My apologies for bringing you an abbreviated, and late, Match Day 3 summary. I was at a school event so, unfortunately, it couldn’t be helped. The sad thing is, there wasn’t a whole lot of action worthy of the term, “highlight” either.
In today’s video I’ve got one Jonokuchi bout for the yusho race, the one between Hanafusa and Kotokenryu. Kotokenryu is a Sadogatake stablemate of Kototebakari, thus those two will not face each other during regulation. With this nice win over Hanafusa, he jumps into the yusho picture. Kotokenryu had not faced very stiff competition in previous match days so this was his first real action.
In the other yusho bouts, Kototebakari steamrolled his opponent, Shishimaru. And Mihonoumi improved to 3-0 against the steadily improving Daitenshin, who looks good to escape Jonidan in this, his fifth basho.
Among the one-loss chase group, Daiseizan shoved the much lighter Matsuzawa clear off the dohyo while Wakanosho got in a lot of tsuppari practice against Satsumasho. With an odd number of 3-0 wrestlers in the lower divisions, Mihonoumi will likely face an undefeated wrestler from Jonidan.
As I mentioned, the video has the Hanafusa/Kotokenryu bout and I also included a couple of Match Day 3 bouts from wrestlers who had been mentioned here when they were in Jonokuchi. Raiho faced off against Shunrai while Shikihide’s Mogamizakura looks to move on up from Jonidan.
At the beginning of Match Day 6, there were two undefeated Jonokuchi leaders. Since Shunrai was a new recruit and lower on the banzuke than Mogamizakura, and they needed Mogamizakura to face the lowest-ranked Jonidan leader, the Kyokai did not pit Shunrai and Mogamizakura against each other. Instead, Shunrai faced 4-1 Takashoki. Shunrai quickly wrapped up Takashoki at the tachiai; Takashoki’s arms flailing like a desperate, angry kraken. Shunrai plowed forward and forced the beast over the edge. Arrr…matey…ye’ stand at 6-0.
Mogamizakura was paired with the lowest-ranked undefeated Jonidan wrestler, Tanimoto. Sadly, there will be no yusho celebration at Shikihide beya. Tanimoto shifted left at the rather slow tachiai, and then drove forward to usher Mogamizakura safely over the tawara.
So, where do things in Jonokuchi stand? Basically, it’s Shunrai’s title to lose. If he wins tomorrow, he will win the yusho. I believe he will face the lowest undefeated Jonidan wrestler, Tanimoto. If he loses, senshuraku will have a barnyard brawl with the remaining 6-1 contenders. That field will be whittled down from the current 5-1 group as several go head-to-head. That 5-1 group is Mogamizakura, Kiryuko, Mukainakano and Abe.
I’ve got the video of Kiryuko’s exciting and hard-fought win over Miyagi and an extra, bonus bout of Chiyofuku versus Byakuen. Miyagi and Kiryuko both fought very hard to stay in this title chase. Miyagi clung to the tawara as long as he could but Kiryuko was too powerful and forced both to tumble hard over the edge. The ending of the bout, we also see Kiryuko’s deep bow as he headed down the hanamichi.
As for Byakuen, he will face serious challenges in Jonidan if he happens to get kachi-koshi. But the kid has heart so it’s good to see him win. Just before their bout, the video pans over to see Mukainakano, one of the chase group, come in and take a seat. The video starts a bit earlier than I usually crop the videos, I wanted to catch the early few moments of the day and the announcer stating the beginning of Jonokuchi.
*Note: I am a bit puzzled by the pairing off of Asasorai and Abe. Rather than having both Jonokuchi wrestlers face each other, the schedulers have put both against Jonidan competition. It doesn’t make sense as an “exchange” bout, like what we see up in Juryo and Makuuchi where a loser from the higher division faces demotion and a winner from the lower division can earn promotion. In each case, all of these guys are moving up the banzuke. If Asasorai and Abe faced each other, it would guarantee one 4-1 wrestler would fall off the pace.*
Speaking of Jonidan
The Jonokuchi champion from Natsu, Fujiseiun, is in the lead for the Jonidan yusho. Here’s his quick win against Higanzan. Fujiseiun should be paired against Osanai while we saw that the third wrestler, Tanimoto, would face Shunrai. If Shunrai wins, the yusho is his and the Jonidan winner of Fujiseiun/Osanai will win that yusho. However, if Shunrai loses, we get the big playoff down there and then Tanimoto would face Fujiseiun/Osanai. As a reminder, the playoffs would take place on senshuraku, if needed.
