Nagoya Day 11 Highlights

The big news for day 11 is that two more stables have detected cases of COVID, and are now kyujo. This includes Sadogatake, home to all of the “Koto” rikishi. Joining Sadogatake is Tamanoi heya, where Azumaryu trains. At this point about 1/5th of all rikishi in sumo are out due to COVID policies. This includes some rikishi that were in the middle of important, career elevating tournaments (Kotonowaka) that won’t get that momentum or experience back. As mentioned on prior days, given how virulent Omicron BA4/5 is, quite a few people in the sumo kyokai are likely infected now, and one has to wonder if they are even going to finish this tournament if they keep benching all of the talent.

List of fusensho (and opponents) today

  • Yutakayama – (Kotoshoho)
  • Oho – (Kotoeko)
  • Daieisho – (Kotonowaka)

The elimination of so many competitors from the top division has a dramatic impact on the television format, as the current producers for both NHK and Abema are struggling to fill the time that would normally be taken by the matches themselves. Lets hope we don’t get an Isegahama or Kokenoe covid-kyujo, or they will need to start showing Shin-Chan cartoons between bouts.

In action on the dohyo, the leader group is now down to two, with just 4 chasers. We will likely have a yusho race after all. Two more rikishi hit their 8th win today, and are kachi-koshi: Takakeisho and Nishikifuji, with another 4 on deck for a try tomorrow. The funnel crop is a bountiful as ever, and this could be one of the largest group of 7-7 rikishi I have seen in my lifetime on this earth, unless they all go covid-kyujo first.

Highlight Matches

Onosho defeats Daiamami – Daiamami’s injured ankle really can’t support much in the way of sumo right now, and Onosho makes fast work of him. It’s stand him up, slap him down. The tsukiotoshi takes Onosho to 6-5.

Chiyoshoma defeats Takarafuji – I marveled at Chiyoshoma’s work to keep Takarafuji from getting a proper mawashi grip, or setting up his defensive foot placement. That was high-skill sumo tuned for a very specific engagement, and I loved it. From the center-mass tsuppari chest strike at the tachiai, to the point where he chose to go chest to chest with Takarafuji, Chiyoshoma had this one dialed in. Both end the day at 5-6.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyomaru – Terutsuyoshi grabs a drumstick and proceeds to walk Chiyomaru about for a while before dumping him off the dohyo. 8 losses for Chiyomaru now, and he is make-koshi and headed back to Juryo, 5-6 for Terutsuyoshi after that fine ashitori.

Midorifuji defeats Tsurugisho – Midorifuji had trouble deciding what to do with his left hand. He was inside and low, but changed up the spot he was gripping Tsurugisho’s mawashi, and it simply was not working out for him. But fortunately for him, his right hand was in excellent position to load the throw, and it was shitatenage time! Midorifuji improves to 7-4 and can earn his kachi-koshi tomorrow.

Nishikifuji defeats Chiyotairyu – Nishikifuji gets a deep double inside grip early and simply brutes Chiyotairyu around. It is surprising that as big and bulky as Chiyotairyu is, that he can’t overpower Nishikifuji, or if whatever injuries he’s dealing with rob him of any power to shut down the yori in any meaningful way. Nishikifuji scores his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi for July by yorikiri.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – I think the false start wrecked Nishikigi’s timing, and he was not quite in normal form when the tachiai did take place. He struggled for hand positioned, and was well forward of his toes. Myogiryu was aware of this, took a step back and hit the hatakikomi. Nishikigi hit the clay, and Myogiryu advanced to 7-4.

Tochinoshin defeats Meisei – Fighting Tochinoshin involves a lot of guess work, it seems. There are days when he’s rather tender, and unable to really employ is overwhelming strength. Today was not one of those days. Meisei goes for the inside grip, Tochinoshin obliged. Tochinoshin worked to get his left hand outside, and then it was time for Meisei to endure some power sumo. A quick waltz across the clay, and it was a yorikiri win for Tochinoshin, with both men finishing the day at 6-5.

Sadanoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Sadanoumi finds his third win of the basho by overpowering the hapless Shimanoumi, lifting him and driving forward to win by yorikiri. Sadanoumi improves to 3-8.

