Happy Birthday, Wakamotoharu!

Today is Wakamotoharu’s 27th birthday. Happy birthday, Wakamotoharu!

He was born in Fukushima, and belongs to Arashio stable.

For the record, the juryo rikishi is one of the Onami brothers – his real name is Onami Minato.

Last basho left me quite disappointed, as I wished him to break through makuuchi. After several years spent in makushita, Wakamotoharu finally reached the sekitori ranks, got relegated twice, and eventually looked to establish himself for good in sumo’s second highest division. He actually got his highest rank in Aki 2020, namely juryo 3. Unfortunately, he could not make it – for now – to the highest division, failing to reach makuuchi with a 6-9 make koshi.

Wakamotoharu Minato

Hopefully, he’ll do it in 2021!

I spoke about the Onami brothers – Wakamotoharu actually has one older brother, and one younger bro.

The oldest Onami brother is argubly the least known of the three, namely Wakatakamoto – Onami Wataru is his real name, and will turn 29 in December the 29th. The family’s oldest bro couldn’t reach the sekitori ranks, even if he came quite close in 2018: then ranked at his best, makushita 7, Wakatakamoto couldn’t follow with a kachi koshi, and ended up 2-5 instead. He is currently ranked makushita 22, from where he will slightly slide down the banzuke, following a 3-4 make koshi.

The youngest Onami brother is also the most successful one, and the most famous: Wakatakakage Atsushi!

Establishing himself as a new makuuchi force? Wakatakakage Atsushi

Wakatakakage is notably known for his paradoxical makuuchi debut, back in November 2019. The youngest Onami brother was actually the only rikishi to compete in makuuchi and not to lose one single bout on the dohyo! Sadly, an injury prevented him from competing from day 5, and he ended 4-1-10 – after having won his four first bouts.

He showed glimpses of his talent during the first days, and it was clear it was not the only time we would see him causing headhaches in sumo’s first division. Indeed, he came back in makuuchi after two basho, and got back to back double digit wins: 10-5 in July, 11-4 in September! He’ll turn 26 also in December, the 6th.

But today’s attention is focused on the family’s second born child: once again, happy birthday, Onami Minato!

Bouts from the lower divisions: Match Day 1

With a few asterisks, we’ve concluded Match Day 1 for rikishi from the lower four divisions. The men from these divisions only fight seven times during the tournament, so the first half fought on opening night and most of the rest (who aren’t kyujo) fought last night. So on the first night we got to see the return of Wakaichiro and Ura’s first bout was last night.

Jonokuchi:

I figure I’ll start here with the rookies, Mudoho, Nihonyanagi, and Dewanoryu.

Mudoho, grandson of the legendary Yokozuna Taiho, kicked off the tournament under his own shikona, drawn from the characters used by his Grampa. The Kyokai started the whole tournament early Sunday morning with this decisive win over Iwata from Naruto beya, who is returning from kyujo and his second round of maezumo. You can find more of his backstory and Herouth’s coverage of his maezumo debut here and introductions for our Jonokuchi debutants.

Two willow trees, Nihonyanagi was next, (“Over the oka and through the mori, to Roppongi we go”). Conveniently, he fought against our other debutant, Dewanoryu. Both were introduced by Herouth in the article link above.

Nihonyanagi secured a morozashi quickly after a rather defensive (oshi-minded) tachiai. Once he secured that left hand inside, right hand outside, he began to yank Dewanoryu around at will. to the side of the dohyo. Dewanoryu’s next match is scheduled tomorrow against Hattorizakura, one of our asterisks, in that he has not fought yet. Taiga is also kyujo to start this tournament and he will likely compete once to stay on the banzuke. Ryuden did this several times before storming back and becoming the Maegashira mainstay we know and love today. May Taiga be so blessed.

Jonidan:

In Jonidan, we’ve got Senho who jumped from Jonokuchi into the midst of the division at Jd74 (of 108 ranks). Unfortunately for him, he lost against the more experienced, dedicated pusher-thruster in Harada. And unfortunately for us, I’ve not been able to find video anywhere because Harada won by yoritaoshi and I’m very curious about how that worked out. But the headliner in Jonidan is former maegashira Ura in his second tournament back. He dominated Sorakaze from the outset, with an oshidashi win. After a good tachiai, he worked his left hand inside Sorakaze’s right arm, grabbed him by the armpit, and ejected him from the dohyo. All of his wins last tournament were of the oshi-tsuki variety.

Sandanme:

Unfortunately, in Sandanme we have the late-timed intai of Kaishu for personal reasons. He was still on the banzuke and his retirement came as quite the surprise. He’s been active on Instagram, where he’s been updating his story from what looks like the Philippines? Yesterday Kobayashi-san was riding along a road as an apparent passenger on one of those hire-bikes. The day before he was at a water park. We wish him well in his post-sumo endeavors and we’ll keep people filled in on his future successes.

