Ozeki Train Wreck, Part 7, Takakeisho

Image From The Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

The last of the Ozeki corps facing a tough November tournament is none other than the grand tadpole, Takakeisho. After a string of dominant tournaments and a yusho, Takakeisho has found himself bouncing from injury to unfortunate injury since achieving Ozeki. A lower body injury in May sidelined him for most of the Natsu basho, and completely out of Nagoya. He returned to competition in September as an Ozekiwake, needing 10 wins to return to rank, which he picked up easily, finishing 12-3, securing his 3rd jun-yusho and competing in a senshuraku playoff for the cup. Sadly during that final playoff match against Mitakeumi, Takakeisho suffered a muscle tear to his left pectoral muscle and has been working to recover since.

Though not as severe as the tear that ended Kisenosato’s career, the extensive bruising left sumo fans worried that he might never return to good health. Skipping the fall jungyo tour, Takakeisho focused on healing his body and keeping his sumo sharp. He did not return to practice until November 1st, a short 8 days before the start of the tournament.

Since then, he has been fighting well, but not without concern to the ichimon Oyakata. He began by fighting the likes of Takanosho, Kagayaki and Onosho, winning more than he lost. His training sessions have been punctuated by bouts of pain in his left pectoral muscles, causing him to sit out on some practice matches. In recent days, Takakeisho has resumed matches against the likes of Maegashira 1 Daieisho, finishing 10-3. While the sumo elders overseeing the work up to Kyushu are starting to be more optimistic about Takakeisho, he is clearly going to need to nurse his left side in every match.

Team Tachiai loves that compact powerhouse of an Ozeki, and hopes he can come through at Kyushu in good form with no new injuries or physical problems. With both Yokozuna looking healthy, Takakeisho will face strong competition on his way to 8 wins.

Aki Jungyo: Absent Sektori

The Nihon Sumo Kyokai announced eight wrestlers will not participate in the upcoming Fall tour (Jungyo). The tour is scheduled to begin on 10/5 in Ishikawa prefecture and end in Hiroshima prefecture on 10/27. Several popular top wrestlers will not participate due to injury while Takanofuji is listed as well, due to the ongoing bullying drama, in spite of his refusal to submit his resignation.

Aki Jungyo Injury Update

From the top division, Takakeisho, Ichinojo, and Tomokaze will be absent, and sorely missed. It’s a bit of a surprise that Tochinoshin will participate in the tour and not focus on recuperation. When the tour hits Kyushu, he will need to repeat his feat from this summer where he won 10 bouts as Sekiwake to reclaim his Ozeki status. Kadoban Takayasu will need to win 8 with his seriously damaged arm to avoid a similar fate in January.

From Juryo, there will be several missing wrestlers, including the fore-mentioned Takanofuji. Two Kokonoe wrestlers, Chiyoshoma and Chiyonoumi will miss the tour, along with Kyokushuho and Seiro. As Leonid mentioned in his Aki Wrap-Up article, Seiro and Chiyonoumi are headed back to Makushita.

Tachiai wishes all of the injured rikishi a full recovery and an awesome Kyushu.

Aki Day 2 Preview

The scheduling committee has no business drawing up a day 2 card this compelling with a typhoon raging in the streets of Tokyo. But they did, and now I would gladly rather be standing in the driving rain to get a “day of” ticket in the upper reaches of the Kokugikan than spending a week at work.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Yutakayama vs Takagenji – Takagenji sputtered a bit on day 1, and he’s got to turn that around. But he’s facing down Yutakayama, who I would guess is on a mission to catch up to Asanoyama sooner rather than later and battle him for the lead of the Freshmen.

Daiamami vs Tochiozan – Daiamami is up from Juryo for the day to fill in the banzuke hole left by Takayasu. Tochiozan holds a 2-0 career lead over the Oitekaze man, and is not looking at all sharp to start Aki. He is another on my “watch list” of beloved veterans who might leave us in the near future.

