Ones To Watch – Post Haru Round Up (Sandanme to Jonikuchi)

He’s Back! (Terunofuji)

I have to start by complimenting Herouth’s coverage of the jungyo, which is (if anything) even better than its already typical awesome. The gaps between the basho seem less vacant, and we fans to get to see a different aspect to the sumo world. So a big THANK-YOU to Herouth for bringing us these features.

In our last post, we looked at 9 rikishi in Makushita for Haru, and discussed just how tough the competition can be in the Makushita joi-jin. Today we discuss the rikishi in the divisions below Makushita, each of whom is working hard to improve their rank each and every match. Our coverage at Haru featured some returning favorites, who found themselves in the middle of Jonidan,

Torakio – Naruto heya’s scion took a terrible pounding in Osaka, finishing a dismal 1-6, with the win coming on his final match of the tournament. This was Torakio’s highest ever rank (Sandanme 15), and he had been on a steady path of improvement. We can hope that he did not sustain some mechanical injury, and will return to Tokyo to regroup and refocus on the upcoming Natsu basho in May.

Shoji – A young rikishi from Musashigawa heya, he finished 2-5, ending the tournament with a 3 bout losing streak. He had previously been ranked as high as Makushita 52, but has only scored one kachi-koshi tournament in the past year. The Musashigawa rikishi almost all had terrible tournaments in Osaka. Bad luck? Poor training? Poor quarters? We will never get to know, but we hope that returning to Tokyo will help the crew score better for May.

Wakaichiro – Our favorite Sandanme rikishi ended the tournament with a disappointing 3-4 record, which came down to his final match on day 14. Wakaichiro has shown that he is susceptible to placing his balance forward, and at times is open to hatakikomi or other moves that exploit his center of gravity. As with many of the Musashigawa clan, they fight better in Tokyo, and we expect he will be back in better form for May.

Kenho – The massive Kenho ended Osaka with a deep make-koshi at 1-6, and frankly had little offensive sumo to offer in any of his matches. Once a rikishi get to be his size, there body struggles to manage all of that flesh, and multiple problems with joints, muscles and metabolism come to the front. We hope he can re-group and recover his sumo, as he is great to watch when he is healthy.

Roga – The Mongolian sensation blasted through the pack in Jonidan to finish 7-0, with a day 15 playoff for the Jonidan yusho against none other than returning favorite Terunofuji, which he won to claim the division title. At 20 years of age, he is clearly on a solid upward path, and we will eagerly watch to see where he starts to find the competition challenging. But I would expect him give the Sandanme title favorites in May a series of tough matches.

Terunofuji – Everyone was happy to see Terunofuji return. After holding the title of Ozeki for a long time, he withdrew from sumo to attempt to clear up multiple problems with his body. It was announced that he would be competing in Osaka, sumo fans around the world hoped to see him return fit, trim and powerful. Instead, Terunofuji looked like death warmed over. Clearly his problems with his knees and his metabolism are not much better than a year ago. But at his size and level of skill, the Jonidan rikishi are mere playthings to amuse the Kaiju. As mentioned above, he finished 7-0 with the Yusho-doten, losing to Roga. Please Terunofuji, find a way to get healthy.

Amakaze – Former Juryo mainstay also returned to action after an extended kyujo. Unlike Terunofuji he actually did look like he had some energy and drive. Amakaze has a big round fellow, but has solid sumo skills. He ended Osaka with a 6-1 record, and I expect he will continue to improve for a while.

Hattorizakura – In spite of putting on some weight, and what looked like a bit of muscle mass, Hattorizakura could not find a way to a single win in Osaka, ending the tournament with a solid zenpai (0-7), and in doing so keeping the universe in balance. In the process he seems to have possibly done something unique, losing the same match twice.

