Nagoya Day 1 across the divisions

tamawashi-bowling
Hakuho bowling with Tamawashi as the ball

Jonokuchi

The hardcore fans have been eagerly awaiting Hattorizakura’s best chance at securing a white star. The opponent was Wakaoyama. A 16 years old boy who weighs just 67kg, and whose record at Maezumo was a miserable 0-5. Hattorizakura weighs 88kg, and has a lot of experience.

Well.

Hattorizakura now has the interesting scoreline of 1 win – 111 losses in his career.

Tomorrow (or should I say, today) I’m going to watch Chiyotaiyo’s bout with interest. He is 175cm tall, weighs just 70kg, and looked like a stick insect in his shin-deshi presentation. But unlike the above Wakaoyama, he was 3-1 in Maezumo, and I think Kokonoe oyakata didn’t just pick him for the chanko and clean-up duties. He is up against Tanakayama, who is 183cm, 120kg, and was 3-0 in maezumo. Should be interesting.

Jonidan

Here is Shunba’s first match, up against Shikihide’s foreigner, Francis:

Sandanme

Sandanme is hot this basho. Well, everything in Nagoya is hot this basho, but Sandanme in particular. Here we have one we have been following for a while – Hoshoryu, Asashoryu’s nephew, who won the Jonidan yusho last basho. He faces Tagonofuji.

Well, there goes the Sandanme yusho.

Also in Sandanme, a bout between the two foreigners – Mongolian Yoshoyama from Tokitsukaze, and Bulgarian Torakio from Naruto. Both of them could be said to be somewhat underachieving. Torakio is the star of his heya, but has suffered injuries and setbacks and is only in Sandanme a year into his career. Yoshoyama was touted as very strong when he entered sumo. He is Tokitsukaze’s replacement for Tokitenku. So far he has been kachi-koshi, but not impressively so.

Torakio dispatches of him with a heave-ho. I guess young Mongolians suffer badly in extra hot Nagoya.

Makushita

Here are some bouts from the hot end of Makushita. First, Tomokaze-Wakatakamoto. Wakatakamoto aims to catch up to his little brother Wakatakakage up in Juryo. It’s going to be hard to do it like this:

Kiribayama-Ichiyamamoto:

Quick reversals in a slap fest.

Murata vs. Hakuyozan. Bouts at the top of Makushita are energetic, not no say frantic:

Juryo

Here is a digest of all Day 1 Juryo bouts (BTW, most of the videos in this post are from One and Only, now called “Sumo Channel”)

Homarefuji manages to reverse the charges at the edge. He is fighting for his life this basho, at the edge of a Makushita drop.

Tobizaru is trying everything he has, including an attempt at kicking, But Kizenryu just keeps him at bay and eventually grabs him and sends him flying like a… well… flying monkey.

Chiyonoumi in his first bout as a Sekitori. Land some heavy tsuppari at Wakatakakage, who joins his big brother on the black star list.

Mitoryu seems to be still a little bit on the injured side, and eventually resorts to the Ichinojo tactic – lean, then squeeze out.

Terutsuyoshi attempts a henka against Gagamaru, but executes it really sloppily and loses promptly.

Yago gets himself a birthday gift vs. Tokushoryu.

Azumaryu solid against Shimanoumi. Takes his time, wins in the end.

Adding to the list of Mongolians who can stand the heat – Kyokushuho who dispatches of Tsurugisho quickly. Seiro, on the other hand, has some trouble with Hidenoumi. The battle rages across the dohyo, but the man in the magenta mawashi gives way first.

Now, Aminishiki’s bout is worth watching from more than just that angle.

He goes straight for Daishoho’s mawashi. No henkas, no hatakikomis. Daishoho defends solidly, trying to prevent Aminishiki from making use of the handhold he has with his right hand. Aminishiki plants his head. Sets up his feet first one way and then the other, then applies all the strength he has with his right hand for a shitatedashinage. It is Aminishiki’s first Day 1 win this year.

Not sure about the Takanoiwa-Takanosho bout. Is Takanosho that good, or is Takanoiwa that rusty?

A battle of tsuppari ensues between Takagenji and Kotoyuki. Just as Kotoyuki is about to do his famous rolling stone impression, Takagenji’s heel touches outside of the tawara. No monoii needed.

Akiseyama doesn’t look like he is ready to face the challenge of Makunouchi just yet. Daiamami disposes of him rather quickly.

Makunouchi

Just a few comments here as Bruce covered this excellently.

Arawashi looks like he is heading down to Juryo. Of course, ring rust and everything. But he seems to be simply too weak.

Nishikigi continues his forward motion from last basho.

Takarafuji also seems to be nearing his expiration date. He lost this bout on lack of stamina.

Ichinojo must have been watching the Russia-Croatia game yesterday. Including overtime and penalty kicks. He came into the ring as if he hasn’t had much sleep and… that’s not the Ichinojo I want to see. It was painful to watch (unless you’re a Chiyonokuni fan, that is).

Now, I wonder how it is that whenever I watch Hakuho fight I see a totally different match than the other Tachiai members… Bruce described this match as “the dai-Yokozuna dismantling Tamawashi”. What I saw was the dai-yokozuna winning on plan C. First, he went for the harizashi. Yes, that forbidden harizashi – slap and grab. Only, he couldn’t really grab. Tamawashi blocked him quite effectively. OK, plan B. He starts a flying tsuppari attack, and manages to turn Tamawashi around. But unexpectedly, Tamawashi wheels back in an instant, and gets the surprised Yokozuna in a firm morozashi. OK, plan C, because nobody becomes a dai-yokozuna by being a one-trick pony, and certainly not Hakuho, who creates a diversion behind Tamawashi’s neck, and, quick as lightning, performs a makikae (change of grips from overarm to underarm). This usually results in losing ground, but Hakuho times this very well and by the time Tamawashi pushes him to the tawara he is already in his favorite migi-yotsu and in the middle of a sukuinage.

So a brilliant show of the walking sumo encyclopaedia that is Hakuho, but it was a close call and certainly not a good sign for the Yokozuna.

Natsu Senshuraku Comments

Natsu-Macaron

With the final day in the books, we have already covered some of the big news of the day. But before we can consider Natsu complete, there are a few other topics to bring up.

Special Prizes

There was a flurry of special prizes awarded today, in fact more of them than I can remember in recent tournaments.

Shukun-Sho (Outstanding Performance) went to Shohozan, for being the only rikishi to beat the yusho winner, Kakuryu. The prize was dependant on Kakuryu winning the final match. In his sansho interview, you actually get to see Shohozan smile! Nah, it’s still moderately scary.

Kanto-Sho (Fighting Spirit) went off in cluster-bomb fashion to: Tochinoshin, Chiyonokuni and Kyokutaisei. Tochinoshin because he was some kind of European winning machine, Chiyonokuni because he seems to have finally found his sumo at his higher weight, and Kyokutaisei because he went double digits in his first top division basho, and he was a movie star.

Gino-Sho (Technique) went to Tochinoshin, as it seems the NSK want to load him up with sansho before his Ozeki promotion, as a way of saying “Nice work you big bear!”.

Notable Matches

There were also a handful of matches that were worth note

Ishiura executed some actually solid sumo against Juryo visitor Kyokushuho for a win. That win may have saved him from relegation back to the farm division, and we may get to see him occupy the Nishikigi memorial “last slot on the banzuke” position for Nagoya.

Speaking of Nishikigi, he went double digits and handed Asanoyama his make-koshi. For a man who has struggled much the last couple of years, I was impressed to see Nishikigi that genki. I just worry he may get over-promoted.

Takakeisho sounded the call heralding Nagoya’s tadpole march, by racking his 10th win of the basho against Sadanoumi. Takakeisho closed out the basho with 8 continuous wins, after having a very rough start that made his fans worry that he was not going to get his sumo back after going kyujo in Osaka. Never fear, he’s back and he’s ready now it seems. Nagoya will see ur-Tadpole Onosho rejoin the crew, and it’s tadpole sumo once again. Frankly, I can’t wait.