Hokutofuji defeats Wakamotoharu – Hokutofuji did an excellent job of keeping Wakamotoharu from settling into any manner of offense or defense. Hokutofuji attacked multiple points via clever combos, and left Wakamotoharu wondering what would happen next. With Wakamotoharu trying to respond to the last attack, Hokutofui grabbed a leg and powered forward. The resulting watashikomi gave Hokutofuji the win, and he finishes the day 6-5.

Ura defeats Okinoumi – This was about as vanilla a match as you might ever find from Ura. He was straight into the grapple against Okinoumi, and battled him face to face. But Okinoumi could not resist the temptation to reach that left hand for Ura’s belt. Ah ha! A stray appendage to grab and tug! Well, that was the end of Okinoumi as Ura unleashed a tottari, giving his opponent a face full of clay. Ura improves to 5-6.

Tamawashi defeats Kiribayama – I am all smiles that a seemingly injured Tamawashi achieved his first ever win against Kiribayama today. Tamawashi was all forward power and attacking Kiribayama’s face and neck, until the moment when he moved a hand behind Kiribayama head and pulled forward. The power transfer was large enough that it flipped Kiribayama end over end to win by hatakikomi. Both end the day at 4-7.

Ichinojo defeats Abi – Abi learns the hard way that his double arm thrusts are utterly worthless against the Boulder when Ichinojo is on his game. A stray arm was a perfect hand hold for Ichinojo, and Abi found himself on the receiving end of a kotenage attempt. Abi did not go out, but did not recover. Horribly off balance his 200kg beast of a rikishi chased him down and pushed him out from the rear (okuridashi). Ichinojo improves to 9-2.

Aoiyama defeats Wakatakakage – Its 3-0 now for Aoiyama against Wakatakakage. Somehow this giant man-mountain has Wakatakakage’s number, and can put him on the deck any time, any place. At the rapid conclusion of today’s match, you can see the frustration on Wakatakakage’s face. Aoiyama improves to 5-6 and pulls Wakatakakage back to the middle of the funnel.

Shodai defeats Endo – I am sure Endo did not know what to expect, having no idea which version of Shodai would show up. Looks like Ozeki Shodai was on the clay today. Endo showed some great offensive combos, but Shodai was ready for all of it. Note that Shodai’s form was terrible, but his sumo was good enough to overwhelm Endo and propel him out by yorikiri. Shodai improves to 7-4, and somehow has managed to get himself one win away from kachi-koshi, and clearing kadoban.

Takakeisho defeats Tobizaru – I am absolutely impressed that Takakeisho was able to keep Tobizaru off his belt, and keep his own balance under control in the face of the antics of the flying monkey. Tobizaru put a lot of energy into this match, and I complement him for all of the work to prepare. An off-balance combo left Tobizaru struggling to stay upright, and Takakeisho slapped him down for the win. That’s kachi-koshi for Takakeisho, he picks up his 8th win of Nagoya.

Terunofuji defeats Hoshoryu – Where to start with this. Well, Hoshoryu, that was a jerk match. Yes, it’s a combat sport, and he was focused on the win, but that whole match was executed to put maximum torque into Terunofuji’s damaged knees. That first time when Terunofuji tossed you away, then waved you back in, that should have been your first indication that you had the Yokozuna’s interest. My compliments to Terunofuji for focus, concentration and patience. You let Hoshoryu expend his energy, then locked him up, took him apart and tossed way the husk. You have a long way to go, Hoshoryu, before you might fight like that, hope you enjoyed the comparison. The look on Hoshoryu’s face following his ejection from the dohyo told to story. Terunofuji improves to 9-2.

YDC approves Terunofuji’s promotion to Yokozuna

In its regular post-basho meeting on July 19th, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council unanimously approved the promotion of Ozeki Terunofuji to the rank of Yokozuna.

Following an approval by the NSK board and banzuke meeting, an acceptance ceremony will be held for the 73rd Yokozuna.