Tsurugisho vs Ishiura – Ishiura suffered from being too low on day 1, and ate some Tokyo clay. Tsurugisho has gotten a formula for beating Ishiura (3-1) from their days in the lower divisions, so let’s see if Team Hakuho can pull out of the ditch on day 2.

Azumaryu vs Toyonoshima – A pair of storied vets go head to head? Oh do sign me up! Toyonoshima has not fared well in the past (1-3), but the typhoon may be blowing new atmosphere into the basho.

Shohozan vs Kagayaki – This makes 2 basho in a row where Kagayaki comes in encrusted with thick, heavy ring rust. Will we see the highly mobile combat style of Shohozan today, or will he continue with his new love of yotsu?

Nishikigi vs Daishoho – Nishikigi: living, walking proof that in sumo, you don’t really have to see your opponent to be victorious. Or even make it to the joi-jin it seems. He holds a 2-0 advantage over Daishoho. so maybe he squints out another win today.

Sadanoumi vs Onosho – Onosho’s red mawashi needs wins to power itself, and having failed to feed it on day 1, he tries again against Sadanoumi, whom has an 0-3 record against Onosho. We want that blazing belt of fire do its work. Let’s see some tadpole sumo!

Enho vs Meisei – Oh I am just very excited for this one. Something lit in Enho day 1, and it was magic. Maybe he is just racking wins in week 1 before everyone comes up to full basho level, or maybe he’s over that shoulder injury. What makes this great is that Meisei is no push-over, and seems to be bouncing back from his 4-11 make koshi in Nagoya.

Okinoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – As we saw in Nagoya, when Okinoumi fights a pixie, the normal mechanics seem to break down. This is his first ever match against Terutsuyoshi, and I think the young powerhouse is going to give the veteran a hard match.

Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – I can’t believe that Kotoyuki is mid-Maegashira. If he somehow manages to kachi-koshi at this rank, it may be a sign of some sort. Kotoyuki has cut back on his crowd surfing, and it seems to have helped his sumo. Takarafuji will, of course, execute his excellent technical sumo.

Shimanoumi vs Kotoshogiku – I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by how long Kotoshogiku has been able to persist in the Maegashira ranks. He has somehow manage to keep his banged up knees in just good enough condition to rack up 8 wins when he needs them. Today he’s got newcomer powerhouse Shimanoumi.

Kotoeko vs Myogiryu – A pair of strong, heavily muscled, compact rikishi who love to grab a hold of an opponent and toss them around. I am hoping we don’t get some kind of cheap slap down action from these two, and instead its a battle of stamina and guile.

Tamawashi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu let himself get locked up, boxed up and shipped home to Arakawa on day 1. Day 2 it’s toe to toe against skilled pugilist Tamawashi in a battle that may feature a tachiai detectable on seismometers.

Ryuden vs Shodai – Shin-Ikioi takes on Shodai, who in spite of his soft, flaccid tachiai, can actually produce some effective sumo if he can survive the first step. Ryuden needs a bounce back, as all of the “cool kids” are going to vie to stuff the San’yaku party bus to Kyushu.

Tomokaze vs Endo – A first time meeting between two high skill rikishi who both tend to come into a match with a masterful battle plan? This one is either going to be an epic war of warriors, or end in a blink. This match just oozes potential.

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – Mitakeumi spent too much time with Ryuden on TV eating the contents of various fields around Japan just prior to the basho. As a result, I think Mitakeumi is still trying to digest all of that daikon, and may feel much better soon. In the mean time, we may see Daieisho dredge him in potato starch and deep fry him for 90 seconds, before serving him on a bed of cabbage.

Aoiyama vs Takakeisho – Folks, each one of these is going to be a nail-biter. Although he holds a 3-1 advantage over the man-Mountain, Takakeisho is clearly only about 80% right now. We have yet to see a proper wave-action attack. Aoiyama, I am confident, is going to bat Takakeisho around to see if Weebils really can fall down.

Ichinojo vs Goeido – This should show us how sturdy Goeido’s injured ankle is. If he blasts into Ichinojo and can beat him moving forward, Goeido may be tough to beat this time. Ichinojo, I predict, will use his enormity to his utmost.

