Haru Day 14 Highlights

I think the big, double-wide story of this basho is going to be the enormous pile of rikishi who own demotion worthy scores at the end of this basho. If you take a look at the records vs banzuke position, I count at least 10 rikishi who might be worthy of a return to Juryo. That does not mean there will be 10 men dropping to the 2nd division, as Juryo has 3-5 rikishi who could be considered promotion worthy.

Before the basho, Team Tachiai remarked that all of the really great action might be in the bottom ⅓ of the banzuke, and for folks who enjoy the Darwinian nature of sumo, this basho has been a banquet of slaughter. There are 3 veterans below Maegashira 6 who have double digit wins, and a vast crater of make-koshi devastation around them that fed those double-digit win scores. Do we stop there? No indeed.

There are no fewer than 8 rikishi who will decide kachi/make koshi on the final day, including the man at the bottom edge of the banzuke, Chiyoshoma. The competition in the rank and file has been so brutal that even getting to 8 wins has been a struggle for most. While its tough to see so many great athletes come up short, this kind of tournament breeds excellence. Haru is somewhat unique, in that most of the rikishi have not had to do anything other than train and improve their bodies since Hatsu. The old veterans, who feel the pains and injuries of years of battle, have enough time to pull their sumo together for another hard climb to day 15, and that extended rest as let them once again use their experience and years of skill to edge out youthful vigor and health.

Highlight Matches

Takagenji defeats Ishiura – Ishiura suffered from not picking a strategy and enforcing it, as this match was very much a “try anything” affair. With the loss, Ishiura joins the growing pile of demotion worthy rikishi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoeko – Sure, lets throw Kotoeko into the “return to Juryo” bin too! Terutsuyoshi gives us the “bounce” tachiai that works well when he uses it, and he gets a firm hold of Kotoeko, who can do little more than react. Both men are make-koshi and part of that pile of demotion capable rikishi.

Ryuden defeats Daishoho – Daishoho gets his 8th loss, and joins the incredibly crowded barge of rikishi who could find themselves in Juryo for May. Ryuden got a deep right hand inside grip and made it work, while Daishoho looked like he had nothing to give.

Tomokaze defeats Shohozan – While not in danger of heading to Juryo, Shohozan gets his make-koshi too. The fact that Tomokaze was able to out-slap him indicates that Shohozan is worn down from the lengthy competition.

Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – As the captain of the Juryo barge, Ikioi managed to take one from a horrifically demoralized Yutakayama, who seems to be capitulating for now.

Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Still no 8th win for Asanoyama. Kagayaki stays low and moving forward and just motors Asanoyama around the dohyo and finds him an exit.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yoshikaze – Kotoshogiku got the better of the tachiai, and never gave up the advantage.

Aoiyama defeats Meisei – Meisei somehow decided that taking on Aoiyama straight on was going to work for him, when in fact it threw away all of Meisei’s advantages. Aoiyama did not waste the gift, and slapped Meisei to the clay.

Shodai defeats Sadanoumi – Is that the second day in a row where Shodai came close to a proper tachiai? Sadly it looks like Sadanoumi may have hurt his good knee in this match.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Should Abi end with a kachi-koshi, it will simply delay the time when he diversifies his sumo. Sumo fans around the world are eager for that transition, and we hope it comes soon. Today’s win was a standard Abi-zumo attack that Daieisho did nothing to avoid.

Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – Myogiryu used superior strength to out muscle Okinoumi into a throw position. Okinoumi’s final day match will decide his winning or losing record for March.

Kaisei defeats Onosho – Two things for Onosho to focus on. 1) Improve your balance, it seems to have taken a big hit from your injury / surgery / recovery, and everyone knows it now. 2) Bring back that red mawashi. Some powerful kami inhabited that one, and when you wore it onto the dohyo, it gave you some kind of edge.

Endo defeats Nishikigi – It seems that this match is a bit of a controversy. There is a point where Endo steps aside of a charging Nishikigi where toes on Endo’s left foot would seem to hit the janome. But the gumbai went to Endo, and there was no monoii. Endo did show some solid sumo today.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi went flat out at the tachiai, attempting to overpower the mighty Chiyotairyu. Interestingly enough, today it worked. Mitakeumi got a double inside arm position, dropped his hips and marched forward.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan joins Captain Ikioi in holding a dismal 2-12 record. Though not as visible beaten and broken as Ikioi, for Tochiozan to perform this poorly, he has to be having body problems.

Ichinojo defeats Takakeisho – Not sure what Takakeisho had in mind here. He seems to channel Abi, but lacks Abi’s height, his reach or his technique. Ichinojo looks puzzled for just a moment, and the all to familiar “hand of god” sweeps down and pulls Takakeisho to the clay. Ichinojo stays 1 behind Hakuho.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin keeps his hopes alive, overcoming Tamawashi in what was an odd hybrid between oshi and yotzu. At times chest to chest, at times pushing and shoving. Tochinoshin as throwing everything he could into this win (as well he should), and looks rather sore at the end. He needs 1 more win to clear kadoban, and it will be decided by his day 15 match with Ozeki hopeful Takakeisho.