Chiyonokuni put Kagayaki away by controlling the form and pace of the match. With Chiyonokuni hitting 12 wins, he’s going to get a huge promotion for Nagoya, and I am going to guess he is going to suffer much like Natsu of 2017 where he was promoted to the joi, and it took him months to recover. Kagayaki will escape a disastrous promotion velocity and have time to patiently continue to incrementally improve. This guy is going to be a big deal if he can stay healthy.

Yoshikaze got a first hand look at Abi-zumo, and shrugged. Abi was all over the place, doing all kinds of things that don’t normally work in sumo. He’s up on his toes, he’s leaning far forward, and his balance is shifting moment to moment. But hey, it got him 7 wins in the joi, and a kinboshi. But honestly the veterans are starting to deconstruct his attacks, and he’s going to be bottled up soon enough. Hopefully he learns some new tricks, because I think he has a lot of potential.

Tamawashi really needed the win he grabbed over Shodai, he scoped by into kachi-koshi territory, and will likely be back in san’yaku for Nagoya. If he can keep his injuries under control, he will have a chance to dislodge the likes of Ichinojo from his transitional Sekiwake rank.

With Natsu done, all of the rikishi have about 60 days to train, seek treatment for injuries, fly off to Europe to see family or just generally carry on with sumo functions. Big events will come next week, as we are expecting to see at least a handful of retirement announcements, announcements of shin-Sekitori coming from Makushita into Juryo, and the announcement of a new Ozeki in the world of sumo. I will write more later about Tochinoshin, as there is much to examine.

But for now, thanks for reading Tachiai, we have had a great time covering the Natsu basho, and we hope you have enjoyed our site.

Jungyo Newsreel – Catching up at Kanagawa

Hello again, Jungyo enthusiasts. I have strayed off the trail after day 6. Let’s try to do some catching up and join the sekitori again at Kanagawa, where they have been spending days 13 and 14.

So what happened during that interval?

Little girls can no longer participate in kiddie sumo

Despite public outcry, the NSK is asking each hosting town not to send little girls to the kiddie sumo events of the Jungyo. The reason given “Safety first”. When various outlets pointed out that boys and girls are equally susceptible to injury on the dohyo, the answer was “We don’t want to risk girls sustaining permanent injuries to the face”.

Hakuho’s father passed away

On April 9th, Hakuho’s father, Mönkhbat, the former Olympic medalist in wrestling, and the equivalent of Dai-Yokozuna in Mongolian Wrestling, passed away at the age of 76 of liver cancer.

Hakuho fully participated in the event in Ina, Nagano prefecture, but asked for – and received – a leave of absence to attend his father’s funeral in Mongolia starting from April 11th. He will re-join the Jungyo for the Honozumo event at Yasukuni shrine on April 16th.

hakuho-funeral

The late Mönkhbat has been a national hero in Mongolia, and his funeral drew much attention and included military escort.

hakuho-funeral-son

Hakuho has always been very strongly connected to his father and looked up to him. When the father was diagnosed with liver cancer, Hakuho had him flown to Japan for treatment, then back to the comfort of his own home in Mongolia. Of course, even the best modern medical intervention has its limitations.

Kisenosato joins the Jungyo

Kisenosato announced that he will re-join the Jungyo. His return was planned for the 13th, but he joined one day earlier – may be to avoid Friday the 13th, or maybe to cover up for Hakuho’s absence.

kisenosato-tsuna-shime

In the couple of days he’s been participating he has been showing mixed results. I’d warn you against developing high hopes hearing reports that he wins his Jungyo bouts. We’ve been here before – Kisenosato managing to win bouts and elimination tournaments in Jungyo, getting breathless coverage from the press, then hitting a wall in honbasho. That injury is not going away any time soon.

Terunofuji and Aminishiki absent

I reported in my Day 6 coverage that Terunofuji was absent from the torikumi. The next day he was joined by his stablemate, Aminishiki. Terunofuji was reportedly back on duty today (April 14th) at the Fujisawa event, but Aminishiki is still out.

Birthdays

Goeido had a birthday on April  6th – day 6 of the Jungyo – and is now 32. The following day, Ichinojo celebrated his 25th birthday.

ichinojo-25

Today, although he is never again going to be on any Jungyo, many sumo fans celebrated Harumafuji’s 34th birthday.


So let’s now proceed to the daily coverage.

Day 13

🌐 Location: Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture

Here is Chiyomaru’s version of kiddie sumo:

Ahaha… poor kids.

Tochinoshin offered his chest for some butsukari to Tobizaru and Takanosho. Bigger men have failed to move the Georgian Cliff:

Things look a little different when it’s reverse butsukari (the higher ranking guy is the pusher). You just let the Wookiee win:

Endo is getting a lot of high-rank attention this Jungyo. Apparently that’s because he is going to make san-yaku in the Natsu basho. Previously he got juiced by Takayasu. This time, Kakuryu invited him to san-ban (practice form in which the same two wrestlers go through full bouts repeatedly until the higher ranking one calls it off).

kakuryu-vs-endo

This one consisted of 13 bouts, all won by the Yokozuna. Rather than counting wins, the Yokozuna concentrated on adjusting his own movement and building up his body.

After practice, the Yokozuna was seen having a talk with Endo. It turned out that they were exchanging injury-related experience.

Kakuryu’s finger injury lingers on. He seems able to use his grip, but says that after applying sudden force, when he lets go of the opponent’s mawashi, the pain hits. “But it’s not preventing me from doing sumo”.

Kisenosato engaged Meisei from Juryo for a 9-bout sanban, and won them all. Also watch for the bout vs. Kakuryu at the musubi-no-ichiban. Just remember my warning above.

Day 14

🌐 Location: Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture

Help, a group of fierce robbers has taken to the streets of Fujisawa!

fierce-robbers

(A word of advice to Kyokushuho: your highwayman career is going to be very short if you wear kimono with your name (and those of current and former stable mates) splashed all over it).

The spectators got to enjoy double bills, both in the oicho construction performance:

And in the tsuna-shime performance, where the two Yokozuna present showed off their ropes. I think this was originally planned to include Hakuho, which would have given the spectators both Shiranui and Unryu style rope tying, but unfortunately Hakuho is in Mongolia, and so they got a double Unryu.

The top 16 members of Makuuchi participated in an elimination tournament. So here is Kisenosato vs. Tamawashi:

Kisenosato vs. Shodai (who has beaten Tochinoshin in the first round):

Kisenosato vs. Kaisei:

And finally, the final, Kisenosato vs. Takayasu. When playing in elimination format, the restriction against matching rikishi from the same stable does not apply:

Kisenosato wins today’s yusho.

Haru Day 14 Highlights

Goeido - Kakuryu

As much as I hate to do this, I am putting a buffer up for people who cry about “spoilers” in a live sport they watch on delay. Some great sumo, especially from Mitakeumi and Ryuden today. Sadly for Mitakeumi, he’s dropping from his Sekiwake slot. It remains to be seen if he drops from san’yaku completely, but he really put forth excellent sumo in today’s match.

But the headline is Yokozuna Kakuryu’s 4th yusho. He earned it in spite of injuries and pain. He mounted the dohyo every day and battled with skill, guile and strength. He has been excellent in all of his matches, and thus far only dropping one match. As his only loss was to the prior yusho winner, there is no shame in that at all. With any luck, his detractors will be silent for a year or so. With Kisenosato possibly un-repairable, and Hakuho amazing but unreliable, Yokozuna Kakuryu may be the only rope-holder to oversee our dawning transitional era.

