Kyushu Day 1 Highlights

A fair amount of ring rust on display here today, as there were a flurry of mattas called. Folks could not quite get the match timing right, and we saw multiple fights struggle to start. The sumo was good for opening day, and I think most of the rikishi fought well. I was specifically happy to see Mitakeumi come out strong, focused and finally back in fighting form. He has a tough November ahead of him, I wish him the best.

It was a treat to see a strong, focused Takayasu bring some of his best sumo out today. I know that by week two he will be struggling to compete through his injuries, but it’s nice to see that guy deliver a strong performance. Coupled with Wakatakakage’s tendency to “cold start”, it made for some dominant sumo today. Fans like to talk about Wakatakakage as being ready for higher rank, and his sumo certainly seems about ready to support that. But if that man can resolve his cold start issues, I think he could make it to Yokozuna.

Highlight Matches

Tohakuryu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Sorry fans, that was a terrible match. Terutsuyoshi still looks completely off of his sumo, and I am going to guess whatever injury has been behind his three straight make-koshi is still in effect. A matta, and then an immediate hatakikomi on the second attempt. Worse yet, Terutsuyoshi looks tentative, lethargic and unprepared. Tohakuryu returns to Juryo 1-0.

Hiradoumi defeats Atamifuji – Another sloppy tachiai, that I think should have been a matta, when Hiradoumi caught Atamifuji napping or thinking about something else. From there, Atamifuji tried to get hand placement, but found himself being dominated by Hiradoumi, who took 4 steps and tossed him over the east side. Hiradoumi starts 1-0.

Kagayaki defeats Azumaryu – Kagayaki stayed focus, and applied pressure inside well. But his balance was off a bit, and he was too far forward. Fortunately for him, Azumaryu was not really ready to defend, and he was quickly walked out. Kagayaki at 1-0.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Oho – Oho could not find a way to keep his footing against Ichiyamamoto’s double arm attack. Rather than attempting to disrupt Ichiyamamoto’s offense, Oho decided to try some offense of his own, which went nowhere. Oho was backed up and shoved out of the ring to give Ichiyamamoto an opening day win, advancing to 1-0.

Kotoeko defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi repeatedly tried to get some kind of grip on Kotoeko, but each time his hands found no purchase. Kotoeko deftly kept Okinoumi from setting his feet, and danced him about until Kotoeko’s hands and body were set up for a throw. The resulting kotenage rolled Okinoumi to the clay, and Kotoeko improves to 1-0.

Kotoshoho defeats Chiyotairyu – Surprising change of pace from Chiyotairyu, who did not launch off the shikiri-sen straight into an overwhelming pushing attack. He gave Kotoshoho the early advantage, but got a clear path inside and went to work. His attacks were moving Kotoshoho back, but as is frequently the case with Chiyotairyu, he was too far forward and ate a tsukiotoshi at the edge of the ring. Kotoshoho picks up an opening day win, and is 1-0.

Onosho defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma tried an opening face slap, which landed, but left him standing nearly upright, and his chest wide open. Onosho knew just what to do with that, grappled Chiyoshoma, and ran him over the edge of the ring. Onosho 1-0 to start Kyushu.

Abi defeats Aoiyama – If Abi is healthy, he’s going to do a lot of damage ranked this low. It also helps in today’s match that Aoiyama is a fraction of his former power, and immediately comes under Abi’s double arm thrusing attack. Aoiyama can’t hold his footing, and is quickly moved out and back. Nice move by Abi to keep Aoiyama from falling over the side of the dohyo, he’s 1-0.

Takanosho defeats Tochinoshin – Not the kind of match that Tochinoshin wanted for his first day on the clay this month. He made a mistake at the open by trying to pull, but seized the initiative away from Takanosho by brute power three steps later. But as Tochinoshin was setting up the win, his heel slid out and into the fine sand (janome) around the outside of the bales. A monoii ensued, and reversed the gyoji’s decision, giving Takanosho at 1-0 start to Kyushu.

