Hatsu Day 4 Highlights

It looks like it was hair-pull Wednesday. None of it seemed like a deliberate tactic, but it took at least one clear win from a rikishi on a no-loss streak. There are an impressive number of rank-and-file rikishi who are still 4-0, and sadly two Ozeki who are in real trouble with injuries, and might want to consider kyujo and immediate medical attention.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Aminishiki – A couple of false starts, Chiyonokuni was worried about an Aminishiki henka, and who would not be? Aminishiki took the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni was able to overwhelm uncle sumo’s offense.

Yutakayama defeats Daiamami – Yutakayama picks up his third win, in this evenly balanced oshi/tsuki match. Yutakayama was consistently in better position, and kept Daiamami moving to his tune. My favorite part comes when Daiamami has a solid nodowa, and Yutakayama applies a vigorous slap to his attacker’s face.

Kotoyuki defeats Chiyoshoma – Kotoyuki got into his favorite mode of sumo, and after trading a short series of thrusts, he had Chiyoshoma off balance, and spinning toward the East side.

Yago defeats Kagayaki – Excellent fundamentals as usual from Kagayaki, and he controlled the early part of the match, moving Yago backward, keeping Yago higher and reacting to his sumo. Yago worked to bring Kagayaki to his chest, and when he got Kagayaki wrapped up, he went to work. Although Kagayaki struggled, Yago kept his opponent centered and marched him out. More evidence that Yago is probably going to be a big deal in the next few years.

Abi defeats Endo – It was a cloud of flailing arms immediately from the tachiai, and Abi put himself at risk by attempting an early pull down. Respect to Endo for doing a better job than most at repelling the Abi-zumo attack, but Abi continued to apply pressure, and Endo landed in a heap.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – A solid, protracted mawashi battle. Asanoyama was in control for a good portion of the match, but failed to pick up his first win. It looked like Asanoyama got tired, and Ryuden exploited his opponents exhaustion. Good sumo from both.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – Kaisei seems to have his sumo at full power for the first time in a while, and he remains undefeated. Daieisho gave it everything he had, but there is just too much Kaisei to toss around.

Onosho defeats Aoiyama – This match was all Aoiyama, and Onosho could not overcome the Man-Mountain’s superior reach, and was bodily thrown to the clay. But a Monoii was called, and it was determined that Aoiyama had contact with Onosho’s hair during the throw, and was disqualified.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – I hate to say it, but it’s painful to watch Yoshikaze right now. He seems completely out of energy and drive, and he presents little offense in any of his matches. Injury? We don’t get to know.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Shohozan scores his first win by shutting down Kotoshogiku’s hug-n-chug attack, and getting to Kotoshogiku’s side.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – A critical tadpole battle, this match did much to shape the second act, and it’s a fair question to wonder if Takakeisho needs to work out a mechanism to defend against this kind of attack. Mitakeumi was able to shut down the “wave-action” by never letting Takakeisho get enough distance to effective push against him. At close range, Mitakeumi’s bulk and grip carried the match. Excellent strategy from Mitakeumi, and he moves to 4-0. I can point to Takakeisho’s early attempt at a pull-down as the fatal flaw that allowed Mitakeumi to close the gap and back Takakeisho to the bales as the moment he lost the match.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Ozeki Tochinoshin needs to just go kyujo, and work to get his injury treated. He is going to be kadoban either way, and he may as well save himself from any potential damage that might arise.

Ichinojo defeats Goeido – A wide range of thoughts about this, firstly a lot of credit to Ichinojo for outstanding, aggressive sumo two days in a row. He looked like a real champion, and I can’t get enough of this when he is fighting well. Goeido gave it everything he had, and we saw some fantastic attempts to overcome Ichinojo’s size and mass advantage. But with Goeido pressed tightly to his chest, Ichinojo expertly wore him down, and then tossed him aside like a spent ice cream bucket. Fantastic sumo from both, but Goeido likewise needs to own up to his injury and seek treatment before it becomes permanent.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – Influenza patient Takayasu blasts through his fever to drop Tochiozan. As the scion of Tagonoura now, I expect Takayasu to further harden his already grim determination to win every time he mounts the dohyo. On a related note, it seems the flu is ripping through Japan right now, and there may be several more rikishi who end up sick before this tournament is complete.

