We have reached the middle weekend of the Haru basho, and I would like to remark that thus far, poor injured Chiyonokuni is the only kyujo. Everyone else, even the horrifically battered Ikioi, is holding tough and competing each day. This is in stark contrast to some of the tournaments in the past year that saw the carnage stack up the injured starting almost from the middle of act 1. With any luck, we will see a robust group make it into the final 5 days, and have a real battle for the cup.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Ishiura vs Toyonoshima – Ishiura is still at 4 wins (after back to back losses), and Toyonoshima is due to win one. Toyonoshima’s issue will be his limited mobility in the face of Ishiura’s tendency to not be where you think you saw him last.
Terutsuyoshi vs Takagenji – Takagenji visits from Juryo, and maybe he can bring a change of fortune for hapless Terutsuyoshi, who seems almost certain to be returned to Juryo for May. I would not dispair, as I am sure Terutsuyoshi is part of the future of the top division. This may not yet be his time.
Tomokaze vs Yutakayama – Both 3-3, both are very similar in size, build and approach to sumo. This is also their first time meeting. While Tomokaze can likely absorb a mild make-koshi if it comes to that, Yutakayama is on the bubble, and will need any win he can get in any way he can manufacture one.
Shohozan vs Yoshikaze – These two have 15 prior matches, which favor Yoshikaze 10-5. We saw a bit of a spark of Yoshikaze’s fighting spirit day 6, can he blow on that spark and finish Haru with a winning record?
Yago vs Kotoshogiku – This will be Yago’s first time to enjoy Kotoshogiku’s unique sumo style. Hopefully he keeps that washcloth handy.
Aoiyama vs Takarafuji – Aoiyama only has 1 loss so far, and he holds a 17-3 career advantage over Takarafuji. If you think that through, he is very much in the hunt right now going into the middle weekend, and likely to still be viable come Monday.
Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – For whatever reason, Okinoumi has yet to beat Asanoyama in the 5 prior times they have fought. I also look at the gap between 4-2 Asanoyama, and 3-3 Yutakayama, 8 ranks lower on the banzuke, and remember that at this point last year, Yutakayama was the stronger rikishi.
Chiyotairyu vs Onosho – Oh goodie – two rikishi who hit like a ton of bricks at the tachiai and are not afraid to deliver enough force in one blow to push over a typical Japanese work truck. If Onosho can keep the match going more than 10 seconds, he will have the upper hand.
Abi vs Ichinojo – I would recommend Konosuke visit the adjacent Edo museum prior to today’s top division bouts, and arrange to borrow some of the field armor on display, should Abi once again take to the air. Abi’s extreme mobility might pose a real problem for Ichinojo, so I am going to be curious to see if the big Mongolian can somehow limit his ability to escape.
Tochiozan vs Myogiryu – 27 lifetime matches between these two, split 14-13. So let’s just call it even and say that both of them are having terrible tournaments thus far.
Kaisei vs Tamawashi – At some point, Kaisei is going to start winning. But he needs to make it soon, as a loss on day 7 to the Hatsu yusho winner would reduce him to a 0-7 start.
Takakeisho vs Daieisho – Takakeisho has only beaten Daieisho once in their 4 prior matches [but one of those was in Juryo, and the other 3 in 2017 -lksumo]. Takakeisho needs all of the wins he can gather prior to his second-week push for double digits. Right now he’s at a workable 4-2, but he has looked less dominant than his Hatsu basho form.
Tochinoshin vs Endo – Sure Endo only has one win, and I expect that Tochinoshin will find a way to take another white star from the man with a black eye.
Mitakeumi vs Goeido – Mitakeumi had such a strong start to this basho, folks may have forgotten that he had (and still has) a fairly serious knee injury. Now at 3-3, he’s going to try to blunt Goeido’s opening gambits, and stay in the match long enough to get a chance to win.
Takayasu vs Hokutofuji – The 4-2 career match record surprisingly favors Hokutofuji, but with good reason. The “Handshake Tachiai” is a perfect foil for Takayasu’s normal shoulder blast, as it will pin the Ozeki before he can follow through, and will switch Takayasu from an offensive to a defensive focus. I hope to see Takayasu use the same approach we saw days 5 and 6 here, and take another win from Hokutofuji, who seems to be a bit ragged and chaotic this basho.
Nishikigi vs Kakuryu – Nishikigi has zero wins for Haru. He has been shut down by every one of the san’yaku rikishi he has endured for the first 6 days, and his tour will feature Yokozuna Kakuryu today. He still might face both Komusubi later, so I am predicting a hearty make-koshi for sumo’s Cinderella man.
Hakuho vs Shodai – Shodai is also at 0-6, and I will be curious to see if he acquits himself at least as well as Nishikigi did on day 6. Shodai has looked worse this tournament than any prior time in the last year, so I am truly hoping this is a catalyst that drives him to higher performance in the remainder of 2019. The man has potential, but for some reason is not striving to unlock it.