Hakuho defeats Takayasu – A lot of posturing, dominance display and tension in the run up to this match. Hakuho wins the tachiai, and was faster off the shikiri-sen. Takayasu is immediately balanced too far on his heels, and Hakuho digs in. Try as he might, Takayasu cannot connect with that left hand, and his struggle to land a grip continues to put him high and balanced unevenly. Hakuho capitalizes on this, and gets moro-zashi, and moves to put the Ozeki away. Takayasu’s last ditch attempt at a throw collapses into abisetaoshi, and Hakuho takes the match to remain undefeated.

Goeido defeats Kakuryu – As we expected, Goeido’s approach to this match was an all or nothing opening salvo so fast and so powerful that either Kakuryu would not have time to react, or Goeido would have no recovery. Goeido’s plan payed off, and Kakuryu had no time to react.

Natsu Banzuke – Bruce’s Comments

Mole Boss vs Dia Yokozuna

The Tachiai team will gather for their banzuke podcast next weekend, but with the Banzuke just published, it’s time for some comments and remarks. If you are looking for lksumo giving himself a hard time over his estimates, he will likely publish those soon.

Yokozuna / Ozeki – no surprises here, Kakuryu remains at 1 East. Although Kisenosato has been participating in Jungyo, and making competition noises, it’s far from certain that he will actually compete in Natsu. Takayasu is starting to dream of trying for the rope himself, but this basho will likely feature Hakuho in the roster. Not that the dai-yokozuna is unbeatable, but Takayasu needs to dominate across the board to make a play for the yusho.

In the lower San’yaku is where the excitement starts. We have Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin taking the Sekiwake 1 East slot, with our favorite boulder Ichinojo taking West. Tochinoshin continues to look very strong, incredibly focused and driven to excel. With Hakuho back in action, the challenge to reach double digits again will be significantly increased. Mitakeumi drops down to Komusubi East, with Endo making his San’yaku debut at Komusubi West. It’s been a long, hard road for Endo, and I am sure that he is savoring this achievement.

Kaisei rocketed up the banzuke to grab Maegashira 1 West, from 6 East last tournament. There were some who speculated that his impressive 12-3 Jun-Yusho should put him in the San’yaku, but there was a pack of over-achievers in Osaka, and the Brazilian is forced to settle for M1. This is further evidenced by Tamawashi only moving from West to East, even though he produced a 9-6 record.

In the Freshmen, Abi continues to over-accomplish. He is now firmly in the Joi at Maegashira 2, with fellow Freshman Yutakayama taking Maegashira 3. Ryuden rises a respectable 4 slots to 7 East, while Asanoyama is settling for a mild promotion at 12 West, thanks to another cohort of solid performance in the lower end of the banzuke in March.

The Oitekaze brute squad is further represented by Daieisho at 3 East, thanks to his 9-6 in March from 8 West. Can someone please get the Oitekaze chanko recipe? I feel it could have wonderful benefits for the infirm and the aged (starting with me!). Daiamami picks up 11 East after 10-5 from 16 East in March.

The tadpoles are licking their wounds to be certain, now. With Mitakeumi out of Sekiwake, Takakeisho down to 10 West, and the fighting red mawashi of Onosho dropped down to Juryo without so much as a “すみません” (Sumimasen). Is Takakeisho a Maegashira 10 rikishi? Ha! No, no and hell no. Is Onosho a Juryo riksihi? Lower division folks, make sure you are taped up when you face the red terror. The tadpoles are down, but not out.

But speaking of large objects, everyone’s favorite spheroid, Chiyomaru, dropped to 7 East while his stable-mate Chiyotairyu took the Koumusubi express back down the banzuke to 4 East.

But let’s not end hungry! Down at the lower rungs of the banzuke, there are some happy faces. Kyokutaisei makes his debut in the top division. He joins returning faces Sadanoumi, Takekaze and… UNCLE SUMO! Yes, Aminishiki returns like that favorite pair of jeans you though were too beat up to wear. Nope, still plenty of life, but enjoy them while you can.

I would be remiss if I did not comment that much farther down the banzuke, our favorite Texan, Wakaichiro, finds himself back in Jonidan at 14 East. This is certainly a disappointment to him, but we encourage him to recall he always fights better in Tokyo. Give ’em hell!

Onosho Unlikely For Haru

onosho

A story today in the Japanese press reports that rising star and member of the tadpole army, Onosho, will most likely not compete in March’s tournament in Osaka. During January’s Hatsu basho in Tokyo, Onosho withdrew from the competition following day 9, reporting an injury to his right knee. Now reports cite that the injury is not healed and that Onosho is only about 50% of his normal strength.

