Hatsu Day 6 Preview

On day 6 we start act 2. Act 2 is all about sorting the survivors from the damned, and starting the yusho race. It’s were we get an idea of who will have the stamina to contend in the final act for the hardware. As long as Hakuho is still competing, it’s his to lose.

A primary rival was Yokozuna Kakuryu, at least in theory, but as noted earlier on Tachiai, he withdrew from competition this morning Japan time. He has struggled quite a bit to keep his undercarriage in good repair, and this is simply another in a long string of mechanical problems he has to overcome. We wish him a quick and full recovery.

The next rikishi who is on the kyujo bubble would have to be Goeido. Mathematically, he is in tough shape right now. He needs to win 7 out of the next 10 to avoid a make-koshi. It’s clear he is hurt, and needs medical attention to repair his right arm. We can only hope he does not go “Kisenosato” with this one. There is also a question around Takayasu, who is 2-3 going into day 6, and has been suffering due to influenza. Perhaps he is on the mend now.

For each Ozeki and Yokozuna who drops out, the way opens up for the new generation rikishi. At this point, the Freshmen are in poor shape physically, but the Tadpoles are on the march. Their combined score at the end of act 1 is 14-1. The boss is still undefeated, but I am sure Takakeisho is eager to try his sumo upgrades against the sole remaining Yokozuna.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Ishiura vs Chiyoshoma – Ishiura visits Makuuchi with a solid 4-1 start in Juryo. He holds a 6-4 career advantage over Chiyoshoma, and some may wonder if this will be the battle of the flying Henkanoids. We shall see soon enough!

Yago vs Kotoeko – Its odd watching 4-1 Yago in some ways. He seems both unseasoned, yet skilled. I can’t quiet put my mind around it yet. But this might be a fairly good match, as Kotoeko knows how to beat him.

Ikioi vs Endo – Ikioi is a banged up walking casualty, and Endo seems to be just getting by for now. I give Endo a clear advantage, as he is not nursing a damaged ankle or a head wound like Ikioi is.

Kaisei vs Sadanoumi – At some point along the way, Kaisei’s sumo improved. Maybe he finally healed a long-suffering injury. As I like to say about him, “Being huge is not a valid sumo tactic”, as in you cant just be massive and immobile and expect to win (seek Kenho and others). But since Kyushu, Kaisei’s mobility is actually pretty good, and his sumo is stronger and shows some aggressive direction. Starting act 2 at 5-0, he’s a dark horse contender right now, and I expect him to make fast work of Sadanoumi.

Aoiyama vs Daieisho – Aoiyama’s record is 4-1, but his sumo is 5-0. Perhaps a distinction without a difference, but the Man-Mountain from Bulgeria is in top form unseen for some time. I am certain he will get tougher pairings in act 2, but I think today’s match won’t be too tough for him to win.

Ryuden vs Yoshikaze – I don’t want to discuss Ryuden or Yoshikaze.

Onosho vs Chiyotairyu – As discussed prior to the basho, I really like Onosho at this rank, and I think he has a good chance to end up with double digits for this basho. This would put him in the joi-jin for Osaka, and I think he would be healed up enough to compete at the top by then. This could mean that all of the tadpoles would be in the joi, and it would mark a significant stage in the changing of the guard.

Myogiryu vs Mitakeumi – Right now Mitakeumi seems to be on a mission. He shows up each day looking dialed up to 11 – intensely focused and superbly ready to win. I don’t think Myogiryu, in spite of his excellent skill, will overcome Mitakeumi’s fighting spirit today.

Takakeisho vs Tochiozan – If Tochiozan can keep Takakeisho close, and prevent the wave-action tsuppari attack, he has a chance. But after letting Mitakeumi beat him this way, I am going to guess Takakeisho won’t allow him a chance.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Ichinojo is competing at an intensity not seen in many years, and we don’t want him to stop. Tamawashi will be no walk in the park. He is fast, mobile and at times brutal. This could be the highlight match of the day.

Shohozan vs Goeido – “Big Guns” Shohozan would normally have his hands full with Goeido, but Goeido is struggling with an arm injury, and is having a tough time generating offensive pressure. I expect loss #5, or a henka.