Haru Day 15 Ones To Watch

Wakatakamoto – Visiting Sick Children In The Hospital

With most of the lower division yusho already decided, there are only a few matches left to finish out everybody’s 7. For our “Ones to Watch” it has been a tough basho. Last night Wakaichiro went down to his 4th defeat, from a forceful hatakikomi delivered by Hokutoshin. This was his 4th loss, and holding a losing record, he is likely to find himself in the top ranks of Jonidan for May.

Further up the torikumi, Hoshoryu gamberized and prevailed against Kaisho for his 4th win. At Makushita 7, he will likely be close to or at the top of the 3rd division for May, with a very real shot of making it to Juryo for Nagoya. He should be sharing that space with Ichiyamamoto, who went 6-1 from Makushita 13, and will have a spot near the top of the division too. I am already eagerly anticipating them facing off during Natsu. Although Naya also finished 6-1, his starting point at Makushita 51 will see him in the top half of the division, and facing much more determined opposition.

That being said, a few of our favorites are up day 15…

Terunofuji vs Roga – Both of these rikishi finished their Jonidan matches with perfect 7-0 records, and now they will meet to decide the yusho. This is a battle between an injured and diminished Ozeki who can still generate enormous power for the briefest of moments, against a future powerhouse rikishi who has completely dominated almost every time he steps on the dohyo. It’s quite literally the past vs the future.

Wakatakamoto vs Bushozan – The last Onami brother to make sekitori has already secured a kachi-koshi, and will be joining what is likely to be a brutally competitive Makushita joi-jin for May. This final match will determine which of these two rikishi will get a higher rank. Bushozan is another “big’un”, and will have mass on his side.

Musashikuni vs Kotodairyu – Much of the Musashigawa clan is make-koshi this tournament. Among that ignoble group is Musashikuni, who enters today’s match 4-2. The good news is that he has beaten Kotodairyu before. The bad news is was 3 years ago when both were in Sandanme.

Kenho vs Takabayama – This is a 1-5 bracket match, and both rikishi are having a terrible basho. Kenho seems to continue to have health issues, and problems with his lower body’s durability. He will be lower in Jonidan for May, and hopefully will regroup.

Amakaze vs Umizaru – Both of these rikishi are 5-1, and I would expect the winner of today’s final match to be posted close to, or in Sandanme for May. It’s great to see Amakaze back on the dohyo, and I am happy that he has his kachi-koshi secure.

Haru Day 11 – Ones To Watch

Wakaichiro Fights For Kachi-Koshi On Day 11

Many of our “Ones to Watch” were competing day 10 in Osaka, with Hoshoryu picking up his second win, improving to 2-3 in a lengthy match that saw both rikishi struggle for a dominant position. Although it seems to me that Hoshoryu is getting frustrated by the fierce competition in the Makushita joi, the struggle will improve his sumo. It also gives Naya a chance to catch up, as Otake heya yusho hopeful goes into his day 11 yusho elimination match. We are also happy to point out that Wakaichiro managed to pick up his third win with a recovery at the tawara after his balance almost sent him over the edge.

We also have Terunofuji returning to continue his Jonidan yusho bid, and Amakaze competing as well. It’s a full slate for day 11, so grab something to snack on, fire up the stream from Japan and enjoy the lower divisions.

Day 11 Matches

Midorifuji vs Tochinobori – Midorifuji will be looking to pick up win #3, and draw even prior to his final match for Haru. A loss today would mean make-koshi, and a trip down the banzuke for May. His opponent today is Kasugano heya’s Tochinobori, who won their only prior match.

Wakatakamoto vs Kaito – Wakatakamoto has already locked in his kachi-koshi, and now he’s just seeing if he can run up the score. He has two brothers to join in the salaried ranks, and it seems to have motivated him. Day 11 he faces Kaito, who he has a 2-1 career lead against.

Musashikuni vs Horyuyama – Musashikuni is looking to avoid a second straight make-koshi in 2019, and needs to “win out” his remaining 2 matches. Day 11 he faces off against 167 kg (370 pound) Horyuyama. Musashikuni is no tiny fellow, but this is a lot of rikishi to battle. But Horyuyama seems to be having health problems and has been make-koshi for the last 2 basho.