Myogiryu defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji gets completely disrupted, and it almost looked like his upper and lower body were out of sync. Myogiryu stayed focused, and kept his balance, sending Takarafuji out by okuritaoshi. Myogiryu improves to 1-0.

Ryuden defeats Endo – Endo’s poor results continue in November. Ryuden gets him turned to the side, and never lets his recover balance or position. Ryuden’s lower back (a chronic worry for him) seems to be ok right now, so he remained low and stable, sending Endo out by yorikiri. Ryuden at 1-0.

Nishikifuji defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi is easy to anticipate, he will always work to get some kind of grip as his first, second and third moves. Nishikifuji accounted for this, and implemented a measured oshi-zumo phase to start the match, opening up Nishikigi’s chest. He followed that up with a double inside grip, and suddenly Nishikigi was in trouble. Two steps later, he was out, and Nishikifuji took the win to improve to 1-0.

Sadanoumi defeats Hokutofuji – For the first time in six attempts, Sadanoumi has been able to win over Hokutofuji. Sadanoumi’s speed played a large role in his win, coupled with Hokutofuji looking a bit rusty in his sumo. Sadanoumi starts Kyushu 1-0.

Wakamotoharu defeats Midorifuji – Midorifuji could not prevent Wakamotoharu from getting his preferred grip. What strikes me about watching Wakamotoharu is that he tends to show quite a bit of patience, and he has the defensive moves programmed into his lower body to give him the time to take his time. Once he set up grip, he wore Midorifuji down a piece at a time, finally walking Midorifuji out once he was ready. Wakamotoharu starts 1-0.

Kiribayama defeats Ura – Really nice escape move by Kiribayama to set up the katasukashi. Ura opened strong, and had the early advantage, choosing an armpit attack at first, but failed to cover to his left. Kiribayama took that opening and converted it to a win, he improves to 1-0.

Ichinojo defeats Tamawashi – Ichinojo does not let the media noise distract him today. Tamawashi attacked very well, but once it was clear that Ichinojo was not going to go soft at the first sign of trouble, you knew where this one was going. Ichinojo keeps in mind that he is enormous, and powers his bulk into position and shoves Tamawashi out. Snorlax win takes Ichinojo to 1-0.

Mitakeumi defeats Meisei – No ring rust on Mitakeumi today. He needs 10 wins, and he is not letting a single opportunity go to waste, it seems. He gets inside and underneath Meisei, and relentlessly drives forward. A quick oshidashi win, and the Ozekiwake now needs 9 more, as he is 1-0.

Hoshoryu defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka was too high at the tachiai, and I was surprised that Hoshoryu could not convert that mistake more quickly. He let Kotonowaka back him up, and then charge ahead to win. Clever move by Hoshoryu, as Kotonowaka drove forward, Hoshoryu twisted to his right, and thrust Kotonowaka down. Kotonowaka landed a moment before Hoshoryu did (confirmed by monoii), and Hoshoryu starts November 1-0.

Takayasu defeats Wakatakakage – I mentioned that Takayasu has to fight through his accumulated injuries. This shows up prominently in the fact that his early matches in a basho tend to be better, as he is more genki at the start. The man trains like a maniac, but there’s only so much you can do with that much damage. Today, Wakatakakage got a full power Takayasu fight, featuring the forearm strike to the chin, focused tsuppari to the chest, and relentless drive. I compliment Wakatakakage that he absorbed it well, until a Takayasu caught him shifting his feet, and blasted him across of the east side bales. Takayasu starts 1-0.

