Kyushu Day 5 Highlights

Daishomaru defeated Terutsuyoshi. This was a quick one. After a decent tachiai, Terutsuyoshi circled the larger Daishomaru and seemed to lose his ring presence as his left foot landed on the tawara. From there a modest shove from Daishomaru was all that was needed for the win. Oshidashi.

Kagayaki fusen win over Wakatakakage.

Takanosho defeated Daishoho. After the tachiai, Takanosho got in low under Daishoho’s attack, brushed his arm away while securing a morozashi, and drove forward…almost through the gyoji. Yorikiri.

Chiyotairyu defeated Nishikigi. This bout was all Chiyotairyu tsuppari. Nishikigi tried an early shoulder blast to no effect. Chiyotairyu responded with some wave action tsuppari and thrust Nishikigi off the dohyo. Tsukidashi.

Chiyomaru defeated Ishiura. Ishiura’s hit and shift on the tachiai was well snuffed out by the Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru did not over-commit to moving forward so when Ishiura moved to Chiyomaru’s right, Maru drove the Miyagino beya man over the bales, giving no room for Ishiura to get a belt grip or mount an offense. Oshidashi.

Kotoshogiku defeated Shodai. Shodai allowed Kotoshogiku to play his game from the outset. Giku was able to get inside and wrap up the tournament leader and drive forward through Shodai. Yorikiri. Giku didn’t even launch much of his jack-rabbit gabburi attack. With the loss utter capitulation, Shodai ended West’s streak of victories and fell off the top of the leaderboard and into the mix at 4-1 while Kotoshogiku picked up his first win.

Sadanoumi defeated Shimanoumi. Shimanoumi had a stronger tachiai, driving Sadanoumi back. However, Sadanoumi secures a solid left hand belt grip. While Shimanoumi launched his attack, Sadanoumi powered through with that belt grip and picked up his third win. Yorikiri.

Yutakayama defeated Shohozan. Shohozan tried to move around Yutakayama to get a right-hand grip of green mawashi. The mountain successfully defended, however, and firmly locked onto Shohozan’s right arm, spun him around and then thrust him out of the ring. Tsukidashi. Yutakayama joined Shodai with a share of the lead at 4-1.

Kotoeko defeated Tsurugisho. Kotoeko rose up straight to greet Tsurugisho’s tachiai, and received a hail of tsuppari as punishment for such a weak start. Kotoeko circled under the barrage and Tsurugisho surprisingly couldn’t keep up. He took a knee in the middle of the dohyo under what I thought was a rather light, instinctive deflection from the lavender mawashi. Hatakikomi.

Enho defeated Aoiyama. Enho shifted to his right at the tachiai, hiding on the dark side of Aoiyama. All I could see for a while was a load of Aoiyama haymakers raining down on something on the other side. Thankfully, Enho rotated slightly in time to see that one of Aoiyama’s thrusts nearly shoved Enho down but he recovered and with a subtle shift and pull of his own was able to pull Aoiyama off balance and onto all fours. Hikiotoshi. Enho now holds a share of the lead at 4-1 while Aoiyama picked up his second loss.

Onosho defeated Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki unleashed a torrent of blows to Onosho’s face, forcing his head up and back. He then pulled for a hatakikomi attempt but Onosho was all over it. He knew what was coming, locked on target with a tractor beam and helped Kotoyuki’s own momentum carry him off the playing surface. Oshidashi.

Tamawashi defeated Ryuden. I want to know what aroma therapy Ryuden has in that bright red towel. Hopefully he can change it to something more effective against oshi-zumo, though. Ryuden tried, rather meekly, to get a left-hand grip but Tamawashi’s battering kept him away. Ryuden attempted to launch his own oshi-attack but Tamawashi piled on the pressure, and shoved Ryuden over the bales and into the crowd. Overwhelmed. Oshidashi.

Asanoyama defeated Hokutofuji. Asanoyama quickly wrapped up Hokutofuji at the tachiai. Hokutofuji seemed to want to have a leaning contest but his positioning after the tachiai was nowhere near the middle of the ring. His right foot was nearly on the tawara. If he wanted to have some long, drawn out belt battle, he’d need to work himself back to the center of the ring. From this position, however, Asanoyama was not going to ease off his attack. So while Hokutofuji leaned, Asanoyama applied more pressure, and forced him out. Yorikiri.

Abi defeated Endo. This was Abi’s match from the outset but his over exuberance nearly cost him. He wasn’t down for any of Endo’s head games and stare down, forcing the pair to reset. At the tachiai, he started battering Endo, whose half-hearted attempt to grab the mawashi was met with a hail of slaps. As Endo backed out, Abi stepped forward and nearly over the bales himself.