Kakuryu defeats Myogiryu – It was not pretty, but it was a much needed win.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji lost this match because Hakuho used anything he could think of to delay the moment he touched out. It was a masterful act of agility and poise, but it was really a toss up who was the dead body in this match. Although Hakuho won, this is a great barometer of just how far Hokutofuji’s sumo has come. The boss remains undefeated.

Five Interesting Matches on Day 13

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With the Kyushu basho wrapping up, many of the matches on day 13 are in some ways more about the New Year tournament than the current one. Several rikishi, such as Okinoumi, Endo, and Kagayaki, will be facing opponents five or six ranks above them tomorrow, as the schedulers try to get an idea of what the Hatsu banzuke will look like. Here are just five interesting matches to keep an eye on for day 13.

Aoiyama vs. Daiamami

Although it wouldn’t do much to improve his current situation, I do think Aoiyama deserved a win on day 12. From the replays, it was pretty clear that Kotoyuki’s arm touched the clay a split second before the big Bulgarian’s heel stepped out, and I was very surprised there wasn’t at least a monoii. Aoiyama will have to leave the past behind and focus on tomorrow when he meets Daiamami, who despite losing the majority of his bouts has been giving it his all in the last half of this basho. Day 13 will be the first time these two rikishi meet.

Aminishiki vs. Ikioi

Everyone’s favorite uncle will once again try to secure his spot in the top division tomorrow. Aminishiki’s tournament started off strong, but he has faded a bit in the later half of this basho as his opponents began to figure out his tactics. Yet there is a man who may just fall for the wily veteran’s tricks, and his name is Ikioi. On any given day, Ikioi can show incredible skill and determination on the dohyo. But then there are days where he wrestles like a man with banana peels taped to his feet. It’s impossible to predict which Ikioi will show each day and if he decides to lace up the peels tomorrow, Aminishiki shouldn’t have much trouble making a fool of him.

Endo vs. Tamawashi

Apparently, Okinoumi isn’t the only one putting his health issues behind him, as crowd favorite Endo has been having another great tournament. Coming into day 13 with a 9-3 record, Endo is fighting much like he did when he first emerged on the Makuuchi scene and captured the hearts of sumo fans. His impressive showing has resulted in a massive jump up the torikumi, and he will face Maegashira 1 Tamawashi tomorrow. These two have had a very interesting series, with Endo dominating their first six bouts and Tamawashi taking the last five.

Onosho vs. Shohozan

It would be quite the comeback story if Onosho could somehow get his kachi koshi after an abysmal start to the tournament. Since donning the red mawashi once more, he has only lost once and will need to win his last three matches to get an 8-7 record. His first and perhaps greatest challenge comes in the form of Shohozan, who has also underperformed this basho. Onosho has faced off against the Fukuoka native three times before and has never beat him. Can Onosho keep his kachi koshi dream alive, or will Shohozan hand him his first Makuuchi losing record?

Ichinojo vs. Mitakeumi

Ichinojo has definitely been one of the MVPs of this basho. He dominated Kisenosato, gave Hakuho his first taste of real competition, and had a highlight bout with Goeido on day 12. While I don’t know if Ichinojo will have a good enough record by the end of the basho to contend for the opening(s) in the Komusubi rank, he does have a pretty good shot at Maegashira 1. Ichinojo may also be in the running for a sansho special prize if he can bring his record up to ten or eleven wins. His day 13 opponent is Sekiwake Mitakeumi, who will want to get back in the win column after a concise loss to Hakuho. Mitakiumi will be  looking for his eighth victory to secure his kachi koshi and keep his Sekiwake rank for January. He has met Ichinojo on the clay twice, and the two are tied at one win apiece.