Tochinoshin vs Asanoyama – I am going to assume both men go for yotsu, with Asanoyama spending a lot of attention keeping Tochinoshin from landing that left hand grip to set up the lift-and-shift. Look for Asanoyama to go right-hand outside at the tachiai if he can.

Kakuryu vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji already had one Yokozuna scalp. If Kakuryu can prevail, that may in fact be the deciding difference in the last 5 days, when I expect both Yokozuna to be contending for the yusho. Handshake tachiai to be certain, but I expect Kakuryu to give ground and let Hokutofuji’s natural inclination to get too far forward do most of the work.

Abi vs Hakuho – I an going to guess Hakuho is pretty wound up after day 1, and Abi may be the discharge path for all of that coiled up sumo aggression. Will we see “The Boss” give our favorite sick-insect a flying lesson?

Aki Day 1 Highlights

Welcome all to the start of the fall tournament. The first few days of any tournament will typically feature a few shaky starts by some rikishi, as they work to get into tournament form. Some sumo fans refer to this as “ring rust”, and it can take a few days before some rikishi can shake off its effects.

The Freshmen (Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Abi, Hokutofuji) really had an excellent day today, and I am happy with the future of sumo featuring them in years to come. Sadly the same cannot be said about the Tadpoles, who struggled quite a bit today. But one should never count out the tadpoles…

Day 1 featured some solid sumo action, and those of you who were watching NHK World in the middle of the (USA) night time were treated to some solid matches. Let’s get started.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Takagenji – Takagenji comes out of the tachiai strong, but I was surprised that Chiyomaru did a much better job than normal keeping his weight centered over the arches of his feet, and used that stability to overpower Takagenji’s vigorous attack. The result was a sort of half throw / half tsukiotoshi that was uncharacteristically agile for Chiyomaru.

Yutakayama defeats Tochiozan – Yutakayama continues to battle his way back from injury, and a trip to Juryo, with some solid sumo today. Yutakayama took an inside route at the tachiai, but nearly all of this match was the two of them fighting for grip, while pushing as hard to the front as they could manage. Tochiozan had better footwork, but Yutakayama had more strength. Welcome back Yutakayama, the future has been waiting.

Azumaryu defeats Ishiura – Azumaryu deftly deploys a uwatehineri while the two grappled for position at the center of the dohyo.

Tsurugisho defeats Toyonoshima – Tsurugisho’s early try for a pull down nearly cost him the match, but he was able to rally well as Toyonoshima tried the same thing and blew his early advantage.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Neither man gets a solid tachiai. But Kagayaki inexplicably focuses on some kind of face-hold, leaving Nishikigi a solid path to center-mass. Kagayaki realizes that he’s thrown away an opening, but he found Nishikigi effectively able to turn his hips and deflect Kagayaki’s forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Daishoho – Not the typical Shohozan mobility-based sumo, as Daishoho traps him in a double arm-bar. Shohozan gets stalemated for a while, but keeps raising Daishoho and backing him up until he can finish him with shitatenage (it was 2 for 1 shitatenage day).

Enho defeats Onosho – Big news for me, Onosho has the red mawashi back. Yes, he lost this one to Enho, who uncorked some really gob-smack amazing sumo today, but that red mawashi was (at least at one point) home to a potent kami that powered Onosho’s early rise. To my eye, Onosho had this one boxed up and ready to ship before Enho produced some hard to explain, Ura level space-time distortion and threw Onosho to the clay.

Meisei defeats Sadanoumi – With that injured right knee, Sadanoumi lacks a good amount of his expected maneuverability, and Meisei expertly stays in motion until he can get Sadanoumi off balance and rolls him to the clay with a katasukashi. Nice kimarite!