Daieisho fusen win over Tochinoshin. With Tochinoshin’s ozeki rank lost, there’s already talk of retirement but that’s premature. If he can take this break to recover, there’s no reason for retirement. Yes, he’s lost his ozeki rank but he likely has quite a while he could be effective as sekitori.

Okinoumi defeated Mitakeumi. Okinoumi pressured Mitakeumi after the tachiai with a vicious thrust to the face. Mitakeumi was forced back but worked his right arm around Okinoumi’s neck and into a headlock. He used the headlock to twist and try to throw Okinoumi but Okinoumi’s balance was superior. With the headlock attack, this kept Mitakeumi’s body positioned high. From Okinoumi’s lower center of gravity he was able to then effectively carry Mitakeumi across the ring and out, over the threshold. Yorikiri. Both men are 2-3.

Meisei defeated Takayasu. Meisei weathered everything Takayasu threw at him. Time and time again, Takayasu’s tsuppari would force Meisei to the edge but the Ozeki could never finish him off. Meisei would slip inside and back to the center of the ring, forcing the Ozeki to launch a new attack. Takayasu even tried a shoulder blast but that ended awkwardly with Takayasu’s back to Meisei. Takayasu then started a new attack and this time Meisei grabbed his left arm, putting his shoulder into a weird position and changing his direction, suddenly. This forced Takayasu to lose his balance, landing in a heap on the tawara. Kainahineri. Meisei joins the leadership pack at 4-1 while Takayasu falls to a disappointing 2-3.

Takarafuji defeated Takakeisho. Takakeisho was about to start some wave action but Slippin’ Jimmy slipped to the side and the T-Rex toppled over. Tsukiotoshi.

Hakuho defeated Myogiryu. Hakuho greeted Myogiryu with a quick shoulder blast and as he tried to tuck his left hand under for a belt grip, Myogiryu slapped his hand and backed away, retreating to the bales. As Hakuho pursued, Myogiryu lost his balance. Tsukiotoshi. Hakuho is back where he belongs, atop the group of leaders at 4-1.

Our thoughts go out to all those in Hong Kong and Chile. Stay safe.

Kyushu Day 4 Highlights

Wakatakakage defeats Terutsuyoshi. It was a quick oshi-battle with Wakatakakage proving strongest, slapping Terutsuyoshi to the edge and ushering him back, off the dohyo, yorikiri. It was a costly win as Wakatakakage was visibly in pain after the win. He had seemed to twist his right ankle. Wakatakakage is undefeated but now uncertain for tomorrow. Terutsuyoshi is 2-2. The next five bouts are a snooze fest, so I’m not bothered if you skip down to Shohozan/Kotoshogiku.

Daishoho defeats Nishikigi. The two locked in immediately on one another’s belt with a strong tachiai. Daishomaru was stronger with his left-hand grip and was able to work Nishikigi out for the yorikiri win, his first of the tournament. Nishikigi fell to 2-2 while Daishoho got his first win of the tournament.

Daishomaru defeats Chiyomaru. Daishomaru executed a subtle sidestep on the tachiai, catching Chiyomaru off-guard. Daishomaru used the considerable combined momentum to keep the pair moving forward until the bright chartreuse mawashi of Chiyomaru was out for the oshidashi win.

Ishiura defeats Takanosho. Ishiura’s quick slap to Takanosho’s face on the tachiai seemed to disorient Takanosho. Ishiura engaged low and effectively leveraged Takanosho out. Yorikiri.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kagayaki. Chiyotairyu got the best of the tachiai, duplicating Ishiura’s tactic of the slap at the tachiai. It seemed to catch Kagayaki half-asleep because Chiyotairyu was just much more active and forceful, guiding the golden Kagayaki out over the bales, stage left. Yorikiri.

Shodai defeats Shimanoumi. Shodai remains undefeated at 4-0. He was the bigger man and played his game. He absorbed Shimanoumi’s tachiai and used his size advantage and solid yotsu grip to push Shimanoumi out. Yorikiri.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku. Shohozan’s half henka disrupted Kotoshogiku’s usual bumpety, bumpety game plan. Kotoshogiku recovered and locked in for a lean-fest. After a few seconds of leaning, Shohozan struck Kotoshogiku with a swift kick with the right foot and then twisted around and threw Kotoshogiku with a beautiful uwatenage in the first actual makuuchi match of the day.

Sadanoumi defeats Yutakayama. After the excitement of the Shohozan/Kotoshogiku battle, Sadanoumi put me back to sleep with a quick, easy win over Yutakayama. Sadanoumi got the better of the tachiai and walked Yutakayama out. What else? Yorikiri.