Tobizaru defeats Shodai – Good defense at the tachiai from Shodai, but he allowed Tobizaru to get both hands inside by the third step, and was in real trouble. Shodai managed to break contact, but could not contend with Tobizaru’s high agility sumo. At the moment Shodai needed to deploy the “Wall of Daikon”, Tobizaru hit him with a volley to the face, and that put the Ozeki out. Tobizaru improves to 1-0.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – Daieisho gave it everything he could muster, but could not overcome Takakeisho’s solid defense. Takakeisho waited for his chance, then counter-attacked with considerable force, sending Daieisho airborne and out. Takakeisho starts 1-0.

Kyushu Day 1 Preview

Welcome readers of Tachiai to the daily coverage for Kyushu 2022. It’s the final tournament of the year, and we are looking forward to some rowdy sumo action from western Japan. With Terunofuji out, we declare this to be a “Nokazuna” tournament, and it’s time for the Ozeki to step up and battle for the cup. I have confidence that Takakeisho will do his part, but worries that Shodai will continue to fade. With 9 men in the named ranks, the competition for the cup may be intense.

Do expect a number of rikishi to show up day one with “ring rust”, not quite ready for honbasho level competition. Act one, the first three days of the tournament, is all about getting everyone up to full power and finding out who is hot, and who is not. On to the sumo!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Terutsuyoshi vs Tohakuryu – With the Yokozuna out, we will be getting regular vistors from Juryo. Today it’s the top man on the Juryo banzuke, Tohakuryu. After entering sumo with a Sandanme 100 tsukidashi posting in May of 2019, he has been on a steady climb. A simple 8 wins this November will see him in the top division to start the new year. He’s up against an ailing Terutsuyoshi, who has had only one kachi-koshi in the last year. Tohakuryu won their only prior match, last tournament.

Hiradoumi vs Atamifuji – Welcome to the top division, Atamifuji. Your first match is against a fellow you have not been able to beat in 3 attempts: Hiradoumi. Hiradoumi tends to grab a solid hold and walk Atamifuji out. Maybe Atamifuji has a extra portion of genki to power his debut match, and can rack up his first ever win against Hiradoumi.

Kagayaki vs Azumaryu – Once, I was a Kagayaki fan. But he has been fading out for some time. Maybe some performance limiting injury took place that we never learned about? But it’s tough to watch him struggle now, and he has not had a strong performance in the top division in two years. Given the way the banzuke played out, a 9-6 from Juryo 9 in September was enough to put him back in Makuuchi. Good luck against Azumaryu, whom he holds an 8-3 career record against.

Ichiyamamoto vs Oho – Making it to the top division is quite an accomplishment, but most sumo fans wondered if Oho was going to end up better than a rikishi relegated to the bottom third of the top division. I am starting to think that this is the best he is going to be able to do, turning in alternating kachi and make-koshi records and treading water. He’s up against Abi clone Ichiyamamoto today, and holds a narrow 4-3 career advantage.

Kotoeko vs Okinoumi – This has potential to be a good match, with Okinoumi able to produce some strong, stable sumo up against Kotoeko’s agility and power. Okinoumi has a 5-3 career advantage, with each man winning one of their two prior bouts this year.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotoshoho – It’s always a guess of just which version of Chiyotairyu is going to show up. In the past 2 years, he’s only had 2 kachi-koshi, and is clearly struggling at this point. He has received some remarkable banzuke luck, ahd has hovered around the double digit Maegashira ranks for most of those past 2 years in spite of his dismal record. Kotoshoho has had 3 consecutive make-koshi following his debut 9-6, and is either too hurt to fight well, or is really not much better than the top end of Juryo. He has a 4-2 career advantage over Chiyotairyu.

Onosho vs Chiyoshoma – If Onosho follows his typical pattern, he has one more make-koshi in him before turning in a blistering 10-5. He’s close to even (5-6) against Chiyoshoma, so it will come down to how much ring rust Onosho brings to the clay today. My guess is that he needs to bring a can of WD-40.

Aoiyama vs Abi – Maybe my favorite match of the first half, we get to see if Abi is recovered from the injury that saw him benched in September. What a way to start, against the fleshy man-mountain that is Aoiyama. Aoiyama has turned in consecutive 6-9 losses, but has managed to stay in the middle third of the Maegashira group. This should be a battle of long arms, and powerful thrusting attacks.

