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.

Aki Day 1 Highlights

I am very pleased with day 1. A solid day of sumo with some great finishing moves, good sumo from some of the Ozeki corps and solid effort overall. Nobody seemed to “phone it in” and there were no howlers from the gyoji. What more could one ask for?

I want to call specific attention to Kotonowaka, who was probably robbed in Nagoya. He had a 7-3 record at the end of day 10, when his stable was declared COVID-kyujo. Now note that Ichinojo won the cup with 3 losses. I am not saying Kotonowaka would have taken the Emperor’s cup, but we did not get to see him vie for the yusho in the final act of Nagoya. Given that he picked up right where he left off today with strong, witty and aggressive sumo, I think he would have played an important role in the final weekend. If he can stay healthy, I predict he will be in the mix this September.

Highlight Matches

Hiradoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi kept himself compact, and all of his energy forward. He looked strong for the first few moments, but Hiradoumi made sure to shift the pressure to Shimanoumi’s right knee. From there, there was a big opening, Hiradoumi took it and won the match after he broke Shimanoumi’s stance. Intelligent, if brutal, sumo for Hiradoumi to start 1-0.

Mitoryu defeats Tsurugisho – A new battle of the mega-fauna, with each man around 200kg. The were even into the tachiai and the initial exchange. It looked to me that Tsurugisho attempted to pivot left, but lost his right hand grip. With his body turned, Mitoryu drove forward against minimal defense and walked Tsurugisho out. Mitoryu starts 1-0.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama had a clear advantage in size and strength, but I loved watching Terutsuyoshi stay mobile, and keep Yutakayama from squaring his hips and driving forward. Terutsuyoshi ended up breaking Yutakayama’s right hand inside, and Yutakayama knew he was at risk. Terutsuyoshi proceeded to take control of the match, setting up a twist down. The kainahineri took the match, looked great and delighted fans around the world. Good start for Terutsuyoshi now at 1-0.

Oho defeats Chiyoshoma – Oho showed a lot of power to try and counter Chiyoshoma’s superior sumo technique. The match ended with a mutual throw that saw Oho hit the clay, and Chiyoshoma get the gumbai. But a monoii was called, and it seems Chiyoshoma’s top knot hit first, losing him the match. Tough break for him, but that was sharp sumo from Chiyoshoma. Oho improves to 1-0.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Ryuden – Returnee Ryuden did not look strong today, as Ichiyamamoto got his hands inside, and proceeded to unload volley after volley on Ryuden’s upper body. Unable to set his feet or lower his hips, Ryuden was pushed back and eventually out on the east side for an Ichiyamamoto win. He starts Aki 1-0.

Chiyotairyu defeats Okinoumi – Classic Chiyotairyu sumo – stand them up then slap them down. He does this so very well that even when experience rikishi like Okinoumi face him, and know it’s coming, there is not much you can do about it. Chiyotairyu starts with a win at 1-0.

Takanosho defeats Kotoshoho – A healthy Takanosho at this rank should turn in double-digit wins. On opening day, he completely dominated Kotoshoho, taking an inside hand position and dialing up the pressure. Takanosho wins day one, to start 1-0.

Nishikifuji defeats Kotoeko – Nishikifuji had his body all over the dohyo in this match, and while he did not look like he was in control, he was imparting most of that chaos into Kotoeko, who had no answer to any of it. Tossed like a cork in the sea, Kotoeko was quickly tossed off the dohyo as Nishikifuji advances to 1-0.

Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu dominated the start of this match but could not finish Hokutofuji on the opening combo. Hokutofuji managed to break Myogiryu’s right hand grip, and it was a his turn to attack. I liked that we saw a bit of gaburi-yori in there. I would love to see a healthy Hokutofuji turn in a good tournament this September. He’s 1-0.

Tochinoshin defeats Onosho – Onosho, come on man. Classic balance problems from Onosho, coupled with strong performance from Tochinoshin means Onosho takes a tumble and roll. Who didn’t see this one coming? Tochinoshin 1-0.