Highlight Matches

Kyokushuho defeats Nishikigi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho is still one win shy of his kachi-koshi, but he was in good form over the struggling Nishiki, who is himself headed back to the Junior League for May.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Ikioi mounts the dohyo with a giant bandage over his right eye, looking like Franken-Ikioi. Does the crowd care? Hell no! It’s the home-town dashing and handsome rikishi, even if parts of him are taped together. Ishiura, to his credit, tried to give him a straight up fight, but Ikioi moved forward strongly, and kept Ishiura in front of him. [Ikioi is now an amazing 11-3 and will hopefully take home a special prize. –PinkMawashi]

Daiamami defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki charged forward strongly, and actually looked like he would deliver his second win of the basho. He had Daiamami pinned against the tawara, but then somehow just ran out of gas as Daiamami charged forward and won. I am unsure what kind of misery Kotoyuki suffers, but he seems to be fairly hopeless at this point.

Yutakayama defeats Asanoyama – Yutakayama certainly looks dialed in now, hitting his 10th win with one day to go. He completely dominated Asanoyama in today’s match.

Chiyoshoma defeats Aoiyama – The formula for winning over Aoiyama is to keep moving and get him to chase you. Chiyoshoma had this one down cold, and eventually the man-mountian had Chiyoshoma grab his arm and pull a throw. Chiyoshoma picks up his kachi-koshi, which was well earned today.

Daieisho defeats Chiyonokuni – Some impressive defense from Chiyonokuni, as Daiesho delivered some powerful nodowa at the edge. Chiyonokuni ends the match with a make-koshi, and Daiesho with his kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – It can be fun to watch big-man sumo like this. Daishomaru gets bold at the tachiai and charges face first into the giant meat balloon that is Kaisei, and lands with a wet smack. With his face still embedded in Kaisei’s expansive upper torso, the giant Brazillian goes for an westward stroll, taking the now trapped and helpless Daishomaru along for the win. We can expect a big move up the banzuke for Kaisei in May.

Abi defeats Kotoshogiku – Abi’s henka is perfectly timed, and defeats Kotoshogiku’s only possible attack. But wait! (you say) – Bruce, you complain about Ishiura’s henkas! Yes, it gets old fast when a rikishi uses that as their go-to weapon. But in this case, it’s the correct way to blunt Kotoshogiku’s obligatory offensive opening. Well executed and correctly deployed. Abi goes to 9 wins.

Ryuden defeats Arawashi – Good gravy what a match this one is! The men lock up into a battle for grip at the tachiai, with Arawashi pinning Ryuden’s arms time and again. But Arawashi has control and works with what he has, backing Ryuden up to the bales strongly enough that Ryuden’s heels are dangerously close to being out. But Ryuden recovers! Arawashi advances strongly again, a second time Ryuden is a centimeter from being out, but rallies to the center of the dohyo. Stalemated, Arawashi is out of energy, and Ryuden backs him up and out. Excellent sumo from them both. Miraculously, Ryuden can still achieve his kachi-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match at first, Takarafuji gets the gumbai, but then the shimpan want to talk it over, fairly late in the post-bout ritual. The judges decide on a torinaoshi, which Takarafuji wins by letting Kagayaki fall to the dohyo.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Endo now with 9 wins after this bout with a struggling Hokutofuji. The match featured Endo and Hokutofuji trading attempts to slap or thrust each other down, with Endo’s superior ring sense helping him time his third attempt to be at the edge, where Hokutofuji had no room to recover. Endo is headed to San’yaku for May, and the valiant Hokutofuji is make-koshi and desperately needing to re-group.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – As expected, it was energetic! Both men were landing a lot of powerful blows on each others neck and head, grabbing each other’s arms and generally carrying on in an aggressive sumo fashion. Shohozan seemed to have the advantage, setting the pace and moving forward while Tamawashi kept giving ground. The win came at the tawara when Tamawashi twisted to his right, guiding Shohozan down and out.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – The super genki Shodai was not able to show up today, but he did a reasonable job against the man that NHK commentator Hiro Morita calls “The Mongolian Behemoth”. Fans started to worry that Ichinojo had re-injured his back due to his soft performance the day prior, but he was large and in charge today, getting Shodai airborne for the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I am very pleased to see Yoshikaze fighting well again. I had some serious worries during week 1. Chiyotairyu opened strong, pushing Yoshikaze back, but then they go chest to chest, and Yoshikaze starts to control the match. He did a great job of keeping the massive Chiyotairyu high and unable to generate forward pressure.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru left the dohyo today not only without a hope of kachi-koshi, but also without Tochinoshin’s meaty left leg, which he had planned as a victory snack. Tochinoshin still has an outside hope of continuing his Ozeki bid by winning his match against Ichinojo tomorrow.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Possibly Mitakeumi’s best match of the basho [Possibly the best match of the basho, period –PM], and sadly it gave him his demotion from the Sekiwake slot he has enjoyed for many tournaments. If this is not a wake-up call to Takayasu, I am not sure what is. Mitakeumi had him contained, restrained and for a time, in pain. All the Ozeki could do was react to the next contortion Mitakeumi placed him into and struggle to escape. Even when Takayasu managed to escape Mitakeumi, the Sekiwake re-secured control and kept the punishment coming. But Mitakeumi got too eager, ended up off balance and thrust down. The difference between Sekiwake Mitakeumi and Maegashira Mitakeumi is the ability to finish Pooh-Bear off when you have him at your mercy. [Mitakeumi’s match against Goeido tomorrow may determine whether he falls to Komusubi or Maegashira, so we’ll all be watching that one closely. –PM]

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – You have to wonder if Kakuryu is THE master of reactive sumo. Goeido must know that somewhere in his poorly formatted flash drive. Why do you advance strongly into the guy you KNOW is going to make you pay if your weight is not centered over the arches of your feet? Herouth tells us from inside EDION that she may have been the only soul cheering for the Yokozuna in the Ozeki’s home-town. But Kakuryu shows us that he is every bit a Yokozuna, and takes his fourth yusho.

Haru Day 4 Highlights

 

Takakeisho Extra Point
Sadly, No Extra Points In Sumo

 

Absolute blockbuster day of sumo, as the cobwebs of the early days are almost all swept away, and we race towards the end of Haru’s first act. Today we saw some of the best sumo thus far from Ichinojo and Mitakeumi, with Takakeisho and Tochinoshin a close second. In fact, I would say that both of those matches are worthy of study in sumo school, as each show an opponent going against a larger, strong rikishi, and finding a way to win.

Apologies for the late highlights today, much insanity has broken loose in life. I will gamberize for Thursday.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Hidenoumi – Aoiyama to gut and fillet everyone who stands against him. Hidenoumi had no chance as his tachiai hit a wall of flesh, and then the nodowa landed on his throat. Aoiyama finished with him and tossed him aside like a bag of rotten miso. With Aoiyama back to genki status, I predict he is going to inflict a lot of pain at the bottom of the banzuke.

Kyokushuho defeats Myogiryu – Visiting from Juryo, Kyokushuho takes a bite out of the struggling Myogiryu. Both men started with thrusts, and then went chest to chest. The closing kotenage looked on the painful side, but Myogiryu seemed ok afterward.

Ikioi defeats Asanoyama – The injured Ikioi remains unbeaten at Maegashira 14 and is managing to best his opponent each day, no matter what. He is already halfway to a kachi-koshi. Today it was Asanoyama. Ikioi absorbed a fury of blows, then drove forward. Asanoyama seemed ill-prepared to shift to defense, and Ikioi applied a yoritaoshi for a rapid win.

Tochiozan defeats Kotoyuki – Fusen-sho, Kotoyuki has withdrawn from Haru. Possibly too many air-express trips into the front row.

Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempted a mini-henka, but Yutakayama was ready. Following that, Ishiura could never set his feet at all, and it was a bit of a dance/chase routine that had Ishiura out in a hurry.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Chiyoshoma gets his first win, in a thrusting battle with Ryuden that left the Freshman unable to find his balance or set up for any kind of stable offense. Chiyoshoma uses this with great skill and keeps him unsteady. Ryuden was a bit slow to get up, hopefully, he is ok.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Once again Abi plays the part of the bull fighter. He uses his superior reach to goad Daieisho into a fierce forward charge, then steps out of the way as Daieisho launches out of the ring. We like to make fun of Abi and his long limbs, but watch this bout in slow motion, Daieisho can’t even really touch the man.

Yoshikaze defeats Kagayaki – Yoshikaze looked a bit better today, but nowhere near full berserker strength. Kakayaki was unable to cope with the raging chaos that is Yoshikaze, and he was overwhelmed. Both men are now 2-2.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyomaru – Great to see that Hokutofuji finally picked up his first win. He has been turning in poor performances for a few months, and fans have to wonder what problem is plaguing him. Chiyomaru was soft at the tachiai, while Hokutofuji launched with abandon. Strictly a thrusting battle, Hokutofuji focused on pushing Chiyomaru from center mass, and it worked.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – The worst part of this match? A moment before he steps out, you can see Shodai visibly give up. Can we please find some way to put Shodai through whatever self-help session fixed Ichinojo? Maybe some time with a couple of nice ponies, or maybe chasing down wolves in the streets of Sumida? Kaisei looking quite genki, and picks up his 4th straight win.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Damn, Shohozan is looking quite fierce so far. Kotoshogiku is a fraction of his former self, and he tried to rush forward and go chest to chest. But Shohozan gave ground under his control, and Kotoshogiku could never plant his feet and bounce forward. Shohozan picked up a nice win, also 4-0 to start.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Chiyotairyu also picking up his first win of the tournament today against Takarafuji. It was clear from the start that Chiyotairyu was going to make this an oshi-battle, and Takarafuji planted his feet and dug in. But the more massive Chiyotairyu took control, got Takarafuji off balance, and slapped him down.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – Now we start the really GOOD stuff. Wow, very impressed with Mitakeumi this fight. Ichinojo was going to once again apply the “I’m incredibly large, deal with it” strategy, but I think he was unprepared that yes, Mitakeumi was ready to deal with it. From the start, Ichinojo is just physically much higher than Mitakeumi, and Mitakeumi works with that. He gets inside of Ichinojo, but rather than going for the belt, he puts his hands on the giant’s chest and starts pushing. Ichinojo thinks to himself “silly pony!”, and leans forward. The weight is clearly taxing Mitakeumi, but he dials up the pressure. 500 pounds of Mongolian is crushing down on Mitakeumi, but he’s not going to relent. Ichinojo moves to shift his grip, and Mitakeumi takes Ichinojo’s armpits. He lifts and pushes hard. There was no recovery, and Ichinojo could never again plant his feet. Fantastic win by Mitakeumi!

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Day 4 was not done giving us things to cheer about. A fantastic match between Hatsu Yusho winner Tochinoshin, and the grumpy tadpole Takakeisho. You know, of course, that Tochinoshin wants to get his left hand on the Bowling Ball’s mawashi. And he gets it. But rather than shock or defeat, a look of intensity and motivation sweeps across Takakeisho’s face, and he drives forward, lifting Tochinoshin’s left arm with everything he has… and breaks the grip! This leaves Takakeisho off balance and stumbling, but Tochinoshin pursues. They continue to stagger like drunken Tanuki across the dohyo, with Takakeisho doing a pirouette as Tochinoshin takes in a mouth full of clay. Nicely done to Takakeisho! The crowd cheers as both men bow, what an effort!

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Kind of boring oshi-fight, with Takayasu delivering his now obligatory shoulder blast. He does manage to out slap Tamawashi, which is quite an accomplishment. Bout ends with a hatakikomi. Kind of boring… but hey, Ozeki got his second win, now 2-2 for the basho.

Endo defeats Goeido – Endo has a sequence of moves he has used a few times now at Haru and Hatsu. He employed it again today against Goeido, and shame on the Ozeki for falling for it. He meets the tachiai low and strong, makes sure his opponent ramps up the pressure to full power, and then while keeping his hands on his opponent’s upper body, steps aside and releases. Worked again today. Everyone, keep an eye on Endo!

Kakuryu defeats Arawashi – Very straightforward match. Big K meets Arawashi at the tachiai and marches him straight backward. Very happy that the lone Yokozuna is doing well this basho. Perhaps his detractors will gain some respect for him?

Day 3 – Katasukashi Galore

Elephant Crosses Dohyo
What Yokozuna Incident?

So… let’s start with a couple of Juryo bouts. First, if there are any Ishiura fans out there, take a look:

Finally, Ishiura gets a win, against the hapless Homarefuji. He plants his head and keeps his feet in order, and manages to take the Isegahama man out. Of course, this black star is probably the last worry on Isegahama Oyakata’s mind this day. But they keep piling on.

Now take a look at Yutakayama vs. Tokushoryu:

A couple of days ago I said that there’s a level of difference between Yutakayama and Asanoyama. But as it turns out, the larger man is already in possession of three wins, while Asanoyama is not doing as well.

Up into Makuuchi we go, and Daiamami gets his first win today! Admittedly, Kyokushuho is just a Juryo rival, but any white star is a gold star at this point for the newcomer. It starts with a matta, but in the second round, Daiamami just cannons into Kyokushuho and gaburi’s him out. The fans enjoy his interview face:

Kotoyuki also grabbed his first win today, in a bit of a confused battle. Myogiryu throws Kotoyuki down, but falls a split second before the huge meatball. Air resistance?

Up we go to take a look at everybody’s favorite uncle. Whatever is happening around him in his heya, and the fact that he is going to do his dohyo-iri in his own kesho-mawashi from now on, do not seem to affect him. Nishikigi tried to do the smart thing – to press the kneeless man against the tawara. But Aminishiki just tiptoed aside like a ballerina, and handed Nishikigi the first Katasukashi of the day.

Aminishiki’s comment on the Isegahama website: “The heya has met with a serious situation, but the remaining rikishi must do their best. As the eldest I will strive to lead everybody forward”.

Takekaze seems to be headed to Juryo (if he doesn’t decide to retire). Okinoumi exchanges some thrusts with him until he gets a nice hold of his neck and ends it with a hatakikomi (if anybody can explain to me why this is not a tokkurinage… sigh).

The Asanoyama vs. Kagayaki bout was different than I expected. I’m used to seeing Kagayaki flailing wildly with his arms and his… additional appendages… This time he basically got his hands on Asanoyama’s body and managed to beat the Yotsu man at his own game.

Daiesho gets a first win today as well, when, after some attempts to slap and defend on Ikioi‘s side, he finally sidesteps and lets the big man hit the clay.

Endo decides to use thrusts vs. Shodai, and doesn’t make any use of his tachiai advantage. Shodai withstands the tsuppari attack, and manages to get a grip on Endo’s upper body. That’s the end for the recovering man in the golden mawashi, as Shodai has more than enough power to get him out even without a mawashi grip.

Not much can be said about the battle of the Marus. Again, Chiyomaru seems to have come to the dohyo without his usual genki. Daishomaru easily pushes him out.

Arawashi takes Tochinoshin to the bales and executes a beautiful sukui-nage. As Tochinoshin tries to resist the fall, Arawashi uses his right leg against Tochinoshin’s left and “helps” him complete the roll. Very nice!

Takarafuji earns his first win today vs. Chiyoshoma. It was Chiyoshoma’s initial initiative, but Takarafuji rallied, didn’t let Chiyoshoma get any grip on him for a throw (come on, Chiyoshoma, don’t try neck grips with Takarafuji, those are futile!) – and then throws the thrower in a nice uwatenage.

The second Katasukashi of the day came from Ichinojo. But this one was rather weird. Hokutofuji came at him low at the tachiai, and Ichinojo grabbed him under his arms, and then just let him drop. Not sure if slippiotoshi or sloppy tachiai on Hokutofuji’s part.