With many years ahead of him in his sumo career, pressing for a full recovery is a wise option. Should he sit out Haru, he will likely be demoted to Juryo for the Natsu tournament in May. Given his strength, power and sheer will to win, he won’t be down there for very long.

 

Hatsu Day 9 Preview

day-of-tickets

As we exit the middle weekend of the basho, it’s all a headlong charge to the final weekend, and the crowning of the Yusho for Hatsu 2018. Along that road, there are some interesting stories unfolding.

Firstly is Mitakeumi, a strong start at 7-1 puts a double digit Sekiwake win within reach for the first time. For fans following along, this would mark the start of a campaign for him to lay claim to an Ozeki slot. I like Mitakeumi a lot, and I am eager to see him score 10+ wins this basho, but he’s not quite up to Ozeki level sumo yet.

Man-Bear-Giant Tochinoshin (Mitakeumi’s day 9 opponent) is likewise having a surprisingly good tournament. Tochinoshin has underperformed for years due to injuries. When he is healthy his skill and outrageous strength produces records that are solid San’yaku material. But it almost always seems that just when he is on the march, his body betrays him.

This has also been the case far too frequently for our current yusho leader, Yokozuna Kakuryu. At the moment he seems unstoppable. But fans should keep in mind that he spent most of 2017 out of sumo action due to chronic problems with his legs and back. Sadly we are one injury away from losing him once more to a lengthy rehabilitation process. But we are all hoping not to see that this tournament. Short of an injury, this is his tournament to lose.

Hatsu Leader Board

Leader – Kakuryu
Chasers – Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Daieisho
Hunt Grop – Tochiozan, Shohozan, Asanoyama

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Abi vs Asanoyama – There is still a lot of outstanding action going on at the bottom of the torikumi, with several of the lower ranked Maegashira turning in some excellent sumo. Day 9 gives us a match I have been eager to see: Abi and Asanoyama. In their only prior match, Asanoyama prevailed, but Abi really has his oshi sumo running strong.

Ishiura vs Daieisho – Daieisho is one loss behind the Yokozuna headed into day 9, and he meets Ishiura who is struggling to get above .500. Daieisho has been explosive out of the tachiai this tournament, and I am curious to see how that matches with Ishiura’s “submarine” sumo.

Shohozan vs Kagayaki – In spite of his day 8 loss, Shohozan’s sumo is winning matches at Hatsu. Kagayaki has been horribly inconsistent, but is still in the running for kachi-koshi later this week. This will likely be all Shohozan, but Kagayaki leads their career matches 4-2.

Takarafuji vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan has been cool and confident, and is looking genki. Takarafuji has managed to string together a 5-3 record thus far, and is showing us calm, confident and careful sumo. Tochiozan leads the series 10-7.

Kaisei vs Endo – After a strong start, Endo has gotten into a bit of a slump. Now he faces Brazilian mammoth Kaisei, whom he leads in their career records 6-3. Endo’s main inhibitor to good performance seems to be mental at the moment, and we all hope that he will find Kaisei a nice place out in the zabutan section.

Yoshikaze vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these sumo stalwarts are struggling this basho. Yoshikaze’s 3 wins all come against Yokozuna and Ozeki, but he can’t seem to muster any strong sumo for the rank and file. Kotoshogiku leads the career series 22-6, so this is likely a pickup for the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Ichinojo vs Onosho – Ichinojo brings his size based sumo against Onosho’s run-and-push sumo. Both are 4-4, and both are eager to keep themselves in the hunt for kachi-koshi. If Ichinojo gets a grip like he did day 8, it’s going to be his match.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Mitakeumi made several tactical mistakes in his day 8 match with the boulder known as Ichinojo. His day 9 match is really no easier, as he faces Tochinoshin’s massive strength. Tochinoshin showed on day 8 that he was happy to win an oshi match, so Mitakeumi really needs to think this one through.

Shodai vs Takayasu – I would say Takayasu in a walk, but Takayasu’s sumo has been chaotic, unfocused and a bit frantic. This is a significant departure from the sumo that got him into the Ozeki ranks, and marks a dangerous turn for him. Still, it’s Shodai, so I am guessing that Takayasu may flatten him straight out of the tachiai.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Goeido needs to bounce back, he is up to three losses, and seems to be stuck in the debugging mode of GoeidOS 1.5.1. He is evenly matched with Tamawashi in terms of score coming into day 9, and career record. Goeido will need to take control from the tachiai, or he’s going to end up moving backwards under Tamawashi’s blistering assault.

Kakuryu vs Arawashi – I am betting on a fairly straightforward win for the Yokozuna, to remain undefeated and the man to beat for the Emperor’s cup. Arawashi won their only prior match in January of 2017, but this version of Kakuryu is healthy and strong.