Takayasu vs Nishikigi – Each time Nishikigi steps on the dohyo, you have to wonder what is about to happen. Takayasu is definitely short of 100%, but Nishikigi’s sumo seems to be surprising everyone right now. I would rather not face Osaka with all 3 Ozeki kadoban, so I am hoping Takayasu can win any match that comes his way.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Hakuho continues to confound opponents with his “Escape” sumo, his opponents think they have him beat, but he uses his unparalleled skill to find a way to not lose. Against Shodai there is a new dimension. He has this odd, almost otherworldly ability, to cause things to go chaotic. I call it “Cartoon sumo”, and it happens too frequently to be an accident. I am eager to see if he can employ it against The Boss today.

Day 13 Commentary and Leaderboard

Takayasu

A short note on day 13 while we finish cooking our Thanksgiving dinner: First and foremost, I would like to state that I am thankful for the readers of Tachiai. Without you, the site would just be a handful of sumo fans writing content to entertain each other.  The site is all about helping spread the love of sumo to every part of the world that we can reach, and it’s because of readers like yourself that we can. If I could make a wish, it would be that each of you consider trying to spread your enjoyment of sumo to your friends, your family or people you meet at work. It is truly a fascinating and uniquely compelling sport.

With that secure, hell – it’s time to crank into the final weekend of this basho. The schedulers have deviated from the expected order, and seem to be holding Takayasu vs Takakeisho for later (as lksumo has covered in great detail). For myself, I am not quite sure who I am more in favor of taking home the cup. A Takayasu win would be his first yusho, and would possibly set the stage for a Yokozuna campaign. A Takakeisho win would be the second yusho this year for Team Tadpole, and could be cited as another milestone on the long predicted transition into a new era.  We live in great times for sumo fans, and no matter how this tournament ends up, it’s been an amazing ride.

One last note – If you are the kind that enjoys such things, NHK World will have their third and final “Grand Sumo Live” this Saturday night (US time) to cover the final day.

Kyushu Leaderboard

Leader: Takakeisho
Chaser: Takayasu
Hunt Group: Okinoumi, Onosho, Daieisho, Aoiyama

3 Matches Remain

Aki Reflections – Tadpoles In Stagnant Waters

tadpole Mitakeumi
Takakeisho moments after sitting on his big purple cushion ringside

Tachiai readers know that we have a cohort of sekitori that we refer to as “Tadpoles”. They are all fairly young, and feature a highly bulbous body shape, and a predisposition to primarily oshi-zumo. This group would include Mitakeumi, Takakeisho and Onosho, and the team recognize that they are a force for the future of sumo.

In the days leading up to sumo’s fall tournament, there was a great deal of interest focused on this group. Mitakeumi was on the cusp of meeting the criteria for Ozeki promotion, Takakeisho had returned to San’yaku after his first attempt at Komusubi ended in January’s disastrous 5-10 record, and Onosho had successfully returned to Makuuchi in July after sitting out Osaka for recovery to a damaged knee. With many of the top men of sumo looking questionable in the days before Aki, there was a good chance that we were going to witness tadpoles ascendant.

Instead, the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranged from “fairly genki” to “holy crap”, and fans enjoyed one of the better tournaments in the past two years. To underscore the idea that the Tadpoles represent a piece of the future, both Mitakeumi and Takakeisho managed not just a kachi-koshi, but a respectable 9-6 result. In broader context, Mitakeumi blew his Ozeki bid up in the second week, where he has been known to fade, it’s unknown when he will be able to reassemble enough wins to try again, but we are certain he will. For Takakeisho, his efforts will net him a move from Koumsubi West to East. It should be noted this is only the second time that Takakeisho has held a San’yaku rank, and after only one prior attempt, he was able to hold. The down side being, of course, as a Takanohana deshi, he will face the distractions and swirl around the closing of the Takanohana heya, and transfer to Chiganoura heya. Will it impact him? I would not be surprised.

That leaves us with Onosho, who at Maegashira 6 finished with 4-11. His offense was weak during Aki, and his mobility was poor. Clearly he is not quite healed from his knee surgery, and is struggling to compete effectively now. Under normal conditions, his sumo is at least equal to Takakeisho, but his fans must wonder if the damage to his knee is forever going to limit his ability to compete. Besides his returning to wearing his red mawashi, all of his fans hope that he can get his body healthy and return strong to Kyushu.

Summary – in spite of the sumo death-ray that melted so many, the Tadpoles exited Aki in fairly good condition. Should to top ranks falter for November or January, I am certain that we will see this cohort of rikishi step up and perform well above expectations.

Aki Story 5 – A Challenge For The Tadpoles

sumo-frogs

We already covered the specific challenge for Mitakeumi, and his bid to become the first tadpole to reach Ozeki. There remains the question of the two younger tadpoles: Takakeisho and Onosho. Takakeisho returns to the san’yaku as Komusubi West, while Onosho is just outside of the joi-jin at Maegashira 6.