Chiyonokuni‘s match with Shohozan was less of a slapfest than I thought it would be, and ended pretty quickly with the Kokonoe man slapping his opponent down. All-important first win for Chiyonokuni.

Kotoshogiku nearly succeeds in his game plan today, and starts pumping his hips. However, Mitakeumi makes sure to be loose on one side, and concentrates his power on his grip on the pump-man’s arm for a well-executed sukuinage. Still bothered by his toe, but as long as he can execute throws like that, I’m sure the sekiwake is happy. Kotoshogiku is not getting the comeback he was hoping for, now 0-3.

Terunofuji‘s ghost continues to float over the dohyo without ever being able to latch its feet to it. Yet another loss for the former kaiju, this time against Yoshikaze who picks up his first win.

I wonder when Onosho is going to switch back to his fiery red mawashi. Rikishi are usually quick to blame their mawashi for their troubles, and the tadpole clearly suffers some bad lack, with his second slippiotoshi in a row against Takayasu. Unlike yesterday, when the Yokozuna really could take no credit for anything in the bout, Takayasu can be commended for managing to keep his footing first against a sidestep and then when pushed to the tawara. Excellent footwork from someone who tore a major leg muscle less than two months ago.

Goeido diversifies. In the two previous matches he hugged his opponent and swept him all the way to the other edge. Today he heard it was Katasukashi day, so he showed Tochiozan that he has waza as well as brute force.

If anybody hoped for another pedagogic bout between Hakuho and Takakeisho, this was not to be. Takakeisho exhibited welcome fearlessness in this bout, and even attempted to throw the dai-yokozuna. And if he had managed to do that I would really be worried that we’re seeing the decline of the One True King. But of course, Hakuho maintained his footing, got his other arm on Takakeisho and quickly swept him off the dohyo.

Finally, in the musubi of the day, Kisenosato manages to overwhelm Chiyotairyu in a way that he can feel happier about than yesterday’s silly bout vs. Onosho. He almost dances back to his position on the east to take his prize money.


Some more lower-ranks action:

Osunaarashi – Takagenji:

For followers of Shunba:

 

Natsu Day 9 Highlights

Hakuho-dohyo-iri

Daieisho Finally Wins One

The injured Kisenosato gave up his second kinboshi today, this time to a resurgent Tochiozan. It’s been amazing to watch Kisenosato stay competitive in spite of his almost useless left upper body, but perhaps there is now a working formula to defeat him in his weakened state.

Goeido went down to Terunofuji, even though it looks like Goeido 2.0 showed up. With Terunofuji in Kaiju mode, there is not much that can slow him down. On day 8 when he picked up a bulky and squirming Mitakeumi by the shoulders and lifted him past the tawara, it was clear that everyone was in danger.

The other big news is that Kotoshogiku avoided make-koshi today by winning against Endo. Somehow Endo allowed himself to be wrapped up for a hug-n-chug, which Kotoshogiku was all to happy to apply. While it is a reprieve, the chances that Kotoshogiku won’t end up with a strong losing record are incredibly small. Will he endure a demotion back to Maegashira? Or will he take his kabu and retire to a new role helping to run and build the world of sumo?

Selected Highlights

Kyokushuho defeats Chiyotairyu – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho did in fact beat Chiyotairyu, but rather than expected slapping match, it was a straight mawashi test of strength bout.

Tokushoryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama picks up his make-koshi, and will probably be headed back to Juryo, that is if there is anyone in Juryo worth of promotion. This was another really fine mawashi battle that saw both rikishi put forth a strong effort.

Ishiura defeats Daishomaru – Ishiura pulls a henka after a possibly deliberate false start. Normally I would not support henka, but Ishiura is really up against the wall in terms of a winning vs losing record.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – Another battle of the mawashi (it seems to have been the day for it) that saw Kagayaki’s winning streak stopped. Fantastic effort by Onosho to first stop and then reverse Kagayaki relentless forward motion. Once he got Kagayaki moving backwards, it was all over.

Ura defeats Shohozan – Plasticman again stays ridiculously low, and baffles his opponent. The formula seems to be for him to get his opponent wrapped up on his shoulders then push them rapidly backwards and out. Hey, it’s working! Maybe it’s the chonmage-toshi?

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – It was 100% Shodai from the start, as Hokutofuji never got his feet steady. In spite of Shodai’s sloppy tachiai, he was able to get Hokutofuji high and off balance due to Hokutofuji’s even sloppier tachiai today.

Ikioi defeats Takanoiwa – Very quick kotenage from Ikioi. The two grappled briefly at the tachiai, but Ikioi deftly rolled Takanoiwa into the rolling throw and the match was done.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – YES, that’s right, winless Daieisho finally scores his first win this basho, and did it in pretty good style. Watch this one if they show it on the highlights.

Yoshikaze defeats Mitakeumi – A strong start saw Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi locked up at the center of the dohyo, each trying to push the other backwards. Well, it seems to have been a strategy for Yoshikaze, because after a few moments of egging Mitakeumi on, he backed off and slapped him down. A veteran exploiting the rookies bravado and enthusiasm. We still love you Mitakeumi, you are going to be a big deal soon.

Takayasu defeats Chiyonokuni – Takayasu has his kachi-koshi, but his real goal of 10 wins is still 2 away. Chiyonokuni initiated a vigorous thrusting match at first, but as we have seen this basho, Takayasu stood up to it like a man made of stone. He waited for his opportunity, and grabbed Chiyonokuni’s mawashi and took control. Moments later the uwatenage was applied and Chiyonokuni was on the clay.

Tochiozan defeats Kisenosato – This was all Tochiozan from the tachiai, Kisenosato was high and off balance at once. Tochiozan walks away with his very own kensho Mt. Fuji diorama.

Hakuho defeats Aoiyama – Big Aoiyama had nothing, it was another example of The Boss having his way with any rikishi he faces. May be somewhat unstoppable until he faces Harumafuji.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi actually presented a reasonable challenge for a few seconds, and that just seemed to really fire up Harumafuji, who just poured on the forward pressure. Both rikishi ended up launching into the first row of zabuton. It did look as if maybe Harumafuji had some pain in his knee after their crash landing, we hope he is ok.

 

Handicapping The Natsu Banzuke – Part 3

banzuke2a

The Fish Tank & Fresh Faces

*Updated after reader lksumo pointed out that my spreadsheet had somehow skipped special prize winner Takakeisho. This caused a complete re-compute of the lower 8 ranks.

In the last of our series prognosticating the banzuke for Natsu, we take a look at the lower half Makuuchi, including the rikishi who are likely to be demoted down to Juryo and promoted out of Juryo to the upper division.

As stated in the prior posts, the records at the end of Haru left a chaotic mess for predicting the Natsu banzuke. There were a number of strong finishers in Juryo, and a lot of losing records in Makuuchi. In fact the lower Maegashira suffered a preponderance of losing records, and in fact it was difficult this basho not to promote rikishi with losing records, simply because there were so few winning records, and most of those had already moved up the banzuke into upper Maegashira.

Gone from the upper division is Nishikigi, who had been a lower Maegashira for some time. He will go back to Juryo to adjust and try again. His rank velocity was a horrific -7.5, as he went 5-10 in March. Also back to Juryo is Chiyoo, who was injured and withdrew on day 11, after already having secured his make-koshi. We hope he has recovered and is ready to dominate in Juryo.

Also gone from Maegashira is Sadanoumi who had a 4-11 record in March. His rank velocity was -7, and he was tagged for a return to Juryo fairly early on. Joining him is Mongolian Kyokushuho, whose 5-10 record from Maegashira 14 was his ticket back to the second division.

Joining Makuuchi from Juryo is a set of hard charging rikishi ready to compete in the top division. Chief among these is Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki, who returns after a single basho in Juryo. Tachiai also predicts that veteran Chiyotairyu’s winning record will return him to lower Maegashira as well.

