Natsu Day 4 – Ones To Watch

After a fairly light schedule on day 3, we are back in the thick of things for day 4. Sadly Wakaichiro lost his second match after a shaky tachiai led to problems with balance and foot placement. He starts Natsu with 0-2, which I am sure is frustrating the daylights out of him. In Jonokuchi, Kitanowaka improved to 2-0 over Tokisakae. Watching Kitanowaka fight, you can see there is a great deal of potential in need of refinement. The good news is that the Hakkaku heya has a strong program, and he will have every chance to make the most out of his sumo years.

Ichiyamamoto dispatched Fujiazuma to improve to 1-1, Hoshoryu took Jokoryu apart with a yoritaoshi, and improved to 2-0 as well. In the battle of the “Ones to Watch”, Akua forced out Midorifuji to take the white start and join the 2-0 cohort, joined by Naya, who slapped down Koba. There is a lot of potential for the “Ones to Watch” to face each other even before they cross the kachi-koshi line, and the next few days may see so very exciting action in Makushita. Many of these young men may be the stars of the near future, and we could be witnessing the beginning of rivalries.

Day 4 Matches

Wakatakamoto vs Nogami – Midorifuji defeated Nogami on day 2, and now he faces another of our cohort. Nogami is close to his highest ever rank, and I am sure he is going to be a chew-toy for all of the budding sumo monsters that are stomping around the top echelon of Makushita this basho.

Musashikuni vs Higonojo – Musashikuni still looks really rough, which is a huge disappointment of his fans. Higonojo is a 34 year old former Juryo man, who is fairly far down the banzuke after taking a 7-0 Makushita yusho at Osaka 2018. Good luck Mama!

Roga vs Yamaguchi – I know a number of fans have Roga fever, and there are good reasons why. But his first ever professional sumo loss came on day 2, and hopefully it has helped re-focus the young man on the match at hand. Today he faces on of my favorites in former Maegashira and Nihon University man, Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi’s rank has been falling since he went kyujo at Hatsu 2018, and it’s likely he is fighting hurt. Good luck Roga, you may be in for a rough ride.

Terunofuji vs Kasugaryu – Terunofuji looks less pasty, flabby and worried than he did in Osaka. He seems to have some of his ring sense back, and a good measure of his aggressive fighting spirit. Kasugaryu’s highest ever rank was near the bottom of Makushita, so this may be one-sided.

Shoji vs Tokimaru – A bright spot for Mushashigawa heya is that Shoji seems to be in good health and fighting well. He faces another young, hard charging rikishi in Tokimaru, who hails from Miyagino heya, where Hakuho practices.

Amakaze vs Daishoki – I should also mention that Amakaze continues to look solid. The Oitekaze heya returnee seems to be over his physical issues, and is fighting well. He’s on a shallower climb back up the banzuke than Terunofuji, but I am liking what I see thus far.

Hattorizakura vs Yamamoto – Hattorizakura did in fact state he was going to try to achieve kachi-koshi during the Reiwa era. These eras can last a few decades, so don’t try to set your calendar by Hattorizakura’s prediction.

Natsu Day 2 – Ones To Watch

Wakaichiro On Deck!

The day 2 roster of our “Ones to Watch” is loaded to the brim with our lower division favorites, and we are banking that we can get a video stream up in time to enjoy it. From day 1, I can share that Kitanowaka completely outclassed Garyu for a commanding win of his first ever sumo match in the professional ranks.

Who is on day 2? Well, everyone!

Wakamotoharu vs Seiro – Wakamotoharu lost his day 1 match, but thanks to the banzuke imbalance created by Hakuho going kyujo, there is an upper Makushita rikishi tasked to fill in a Juryo slot each day. For day 2, we see Wakamotoharu return to Juryo and face off against Seiro. Might we see Hoshoryu at some point?

Ichiyamamoto vs Takanofuji – For the final match in Makushita (which will happen after the Juryo dohyo-iri), we get this high-voltage clash. Ichiyamamoto is taking his second run at the ceiling of Makushita against the former Takayoshitoshi, who was dropped from Juryo last basho due to poor performance.

Hoshoryu vs Tamaki – First match for Hoshoryu, who is attracting a lot of attention the closer he gets to the salaried ranks. His opponent today is no slouch – Tamaki bounced off the top of the Makushita wall as a Ms3 East rikishi in Kyushu, and is taking his second run at the top.

Midorifuji vs Nogami – Fighting at his highest ever rank, Midorifuji has his first match against veteran Aomori-ken rikishi, Nogami, who fights under his given name. Nogami has been splashing about at this rank for a while, and is probably near his theoretical peak. But this is the kind of Rikishi that Midorifuji will need to master to break into the top echelon.

Naya vs Sagatsukasa – As if day 2 were not yet stuffed full enough of sumo awesome, here we go. Naya is finally starting to catch up to his rival Hoshoryu, but he is entering the thick of Makushita’s under-ranks. Sagatsukasa is a former Maegashira on the downward slope of his career, but he will bring an arsenal of technique and experience to the dohyo to measure against Naya’s youth and vigor.