Naya vs Kotoseigo – Naya continues in the yusho bracket, now at 5-0. Day 11 he takes on Makushita 58 Kotoseigo, from Sadogatake heya. Kotoseigo has had 3 extended periods where he sat out multiple tournaments, presumably for health reasons. He is currently fighting at his highest rank.

Torakio vs Baraki – The Naruto heya scion has yet to pick up even a single win for Haru. Is he injured? With lower ranked rikishi, one never gets to know. But we hope he somehow finds a reserve of genki energy and lands at least one win.

Wakaichiro vs Kasugamine – Texas’ own Wakaichiro returns to the Haru dohyo, with kachi-koshi on the line. A win today against Kasugamine would be his 4th, and jubilation would break out across the great state of Texas. As with day 10, Wakaichiro will need to overcome a sizable opponent, who outweighs him by at least 100 lbs.

Roga vs Wakayamanaka – Jonidan yusho bracket match, Mongolian rising star Roga is looking to improve to 6-0, and knock Wakayamanaka out of the race. Wakayamanaka is a former Sandanme rikishi how dropped out of sumo for a time and re-entered, whereas Roga is a young powerhouse who has yet to lose a match.

Kenho vs Sakai – In the really disappointing bracket, the already make-koshi Kenho is clearly not functioning well, and has not generated much offensive or defensive sumo during Haru. Hopefully he can survive his last 2 matches without further injury, and can recover in time for May.

Terunofuji vs Shimomura – Another Jonidan yusho elimination match; former Ozeki Terunofuji is unbeaten in his first basho back in sumo since taking an extended leave of absence to get his health under control. Although not looking quite healthy or fit, he has been fighting well and as a result is in the thick of competition for the Jonidan yusho. His competitor today is 18 year old Shimomura, who is only in his 2nd tournament as an actual ranked rikishi.

Amakaze vs Sakaefuji – Amakaze has a good day of sumo ahead. He is already kachi-koshi in his return to active sumo, and he is safe from further demotion. So the schedulers give him the gargantuan Sakaefuji for his 6th match. Amakaze is a skilled sumo practitioner, but it’s always quite a difficult to battle a human being that large.

Hattorizakura vs Sawada – Having run out of people in Jonikuchi to lose to, they have brought Hattorizakura up to Jonidan to face off against Sawada, whom has beaten him once before. Hattorizakura is my reminder that there are many paths to happiness in this world, including many I don’t understand.

Haru Day 10 – Ones To Watch

This is Roga – He wants another yusho
Image from futagoyama_sumo instagram feed

We reach the end of act 2, and the yusho races are in full swing. Sadly for several of our “ones to watch” they are out of the yusho race, and some are already make-koshi. Ichiyamamoto lost his bout on day 9, and dropped out of the yusho race, but will be moving higher for May, thanks to his kachi-koshi. Meanwhile in Sandanme, Torakio is still looking for his first win of the basho. The Makushita yusho is down to 4 rikishi, and should be decided by the 7th match sometime later this week. Included in the group still in contention is none other than Naya, who returns to the dohyo and day 10.

Terunofuji vs Daiyusho – Day 9

In the Jonidan race, Terunofuji overpowered Daiyusho to improve to 5-0, and remain in the hunt. The Jonidan race is 6 rikishi wide, and that means it’s likely going to require a tie-breaking match or two. Top of the yusho race is 20 year old rising star from Mongolia, Roga. Roga has yet to lose a match in professional sumo, and took the Hatsu Jonikuchi yusho.

Day 10 Matches

Hoshoryu vs Kairyu – Its clear that young Hoshoryu is getting frustrated with his poor performance at Osaka. Some fans have pointed out a lapse in post-match manners, which is easy to improve. Given that he has had little resistance up to this point, the fact that he can’t blow through the Makushita joi may be a new enlightenment for him. But I am certain that given his fighting spirit, it’s going to drive him to train for higher levels of performance. This is a 1-3 bracket match, and the loser will get a make-koshi. In fact Hoshoryu has to “win out” to get a kachi-koshi.

