Jonokuchi bouts are an interesting mix of talented up-and-comers, injured veterans, and hangers-on. Often, bouts are nothing more than an easy shove or throw but there are also some fun grapplers on their way up. But occasionally you get a performance that comes out of nowhere. And in this tournament, Kato might just be that surprise.
What a difference one tournament makes. I didn’t share many videos on Match Day 1 because this early in the there’s not really a yusho race and a lot of the Jonokuchi bouts are rather one-sided yorikiri or oshidashi. However, if there was one thing that I noted, I realized that I may need to revise my opinion on Kato. After Kato’s first bout, I found myself questioning whether this was the same kid who almost lost to Shonanzakura in July and who actually did lose to Higohikari in May.
I had come into this tournament ready to anoint Kato as the likely successor to Shonanzakura as Sumo’s Patron Saint of Futility…not just due to lack of technique but lack of interest or effort. But if things carry on like these first few days, it will be my absolute pleasure to be proven wrong. I saw my first glimpse of that change in his Day 1 defeat to Daitenshin. After a fairly solid tachiai, he was quickly ushered back to the tawara but he put up quite a lot of resistance. There was not much technique in that bout but the key was that he fought back pretty hard, and that surprised me. But was it a one off? So, I decided to file that bit of intrigue away and monitor his effort a bit more this tournament.
Today, on Match Day 2, he fought Byakuen. And under the firm tutelage of Araiso-oyakata it looks like he will not only get out of Jonokuchi, this kid may well have a career in sumo. Now, as background, Byakuen gives 100% in every bout I’ve seen. He’s my new Ikioi and I hope he will always bring that level of genki. Nevertheless, Kato gave him a run for his money today. Boy, did he pay for it with that hard fall from the dohyo. Ever the sportsman, Byakuen came down to offer a hand and Kato popped back up and went about his day. I’m not saying he’s sekitori material but these two bouts have been a real sea change from what effort he’d shown previously.
With Ito’s Day 1 loss to Setonoumi, Ito falls out of the race for now while Setonoumi assumes his spot at center stage. It was a quick win, possibly a sloppy loss on Ito’s part, but it showed that Setonoumi has experience, technique and bit of moxie. Will that carry him through this basho? Surely he’ll pick up the four wins but will he be able to keep it up? Yes, this is very early but in Jonokuchi, it seems easy to whittle the field down to a couple of real “contenders” quite early. As the schedule worked out most of the winners bracket competed last night, with the only exception being former contender Ito against Hokutoizumi. The rest of the bouts were mostly winners against winners.
The first bout sees Ariake outlast Kotoegashira, both of whom are coming off two-basho kyujo. Ariake is the more experienced of the two but just plain overpowered Kotoegashira, lifting him out. He’s been as high as Sandanme and surely will escape Jonokuchi, but will he be in the hunt for a title?
Setonoumi also advanced in a one-sided bout against Daitensho. Mifuneyama, tipped by TigerBoy1966 in my previous post, also had an easy go of things against Takatairiku. Kokuryunami followed up that bout with a win over the more evasive Daitenshin. Unfortunately, Kyonosato failed to get consecutive wins as Agazumazakura shoved him out. Chiyofuku weathered a valiant effort from Tamanotora and Kototaiko worked a rather exhausted looking Shinzan over the bales. Finally, Watanabe had no problems against Azumayama in tonights lone “winner” bout.
So, we’re already down to eight guys with no losses thus far in Jonokuchi and that group will shrink rapidly over the next few days. Most of these guys won in rather quick and easy fashion so I expect the next few days will be full of more challenging bouts. I hope schedulers pit Ariake and Setonoumi together. That would be a spirited bout. But frankly, I’m hoping some of the one-loss guys work their way back into this yusho run. Byakuen for the win!