It’s almost all done for the lower ranks, with a handful of rikishi left to face their 7th opponent today or Sunday. Day 13 saw wins by Wakamotoharu, Ichiyamamoto, Wakatakamoto (that means all 3 Onami brothers won on day 13), Naya, Terunofuji, Shoji and Kitanowaka. That’s almost a complete sweep for our list!
For day 14, the roster is lighter, but there are still some great matches yet to come.
Hoshoryu vs Kizenryu – It’s time for a Darwin match with only one exiting the dohyo with a winning record. Hoshoryu won their only prior match, during Hatsu this year. Two high-skill rikishi with everything on the line in a single match. One will be promoted, the other demoted for July. This is what sumo is all about.
Midorifuji vs Sakigake – Another winner take all match. This time it is the challenger, Sakigake, who has won the prior match. The winner gets promoted, the loser gets demoted. At stake is likely a slot in the Makushita joi-jin, with a chance at promotion to Juryo up for grabs July.
Akua vs Nogami – Akua is already kachi-koshi, but he needs a bit more juice to put him into the top of Makushita for July if he wants to make a bid to return to Juryo. These matches on day 14 are going to be fast, hard and brutal.
Roga vs Kaizen – Roga is already kachi-koshi as well, but a 5th win might just break him out of Sandanme if the stars align. Kaizen has already spent a few basho in Makushita, and will bring that experience to bare in today’s match vs Roga’s raw power.
Wakaichiro vs Goshinryu – Our favorite Jonidan rikishi looks to hit escape velocity and return to Sandanme today against Goshinryu, who is fighting at his highest ever rank. Wakaichiro’s sumo seems to have gotten much more efficient this basho, so I am looking for a high energy oshi-battle between these two.
Kenho vs Sasaki – We have not followed Kenho this tournament, but he also faces a Darwin match on day 14, and could find himself with a winning record if he can overcome youngster and light weight Sasaki. Good luck Kenho!
After the full roster and day 11, day 12 brings only a few of our “Ones to Watch” to the dohyo for their 6th match. Day 11 action saw wins by Terunofuji, Amakaze, Roga, Naya and Midorifuji. Sadly Wakaichiro lost his 6th match, and will face make or kachi koshi his final bout. Naya remains in the Makushita yusho hunt, picking up his 6th win. Terunofuji and Roga won their day 11 matches to advance to 6-0 and remain in the yusho hunt.
Day 12 Matches
Hoshoryu vs Sakigake – Loser of this match is make-koshi. Sakigake is a former Juryo rikishi who has been working in Makushita for the last 4 years. Typically in the top 15 ranks of Makushita, Sakigake is one tough competitor, and he will be a handful for Hoshoryu.
Akua vs Ryusei – As with the match above, this is a 2-3 bracket fight, and the loser will take home a make-koshi. After a strong open, Akua has struggled to make headway against a very competitive Makushita Joi-jin. Ryusei is a 32 year old veteran, and this match may come down to who gets the inside position at the tachiai.
Ichiyamamoto vs Kototebakari – Both rikishi are kachi-koshi, and have a single loss. So this match is simply to run up the score. For Ichiyamamoto, there is a slim, outside chance that he might be promotable if he wins the remainder of his matches. Kototebakari is yet another fast-risking young hard-charger. At 19 years of age and 144 kg, he is in a “sweet spot” for Makushita.
Shoji vs Tsuyukusa – Yet another 2-3 bracket match, with the loser being make-koshi for Osaka. Musashigawa heya’s Shoji faces another young, up and coming rikishi looking to press into Makushita.
I am back from my drive across the dusty wasteland of western Texas, and ready to join the team in covering the Haru basho. Thanks to Josh, Andy and Liam for filling in for me while I was out among the tumbleweeds and oil wells, it was much appreciated, and as always I love reading and watching what you folks put together.
Day 1 was really light for our “Ones to Watch” crew, but here are some results for you following along.
Wakatakamoto defeated Tochinobori – The last non-sekitori Onami brother finds himself in the thick of Makushita, but managed to pick up a win on day one. Given my personal experience with sibling rivalry, this has to be a strong motivator for Wakatakamoto, especially if his brothers are giving him a helping of grief and extra chores.
Naya defeats Fukamiyama – Naya is now wearing his mage (top knot) and looks like a proper rikishi. His opponent for day 1, Fukamiyama, is working to regain footing in Makushita after a trip to Sandanme. Sadly he received a black star for his first match.
Chiyoraizan defeats Shoji – Shoji had made it as high as Makushita 52 before a string of make-koshi tournaments left him in lower Sandanme. With a 5-2 finish at Hatsu, he is in a difference class of rikishi in Osaka. His day 1 loss is nothing more than poor fortune, and in fact he has lost his opening match in each of his past 4 basho.
Terunofuji defeats Wakanoguchi – The most followed Jonidan match for a while, former Ozeki Terunofuji began his long climb back to the top ranks on day one with a win. Terunofuji looked pale, flabby and sort of lost. He was clearly deconditioned and his two heavily bandaged knees were evident. But he managed a win with a very powerful thrust down that gave Wakanoguchi a face full of Osaka clay. Its true that this far down Jonidan, it might be enough to be huge, and a former Ozeki. But his fans all hope that he can get his sumo back together, and get his body in fighting form.