The expected procedure is:

  • July 21st – special board meeting, banzuke meeting, acceptance ceremony.
  • July 22nd – “tsuna uchi” – braiding of the new Yokozuna’s rope, and training the new Yokozuna to do the dohyo-iri.
  • July 23rd – first dohyo-iri at Meiji Grand Shrine in Tokyo

The schedule may be subject to changes, however, as July 23rd is also when the Olympic Games opening ceremony is to be held, near Meiji Grand Shrine, and some parts of the area may be closed off. On the other hand, COVID restrictions may render this point moot. We’ll keep our readers posted.

 

Haru Day 2 Preview

It’s great to have sumo back. I am a bit surprised at how many of the COVID Kyujo rikishi showed up with a thick, scaly layer or ring rust. I think the most oxidized of all is none other than Yokozuna Hakuho, who may wish to take a quick trip to Yokosuka and use the barncile blaster to remove some of the accumulation. I was a bit surprised that Terunofuji looked a bit rusty as well. By all accounts, he have been a training machine, grinding away in the world famous Isegahama sweat lodge dohyo. I can’t help but wonder if the goal that lays just before him provides more distraction now at the final step than motivation. Please know, mighty Kaiju, most of the sumo world wants to see you succeed. Who do you think has the biggest layer or ring rust? Leave your vote in the comments below.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Kaisei vs Akua – Their only prior match was in November, and it went to Akua. After a 5-10 record at Hatsu, I am sure Akua would like to kachi-koshi his way back to the top division, while Kaisei has a thick layer of COVID-kyujo ring rust to remove.

Daiamami vs Hidenoumi – These two have a 13 match history that is at 7-6, so they are evenly matched with no clear advantages. In all of their prior fights, it has ended via yori-kiri. So chest to chest at the start, and may the man with the best footwork win.

Kotoeko vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama’s bulk is a challenge for Kotoeko, who wants to work with strength and speed. Yutakayama will need to focus on “his brand” of sumo. Namely keeping his mobility focused, his steps small and his balance precise in order to present the fewest opportunities to Kotoeko.

Tsurugisho vs Chiyoshoma – Tsurugisho took and odd fall at the end of his day 1 match with Yutakayama, so I am going to be looking to see if that bad knee is bothering him once more. I think that Chiyoshoma may deliver something more henka like today.

Akiseyama vs Terutsuyoshi – I would think that Terutsuyoshi would have a lot of advantages to exploit. He is smaller and more agile by a good measure. With so much of Akiseyama front-loaded, all Terutsuyoshi needs to do is get to the side to create an opening. Their career record of 3-3 gives us yet another evenly balanced match for day 2.

Aoiyama vs Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho suffered a brutal 2-13 in January, dropping him from Maegashira 3 to 11. I had hoped he would show up at Haru looking better, and with some semblance of good sumo. If day 1 was any indication, this is going to be another tough tournament for him. He has beaten Aoiyama once before, in November.

Midorifuji vs Chiyotairyu – First time match, and I am looking for Midorifuji to put the man with the cannon-ball tachiai on the clay by the 3rd step. Chiyotairyu has not yet been on the receiving end of a Midorifuji katasukashi, but he has to know that it’s coming.

Ryuden vs Hoshoryu – Part of me really wants to see Ryuden deliver a henka today, and put Hoshoryu well and truly in the dog-house with his uncle. This is a first time match between the two, and I hope that Hoshoryu will be a bit more cautious today.

Kotonowaka vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni, in spite of his day 1 win against Tobizaru, did not seem satisfied. Sure, he got some solid thrusts and hits in, but for a rikishi like Chiyonokuni, he shows up every day looking for a big, energetic brawl. Will Kotonowaka join Chiyonokuni in a good-natured mosh?

Tobizaru vs Kagayaki – Tobizaru was completely out or sorts on day 1, and I hope he can collect his sumo and come back strong on day 2 against Kagayaki. Kagayaki’s dark mawashi still has me a bit unsettled, but even if he is in goth mode, hopefully he retains good sumo fundamentals. He has a 2-0 advantage over Tobizaru.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – 34 match history, with Tochinoshin holding a 22-12 advantage. If Tochinoshin’s knees can handle the strain, he may be able to give Tamawashi an 0-2 start. I think it will all come down to Tochinoshin’s left hand outside grip.