Takanosho vs Tochinoshin – After holding down Sekiwake for 4 consecutive tournaments in 2020-2021, Takanosho has been struggling quite a bit, and went kyujo in July after just a single win, punting him far down the banzuke. I expected him to savage the rikishi at this level, but instead could only muster a tepid 8-7 kachi-koshi. He’s up against the brutally strong Tochinoshin, and has beaten him 5 times in their past 6 meetings.

Takarafuji vs Myogiryu – More amazing banzuke luck on display, as Takarafuji had a dismal 5-10 finish to Aki, yet only dropped from Maegashira 5 to Maegashira 8. Clearly he was nursing some injury, and fans of his “defend and extend” brand of sumo hope he is healthy and strong for this month’s tournament in Kyushu. Myogiryu has looked good in training leading up to the tournament, and has a 15-9 career advantage against Takarafuji.

Endo vs Ryuden – Endo has had a dismal year, with just a single kachi-koshi in Osaka to his name. He has a chance to start Kyushu with a win, given his 5-1 career advantage over Ryuden. Ryuden for his part had a blistering 11-4 jun-yusho in September to cap off his climb back to the top division following his suspension in March of 2021. This has the makings of a solid fight.

Nishikigi vs Nishikifuji – Its a Nishiki battle to start off the second half, and I approve. These two have a 6 match history, which is all focused on their time in Juryo, and favors the larger and heavier Nishikigi 4-2. All most all of their matches end by yorikiri, so it’s battle hugs on tap today.

Hokutofuji vs Sadanoumi – Hokutofuji had a brilliant 10-5 run in September that ended with a worrying 1-4 streak. At one point, he was on the leaderboard, but faded into the final act. It was his first kachi-koshi since March where he finished Osaka 9-6. For a highly capable rikishi who was rightfully considered at one time to be a future san’yaku mainstay, it’s clear he has been struggling. He gets Sadanoumi for day 1, and he has a sterling 5-0 record against Sir Speedy.

Wakamotoharu vs Midorifuji – Which is more noteworthy? Midorifuji at Maegashira 3 after turning in a 7-8 at Maegashira 1 last time? Or the fact that Wakamotoharu has been steadily, and quietly climbing his way up the banzuke for the past year. Both of these guys are looking strong, and healthy right now. Their even 1-1 record could portend a nice battle in the second half.

Ura vs Kiribayama – I really like Ura at this rank. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a multi-tournament Komusubi, but M3 is perfect for him. He’s good enough that he can hold his own here, but with enough inventiveness that he is a nearly perfect spoiler for anyone trying to put together a double digit tournament. Sort of the role that Yoshikaze used to fill. He fights Kiribayama, and they have a 2-2 career record. with Kiribayama taking the last two in a row.

Tamawashi vs Ichinojo – Battle of the iron man vs the Snorlax, and my money is on Tamawashi. Right now Ichinojo has some kind of quasi-scandal in the press, and he’s just the kind of guy who would let something like that distract him. Over their career, Ichinojo holds a 11-9 advantage, so he can beat Tamawashi, but more than possibly any other rikishi in the tournament, he lets himself lose focus and that degrades his sumo.

Meisei vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has a tall hill to climb. He needs 10 wins to regain Ozeki. We know that he is capable of doing it, if his body, his mind and his sumo align. He’s had 3 yusho, hand is capable of 13 wins in a single tournament. I think this all comes down to his body, as he has clearly been nursing some injury that robbed him of his performance. He holds a 8-3 career lead over Meisei.

Kotonowaka vs Hoshoryu – What could be a raucous battle of the up and coming rikishi, I am looking forward to this match. Kotonowaka would love to find his way into the named ranks, but right now the named ranks are bulging with excellent talent. There are 4 Komusubi and 3 Sekiwake, and none of them are an easy mark. He can test his mettle against Hoshoryu today, though Hoshoryu holds a 6-3 career advantage, and has won every match since 2020.