Tsurugisho defeats Onosho. In the second makuuchi bout of the day, Onosho started in with some tsuppari but Tsurugisho wasn’t having any of it, reached out for Onosho’s head, and shoved him to the clay. Hatakikomi.

Enho defeats Kotoeko. Kotoeko did not want to let Enho submarine him and get a belt grip, forcing the two into an oshi tsuppari battle. This worked to Enho’s advantage as he was much more aggressive and Kotoeko was just trying to react and deflect. When Enho charged, Kotoeko pulled but Enho maintained his balance, kept the lavender mawashi firmly in front. One final shove from the bales sent Kotoeko into the first row of spectators.

Aoiyama defeats Tamawashi. This was a textbook Aoiyama bout. The tachiai was solid with neither man really gaining an advantage. Aoiyama pushed Tamawahi’s head up and then used his reach to grab Tamawashi’s head and pull him down as he pulled back to the tawara. Hatakikomi.

Kotoyuki defeats Ryuden. This was a textbook Kokoyuki bout. He overpowered Ryuden with fierce tsuppari. Ryuden could not figure out a counter attack and the Penguin cast him from the playing surface, into the crowd. Next time, have a game plan, Ryuden. It’s not like Kotoyuki is a puzzle. Everyone knows what tricks he’s got.

Meisei defeats Abi. Meisei shifted right at the tachiai and I thought this was his undoing because Abi read it well and the tactic brought Meisei close to the tawara. But he stayed low and almost coiled. That seemed to give him enough purchase and leverage to work against Abi who was far too high. Meisei struck out from that coil, again and again at Abi’s high stance, forcing the komusubi off the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Myogiryu Solid tachiai and Myogiryu immediately went on the attack but he couldn’t generate any effective momentum against the man mountain. Asanoyama practiced patience and fundamentals while Myogiryu feverishly bounced around like Roger Rabbit. Asanoyama stayed composed with his arms wrapped around Myogiryu

Daieisho defeats Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi laid into Daieisho from the tachiai with some forceful tsuppari. But Daieisho weathered the outer bands of the hurricane and countered by stepping forward into the eye of the storm where the battering stopped and he was able to lock in with both hands on Mitakeumi’s mawashi, turning the tables and forcing him out. The first entertaining yorikiri bout of the day.

Tochinoshin defeats Takarafuji. Both guys are belt guys, so after a solid tachiai, the two settled into a grapple at the center of the dohyo. With the sky crane out of service, the Georgian needs a bigger bag of tricks and he sure found an effective one. He reached up behind Takarafuji’s neck (yes, he has one) and executed a great twisting neck throw. Kubihineri. I’m impressed.

Takakeisho defeats Endo. This matchup is a total contrast of styles; Endo’s a solid belt guy while T-Rex can’t reach belts. On the tachiai, Endo tried to reach in to get a belt grip but Takakeisho forced him away in, I think, the best sign that he does still have power in those thrusts. With the bout being fought on Takakeisho’s terms, Endo was at a disadvantage. As he tried again to lean in and get a belt hold, Takakeisho slapped him down for the hatakikomi win.

Hokutofuji defeats Takayasu. All the drama and pre-match staring lasted longer than the fight! Hokutofuji shifted left after a firm tachiai. The shift was perfectly timed as Takayasu had just started to charge forward again. Finding nothing there he grasped out wildly to try to get a hold of something to arrest his momentum. Hokutofuji used that momentum to thrust the ozeki into the crowd. Oshidashi.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi. This was like an old Hakuho/Harumafuji matchup: a great belt battle. Okinoumi did more than just try to hang on. Twice he tried to initiate an attack, trying to lift the Yokozuna. Hakuho countered by guiding the action to the edge and then pivoting the pair over the edge, with the Boss landing on top of an exhausted Okinoumi.

So, the yusho race is led by Shodai with Wakatakakage limping into tomorrow. What is this world coming to? Let’s face it, there’s not a yusho race, yet. See where we stand at Day 10 and how many wrestlers have their kachi-koshi in the bag then. There will be no zensho and 12 may be enough to take the Cup. The race is open and Kotoshogiku’s just about the only one out of it.