Endo defeats Aoiyama – Big Dan had his match plan disrupted by Endo’s opening combo. He tried to recover with a kotenage, but Endo’s balance was excellent, and he was not giving Aoiyama one centimeter of space to recover. Endo starts 1-0.

Wakamotoharu defeats Sadanoumi – Day one award for best improvisational sumo goes to Wakamotoharu. Sadanoumi expertly dismantled Wakamotoharu’s defense, had his hips low and his body chest to chest against Wakamotoharu. But Wakamotoharu found a grip, lifted and turned. It worked, and we got to see an utchari today! I do love Wakamotoharu’s expression of satisfaction following the win. I see that from my cat when she does something crazy that actually works. Wakamotoharu 1-0.

Takayasu defeats Takarafuji – Man, another chance to appreciate the sumo technique of Takarafuji, which was just fantastic for the first moments of today’s match. He would not let Takayasu get his lower body in any kind of working position. But Takarafuji did not wait him out, and attempted a pull down. This was a risky move, and he handed the match to Takayasu as a result.

Nishikigi defeats Ura – Ura got captured immediately by Nishikigi, and really seemed to have no workable “Plan B”. As Nishikigi drove forward, Ura tried anything he could, which was pulling on Nishikigi’s head. He may have gotten a handful of hair, but it really did not matter as Nishikigi cleanly drove him off the dohyo to win his first match.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Daieisho seems to be lacking some of his speed an power of last year. Rumor is he hurt his lower back, and that has sapped some of his performance. Today, he saw a mistake from Meisei, and instantly switched attack to slap him down, and take his day 1 match. Daieisho is now 1-0.

Tamawashi defeats Hoshoryu – This match went somewhat like I thought it might. Hoshoryu, always earnest, wants to use his best technique and overcome Tamawashi. Tamawashi, a long serving veteran of the top division, just says, “Hey kid, what’s that on our chin?”, then proceeds to lay about 100kg of iron will right on Hoshoryu’s face. Hoshoryu’s completely disrupted, and gets tugged, pushed, crumpled and pushed out from an oblique angle. Hopefully he is ok. Tamawashi starts 1-0.

Kotonowaka defeats Wakatakakage – Kotonowaka picks up where he left off in Nagoya: strong confident sumo. He takes the fight to Wakatakakage and leaves him off balance at the initial merge. At no point does he allow Wakatakakage to regain any kind of foot placement, useful body position or execute any strong sumo. With the Ozeki hopeful boxed up and contained, he drives forward and Wakatakakage is unable to stop him. Nice work, Kotonowaka 1-0.

Mitakeumi defeats Midorifuji – This is the kind of sumo I want to see from Mitakeumi. A lot of power, relentless drive forward, and not giving Midorifuji a single moment when he is not off balance and struggling to stay in the match. Mitakeumi 1-0.

Shodai defeats Tobizaru – Oddly enough, Shodai won his first match and looked like “good” Shodai int he process. We did not get to see the “Wall of Daikon”, but Shodai made sure that Tobizaru’s only attempt at offense did not take him off his feet. Points to Tobizaru for improvising that last-ditch counter attack. Shodai 1-0.

Ichinojo defeats Takakeisho – Friggen Snorlax gets his yusho picture hung from the rafters, and dispatches an Ozeki. What a day! I am somewhat concerned that Takakeisho’s opening volley really seemed to lack any strength, and he quickly tried to switch gears while Ichinojo was running him down. Better luck tomorrow, tadpole! Ichinojo 1-0.

Terunofuji defeats Kiribayama – I know this is going to seem so very odd, but I find Terunofuji’s patient Yokozuna sumo kind of calming. I give a lot of credit to Kiribayama for bringing a vigorous attack to Terunofuji, but at least for now he’s looking healthy enough to do the sumo he wants to do. Terunofuji 1-0.