Akua vs Nogami – A 2-2 bracket match, Nogami beat Akua in their only prior match. Kachi-koshi is still quite possible for Akua, and would allow him to take a step closer towards the Juryo-Makushita line, and possibly contest to return to the lime green mawashi for Nagoya.

Musashikuni vs Oki – These two have had 4 career matches against each other, and Oki has won 3 of them. Right now Mushashikuni is at 2-2, so like Akua he still has a clear, wide path to a kachi-koshi. But he is going to have to overcome Oki to get there.

Shoji vs Tagonofuji – Shoji won their only prior match. Once again the schedulers have stacked up all of the Mushashigawa clan on the same day, and most of them are 2-2! Tagonofuji is about 20kg lighter than Shoji, so I am expecting he will retain an upper hand.

Wakaichiro vs Kaorufuji – Up from Jonidan, Kaorufuji is a 180kg bunker-buster of a rikishi. As we have seen in the past, Wakaichiro is still working to figure out how to overcome the big ones, and today is another chance for him to get a win on the board. Hint to our Texas rikishi – aim for center-mass and accelerate your thrusts through his body. Oddly, visualizing the endpoint of that shove on the other side of his body seems to increase the transfer of energy….

Kenho vs Terumichi – A 1-3 bracket match, the loser will go home with a make-koshi. We hope Kenho can rally and bring his “big man sumo” out today. He has looked hurt and immobile for the past 3 matches.

Haru Day 5 – Ones To Watch

The Amakaze – Terunofuji match ended without injury, and Terunofuji was able to execute a somewhat clumsy kotenage for the win. Elsewhere, Hattorizakura did in fact lose again, even though Houn looks even more malnourished and underdeveloped than Hattorizakura, if that were possible.

Naya also picked up a win, and looked really strong doing it. He improves to a solid 2-0 start. The crowd was really into this match, and you can hear by all of the hooting and hollering in the video below:

Day 5 Matches

Ichiyamamoto vs Kaito – Both rikishi have made it to the 2-0 bracket, and this is their first ever match. Kaito is another young, hard-charging rikishi who actually had to talk almost a year off to recover from injury in 2015, and is fighting near his top ever rank. They are evenly matched in size and weight – it should be a solid bout.

Wakatakamoto vs Asakoki – Also a 2-0 bracket match, the lowest ranked Onami brother enters this rematch with Makushita mainstay Asakoki looking to advance to the increasingly narrow undefeated bracket. Asakoki holds a slight size advantage, but Wakatakamoto won their single prior match.

Musashikuni vs Tsurubayashi – An additional 2-0 bracket match in Makushita, the scion of the Musashigawa stable holds a distinct height and weight advantage over Tsurubayashi, who has been fighting in Makushita since 2012. Musashikuni does indeed seem to have overcome his injuries and physical problems, and is back to strong power-sumo.

Torakio vs Kotokino – Torakio has yet to win his first match of the basho, and he tries his luck against Sandanme 11 Kotokino. Kotokino is about 180 kg, and is a seriously bulky guy, so I expect Torakio to have his work cut out for him.

Shoji vs Koshinishiki – Another Musashigawa rikishi in action on day 5, and Shoji is looking to improve his 1-1 record against long-ranked Sandanme rikishi Koshinishiki.

Wakaichiro vs Kiryu – Our Texas sumotori, Wakaichiro, lost his day 3 match after he found himself too far forward against a skilled opponent. In their only prior match, Wakaichiro was able to defeat the much larger Kiryu via hatakikomi.

Kenho vs Fukuazuma – Kenho lost his day 4 match, and enters day 5 with a 1-1 score. At 107 kg, Fukuazuma is less than half of Kendo’s size. Kenho has terrible mobility on most days, so I expect that Fukuazuma is going to use this to his advantage.