Wakatakakage vs Takayasu – Wakatakakage needs double digits this time out, and with the Yokozuna in recovery mode, he’s got a decent chance. His opponent today, Takayasu, is a fierce fighter, but his body can’t quite support the sumo he wants to do. I chalk it up to accumulated injuries, and he has had some whoppers. Wakatakakage holds a 6-3 advantage on the clay, so I expect Takayasu to open big, off balance, and get a quick escort to the exit.

Tobizaru vs Shodai – Shodai is kadoban, and needs 8 wins to not follow Mitakeumi down the road to Ozeki-wake for Hatsu. His sumo has been a mess this year, and I do wish he would just decide to use his best techniques every time. Sure, that means they get figured out, but go out large sir, with a boom and a crash, not a whimper. He’s got Tobizaru on day 1, who has only beaten Shodai one in 5 attempts.

Takakeisho vs Daieisho – To match of the days are two sumo friends slugging it out. If Takakeisho is in good health, he could win this tournament, but that health has seemed to ellude him for most of this year. He has a 14-6 career advantage on the clay against Daieisho, and given their sumo styles, look for some big forward power at the start, and ramping up from there until someone goes out.

Tochinoshin Withdraws From Kyushu Basho

As reported by Herouth on Twitter a short time ago

Former Ozeki Tochinoshin has withdrawn from the Kyushu Basho due to an injury to an abdominal muscle. This effectively ends his campaign to return to the rank of Ozeki, and his heartbreaking news for his fans world wide.

We wish him a successful recovery and a quick return to action.

Kyushu Day 4 Preview

Image from the Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

Heading into day 4, it’s clear that once again the lower San’yaku ranks are healthier and fighting harder than the Ozeki and Yokozuna. True, Hakuho is fighting well and looks strong, but the Ozeki corps is in tatters, with the one “good” Ozeki, Goeido, damaged and seeking treatment for his injured ankle.

I compliment Takayasu for his indomitable fighting sprint. Its clear that left arm is not much of a tool, but he’s piecing together wins as he can. I think it will be a struggle for him to make his 8, but I have faith he can get there.

Takakeisho is likewise muddling through, but as his sumo revolves around explosive power from his chest muscles, one of which is damaged, he has a tougher path to 8, and is evident from his day 2 and 3 matches.

*Note, as an Ozekiwake, I count Tochinoshin in the Ozeki corps.

Right now the ones to watch are Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji and Asanoyama. These rikishi seem to be on their sumo, in good health and hungry to win. Endo is fighting well, but coming up 5% short in each match. Tochinoshin is still clearly hurt, and I worry what he’s going to do. Abi is distracted, I think, but he may be able to snap out of it soon.

Fans be aware, this may be a jumble of a basho. But as long as Hakuho is healthy and in it, he’s the clear favorite for the win.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Terutsuyoshi vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage is on a hot streak to celebrate his Makuuchi debut. He and Terutsuyoshi a fairly even match, but I am going to go with a momentum call to say that Wakatakakage has an edge for this day 4 match.

Daishoho vs Nishikigi – As noted in the day 3 highlights, there seems to be some kind of performance crisis with the Oitekaze rikishi (Daishoho, Daishomaru) that will hopefully correct soon. If Nishikigi is back to good form, we may see him run up a fairly good score from this far down the banzuke. There is every indication that Daishoho may not give him much trouble today.

Chiyomaru vs Daishomaru – I am going to say Daishomaru in this match, if for no other reason than he is due for his first win. Chiyomaru is a tough rikishi to fight based on his enormity, but Daishomaru has proven to be up to the task in the past (5-2 career).