Wakaichiro fought against Baraki on Day 1 and unfortunately came away with a loss. He was a bit off balance for a lot of the bout and it looked like he’d recovered well for a moment but Baraki was able to finish him off. Sadly, I can’t find video. This is surely a lamentable predicament for the former American Footballer since studying one’s past games and those of one’s opponents is such a crucial part of practice in that sport, and he’ll need it for his next fight against Fujinowaka. Both men are Oshizumo specialists, so it will likely be a strength vs strength bout.

Hokutenkai on the West, or left side, of this video faced off against the appropriately named Azumasho. The Mongolian has had an exceptional start to his career with a 6-1 debut followed by the Jonidan yusho in Kyushu. He’s proven himself comfortable with oshizumo but he is able to win on the belt as well. The strong blast at the tachiai pressed the bigger Azumasho back on the defensive. Azumasho hunkers down and forces a shift to a belt battle. Hokutenkai is not shy about it and starts to get to work. Just as Azumasho’s foot gets to the bales (and I’m sure he could have withstood a yorikiri attempt) Hokutenkai executes a great uwatenage overarm throw.

Makushita:

Up in Makushita, we got another great uwatenage from Kitanowaka against Narutaki.

Roga battled Onami Jr, sorry, Wakatakamoto but I can’t find video. Sorry.

A bit further up we get a humdinger of a bout between a former Makuuchi regular, Chiyonokuni, and Mudoho’s big brother Naya. Chiyonokuni wound up and tried to deliver a whopper of a slap to Naya but landed two – rather ineffectively – at his shoulder/armpit instead. The younger man forced the issue and kept bringing the oshi-battle to the grizzled veteran. As Chiyonokuni ducked away, Naya pursued, and thrust his prey out with a forceful final blast. I may be over-stating this point but that’s the kind of power I’d like to see Abi develop behind his attack to get to the Ozeki level.

Well, action has already started for Match Day 2, so I bid y’all adieu.

Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Day 11

With all of the chaos in the top divisions, Makuuchi AND Juryo, it’s often nice to remember there’s a whole slew of other bouts among the junior divisions. Yes, I’m clutching at straws here but I need something to look forward to now that the Hakuho/Takayasu bout won’t happen. My man Kaisei is facing Juryo…my man Ikioi is facing Makushita…and as Uncle Sumo…しかし!

Jonokuchi

Herouth has been keeping us on top of the yusho races down here and Naruto Oyakata, the dashing former Kotooshu, has certainly gotten himself a bumper crop of youngsters dominating the Jonokuchi yusho. Marusho leads the division as he had his sixth bout last night, winning against Minami of Tatsunami beya. Sadly, I have not been able to find the bout.

As wrestlers from the same heya (or father) cannot face each other during the tournament until the playoff, schedulers can’t have Sakurai face-off against Motobayashi tonight and then have the winner battle Marusho.

Jonidan

Homarefuji has a great chance at winning the Jonidan yusho with a dominating win over Hitenryu. He sure has the poise and confidence of a sekitori, even just going through his prebout routine in this video from the Japan Sumo Channel. But when the time comes to put the fists to the ground, he nearly bowls Hitenryu straight over backwards.

One of the men he may need to face in the coming days is Adachi, on the right in the montage below, picking up his sixth win against Ooba.

Sandanme

In SandanmeI only have the end of Wakaichiro’s bout for us. With the oshidashi victory, Wakaichiro is 3-3 and will be fighting for his kachi-koshi.

Makushita

In Makushita, Hoshoryu faced Oguruma beya’s Nogami, both 3-2 coming in and fighting for kachi-koshi. Nogami engaged directly, and effectively, using that extra mass to drive Hoshoryu to the edge. Hoshoryu arrests their backward movement with his left foot on the bales but he is high and tries to reach over Nogami’s back with the right hand.

Nogami prefers a yotsu bout and locks the dragon up with both hands inside. Once that left hand came in and secured a belt grip, he pretty much lifted Hoshoryu up and out. Yoritaoshi. With the win, Nogami is looking to secure himself a spot in the Makushita joi.

Hoshoryu will need to win his next one to have any hope of snagging a vacant spot in Juryo. His opportunity may have slammed shut as Seiro has already locked up one slot and Irodori will be eyeing another. Seiro picked up that kachi koshi today against Kaisho. Kaisho went far too low, allowing Seiro time to grab the mawashi with his right hand as he backed away, finishing with an uwatenage. With the poll position at Ms1, Seiro’s promotion is a lock for picking up the position Akiseyama will leave behind.