Ichinojo vs Okinoumi – Big, heavy Ichinojo is a challenge for Okinoumi, who is at a 2-4 career disadvantage. If he can shut down Ichinojo’s throwing attempts, he can probably contain the big Mongolian, and will have a chance to score his second win for March.

Kiribayama vs Endo – Endo has a bad first day, and I expect he is going to be a lot more focused, a lot more conservative and he is going to stick to powerful straight ahead sumo today. He won the only prior match against Kiribayama, and has a huge edge in skill and experience.

Myogiryu vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi is a late bloomer, who at 31 is finally looking sharp. If he can take his second career win today against Myogiryu, I will start to hope that he may have a good basho.

Meisei vs Mitakeumi – Meisei may have a tough time today, as the mass-reduced Mitakeumi seems to be a real contender. His match against Shodai was quite sloppy, but Mitakeumi showed a lot of power, and a lot of flexibility. Meisei has almost matched his highest rank ever, and is at the point in his sumo career where we may see a step change up in capability. Here’s to hoping.

Terunofuji vs Wakatakakage – Kaiju vs lead Onami brother as we get into the big end of day 2. The only time Wakatakakage has won against Terunofuji was a year ago on day 6 during the “silent basho”. We have come a long way since then, as has Terunofuji. I think that Wakatakakage may have some work to do to shake off the ring rust after being forced to sit January out.

Hokutofuji vs Takanosho – I know I kid the Hokutofuji fans a lot about this man delivering “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”, and I think Hokutofuji is due for a good basho. If this March is the time for him to advance, he may show that to us today against Takanosho, who has taken up a durable role in the San’yaku.

Shodai vs Onosho – If Onosho wants to see his first win, he will need to overcome Shodai’s defensive style. But he must keep his balance well behind his toes, or face an abrupt and surprising turn of fortune should Shodai unleash some of his brand of sumo (aka Cartoon Sumo). Shodai, as long as he is not secretly hurt, is going to have some great matches this tournament, I expect. I hope he saves them for week 2.

Takakeisho vs Daieisho – On his way to the yusho, Daieisho slapped down Takakeisho on day 2. Shall we have a re-run and see if anything has changed? I predict that Daieisho may have some mental challenges this March, but his sumo looks as strong as ever.

Takayasu vs Asanoyama – Every sumo fan I know is looking for a step change in Asanoyama. Some indication that he may be evolving toward the next higher level of sumo. It’s a difficult step to make, and most Ozeki do not. He has an even 1-1 score against Takayasu head to head, so I am looking for a big, burly battle today.

Hakuho vs Takarafuji – A fantastic opportunity for The Boss to knock off some ring rust over Takarafuji. While Takarafuji will try to deflect, defend and extend, Hakuho has a knack (15-2) for grabbing this guy and inducting him into the Space Force with a sub orbital flight.

Haru Day 1 Highlights

I want to start today with something we have not seen in 8 months, a Yokozuna dohyo-iri.

Savor that one folks, I fear we won’t have too many more of them, and it’s grand and wonderful to see this grand ritual return to sumo for the first time since July of 2020. Of course, I know that we won’t see Hakuho retire tomorrow, and there is the open question of Kakuryu. But both of the top ranked men in Sumo are edging closer to retirement, and it could be some time once they leave active competition before we see another rikishi gain the rope.

The current Ozeki and the Ozeki hopeful have their fans, and rightfully so. However I watch them, and I don’t see Asashoryu, or Harumafuji, or even Kisenosato. I see solid Ozeki. That means that one of them will need to make a step change to evolve to another higher form. This might take a while, if it should ever happen. While I can see a post Hakuho era with a lot of strong Ozeki sumo, getting one of the current bunch to have back to back yusho may be a tall order just now.

What a glorious first day of sumo.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Tokushoryu – Interesting clash of opening gambits at the tachiai. Tokushoryu went for Daiamami’s face, and Daiamami kept his hands lower. This resulted in Tokushoryu getting a good combo in on Daiamami’s face, but when that ended, Daiamami was in control. With his power focused center-mass, Daiamami owned the rest of this match. An attempt at a last ditch defense at the tawara by Tokushoryu ended when his right foot skidded onto the janome. I really liked Daiamami’s focus and discipline today.