We also predict that Onomatsu beya’s Onosho will be making his Makuuchi debut. This up-and-comer has been in Juryo for 13 tournaments, and finally appears to be ready to join the top division. When filling in the banzuke, it was clear that there needed to be one more name kept in Makuuchi, or brought up from Juryo. I am going out on a limb here, but I am going to predict that Osunaarashi will make his return once more to the top division.

Running everyone’s scores through the magic computations gives us the following list:

East Rank West
Hokutofuji Maegashira 8 Shohozan
Arawashi Maegashira 9 Ichinojo
Kagayaki Maegashira 10 Ura
Tochinoshin Maegashira 11 Toyohibiki
Ishiura Maegashira 12 Onosho
Kotoyuki Maegashira 13 Tokushoryu
Chiyotairyu Maegashira 14 Kaisei
Daishomaru Maegashira 15 Oyanagi
Osunaarashi Maegashira 16

First up at Maegashira 8; Hokutofuji, who drops 2 ranks after turning in his first career losing record. Hokutofuji displays significant skill, strength and fighting spirit. I am going to assume that he will start Natsu with a burning desire to continue his march up the banzuke. At 8 west we find Shohozan, who is part of Kisenosato’s dohyo-iri team. He drops 5 places from Maegashira 3, after receiving a brutal pounding in March.

At Maegashira 9 we find Arawashi who suffered a 5 rank demotion after going 4-11. Arawashi has a lot of potential, but for some reason he was out of his element in Osaka. Joining him is Mongolian giant Ichinojo, who drops from Meagashira 7. In spite of a strong losing record, he was actually less terrible than some of his peers, so his demotion is less severe.

Journeyman Kagayaki, who is still struggling to put together a winning plan for surviving his Makuuchi bouts, holds the east slot for Maegashira 10. Ura was one of the few bright spots in March’s lower Maegashira, and he rises 2 ranks to take the west slot of the 10th rank.

Leading Meagashira 11 is Tochinoshin, who has been seriously hurt for a few tournaments now, and is a shadow of his former self. Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki joins in the west slot, and we predict he will feel right at home resuming his Makuuchi duties after a single basho in Juryo.

Ishiura has been struggling to put together a consistent winning strategy for Makuuchi. His compact size, excellent speed and outstanding strength supply him with a lot of building blocks, but we wait for him to come up with a knock-out combination that shows us what he is really capable of. I suspect he may be getting ready to bounce back from a pair of somewhat disappointing tournaments. Joining him, Onosho makes a strong Makuuchi debut at the rank of Maegashira 12.

Kotoyuki, falls 4 ranks given his dismal 5-10 results from the Haru basho to Maegashira 13. Computationally, I suspect that Kotoyuki will be further down the banzuke, but at the present my calculations are a bit fuzzy on where the Juryo promotees will be inserted into Makuuchi. At 13 west, Tokushoryu, who was one of the few kachi-koshi sumotori from March. He gets a bump up 2 ranks and hopefully can turn in a second winning record in May.

For Maegashira 14, Chiyotairyu returns from a single basho in Juryo. He achieved a winning record from Juryo 1 rank, and will return to Maegashira for May. On the west, we find Kaisei still hanging on to a bert in the top division. Kaisei sat out several days of Haru with injuries, and then joined and had a miserable time of it. Somehow this guy is able to evade demotion to Juryo every time, and I predict that he will somehow survive yet again, albeit at a much lower rank.

Daishomaru drops two ranks to Maegashira 15, after a 7-8 result in Osaka. If he has another losing record he will likely return to Juryo to tune himself up. Bring promoted from Juryo is Oyanagi. This will only be his 8th basho! Oyanagi has experienced a meteoric rise, and is now in Makuuchi after only 3 tournaments in Juryo.

Bringing up the final slot in Makuuchi, is my wish-casting of yet another return of the sandstorm, Osunaarashi, to Maegashira. His last Maegashira appearance saw Osunaarashi become injured, and unable to compete strongly. I will be surprised to see him actually re-joing the top division, but as stated earlier, the lower end of Makuuchi ranking was very difficult this time.

That’s Bruce’s guess for Natsu 2017. As always, please feel free to post your ideas too!

Haru Day 11 Recap

Terunofuji-11

Outstanding Sumo All Around

As suggested in our preview of day 11, Kakuryu defeated Takayasu to narrow the yusho race to on very large, powerful rikishi for now – Shin-Yokozuna Kisenosato, who remains undefeated and alone in the lead for the Emperor’s Cup. In addition, Kotoshogiku’s bid to restore his Ozeki rank took a serious blow, when injured Ikioi kept mobile and was able to slap down the Kyushu Bulldozer as he was chasing Ikioi down.

Overnight, Kokonoe rikishi Chyoo withdrew citing a foot injury, and will likely end up back in Juryo for May, as he was Maegashira 15 and already make-koshi. But his default loss brought Takakeisho to 7-4, one win away from securing his kachi-koshi and ensuring a returning slot in Makuuchi.

Ura was able to defeat Kyokushuho, partially by confusion and surprise in one of the sloppiest matches yet. Ura went in very low, stayed low and wriggled his way around, but managing to stay upright until Kyokushuho stepped out. Kyokushuho now make-koshi and likely headed back to Juryo as well.

Ishiura’s bout with Kotoyuki featured a monoii, where the Shimpan award the win to Ishiura after reviewing the video. It was very close on who was out first, as Kotoyuki was falling as Ishiura stepped out. Kotoyuki seems to have sustained some damage in the fall.

Aoiyama won over Kagayaki via a rather ungraceful henka.

Tochiozan keeps winning, this time defeating Chiyonokuni. He remains part of the group (now 3 strong) that are one off the pace. The first bout started with a Tochiozan henka, and ended with a simultaneous throw that triggered a monoii. The Shimpan declared that the match would be re-fought, and in the second bout, Chiyonokuni henka’d, but Tochiozan was all over him and drove him quickly out.

Hokotofuji managed to win again, this time against the hapless Kaisei. A few days ago it looked like Hokotofuji was headed to his first career make-koshi. Today it looks like he is not ready to surrender, and has battled back to 5-6. Very impressive performance from this young college sumo champion.

Arawashi gave Terunofuji a great bout, but as expected Terunofuji prevailed and remains one behind Kisenosato. At one point Terunofuji tried to lift and carry Arawashi, but Arawashi was able to escape Takakaze’s fate. Both rikishi traded throw attempts multiple times, neither able to get the other off balance enough to complete the move. Amazing sumo.

Harumafuji’s win over Mitakeumi happened in the blink of an eye. Harumafuji launched out of the tachiai and his momentum drove Mitakeumi out in one single fluid move. This is the Harumafuji style we love to see.

The final bout of the day saw Yoshikaze pour on the attack against Kisenosato. The outcome of the bout was very much in doubt as Kisenosato was purely reactive at first, and struggled to find an opening to switch to offense. Eventually he was able to get an arm hold on the Berserker and maneuver him to be pushed out. Fantastic effort by Yoshikaze, and excellent recovery by Kisenosato, who is looking very much like the man to beat.

Haru Day 11 Preview

Bow-Twirling

Opening The Third Act

The third act of any basho is where dreams are crushed, the heroes are crowned, and legends are made. The 2017 Haru basho has progressed in new an exceptional ways, but with the final 5 days in front of us, it’s time to truly test those who vie for the Emperor’s Cup, and bring about a winner.

First and foremost, of course, is the remarkable performance of Kisenosato and Takayasu. They complete the firs 10 days of Haru undefeated. In fact, they seem to be able to shake of normal threats such as the day 10 Takanoiwa henka, and the several times that Kisenosato allowed his opponent to gain a brief, fleeting advantage. Unless something strange happens, one of these men will take the Yusho on Sunday. That something strange would be both Kisenosato and Takayasu losing at least once. The only rikishi that can catch them is the resurgant Terunofuji, who looms like a menacing storm front, one win behind the leaders. While Tochiozan has been going strong, he would be unlikely be able to beat all / any of the other three sekitori.

