Ones To Watch – Nagoya Day 1

Welcome back to our feature where we dig into some of the action further down the banzuke; in the divisions below Juryo. It’s a combination of hard-charging young up-and-comers battling against fading stars and mainstay rikishi returning from injury. The action here is frequently hit or miss, but as we love to say about the upper Makushita, these rikishi are almost to the salaried ranks, and the battles here are sometimes more action packed than most of the televised matches for that day.

Day 1 action is light for our roster that we are watching, with most of the heavy action apparently slated for day 2. But lets go over who is on the dohyo to start the tournament in the sweat box that is Nagoya.

Wakamotoharu vs Fujiazuma – After a single basho as a sekitori, Onami brother Wakamotoharu could do no better than a 3-4 make koshi in May, and finds himself at Makushita 5, well back in the pack and possibly out of range to bid for promotion in any real sense. He faces former Maegashira 4 Fujiazuma, who at 32 years is finding his body struggling to support his sumo.

Midorifuji vs Hokutokawa – Midorifuji is not on a meteoric rise up the banzuke, but it’s notable that he has racked up 4 consecutive kachi-koshi since Aki 2018. This approach has put him at Makushita 11, his highest ever rank. His opponent, Hokutokawa, sat out Osaka with injuries, but came roaring back, and is likewise fighting at his highest ever rank.

Wakatakamoto vs Inoue – Further down the torikumi, we find another Onami brother. Wakatakamoto is looking to bounce back after a 2-5 make koshi in May, and fight his way to the higher spots in the division. He faces 19 year old Inoue, who is at his highest ever rank, and has been kachi-koshi in the last 3 tournaments.

Shoji vs Genbumaru – Shoji is one good tournament away from breaking back into Makushita, and possibly bypassing Musashigawa’s flagging scion Musashikuni. Genbumaru, his opponent, is fighting near his highest ever rank.

Amakaze vs Kototora – Former Juryo mainstay Amakaze has produced 6-1 and 5-2 records since his return from a 8 month kyujo. He has also become a bit of an internet star for videos showing him enthusiastically eating all manner of goodies. I expect him to have little trouble with Kototora, as I think Amakaze is under-ranking right now.

Kitanowaka vs Ota – Kitanowaka was very impressive in his first basho, resulting in a 6-1 record and a solid move into Jonidan. He faces a long serving veteran in Ota, who has been ranked as high as Makushita. I expect Ota will faithfully undertake the tempering of young Kitanowaka, who is fresh from the wide open play-yard of Jonikuchi.

Natsu Day 9 – Ones To Watch

Amakaze – Ready To Compete In the Sandanme Undefeated Bracket

For fans of the lower divisions, day 8 was obliteration, with many of our cohort in the “Ones to Watch” going down to defeat, and others finding their fortunes dashed on the dohyo. With all of our rikishi now having 4 matches complete, only Naya and Amazake are still undefeated, with everyone else taking at least one loss.

Action from day 8

RikishiOutcomeScore
HoshoryuLoss2-2
MidorifujiWin2-2
NayaWin4-0
MusashikuniLoss1-3
TerunofujiLoss3-1
ShojiLoss2-2
AmakazeWin4-0

Some highlights and lowlights: Amakaze tossed Shinyashiki like a sack of rice being loaded onto a truck; it’s really the only way to describe it. He picks up his kachi-koshi, remains undefeated and enters the yusho playoff bracket that holds 12 rikishi. Unless something odd happens, there WILL be a playoff for the Sandanme yusho.

Terunofuji’s match was a stumbling mess, and the former Ozeki looked completely off tempo and was ripe for a loss. This gives him his first black star, and takes him out of the yusho race. It also considerably slows his rise back toward the salaried ranks, and he may not find himself out of Sandanme for a bit longer.

Naya remains unbeaten, and he will enter the bracket for the Makushita yusho for the second consecutive tournament. Does this mean that Naya is suddenly better than his rival Hoshoryu? No, it underscores how brutal and effective the meat grinder is at the top of Makushita.

Hoshoryu found himself on a fast track to the south side zabuton when he squared off against another young fast-riser in Ryuko, who made quick work of Hoshoryu. Focus on 4 wins, Hoshoryu – you are in fine shape to get there.

Now on to day 9. You will note that most of the 4-0 lower division rikishi are in action on day 9, as they start to winnow the undefeated pool and try to get to a yusho winner within the remaining 3 matches. In Sandanme and Jonidan, it’s almost certain there will be playoff matches on day 15, but it’s going to be a great adventure to get there. Day 9 is heavy with the Makushita side of our roster, so it’s another late night for Team Tachiai!

Wakamotoharu vs Jokoryu – In this 1-3 bracket match, the loser goes away make-koshi, and facing demotion for Nagoya. Both of these men are trying to return to Juryo, one of them will face disappointment today.

Ichiyamamoto vs Hoshoryu – Two of our “Ones to Watch” up in the same match, it’s a 2-2 bracket that brings two scrappers face to face and underscores that fierce nature of the top ranks of Makushita. Ichiyamamoto won their only prior match.

Midorifuji vs Takakento – Another rematch will see Midorifuji try to even up the career record in this 2-2 bracket fight. Former Takanohana rikishi (now Chiganoura) Takakento is fighting at his highest ever rank, and needs 2 more to advance higher on the banzuke.

Naya vs Tsukahara – A 4-0 bracket match, the winner advances into the ever decreasing pool of rikishi who will compete for the Makushita yusho. Naya will face off against another fast risking young star in Kasugano’s Tsukahara, who has a Jonokuchi and Jonidan yusho to his name.

Roga vs Kototora – Young Roga finds himself in an upper Sandanme 2-2 bracket match, looking for 2 more wins to reach the safety of kachi-koshi. Kototora is fighting at his highest ever rank, but his 55 basho experience may provide a decisive edge.

Amakaze vs Tsugaruumi – Sandanme yusho bracket match sees former Juryo mainstay Amakaze go to work against Sandanme mainstay Tsugaruumi. Tsugaruumi has struggled with injury, and is one of the lighter rikishi in Sandanme. This might set up a second consecutive “grab and toss” from Amakaze.

Kitanowaka vs Oba – Former high school Yokozuna finds himself in a 3-1 bracket, but surprisingly he still has a path to a Jonokuchi yusho. With 3 matches left, there are only 3 rikishi with a 4-0 record, meaning there is a fair chance that the eventual yusho winner will not be undefeated. To remain in the hunt, he needs to get past Oba.

Hattorizakura vs Higohikari – Congrats to Higohikari who will pick up his first win today against perpetual soft-sumo expert Hattorizakura.