race will come down to Takakeisho’s attempt to defeat Hakuho, opening the door for a playoff if Asanoyama can continue to rack up the wins.

Highlight Matches

Ikioi defeats Terutsuyoshi – In a beautiful sumo moment, Ikioi visits the top division for a single match. As a result he secures his kachi-koshi, and quite possibly ensures he will once again be a Makuuchi rikishi for the new year. In March Ikioi was a physical wreck, nursing multiple injuries, and could only score 2 wins in the entire basho. Since then he has been relegated to Juryo, where he continued to struggle until Aki, when he turned in a 12-3 record and took the Juryo yusho. It’s been a hard road for this guy, and frankly I find it inspiriting. Terutsuyoshi gave him a full measure, and really made him work for the win.

Daishomaru defeats Shimanoumi – This was an even brawl until Shimanoumi gambled on a pull down attack and released forward pressure against Daishomaru. Daishomaru, one loss away from make-koshi, was not going to let that kind of opening pass him by. He rushes forward into the pull and blasts Shimanoumi out of the ring. Both men are now 4-7.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyomaru – I am fairly impressed with Yutakayama’s sumo today. Chiyomaru can deliver a lot of force to his front quarter, and today Chiyomaru was up to his normal slappy-face standard. Yutakayama dove into the punishment like a champ and just kept giving Chiyomaru about 20% more than he received. Yutakayama improves to 7-4 and is very much in the hunt for his kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Rather than his normal grapple, hug and chug approach, Kotoshogiku pivoted into a throw at the tachiai, and appeared to catch Chiyotairyu off balance. Only Kotoshogiku’s 3rd win, but I am happy to see it.

Shodai defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi yielded morozashi within the first few seconds, but even with a double-inside grip, Shodai found himself retreating. Carrying him like a full can of rubbish to the curb, Sadanoumi was in the midst of winning when a wonderfully executed “rescue” move by Shodai at the bales (utchari) turned the tables and sent Sadanoumi out first. How did Shodai get morozashi and not dominate Sadanoumi? Look at Shodai’s lower body.

Takanosho defeats Shohozan – Shohozan had a strong start, but took the chance of pulling Takanosho via his outstretched right arm. Shohozan did not have the foot placement to do it safely, propelling himself backward. Takanosho read this expertly and helped Shohozan complete the process.

Ishiura defeats Kotoeko – Another excellent match by Ishiura today. That tachiai was low and hard, and sent Kotoeko reeling. Kotoeko manages to break contact, but as he drove back to re-engaged, Ishiura improved his grip and rolled into a shitatenage. I am starting to have hope for Ishiura…

Kagayaki defeats Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho almost had this won at the tachiai, as Kagayaki came up too low, and too far forward. But Tsurugisho decided to try and finish Kagayaki with a pull. As its their first ever match, he may not have had a feel for just how stable Kagayaki is, and that was all the opening that “Mr Fundamentals” needed to rally and drive Tsurugisho out.

Enho defeats Daishoho – Enho did in fact use an alternate attack plan, and it worked. Should it have been a matta? Eh, maybe? But if the Gyoji says the fight is on, it’s on. Daishoho wisely lined up well back of the shikiri-sen, but Enho rockets off the line and blasts into Daishoho’s body. From there it was attack-circle-attack for Enho. Brutally effective and tough to counter for any big man. Your feet are never set for offense or defense, and whatever you want to do in terms of trying to win is disrupted as you try to make sure you keep Enho in front of you.

Kotoyuki defeats Nishikigi – This is a prime example of Kotoyuki’s “brand of sumo”, and it’s quite effective. Nishikigi wants to close the distance and take Kotoyuki to his chest, but Kotoyuki’s thrusting attacks are too well orchestrated to present an opening. Sadly Nishikigi is make-koshi, and may be a candidate for that Juryo barge.

Tamawashi defeats Onosho – Onosho got the better of the tachiai, but Tamawashi managed to get the inside path, with a brilliant running thrust combo to Onosho’s chest. Once a skilled rikishi like Tamawashi can set this up, you are going out or you are going down.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Crashing together like two seals fighting for a strip of dock space, Meisei gave out first as Daieisho ejected him on the south side of the dohyo. Meisei attempted to set for a throw, but when his hand missed its hold on Daieisho’s mawashi, the pivot was already in motion. Daieisho finished him with a strong push for the win.

Okinoumi defeats Abi – Woa! Okinoumi demonstrates yet another way to upend Abi-zumo. Abi misses the tachiai by a split second, rocking back on his heels as Okinoumi launches. Okinoumi gets his hands up first, and grab’s Abi’s enormous head, and gives it a firm twist. His balance now completely disrupted Abi tumbles to the clay in the blink of an eye.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – Another straight ahead yotsu-zumo win for Asanoyama, and he stays one behind Hakuho. Takarafuji had no chance to set up any kind of stalemate and wait gambit, as Asanoyama took charge of the match at the tachiai and marched Takarafuji out. Asanoyama now 9-2.

Myogiryu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was all over the place today, even more than his normal form. Watch this match and notice Myogiryu’s efficiency. While Hokutofuji is wildly flailing away, Myogiryu is focused, calm and careful with his moves. Hokutofuji falls to 4-7, and is in real danger of a make-koshi for the final basho of the year.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Exhibit 9 for Mitakeumi is not quite right. He was unable to put Endo into a defensive mode at the tachiai, and let the man in gold set up a mawashi grip, then gave him room to shift and improve that grip. Its good to see Endo on top of his high-skill sumo. I am starting to wonder how far he can take it.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – The Grand Tadpole hits his 8th win, and confirms his Ozeki rank in spite of the injuries he brought into the basho. I have huge respect for this young man for sticking it out and fighting to win every single day. Aoiyama controlled the early moments of this fight, but Takakeisho held his ground until he found his opening, and counter-attacked with power and focus.

Hakuho defeats Ryuden – Ryuden did in fact give Hakuho a solid match, fighting well and keeping the Yokozuna working until the last moment. Hakuho advances to 10 wins, or as he calls it a “Yokozuna kachi-koshi”. At this point, short of an injury, it will come down to Takakeisho to see if anyone has a chance of beating “The Boss”.