Ishiura vs Takanosho – Also in the winless column is Ishiura. I am sure The Boss is giving him a measure of grief about this already, but we never know what kind of injuries the rikishi may have sustained in training or during the basho.

Kagayaki vs Chiyotairyu – Kagayaki seems to have shaken off his ring rust on day 3, and I would say that we finally saw good form from Chiyotairyu as well. This match has a good amount of potential, and I expect that Kagayaki’s plan would be to survive the first 10 seconds upright and in-bounds. After his initial surge, Chiyotairyu tends to quickly drop intensity, leaving himself open for counter attack.

Shimanoumi vs Shodai – Oh sure, why not. Let’s see Shodai go 4-0. At this rank he is a bit over-powered if he is healthy, and there is every indication that he is. I would like to see him run the table.

Shohozan vs Kotoshogiku – Two home town favorites go head to head. Shohozan is even more pugilistic and slap-happy than any other recent basho, and I am curious if he is going to take the “Big Guns” approach to Kotoshogiku. We have yet to see Kotoshogiku unleash a proper hug-n-chug attack, so maybe day 4 will be the day.

Yutakayama vs Sadanoumi – This match has a good amount of potential, with Sadanoumi bringing more maneuverability and Yutakayama brining more strength. I would look for an early try for a pull down / slap down from Sadanoumi.

Onosho vs Tsurugisho – If I were Tsurugisho, I would be quite grumpy by now. He had his face bashed by Shohozan, he was matted into submission by Ryduen. Now he gets to take a turn with Onosho, who is (to my eye) struggling at this rank. Can Tsurugisho get back in a groove?

Kotoeko vs Enho – Kotoeko is winless, and he’s going against “week 1” Enho, who tends to be faster, more decisive, and better underneath. In past matches, Kotoeko has been able to use Enho’s low body position to his advantage. I am eager to see the man from Miyazaki get his first win.

Tamawashi vs Aoiyama – Back from a day off due to his fusensho win over the injured Tomokaze, we get to see if Aoiyama can fire up the V-Twin and give Tamawashi a rough ride. Both will be focusing on oshi-zumo, but we will see who sets the tempo and form of the match.

Ryuden vs Kotoyuki – Will it be another Ryuden matta-fest? Kotoyuki seems to have picked up where he left off at Aki, showing up sumo far better than his doldrum days in Juryo, where he struggled with injuries.

Abi vs Meisei – I am going to come out and say it. The social media scandal and ban has Abi distracted. His sumo is off, his concentration is not sharp, and his matches are less intense than they should be. In spite of his day 3 loss, Meisei is fighting very well right now, and will give Abi a tough match.

Myogiryu vs Asanoyama – This should be a fairly workable win for Asanoyama. He has a size and strength advantage over Myogiryu, and his sumo is making steady improvements each tournament. The outstanding question is – did the Hakuho belly flop rattle his nerves? I would hope that it did not.

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – I see no relief for the Oitekaze heartbreak in this match, as I think that Mitakeumi is in a groove now, and we will see good sumo from him. At least up to day 10, when he traditionally starts to fade.

Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – Fans are still waiting for Tochinoshin to break out the sky-crane. Will today be the day? He has a tough road ahead of him to get to 10, and this is his “easy” week.

Takakeisho vs Endo – Its fairly evident that Takakeisho is no better than 80% genki right now, and is struggling against opponents he would normally dispatch with two massive shoves. Into this steps Endo, the master technician. I anticipate that Endo will go for the shallow right hand again, and if he lands that it’s going to be quick and ugly.

Hokutofuji vs Takayasu – That Hokutofuji handshake tachiai is going to be aimed for Takayasu’s left arm pit, and if it finds its mark, it could get very ugly fast. With each of the remaining Ozeki in a damaged state, it’s open season for the lower San’yaku to make their marks.

Okinoumi vs Hakuho – These two have a 21 match history, and Okinoumi has only won 1. So I am sure “The Boss” has a catalog of ways to put Okinoumi on the clay.