That’s not to say that the schedulers are going to let either Takayasu or Kisenosato have an easy road to yusuf. In fact I expect it will be as brutal as they can make it, in spite of the fact that most of the formidable opponents have been defeated already.

The next question, which many of our readers are starting to ask – Kotoshogiku. He needs three more wins to reclaim his Ozeki rank. He has certainly put on a remarkable performance in Osaka, and some would say he has already earned his way back. But those 3 wins are in part down to scheduling. They could have him face easy wins for the last 5 days, or they can have him face spoilers. Ringers include rikishi like Ikioi (who are excellent, but having a bad basho) and spoilers would include rikishi like Yoshikaze, who can flatten anyone on the right day.

Note, unless the leaders drop matches, there is no Chasers group now. Both Kakuryu and Chiyoshoma lost their day 10 bouts, and are now 3 losses off the pace.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan

5 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Ura vs Kyokushuho – Era is still pushing to get 8 wins, where a loss by Kyokushuho would put him clearly in Make-koshi. They only gave one prior match, which Ura won.

Ishiura vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki, who has been a pretty solid rikishi in the past, secured his Make-koshi already, and is going to sink down the banzuke for May. Ishiura is pushing for 3 more wins to hold rank. This will be their first match.

Daishomaru vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma has been turning in a solid performance this basho, and is one win away from Kachi-koshi. For some reason they sent him down to rough up Maegashira 13 Diashomaru. They two have even split their 4 prior matches.

Chiyonokuni vs Tochiozan – Great test match to see if Tochiozan is strong enough to match higher up the banzuke. Having already secured his Kachi-koshi, the NSK is likely seeing how high they can safely rank him in May. Chiyonokuni has been fighting with strength and skill this March, and needs one more win to secure his rank.

Kaisei vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is a fascinating story. He has yet to have a losing record in any of his tournaments. After a really weak start, it looked like he was going to have to swallow his first Make-koshi. But he has battled back with determination, refusing defeat at every turn. He has a tough path though, requiring 4 wins of his next 5 matches.

Kotoshogiku vs Ikioi – Ikioi is a solid rikishi, but Maegashira 1 is a crappy slot in the banzuke, and it usually leaves the rikishi defeated and demoralized. This should be an easy win for Kotoshogiku, who must win 3 of the next 5 to secure his return to Ozeki. Kotoshogiku has won 7 of their 11 prior matches

Arawashi vs Terunofuji – Roadkill. Terunofuji stays one behind.

Harumafuji vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi cannot be discounted, especially when “The Horse” is playing hurt. My gut tells me Harumafuji takes this one, but Mitakeumi puts up a great fight.

Takayasu vs Kakuryu – Crucible day for Takayasu’s yusho hopes. Takayasu has won 5 of the 16 prior matches with Kakuryu, or you can think of it as Kakuryu wins twice for every 1 of Takayasu. Kakuryu is fast, smart and inventive. This will be a tough match for Takayasu.

Yoshikaze vs Kisenosato – Yoshikaze overcame Kakuryu on day 10, and he is no slouch. If he defeats Kisenosato, it would be kinboshi #8, which would time him with Aminishiki for top kinboshi count among active rikishi. But then again, whatever Kami has taken up residence in Kisenosato’s tsuna seem to be indomitable, and it’s possible that 12 men armed with Louisville sluggers would be unable to defeat him.

Haru Day 7 Recap

Testicle-blow-by

Better Late Than Never!

There were few surprises in today’s action, but there was a massive amount of great sumo. We continue to see the lower San’yaku out-perform their historical averages, and this is led by Takayasu really dominating every match. This is, without a doubt, the best I have seen Takayasu perform ever, and he has been a strong contender for over a year. Pleasant surprises continue with Kotoshogiku, who seems to have survived the Sekiwake “hell” week with a winning score, and the possibility or racking up 10 wins. While in general I would encourage him to retire and move on to his new career of being a coach, it would be outstanding if his last act as a sekitori were to regain his Ozeki title.

Also in Ozeki land, Terunofuji – the real Terunofuji – has been gracing the dohyo once more after a long and miserable absence. If you have recently started to follow sumo, his performance this basho is more in line with the kind of sumo that made him Ozeki, and once made him actually feared.

Highlight Matches

Takakeisho defeats Ura – Takakeisho was in charge the whole time, even though Ura twice attempted his space-time defying back bend. Ura fans, like myself, need to keep in mind that there will be an adjustment period where he figures out Makuuchi. My only desire for him this basho is Kachi-koshi. Ura’s apology to the shimpan for the spontaneous lap dance was nice – the guy is total class.

Sadanoumi defeats Kyokushuho – Huge effort from both rikishi, this battle was a strength contest that played out across the dohyo of an extended period. Great effort from Kyokushuho in spot of his hurt knee.

Ishiura defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi is totally hapless these days, and I kind of feel sorry for him. Today’s bout with Ishiura was no exception, where the two grappled to a stalemate, then Ishirua unleashed an improvised move that turned into a rare kimarite: shitatehineri. Or as I would call it an under arm tea-bagging.

Tochinoshin defeats Myogiryu – via a dirty henka

Okinoumi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is no longer undefeated, and Okinoumi made it look easy.

Endo defeats Chiyoshoma – Outstanding technicals on this bout. Every time I think Endo has lost his mojo, he has a day like today where he does some really nice “if you are watching closely” stuff and stumps his opponent.

Hokutofuji defeats Arawashi – Hokutofuji went yotsu-zumō today, and it worked really well. Arawashi had a good chance at a throw, bout could not close the deal. As a college Yokozuna, I hope that Hokutofuji will employ mawashi fighting more now that he is in the top division.

Chiyonokuni defeats Yoshikaze – This lasted only a second, and Chiyonokuni won via hikiotoshi, or if you watch it the kimarite was really the “testicle-blow-by technique” deftly employed by Chiyonokuni. I would not be surprised to find out later that Chiyonokuni broke wind as Yoshikaze went sailing past his nethers. Strange and wonderful sumo indeed.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Shohozan repeated Mitakeumi’s mistke: Hey, lets go chest to chest with the human bulldozer! Once again, having done the hard work for him, Shohozan was out backwards over the tawara before he could react.

Takayasu defeats Sokokurai – Winning technique should have been “Tachiai so strong that it loosened three fillings”. Not sure what kind of magic Takayasu is using, but he is ripe for a Henka in the coming week. That Tachiai is brutal and strong.

Terunofuji defeats Takekaze – Or should read, Terunofuji picks up 330 pound Takekaze like a bale of hay and removes him from the dohyo. If Terunofuji gets tired of sumo he can seek gainful employment as a piece of heavy machinery.

Kisenosato defeats Mitakeumi – Of course he does. Can anyone stop the great pumpkin now? He is so in his grove and his sumo is exactly what he wants every time. Everyone who thought he was not Yokozuna worthy can now get to the back of the line.

Harumafuji defeats Shodai – This bout made me very happy. Not because I don’t love me some Shodai, but Harumafuji looked more like his own self for the first time this basho. Word to Shodai, you are always too high on the tachiai. I know you are trying to protect your face, but it’s how you lose in the first moment of battle. You have to decide if you want to stay pretty or be good. Keep in mind, Yoshikaze was once a very handsome man.

Haru Day 3 Preview

kisenosato Haru 2

This Hits Keep Rolling

Apologies on the late posting this week. Your humble author is humbling nursing a terrible cold, and executing a mandatory cross-country drive. This should improve on Saturday, possibly with the introduction of the Tachiai daily morning update podcast. 5 minutes of all the action of the day from Japan. Provided my voice comes back….

We are only two days into the basho, so it’s far too early to talk about who is hot and who is not. But there are some interesting trends already.