The next report will be on Friday, at the close of Match Day 7, and we’ll see then if we’ll have a playoff. Right now, though, it looks like Shunrai has this one in the bag.
Match Day 5 brought several surprises. First up, I wanted to show the valiant efforts put forth by Shonanzakura. He had two great bouts — one against Higohikari and the other against Kato. Often, when Shonanzakura mounts the dohyo and surveys his opponent, you just see fear in his eyes. I’ve seen that fear in Kato, as well. Several times this tournament, he’s curled up his arms or turned his back after the tachiai, to protect himself.
I can’t say that I blame them. I’ve not climbed up there to face a 300 lb linebacker with no pads (or pants) and I imagine that first few times would be rather intimidating. There was no intimidation yesterday as Shonanzakura powered through a nodowa or today as he nearly worked Kato over the edge. Still, the outcomes were as everyone predicted…despite much more drama than usual. That losing streak may come to an end sooner than we thought.
The Yusho Race
Shonanzakura’s effort would not be the only shocker of this Match Day. Kiryuko fell to Mogamizakura in the first bout of 4-0 undefeated wrestlers. Kiryuko appeared to want to drive forward but his foot slipped and he came to a knee. There may be some celebrations at Shikihide-beya! With Mogamizakura moving to 5-0, Shunrai would have to defeat Iwata in order to stay on pace. He did his job, and he did it in rather dominant fashion with a well-executed throw in the middle of the ring. This sets up a Shunrai/Mogamizakura bout on Match Day 6 for sole possession of the lead.
This also means that unless the winner also wins on Day 7, the door is still open for potential playoffs among 6-1 wrestlers. There’s quite a number at 4-1. Six wrestlers, including the aforementioned Kiryuko. Miyagi, Asasorai, Mukainakano, Abe, and Takashoki are all still in this race and sure set up the possibility of several great bouts over the coming days. In the video above, I included Asasorai’s victory over Matsugi as a bonus because I found that particularly hard-fought and entertaining. Enjoy!
I’m mixing things up today because I want to start with a treat. The first match of nakabi (Day 8, the middle day) was a great, wild one featuring Byakuen vs Daitensho. This bout was not one of consequence in the yusho race but it speaks to one of the great things about Jonokuchi. If you’d listened to our recent podcast, you’ve heard Josh talk about three qualities of sumo wrestlers, their heart, technique, and the body. Down here, there are often guys with lots of heart but little in the way of technique and they’ve not bulked up yet. Byakuen has a lot of heart and that’s on display in this fight. I hope you enjoy.
The Yusho Race
Heading into Match Day four, there’s an odd number of leaders with 3-0 records. As he’s the lowest ranked leader on the banzuke, Kiryuko gets a bit of torikumi luck with a match up against 2-1 Arikawa. It’s the second bout in the video. Kiryuko dominates.
Next up, Taniguchi faced Mogamizakura. Both of these guys have sumo bodies but Mogamizakura powered through Taniguchi for a yorikiri win. Lastly, we head back a night to Totsuka native Abe against Shunrai. After a solid tachiai and a tussle for belt grips, Shunrai came out on top, quickly driving through Abe and sending him over the bales.
Still undefeated and kachi-koshi:
These three wrestlers have punched their tickets to Jonidan. Now, though, the race gets complicated. With two brothers who can only fight in a playoff, the wrestlers with one loss are back in the picture. Starting at the top of the banzuke,
Given Kiryuko’s bout against a 2-1 opponent today, I would not be surprised if he faces Mogamizakura and then Shunrai could face Tamatensho or Miyagi. The Shunrai/Miyagi bout could derail the playoff between brothers.
At the other end of the yusho chase, Kato, Higohikari, and Shonanzakura are make-koshi and will likely remain in Jonokuchi in September. Kato had his first tournament in May where he racked up 1 win against Sano, who is kyujo this tournament. Frankly, Shonanzakura demonstrated more heart and technique in his bout against Kyonosato than we have seen yet from Kato. I would not be surprised if the two are paired off tomorrow. This bout would present the highest potential for Shonanzakura to end his streak and I wonder if the days of 70, 80, 90, 100 bout losing streaks are over.