Comparing the Great Ones: The Lasting Impact of Generational Athletes

Hakuho-Gretzky Final

Today marks one week since the end of the 2017 Kyushu basho, and while most of the post-tournament media has centered around the unfortunate retirement of Harumafuji, there are still several stories to be covered as we move on from Fukuoka. One such story is the milestone 40th yusho win by Yokozuna Hakuho Sho. In a post last week, Bruce summarized Hakuho’s decorated career by comparing him to several of the worlds most talented athletes. While all of these comparisons are accurate, when I explain the Dai-Yokozuna to my non-sumo friends and family, there is only one man whose achievements in his respective sport are equal to those of Hakuho: The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

While sumo and hockey couldn’t be more different, there are striking similarities between the careers of Hakuho and Gretzky. For starters, both men began their professional careers in their late teens, with Hakuho having his maezumo tournament at 16, while Gretzky made his first WHA appearance at the age of 17. It took less than seven years for each of them to achieve the top prize in their respective sports, with Hakuho earning his first yusho six years after his debut and Gretzky winning The Stanley Cup in his fifth season. But the most comparable characteristic Hakuho and Gretzky share is the lasting impact they have had on their sports. As the most dominant athletes to ever compete in sumo and hockey respectively, Hakuho and Gretzky have accumulated an impressive array of achievements and accolades. While Gretzky holds the records for points, goals, and assists in hockey, sumo’s records for most yusho (40), zensho yusho (13), career wins (1064), and top division wins (970) belong to Hakuho. With such colossal records as these, and with no athlete past or present coming close to equaling them, the legacies of these two men may never be surpassed. As the Wayne Gretzky of sumo, Hakuho’s impact on Japan’s national sport will be felt for decades to come.

So what does this all mean to sumo fans moving forward? Well, as a hockey enthusiast, I’ve learned of several realities one must come to terms with when their favourite sport is dominated by generational athletes such as Hakuho and Gretzky.

1. Hakuho’s records will go unbroken for a very long time
The majority of Gretzky’s records were set in the 1980’s, and since then no player has come close to breaking them. They have stood for over 30 years, and sumo fans could see Hakuho’s records stand just as long, if not longer. Hakuho may be a once in a lifetime athlete, but a bit of luck also played a part in his success. He has remained relatively injury-free for much of his career and staying in fighting form for so long allowed him to set the bar to such a high degree. It will take another generational athlete with a similar set of circumstances to come close to rivaling Hakuho’s legacy.

2. Second is the new first
Since Gretzky’s time, there have been a select few who have made runs at his records. The only active player within sight of these lofty achievements is Jaromir Jagr, who despite playing well into his forties, still trails Gretzky by a staggering 937 points. Despite being the ultimate second fiddle, Jagr is considered one of the all-time greats of the sport. Much in the same vein, as Hakuho’s achievements rise further and further out of reach, many a Yokozuna’s career will be defined by how close they can get to his records. Sumo’s future legends will be those who can surpass Taiho’s 32 yusho mark, or Kaio’s 1047 career wins, and end their careers nearest to Hakuho.

3. Future greats of the sport will be compared to Hakuho
It is no secret that a changing of the guard is poised to take place in the world of Sumo. Many veterans will soon begin to leave the fighting to younger generations, and new stars will emerge to take their place. Much like every standout NHL rookie has been called the next Gretzky, sumo’s great rikishi of tomorrow will undoubtedly be compared to Hakuho at every milestone. Hakuho will be the measuring stick upon which every future Yokozuna will be judged, for better or for worse.

Love him or hate him, it is undeniable that Hakuho’s achievements will remain a part of sumo’s rich tapestry for years, if not decades, to come. He is The Great One of sumo, the Gretzky of rikishi, and the most dominant Yokozuna of all time. Hakuho has climbed to the top of the mountain, and it will take a hell of a man to knock him down.

番付! – November Banzuke Published!

banzuke

The banzuke for the November tournament in Kyushu was released today by the Japan Sumo Association.

http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnHonbashoBanzuke

Notable elements:

Hakuho – Yokozuna 2E: Having missed the prior basho due to injury, the 69th Yokozuna starts in the bottom slot.  Don’t expect this to be an indicator of his performance, if he is healthy I am sure he will lay waste to everyone he faces.

Goeido – Ozeki 1E:  As the undefeated champion of Aki, he enters the Kyushu basho as the top Ozeki.  Keep in mind, it’s been discussed by the Yokozuna council that should he repeat in Kyushu, he will earn his rope.

Okinoumi – Sekiwake 1W: He moves up 2 slots event with a 8-7 record.  This is an result of brutal and punishing outcome of the Aki basho.  Okinoumi started strong and finished weak. Let’s hope he can excel in one of Sumo’s toughest slots

Mitakeumi – Komusubi 1E: Big move higher for the young Sumotori.  These lower Sanyaku ranks are tough to hold. But he has been looking strong on the Aki Jungyo

Tochiozan – Maegashira #1E: As a fan of Tochiozan, I am very happy to see him get the top Maegashira slot.  Best of luck against all of the big men of sumo.

Gagamaru – Maegashira #16E: Somehow, Gagamaru stayed in Makuuchi.  I wish him good fortune, and better comportment than his Aki performance.