Akua got a taste of Juryo last year and wants to return. Coming into today, he was a solid 5-0 and had his own designs on a coveted position in the makushita joi. However, he was shown the door by Tsurubayashi who used one of my favorite kimarite. This okuritaoshi had a shokkiri routine feel to it the way Akua tumbled out, head over heels, and Tsurubayashi’s right leg comes up…perfectly aimed to give him the old boot. But it’s probably a good thing for that restraint as the fall was a hard one.

And let us pause now and thank Herouth. :)

And then let’s thank her again for adding this about the Terunofuji/Roga bout. I swear I meant to do it. Cross my heart…

Thanks for covering for me!

But… but… how could you skip the Terunofuji vs. Roga bout!

Roga sure would have wished that Futagoyama oyakata had skipped it, though. His master gave him a public shaming on Twitter today for this bout.

Today Roga from my heya had a match with former Ozeki Terunofuji. Terunofuji’s physical fitness is still far from perfect, but Roga was utterly beaten, and his sumo was bad at that. Well, that’s Roga’s actual power at the moment. Guys who were in the same year in school with him are in the banzuke joi. It was pointless to have taken him with me for degeiko. If he keeps this up I have zero expectations of him.

Thank you, Herouth!

Day 10 From Lower Divisions

Jonokuchi
No one on the Jonokuchi torikumi is leading for the yusho though there were a few hopefuls with an outside chance on one loss. I found a great video featuring the first four bouts of Day 10. This is a gem and shows why I stay the whole day when I get a chance to watch a tournament live. It moves fast, these four bouts take less than 10 minutes.

First up, Hattorizakura was set to battle Shishimaru to see who would pick up their first win. Shishimaru is a big guy and seems to toy with Hattorizakura, giving him a little hope by backing up to the edge. Quickly, and unceremoniously, Shishimaru pivots and throws the hapless Hattorizakura to the clay. Shishimaru picks up his first win and Hattorizakura picks up his fifth loss. All is right with the universe.

Next up we have Yada on the left versus Houn. This does not go the way I expected. Things start out with pushing, thrusting, favoring the larger Yada. He whiffs on a punch and Houn pounces, grabs the belt and takes control. He’s not strong enough to topple the kid 40 kilos heavier. Instead, he looks like a truck driver, steering his out-of-control rig around the dohyo and out. Houn gets his second win of the tournament, tying his best finish. Can he pick up a third? Yada is 1-4 in his debut tournament.

The third bout in this video features Tanaka on the left versus Toya. Tanaka is slight but has some serious moxie. The 68kg bulldozer drives Toya back and throws him in a heap off the dohyo. Lastly, Takamasaki on the left against Sawada. A solid tachiai but Sawada seemed unready for the fact that given the combined inertia of these two he’d end up going backwards, slipping to 2-3 while Takamasaki improves to 3-2.

Sandanme
I couldn’t find any Jonidan bouts so we move on to the sandanme bout of Ones to Watch regular Naya (right) against Shohoryu. Naya is a tall guy but still seems to be a bit too high after the initial tachiai and tsuppari. Shohoryu manages to get inside, drive Naya back a bit on the defensive. Then he uses that belt grip, and some flexibility, to get a great shitatenage under-arm throw.

Makushita
Musashikuni began the Fukuoka tournament kyujo. He missed his first bout and came back in time for his second, which he lost. However, he has been on a tear since and picked up his third win on Day 10 against journeyman wrestler, Oazuma.

Oazuma has been in sumo for 12 years. He had a major setback in 2010 and fell back to Jonokuchi where he won the yusho. Since 2013, however, he’s been a makushita regular. In their bout, Musashikuni got a great drive off the line, pushing Oazuma straight back before he locked in with a solid belt grip with both hands and did his best Tochinoshin impression for a great yorikiri win. Musashikuni has a chance to pick up his kachi-koshi tomorrow against Obamaumi.

Juryo

This Juryo digest video starts of with a great tachiai between Daiseido, visiting from Makushita with his kachi-koshi already, and Tomokaze who will want two more wins to stay in the professional ranks. Daiseido’s forceful charge sends Tomokaze back to the straw bales but the big guy is agile and manages to escape to the other side of the dohyo. After a few attempts at shoving Daiseido out prove futile, Tomokaze perceives his opponent over-committing, and slips to the side. Daiseido’s own momentum launches him, uncontrolled, across the dohyo and Tomokaze’s hatakikomi attempt turns into a twisting sukuinage as his right arm pulls up while the left drives down.

Is it just me, or did Mitoryu attempt a henka? Azamaryu recovers but falls to a hatakikomi. Gokushindo has learned to keep Enho away from his belt at all costs. This bout is a lot of leaning with short bursts of activity which probably wore on Gokushindo’s focus. After a long wait, Enho pounces. While spinning and trying to keep those hands away from his belt, Gokushindo loses his balance and his hand touches the clay. A tiny mistake but that’s all it takes.