Hidenoumi defeats Kaisei – After coming back from COVID-Kyujo in January, it would seem that Kaisei has a fair amount of ring rust. Hidenoumi struggled quite a bit to capitalize on Kaisei’s poor balance and even worse footwork. There is just so much giant Brazilian to try to move. A final stumble as Kaisei tried to set up a rescue throw at the edge sent him tumbling from the dohyo, and I have to hope he did not injure himself with that one.

Yutakayama defeats Tsurugisho – Was looked like a fairly straightforward chest-to-chest battle took a worrisome turn as Tsurugisho’s knee appeared to give out and he tumbled down the dohyo. I know I gasped when I saw this, and Yutakayama’s body language could be read from Dallas – “Oh damn!” But Tsurugisho managed to get up, and seemed well enough.

Kotoeko defeats Chiyoshoma – No henka from Chiyoshoma today, but there 14 days left for us to see the “Flying Mongolian”. Chiyoshoma looked to have tried a hit and shift, but ended off balance and vulnerable. Kotoeko read this perfectly, and with a right hand on Chiyoshoma’s face, applied a massive thrust that put into the salt box. Points to the Yobidashi who yanked the chikara-mizu bucket out of the way before Chiyoshoma ended up with a swirly as well.

Aoiyama defeats Terutsuyoshi – There are matches where I think Big-Dan Aoiyama is going through the motions. Then there is today, where this giant bag of muscle and mayonnaise can surprise you. He opened with a V-Twin thrusting attack, and when Terutsuyoshi circled left to set up his attack, Aoiyama used Terutsuyoshi’s body position to hurl him to the clay. Nice move.

Akiseyama defeats Kotoshoho – Akiseyama also really over-performed today. He took Kotoshoho to his chest, which I think Kotoshoho was not quite quite expecting. With a solid right hand inside grip, Akiseyama went for a yorikiri, but Kotoshoho found his footing and ramped up the forward pressure. Akiseyama deftly converted and took one measured step back, and Kotoshoho hit the clay.

Chiyotairyu defeats Ryuden – Chiyotairyu without sideburns is a bit unsettling, possibly to Ryuden as well. In the past we have discussed the possibility that some minor kami resides in them, so this basho he may be without that boost in power. Chiyotairyu kept the pressure on Ryuden’s face and shoulders from the tachiai, and Ryuden never really had a chance to set up much if any offense. But did Chiyotairyu steal Midorifuji’s katasukashi?

Midorifuji defeats Hoshoryu – It seems Midorifuji mounted the dohyo to find that his prize katasukashi was missing, and he needed to do something else. By all accounts, Hoshoryu was not paying attention today, as he launched. hard and fast into the tachiai expecting Midorifuji to try for a shoulder / under-arm hand placement. Instead the Isegahama power pixie had stepped to the side, and Hoshoryu got a face full of Kokugikan clay.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tobizaru – I had high hopes for this match, but a clumsy Tobizaru tachiai mostly made Chiyonokuni’s win a foregone conclusion. Better luck day 2!

Kagayaki defeats Kotonowaka – Yeah, I know I mentioned Kotonowaka as a candidate for a breakout basho in the podcast. Perhaps I have now doomed him? Goth mode Kagayaki, who may have been humming the chorus from “Bella Lugosi’s Dead”, kept his feet heavy and is hips low. In response, Kotonowaka had. Well, frankly, nothing.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – You can forgive Tochinoshin for thinking that he should start the match with the assumption that Ichinojo was going to use his brand of sumo. That is to be large, heaving and immobile (aka “The Boulder”). Instead, Ichinojo was on the move from the first step, and came in aggressive and strong. Once Tochinoshin was off balance and mostly relying on his damaged right knee, he was an easy mark for Ichinojo’s throw.