Kyushu Day 9 Highlights

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Let’s start with this – what on earth is Kisenosato doing? I do love some “Great Pumpkin” sumo, especially this close to Halloween, but he is fighting at mid-Maegashira level now. He certainly should not be out there as a Yokozuna, and I am sure that the Sumo Kyokai and the YDC are in an uproar that he returned to the dohyo well ahead of his full recovery. Last night prior to my US bed time, I was scanning all of the “usual sources” looking for the expected announcement that Kisenosato had withdrawn from the Kyushu basho with <insert malady here>. None came. I would guess that he is being counseled otherwise tonight.

In the race to catch Hakuho, all of the rikishi going in today one loss behind each went down to defeat, leaving “The Boss” out in front of everyone, undefeated, and with a 2 win lead starting the second week.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi has been on a winning streak, and it was a bit of a surprise to see Kotoyuki take control of this match and lead Okinoumi to his demise. People with skill in predictions have already been forecasting Kotoyuki’s return to Juryo for Hatsu, but perhaps he can in fact rally and stay in the top division.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – The happy sumotori gave Nishikigi a solid fight right from the tachiai. Both men battled to the tawara where Nishikigi started the throw, but Asanoyama finished it. Asanoyama is not quite as genki as he was at Aki, but he still has some room to recover.

Takekaze defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama needs every win he can squeeze from the remainder of the Kyushu basho. Getting off balance around Takekaze is a recipe for a loss, as Takekaze is experienced enough to make you pay.

Myogiryu defeats Ikioi – Ikioi gives up the inside grip in spite of clearly being a step ahead at the tachiai. Myogiryu is looking quite genki this basho – maybe he is back to his old self? Flagging Ikioi needs to pull himself together. I am going to assign this as another casualty of the intense jungyo schedule.

Daieisho defeats Aminishiki – Now that the push-me-pull-you pattern has run its course, Aminishiki is struggling to dominate matches. We all love uncle sumo, but the reality is he has damaged legs and there are limits to what he can do in a power battle with a young rikishi.

Chiyomaru defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki clearly owns the start of this match, but Chiyomaru keeps giving ground, and Kagayaki is all too happy to chase him around the dohyo. This, of course, is a mistake as he gets his balance too far forward, and Chiyomaru pulls him down.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – Fairly good mawashi battle from these two, Shodai gave it everything he had and established moro-zashi almost right away. However, the massive Brazilian kept his defense solid. The match ended with a throw attempt at the tawara that Kaisei thought he lost, but Shodai touched down a split second earlier.

Endo defeats Tochinoshin – It was Endo from the start. I am going to guess that Tochinoshin’s knee is bothering him greatly, and he is unable to push against it with his massive strength.

Daishomaru defeats Ichinojo – The great boulder of Mongolia was not dialed in today, and Daishomaru got him high and out before he could gather his moss and recover. A bit surprising given how solid Ichinojo has been for the first 8 days. Hopefully, Minato Oyakata switches him back to Frosted Flakes, as the Count Chocula makes him seize up and idle rough.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyoshoma – There was some naughty business just after a matta, with Chiyoshoma putting an extra “post matta” thrust into Hokutofuji’s face. Matta, matta again. On attempt 4 they get a successful launch, and with Hokutofuji now completely pissed off he blasted Chiyoshoma straight back and out.

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Now that he has his make-koshi secure, Tochiozan decides to win one. It’s clear that Tochiozan’s left knee can barely support doing sumo. The first match ended with both men touching down / out together, so a torinaoshi was called.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shohozan – “Sumo Elvis” takes down local favorite Shohozan in this mawashi match. Both men prefer to win by bludgeoning their opponents to victory, but for some reason, they decided to go chest to chest. Solid match, and with any luck, we are seeing a shift in Chiyotairyu’s strategy.

Onosho defeats Takakeisho – Onosho’s magic red mawashi is doing its job and seems to have reversed his fortune. For today Takakeisho got gravely off balance, and Onosho swung to the side and put him on the clay. So help me, the kimarite looked like a dog groomer trimming a collie. But it’s a win, and Onosho needs them.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku launches out of the tachiai and applies maximum pressure, but Tamawashi was able to pull out a kotenage at the edge. From the crowd reaction, they thought that local favorite, Kotoshogiku, had prevailed.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – A messy, crazy match. They both opened with tsuppari, but Takayasu tried to go chest to chest. Mitakeumi wanted no part of that (Was it the Rolling Stones that sang “I’m Not Your Teppo Pole?”) and Mitakeumi danced away from Takayasu’s embrace. This unrequited invitation to support his burly bulk seemed to drive Takayasu into a rage and he chased down a now fleeing Mitakeumi and drove him to the clay.

Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze dominated this match, but kept overcommitting to each attack. Goeido worked to just stay on his feet and stay inside, waiting. His persistence was rewarded with Yoshikaze put himself off balanced and Goeido was able to flick him out with minimal effort. Very sloppy match that Yoshikaze should have won.

Hakuho defeats Chiyonokuni – I am not sure anyone can stop Hakuho if he remains uninjured, and it was certainly not going to be this form of Chiyonokuni. I am surprised to see Hakuho go for the mini-Henka two days in a row. Perhaps he is bored and wants to see how many times he can deploy it before his opponents get wise.

Takarafuji defeats Kisenosato – I am sure they gave Kisenosato a solid but middling Maegashira 5 in order to define just how poorly he is doing. The answer is – quite poorly. I love some Takarafuji in the mornings, yes I do. But Kisenosato should have been able to bag and tag this guy in the blink of an eye. Instead, the match raged on as a mighty yotsu battle that saw Kisenosato take Takarafuji to the edge and run out of gas. Go kyujo, Great Pumpkin. High marks for your enthusiasm to return to competition, but you are not quite ready yet. You and Takayasu need to spend a couple of months hulking out again.

Five Quick Thoughts on Day One

Aminishiki

Five Quick Thoughts

With Bruce knocking it out of the park with his daily highlights, I thought I would write up five quick thoughts on a few things I noticed while watching today’s action. I’ll try and make these posts every day that my work schedule allows me to.

1. Aminishiki Returns

Right from the start, it was obvious that Aminishiki’s popularity from Aki had carried over into November, and he had one of the biggest crowd reactions of the day. The old veteran also attracted the attention of sponsors and had a fairly large kensho parade before his match. While I was expecting wile Aminishiki to make Kotoyuki pay for his multiple mata with a quick sidestep, Uncle Sumo surprised me with a beautiful throw to win his first bout. It was clear in his post-match interview just how much being back in Makuuchi means to Aminishiki.

2. Injury Woes Continue for Tochinoshin

Despite being the bigger, stronger rikishi in his bout today, Tochinoshin continues to suffer from a nagging lower-body injury. He was unable to overpower Chiyoshoma, who deftly threw the Georgian strongman down to the clay. Things may go from bad to worse for Tochinoshin, as he seemed to be limping as he made his way back to the dressing room.

3. Less of a Kaiju, More of a Kitty cat.

Any hope of Terunofuji returning to the Ozeki rank may have died today, as Hokutofuji easily manhandled everyone’s favorite Kaiju, and sent him flying off the dohyo into the crowd. As Bruce pointed out, Terunofuji barely had any fight in him, and he’s lucky he didn’t injure himself further when he landed on the floor.

4. A Heroes Welcome

Hometown boy Shohozan got the largest reaction of the day from the Fukuoka crowd, which erupted in cheers when he ascended the dohyo for his bout. Taking on Yoshikaze in a blistering brawl, the Fukuoka native sidestepped the veteran Yoshikaze at the tawara’s edge to get his first win. Despite prevailing in front of his hometown, Shohozan didn’t seem too happy with the way he won his match; a rikishi’s harshest critic is usually himself.

5. East Vs. West

Taking a look at the scorecard today, we see that the East and West sides of the banzuke are tied, taking ten wins each. Now I’ll admit, this is pretty much a pointless statistic and does not affect the basho nowadays. In the past, however, East and West were treated like teams and competed for an award called the Tozai-sei, which went to the side with the best overall record. For a bit of fun, I’ll be keeping track of each sides records throughout the tournament, and I’ll announce the unofficial Tozai-sei winners when the Kyushu basho comes to an end.