Daishomaru, Chiyoshoma, Tochiozan and Takarafuji are all 2-0. That’s right, there are only 5 Maegashira who are still undefeated. Clearly, this basho things are a bit more balanced, meaning that the banzuke was a better fit for the rikishi available. Of course once we hit day 6 on Friday, we should be able to know who has a chance to lead the pack.

Five of the eleven San’yaku are still undefeated. Which further underscores our worry that the upper ranks have quite a bit of “walking wounded”. The only two San’yaku who thus far look healthy and fit are Kisenosato and Takayasu.

Matches We Like

Daishomaru vs Kyokushuho – These two have only met twice before, with one win each. I expect a lot of pushing and shoving from these two, with a throw to finish.

Ura vs Tochiozan – Ura has been working hard to apply his technique to Makuuchi, which is turning out to be a challenge. Tochiozan is a storied veteran who has seen better days, but can still reach for greatness. This is the first time these two have matched, and I am eager to see what happens.

Chiyoshoma vs Kotoyuki – Chiyoshoma has a small hot streak going at 2-0, but he faces Kotoyuki, who is a fierce pusher / thruster. Kotoyuki is still young, and we hope that he develops a better mawashi technique. This transition form pure pusher-thruster to hybrid seems to have been the key element that really ignited Mitkaeumi, and I belive that Kotoyuki has great potential if he can expand his sumo.

Endo vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Endo can learn much from Takarafuji’s sumu. Takarafuji leads their career matches 4-2. I epxect that Takarafuji will prevail.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – It’s time to see what happens when Kotoshogiku matches with a man looking to beat everyone between him and his Ozeki title. Kotoshogiku has been holding up well the first two days, and is looking much better than I thought he would. But Takayasu is hungry. He is also one of the few rikishi who has the strength, stance and ring awareness to survive a “hug-n-chug” attack from the master. This may be the big match of the day.

Goeido vs Shodai – Goeido is always hit-or-miss, except for Goeido 2.0. Shodai is looking nicely upgraded since Hatsu. This will be a great test to see if Goeido is going to be able to put power-to-ground through that damaged ankle. Slight edge to Goeido.

Ikioi vs Kakuryu – Readers, try to carefully examine what Kakuryu does the moment of the tachiai. His normal approach will be to absorb Ikioi’s initial thrusts and fall back and circle. Ikioi will chase him, and Kakuryu will wait for the correct moment when Ikioi is off balance, and he will close the deal. This is the essence of Kakuryu, look to see if he does it today.

Takanoiwa vs Kisenosato – Takanoiwa can surprise anyone on any given day. That being said, I think that we are going to see Kisenosato hit that Mae pose of sumo doom, and Takanoiwa will be done.

Handicapping The Haru Banzuke – Part 3

banzuke3a

The Fish Tank & Fresh Faces

In the last of our series prognosticating the banzuke for Haru, we take a look at the lower half Makuuchi, including the rikishi who are likely to be demoted down to Juryo and promoted out of Juryo to the upper division.

The action during Hatsu in January saw some incredible winning records among rikishi ranked below Maegashira 4, several of whom racked up double digit records. This resulted in some dramatic shifts up and down the banzuke, with some names familiar to Tachiai readers poised for some of their lowest ranking in many tournaments.

Gone from the upper division are Chiyootori, who was only at Maegashira 14, but had a terrible rank velocity score of -3.3, which is identical to his stablemate Chiyotairyu. One of them is going back to Juryo most likely, and a flip of a coin gave me Chiyootori. The overwhelming swarm of Kokonoe beya wrestlers in January caused fits for scheduling, and frankly it will be good to thin the ranks a bit.

Likewise we can wave goodbye to Gagamaru, the massive Georgan turned in yet another terrible performance in January, with a rank velocity score of -5.5 from his 5-10 result. Sadly we are also losing Osunaarashi, who gave it everything he had but was just too injured to compete in January. His last demotion was brutal, and I have no idea how far down the banzuke he is going to drop.

Joining Makuuchi from Juryo are 3 favorites who have worked hard to win their upper-division slots: Juryo yusho winner DaieishoKyokushuho, and Tachiai favorite Ura.

Running everyone’s scores through the magic computations gives us the following list:

East Rank West
Chiyoshoma Maegashira 8 Kaisei
Okinoumi Maegashira 9 Kotoyuki
Tochiozan Maegashira 10 Kagayaki
Ishiura Maegashira 11 Myogiryu
Takakeisho Maegashira 12 Daishomaru
Sadanoumi Maegashira 13 Daieisho
Ura Maegashira 14 Nishikigi
Kyokushuho Maegashira 15 Chiyoo
Chiyotairyu Maegashira 16

First up at Maegashira 8, Chiyoshoma dropping 2 ranks from Maegashira 6. Chiyoshoma had a fairly decent performance at Hatsu, including wins over Maegashira 4 Endo and Maegashira 5 Takekaze. He is joined on the west by Kaisei, who has been struggling for several tournaments, but managed to get his kachi-koshi with a win over Gagamaru on the final day.

Leading up Maegashira 9 is the injured and struggling Okinoumi, who could only find 4 wins in January. He drops 6 ranks in a fairly brutal demotion that is more a testament to his injuries than his sumo skill. Joining him is Kotoyuki, another veteran who had a terrible tournament in January. He falls 3 ranks to take up the west position.

Tochiozan falls 6 ranks as well to take the Maegashira 10e slot. He managed only 3 wins in January and is really having trouble recapturing his former power and strength. Joining him is Kagayaki, who rises 1 rank on the back of his 8-7 kachi-koshi from January.

After an impressive debut performance in Kyushu, Ishiura struggled during Hatsu, managing only 6 wins. He drops two ranks to take up the Maegashira 11e slot. Myogiryu had a horrific Hatsu, with a 4-11 result. He drops 4 ranks to occupy the Maegashira 11w slot at Osaka.

Maegashira 12 seems to be a strange rank this tournament. Both occupants, Takakeisho in the east and Daishomaru in the west, were at this same rank for January, and ended up with 7-8 records. But because of the downward velocity of some other rikishi, they ended up here. Be aware that they may end up lower in the final, NSK banzuke.

Sadanoumi improves to Maegashira 13e for Haru after being Maegashira 15 in January, his 8-7 kachi-koshi record was enough to bring him forward 2 ranks. He is joined by the Juryo yusho winner, Daieisho, who is making his return to Makuuchi after 3 tournaments in Jury.

At Meagashira 14e, making his Makuuchi debut – none other than Ura. Only time will tell if he can survive in the top division, but many fans (including myself) are hopeful we can finally get a steady digest of Ura’s sumo acrobatics in our video feed. At 14 west, we find the hapless Nishikigi. Nishikigi’s record was worthy of demotion by the “rank velocity” formula, but it was necessary to round out Maegashira ranks, so being slightly less damaged than some of the others, I have him staying.

Also up from Juryo, Kyokushuho re-joins the top division, after spending Hatsu in Juryo. Also at Maegashira 15 is Chiyoo, who was chosen by coin toss from the 3 demotable Kokonoe wrestlers.

if there is a need for a single Maegashira 16 to even out Makuuchi, Tachiai predicts Chiyotairyu survive demotion back to Juryo in order to balance the banzuke. This will come down to how many of the injured rikishi actually state they will be able to compete, and may be decided at the last minute.

That’s Bruce’s guess for Haru 2017. As always, please feel free to post your ideas too!

May Tournament, Day 9: Harumafuji & Terunofuji lose!

Hakuho is now the lone sanyaku wrestler with one loss. He had a powerful win over Myogiryu. Kaisei and fellow M11 Kyokushuho stand with Hakuho at 8-1. As a result, all three have kachi-koshi so the pressure is off the two maegashira. They should basically just do their best to avoid injury from here out and they’ll be in the top half of the rank-and-file in July.