Musashikuni vs Higoarashi – Musashikuni is coming off a two basho make-koshi streak, and really needs to turn things around. His day 2 match against Higoarashi is their third meeting, with Higoarashi holding a 2-1 edge. Come on Mamu! You can get it done!

Roga vs Hokutotsubasa – I am sure Hokutotsubasa looked at the torikumi Sunday evening and said, “Oh crap”. While that is not normally the reaction that a former Makushita rikishi would give when finding out they were facing who was about to have their first Sandanme match, but this is Roga. He wants your lunch money… and your chanko. We get to see how Roga handles himself against a well skilled and tough opponent.

Must… find.. way… to connect… to… Japan….

Terunofuji vs Daishomune – The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan laughs at me, trying to find a way to watch sumo from the land of the big hats and broad cattle. Sure, the wolf’s match (above) needs even more goodness. Let’s throw in the Kaiju as well. Everyone is curious if Daishomune will face a Terunofuji that looks just as terrible as he did in Osaka, or if Terunofuji is getting his health under control. We all want him in fine shape and fighting well.

Shoji vs Asanojo – Another fast rising rikishi, Shoji, will face off against Asanojo, a 32 year old veteran who has never ranked higher than Sandanme. If Shoji has his health back in line, this should be an easy match. Let’s hope he’s finally back to fighting form.

Wakaichiro vs Miyakogawa – I make no bones that I am a die-hard Wakaichiro booster. Today he’s facing a rematch with Miyakogawa, who he holds a career 2-1 advantage against. We hope America’s finest rikishi can apply some of that newly developed muscle against his rival and start Natsu out with a white star.

Hattorizakura vs Kitajima – Sadly, unless we can get a stream running, we will miss sumo’s perpetual loser – Hattorizakura. Free win day for Kitajima.

Haru Day 10 – Ones To Watch

This is Roga – He wants another yusho
Image from futagoyama_sumo instagram feed

We reach the end of act 2, and the yusho races are in full swing. Sadly for several of our “ones to watch” they are out of the yusho race, and some are already make-koshi. Ichiyamamoto lost his bout on day 9, and dropped out of the yusho race, but will be moving higher for May, thanks to his kachi-koshi. Meanwhile in Sandanme, Torakio is still looking for his first win of the basho. The Makushita yusho is down to 4 rikishi, and should be decided by the 7th match sometime later this week. Included in the group still in contention is none other than Naya, who returns to the dohyo and day 10.

Terunofuji vs Daiyusho – Day 9

In the Jonidan race, Terunofuji overpowered Daiyusho to improve to 5-0, and remain in the hunt. The Jonidan race is 6 rikishi wide, and that means it’s likely going to require a tie-breaking match or two. Top of the yusho race is 20 year old rising star from Mongolia, Roga. Roga has yet to lose a match in professional sumo, and took the Hatsu Jonikuchi yusho.

Day 10 Matches

Hoshoryu vs Kairyu – Its clear that young Hoshoryu is getting frustrated with his poor performance at Osaka. Some fans have pointed out a lapse in post-match manners, which is easy to improve. Given that he has had little resistance up to this point, the fact that he can’t blow through the Makushita joi may be a new enlightenment for him. But I am certain that given his fighting spirit, it’s going to drive him to train for higher levels of performance. This is a 1-3 bracket match, and the loser will get a make-koshi. In fact Hoshoryu has to “win out” to get a kachi-koshi.

Akua vs Nogami – A 2-2 bracket match, Nogami beat Akua in their only prior match. Kachi-koshi is still quite possible for Akua, and would allow him to take a step closer towards the Juryo-Makushita line, and possibly contest to return to the lime green mawashi for Nagoya.

Musashikuni vs Oki – These two have had 4 career matches against each other, and Oki has won 3 of them. Right now Mushashikuni is at 2-2, so like Akua he still has a clear, wide path to a kachi-koshi. But he is going to have to overcome Oki to get there.

Shoji vs Tagonofuji – Shoji won their only prior match. Once again the schedulers have stacked up all of the Mushashigawa clan on the same day, and most of them are 2-2! Tagonofuji is about 20kg lighter than Shoji, so I am expecting he will retain an upper hand.

Wakaichiro vs Kaorufuji – Up from Jonidan, Kaorufuji is a 180kg bunker-buster of a rikishi. As we have seen in the past, Wakaichiro is still working to figure out how to overcome the big ones, and today is another chance for him to get a win on the board. Hint to our Texas rikishi – aim for center-mass and accelerate your thrusts through his body. Oddly, visualizing the endpoint of that shove on the other side of his body seems to increase the transfer of energy….

Kenho vs Terumichi – A 1-3 bracket match, the loser will go home with a make-koshi. We hope Kenho can rally and bring his “big man sumo” out today. He has looked hurt and immobile for the past 3 matches.