Okinoumi defeats Tamawashi – This match was unique, in that the outcome stumped the unflappable Konosuke, who had his eyes on the moment when both men stepped out, and came away with the expression of “hell if I know…” has he pointed both east and west with his gumbai, tossing it to the shipman and the replay crew. The replay was equally as baffling as you can see two high-skill vets undertake the most amazing series of footsteps each defying physics and human body mechanics to keep their feet inside the ring. At the end, it seems that the replay crew concurred and flipped a coin, giving the win to Okinoumi. On the NHK replay, I saw the fine sand from the janome fly about thanks to Okinoumi’s heel. But I am sure the replay crew had access to more cameras (in 4K!) than I do. Kimarite was listed as isamiashi, or a non-winning technique of “Inadvertent step out”.

Myogiryu defeats Endo – Well, better luck day 2 Endo. There was a solid clash at the tachiai, and Endo either bounced away off balance, or tried to hit and shift. Either way, Myogiryu was ready for it, delivering a fast win for his shonichi.

Shimanoumi defeats Kiribayama – Shimanoumi’s first every win over Kiribayama. He had his hands inside and lower at the tachiai, and it was straight into an armpit attack that disrupted whatever Kiribayama had planned. Kiribayama finally was able to break Shimanoumi’s attack, but by that point Kiribayama was too high. Shimanoumi dropped his hips, dropped his head, squared his shoulders and drove forward. Nothing Kiribayama tried could do any better than stalemate until Shimanoumi’s finishing drive took them both out.

Meisei defeats Takayasu – Takayasu had this won at least twice, but Meisei’s higher mobility shut down Takayasu’s attempts to drive him from the ring. Takayasu had really sharp foot placement today, its a shame that he let Meisei hook a leg in when Takayasu drove forward to finish the match. Nice recovery into a kakenage for Meisei.

Takanosho defeats Wakatakakage – It seems that these two watched the Okinoumi / Tamawashi, and declared “hold my beer”. I am not sure I have ever seen more elaborate efforts to keep your feet in while your opponent is off balance from two rikishi. Once again the result was “hell if I know”, but this time it was declared a torinaoshi, and they fought again. The second match – Takanosho kept his focus and power on center mass, and quickly drove Wakatakakage from the ring.

Terunofuji defeats Hokutofuji – My compliments to Hokutofuji for a well fought match. He used the handshake-tachiai into a right hand nodowa. With his left hand on Terunofuji’s chest, he dialed up the pressure and began to advance. The risk of this attack strategy is that the attacker’s body is wide open. Terunofuji found easy handholds and collapsed the nodowa by taking Hokutofuji to his chest. In response, Hokutofuji shifted to defense smoothly, dropping his hips and pressing forward with his shoulders. But Terunofuji’s left hand found a mawashi grip, and moments later the Kaiju’s powerful shitatenage sent Hokutofuji tumbling. Nine more to go.

Takakeisho defeats Onosho – I really like both of these rikishi, but Takakeisho looked strong and healthy today, and I was happy to see him in good form. Onosho made contact first, but his hands were just an couple of inches too high. Takakeisho had an open route to center mass, and his feet were in excellent position. Realzing he was 2 steps from defeat, Onosho tried to pull and twist against Takakeisho’s head. But with his balance centered, his hips low and his feet heavy and wide, the pull failed, giving Takakeisho his first of 8 wins to secure his Ozeki rank.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – Asanoyama got his preferred stance and grip at the tachiai, and Takarafuji found himself face first in the clay one step later.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – I had high hopes for this match, and it did deliver. Shodai was high at the tachiai, and his feet were in poor position. While Shodai tried to sort out his body, Mitakeumi went for the chest and began his attack. Shodai quickly set up a left hand outside mawashi grip, shutting down Mitakeumi’s chances for a quick win. Mitakeumi broke Shodai’s grip, and re-took command and bodily threw Shodai over the edge of the dohyo before the Ozeki could unleash any of his trademark cartoon sumo.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – After sitting out for several months, I am expecting a lot of ring rust on Hakuho. He looked a bit shaky in his first competition match since July, and he let Daieisho set up a throw in the face of Hakuho’s overwhelming forward advance. But The Boss made sure that Hatsu yusho winner Daieisho went out first, and picked up his first win for March.