But with so many of our ones to watch sitting out day 1, we know day 2 is going to be a non-stop battle of the strong and the eager, fighting their way up the ranks. Let’s break down who we expect to see in action early on Monday in Osaka.
Hoshoryu vs Tokushinho – Hoshoryu is only in his 7th tournament as a professional rikishi, and he finds himself in the upper ranks of the brutal Makushita division. A strong performance here and a lot of luck might bring him to the salaried ranks for May. His first match of Haru is against the long-time Juryo vet, Tokushinho. After a terrible 4-11 tournament for Kyushu 2015, Tokushinho has been relegated to Makushita, and has always fallen short when he reached a promotable rank. This should be a solid match of experience vs youth.
Akua vs Shiba – With Akua’s day-glow mawashi appropriated by Chiyomaru, it’s up to the one time Juryo man to battle his way back to the salaried ranks and reclaim his colors. Shiba has been occupying a upper Makushita rank for the past several years, and it’s high time this former university sumo star overcome whatever is holding him back and achieve a kachi-koshi from a promotable rank.
Ichiyamamoto vs Sakigake – The intense action keeps rolling with this battle between Ichiyamamoto and Mongolian veteran Sakigake. Ichiyamamoto has been ranked in Juryo for 5 tournaments across his career, but has been in Makushita since Hatsu 2015. Another “rising star vs veteran” match for day 2!
Midorifuji vs Tanabe – These two young, fast rising rikishi are outside of promotable range, but both of them are entering Haru with kachi-koshi scores in January, and looking to chase higher into the Makushita ranks. Both of them are former college rikishi, and already had a good amount of experience before starting their professional sumo careers.
Musashikuni vs Okinofuji – Musashikuni has had make-koshi scores in 3 of the last 4 tournaments, most likely due to persistent problems with his ankles and feet. With the long period of practice and training in Tokyo since January, his fans are hopeful that he is in better fighting for in Osaka, and can start strong. His opponent, Okinofuji, has 37 basho in Makushita.
Torakio vs Amanoshima – Bulgarian Torakio, the nephew of Naruto Oyakata, is fighting at his highest ever rank of Sandanme 30. Amanoshima has spent most of his career in Sandanme, but has suffered two straight make-koshi since his last Makushita visit at Kyushu in 2018. Good luck tiger-cub!
Wakaichiro vs Kotoito – Wakaichiro’s strong performance at Hatsu boosted him to the bottom of Sandanme, where his fans hope he can build on his success. The primary concerns are his injuries, which seem to be accumulating. His sumo form continues to improve, and if his body is accommodating, he should be able to hold Sandanme rank this tournament. His opponent is a young up and comer, Kotoito, from the storied Sadogatake heya. At only 16 years of age, he is quite young.
Kenho vs Toshonishiki – Kenho’s only strategy at Hatsu was to be enormous and as immobile as possible. Sadly with his knee and hip problems, he was unable to cover the immobile portion with any great effect. As a result he was reduced back to Jonidan, and needs to regroup. His first match of Haru is against youngster Toshonishiki, who is fighting at his highest rank. It’s possible this is the larges human Toshonishiki has ever tried to battle.
Hattorizakura vs Shachinofuji – Fighting at a career high rank of Jonikuchi 15, Hattorizakura’s fans hope that he might defy the odds and actually win 2 matches in the same basho. Oddly enough this is a rematch against Shachinofuji, who (of course) beat him last time.
As hopeless sumo fans, the crew at Tachiai are following many fine rikishi who are fighting their way through he lower divisions (yes, more than just Wakaichiro!). Out of more than a dozen “ones to watch”, only a handful are in action on day 1. Some notable matches
Wakamotoharu vs. Gokushindo – Another of the Waka* brothers takes on Gokushindo, as he battles to regain Sekitori status. This has the potential to be a real firecracker of a match. Midorifuji vs. Sakigake – Midorifuji has certainly hit the Makushita “wall” and has found the competition thick and fierce. Today he takes on former Juryo man Sakigake. Naya vs. Aomihama – Taiho’s grandson returns to Makushita, at the very last slot of the division. This time we look to see if he can hit and hold this highly competitive division. He faces off against veteran Aomihama, who suffered a disappointing 1-6 tournament in November. Torakio vs. Taichiyama – Torakio is still working hard to escape Sandanme, and he starts Hatsu near his all time high rank of Sandanme 28. He seems to be an even match for Taichiyama, who is still struggling to recover from injuries. Hattorizakura vs. Denpoya – In spite of his cringe worthy career record of 2-130 (no, not a typo), people love this skinny little guy, and always hope he can find enough genki to win something. His opponent, Denpoya, who is in his first tournament as a professional rikishi, is likely happy to have a nearly assured win for his first match as a pro.
Some notables that are not on the day 1 fight card: Kenho, Musashikuni, Ura, Shoji Hoshoryu and Akua.
A reminder that NHK World Japan will have the final hour of the top division live over their streaming service overnight US time. Work has it that Gunning will be doing the color commentary, and it’s never dull with him in the booth.