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.