Jonokuchi Match Day 5

Shonanzakura Competes

Match Day 5 brought several surprises. First up, I wanted to show the valiant efforts put forth by Shonanzakura. He had two great bouts — one against Higohikari and the other against Kato. Often, when Shonanzakura mounts the dohyo and surveys his opponent, you just see fear in his eyes. I’ve seen that fear in Kato, as well. Several times this tournament, he’s curled up his arms or turned his back after the tachiai, to protect himself.

I can’t say that I blame them. I’ve not climbed up there to face a 300 lb linebacker with no pads (or pants) and I imagine that first few times would be rather intimidating. There was no intimidation yesterday as Shonanzakura powered through a nodowa or today as he nearly worked Kato over the edge. Still, the outcomes were as everyone predicted…despite much more drama than usual. That losing streak may come to an end sooner than we thought.

The Yusho Race

Shonanzakura’s effort would not be the only shocker of this Match Day. Kiryuko fell to Mogamizakura in the first bout of 4-0 undefeated wrestlers. Kiryuko appeared to want to drive forward but his foot slipped and he came to a knee. There may be some celebrations at Shikihide-beya! With Mogamizakura moving to 5-0, Shunrai would have to defeat Iwata in order to stay on pace. He did his job, and he did it in rather dominant fashion with a well-executed throw in the middle of the ring. This sets up a Shunrai/Mogamizakura bout on Match Day 6 for sole possession of the lead.

This also means that unless the winner also wins on Day 7, the door is still open for potential playoffs among 6-1 wrestlers. There’s quite a number at 4-1. Six wrestlers, including the aforementioned Kiryuko. Miyagi, Asasorai, Mukainakano, Abe, and Takashoki are all still in this race and sure set up the possibility of several great bouts over the coming days. In the video above, I included Asasorai’s victory over Matsugi as a bonus because I found that particularly hard-fought and entertaining. Enjoy!

Jonokuchi Match Day 4

I’m mixing things up today because I want to start with a treat. The first match of nakabi (Day 8, the middle day) was a great, wild one featuring Byakuen vs Daitensho. This bout was not one of consequence in the yusho race but it speaks to one of the great things about Jonokuchi. If you’d listened to our recent podcast, you’ve heard Josh talk about three qualities of sumo wrestlers, their heart, technique, and the body. Down here, there are often guys with lots of heart but little in the way of technique and they’ve not bulked up yet. Byakuen has a lot of heart and that’s on display in this fight. I hope you enjoy.

The Yusho Race

Heading into Match Day four, there’s an odd number of leaders with 3-0 records. As he’s the lowest ranked leader on the banzuke, Kiryuko gets a bit of torikumi luck with a match up against 2-1 Arikawa. It’s the second bout in the video. Kiryuko dominates.

Next up, Taniguchi faced Mogamizakura. Both of these guys have sumo bodies but Mogamizakura powered through Taniguchi for a yorikiri win. Lastly, we head back a night to Totsuka native Abe against Shunrai. After a solid tachiai and a tussle for belt grips, Shunrai came out on top, quickly driving through Abe and sending him over the bales.

Still undefeated and kachi-koshi:

  • Kiryuko
  • Shunrai
  • Mogamizakura

These three wrestlers have punched their tickets to Jonidan. Now, though, the race gets complicated. With two brothers who can only fight in a playoff, the wrestlers with one loss are back in the picture. Starting at the top of the banzuke,

  • Matsugi
  • Taniguchi
  • Abe
  • Mihonoumi
  • Mukainakano
  • Miyagi
  • Tamatensho

Given Kiryuko’s bout against a 2-1 opponent today, I would not be surprised if he faces Mogamizakura and then Shunrai could face Tamatensho or Miyagi. The Shunrai/Miyagi bout could derail the playoff between brothers.

At the other end of the yusho chase, Kato, Higohikari, and Shonanzakura are make-koshi and will likely remain in Jonokuchi in September. Kato had his first tournament in May where he racked up 1 win against Sano, who is kyujo this tournament. Frankly, Shonanzakura demonstrated more heart and technique in his bout against Kyonosato than we have seen yet from Kato. I would not be surprised if the two are paired off tomorrow. This bout would present the highest potential for Shonanzakura to end his streak and I wonder if the days of 70, 80, 90, 100 bout losing streaks are over.