At only 22 years old, Takakeisho is still on the upward march of his sumo career. His first visit to Komusubi resulted in a 5-10 drubbing that included some important matches. His day one match against Kisenosato was a clear signal of the Yokozuna’s level of damage. It is quite likely we may see a rematch between these two for day 1 of Aki. In the following tournament (March, Osaka 2018) he withdrew from competition with an injury, after started 3-8. Since then he has delivered back to back 10-5 records, and is clearly set to challenge sumo’s top men once more.

While the same age, Onosho started professional sumo 18 months earlier. He spent a good deal of time in Juryo, and at one point dropped back down to Makushita. From there he was driven to higher performance, and landed at Komusubi for Kyushu in 2017, and managed a kachi-koshi after a disastrous 1-6 start. The following tournament in January featured his withdraw from completion on day 10, and remaining out of competition for March as well to heal. His re-entry in May saw him take the Juryo yusho as a pit-stop back to the top division. His 10-5 record in the sweltering heat of Nagoya was only enough to boost him from Maegashira 11 to 6, but frankly for Aki this is a very good rank for him. In the middle of the Maegashira crew, he can and will do a lot of damage to the likes of Asanoyama, Kagayaki, Chiyonokuni and Abi.

Clearly both men are rising stars of the sumo world, and are solid contenders for residency in the san’yaku starting some time in 2019 or 2020. Both of them are very round, very strong and seem to be overwhelmingly driven to train and win. In comparison to some long-serving Makuuchi vets, their youth and energy will likely prove overwhelming. Against their peers (Abi, Kagayaki) their compact body shape and brutal oshi-zumo may seem tough to beat.

The challenge for Takakeisho will be to see him fare better against the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps. The challenge for Onosho will be to see him overwhelm the other rising stars of the Makuuchi. I consider the anticipated Onosho – Yutakayama bout sometime in week 2 as a touchstone of the battles of 2019. Likewise I think the Takakeisho – Hakuho rematch, and the Takakeisho – Kisenosato rematch will be a litmus test of the old guard against the young stars.

We wish both men good health and overall an injury-free Aki basho. We are especially hopeful that we will see Takakeisho make broader use of his “Wave Action Tsuppari” technique, and that Onosho will return his blazing red mawashi to active use.

Aki Story 4 – Ozeki Hopeful Mitakeumi

Mitakeumi Yusho Banner

The Nagoya basho has, over the years, been a place where the unexpected can and does happen. This year witnessed a yusho by Sekiwake Mitakeumi, finishing with a respectable 13-2 record. With his prior tournament performance of 9-6 at Natsu, it was proclaimed that he was pushing for the credentials to be elevated to Ozeki. A successful bid would return us to 3 Yokozuna and 4 Ozeki, last seen in 2016 prior to Kisenosato’s Yokozuna promotion. Many fans have put an asterisk next to Mitakeumi’s July championship, citing just how many of sumo’s top men were injured and either did not compete or were not fighting at full power.

To further complicate matters, Mitakeumi has long been known to perform horribly in test and practice matches in between tournaments. Some commentators have gone as far as to imply that he does not put in the effort required to reach higher rank. His poor showing on practice matches has been especially bad leading up to the Aki basho, some examples:

  • August 30th vs an injured Tochinoshin: 3 – 10
  • August 31st (YDC Soken) against Hakuho, Kakuryu and many others: 1-13
  • September 3rd vs Tochinoshin. Tochiozan and Aoiyama: 6-13
  • September 4th vs Tochinoshin. Tochiozan and Aoiyama: 5-11

To even be considered for Ozeki promotion, Mitakeumi needs at least 11 wins at Aki. Its clear that his practice matches all stink, but this is not necessarily indicative of how he will do during the basho. Much of his fate will be decided by who is healthy enough to compete, it is typical for the Sekiwake to face the Ozeki and Yokozuna (if any) in the second week of the basho. Given the damaged nature of the upper San’yaku, time could be on Mitakeumi’s side. But the psychological advantage of having his portrait hoisted to the rafters of the Kokugikan on Saturday will be undeniable, as will his presence at the start of Sunday’s matches to return the yusho banner and the Emperor’s cup. This may rattle a few of his opponents, or boost his confidence when he needs it most.

One thing is certain, Mitakeumi is going to be pushing for every win he can muster, and we will be watching him with keen interest.