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to take a single match from Terutsuyoshi, and we get a showcase of how that works today. Terutsuyoshi used some really fantastic ring sense to continue to give ground, forcing Kotoyuki to stay in motion and keep turning. When you are about as wide as you are tall (as Kotoyuki is), it’s a short amount of time before you find yourself off balance and in the wrong end of town. Terutsuyoshi chose his moment, and made it work. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – As always, journeyman sumo from Takarafuji, who absorbs everything Kotoeko can dish out. Takarafuji as Maegashira 8? Middle of the pack? This is the right spot for Takarafuji, and I am hoping he has a good basho this September.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – The fun thing about Kotoshogiku these days is that he is frequently on fire the first week, before the strain on his injuries slows him down. Hugely energetic, high attack value sumo from him today, including an excellent throw at the end. Except that he stepped out quite some time before it got to that point, and the most exciting part of the match (Okinoumi was fighting well, too) was all for naught.

Myogiryu defeats Shimanoumi – When you watch this one, pay close attention to Myogiryu’s foot placement and stance. This is some class-A attention to detail in the middle of a match trying to constrain and contain a raging youngster who had the edge in speed and agility. Shimanoumi gets the advantage twice, but that fantastic defensive setup that Myogiryu had today carried the match.

Ryuden defeats Chiyotairyu – If Ryuden is genki, Maegashira 5 might be a bit low on the banzuke for him. He gets a left hand on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi, which puts him in the driver’s seat and takes away Chiyotairyu’s primary offensive technique. I was surprised that Chiyotairyu let him grab him and did not stay mobile.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – Shodai looked a mess today, but if you want to see why Shodai can actually keep close to a winning record most basho, look at his multiple well-executed escapes from Tamawashi’s blistering attacks. If we could get that man a tachiai graft from ex-Kisenosato…

Tomokaze defeats Abi – Abi launches his traditional Abi-zumo opening, and Tomokaze is having none of it. Attempting a hatakikomi against Abi is a dangerous move, but Tomokaze makes it work. This guy needs to stay un-injured and fighting strong.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – I am not quite sure how Takakeisho recovered from that near-face-plant, but he threw everything including the kitchen sink at Daieisho, who was likewise dialed up to 11. The wave-action system does not seem to be quite up to battle-spec just yet, and I am going to assume that our tadpole has a lot of ring rust to overcome. But he’s on his march to 10, and sumo fans around the world are going to be riveted to his journey this September.

Asanoyama defeats Mitakeumi – This whole match came down to Asanoyama getting a shallow left hand grip at the tachiai, and never letting go. Mitakeumi then chose to rotate left and attempt a hatakikomi, and in the move to pull down Asanoyama, he more or less conceded the match. Asanoyama was too latched on to Mitakeumi to go down.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – I had a tough time watching both the match and the replays. It’s 100% clear now, from direct observation, that it’s never a good idea to make your crippled strong-man fight a giant. Tochinoshin does not look well enough to compete, and that knee is more or less done for. Grim.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Whatever injuries Goeido is nursing right now, he has contained. His blistering tachiai and all out center-mass attack against Aoiyama left the man-mountain nowhere to go. I recall with hopeful anticipation that for some reason Aki is always the time when we see Goeido shine.

Hokutofuji defeats Hakuho – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, what have you done? This match had all of Hokutofuji’s best elements stitched together in a lightning fast, seat of the pants battle. Hakuho loves to deliver a face slap at the tachiai, and many times it effectively disrupts an opponents attack. Today if left him wide open for Hokutofuji’s brutal handshake tachiai. Oh, how long have I been waiting to see someone make Hakuho pay for that move. Today was payday on that desire. With the nodowa in place, it forced Hakuho to waste precious time clearing it out before he could start an attack, and just like that Hokutofuji is calling the terms of the match. Hokutofuji lands a mawashi grip, and I think the speed and strength of that move surprised the Yokozuna. Hakuho gives ground and attempts to load a throw, but with absolute perfect timing, Hokutofuji catches the Yokozuna shifting his weight and lunges ahead. That’s all that it took, and The Boss gives up a well earned kinboshi. I am going to be looping through this match all day. Just fantastic. Hokutofuji doesn’t need to win another match this basho to be proud of his efforts.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo is a master technician, and I am sure he had a solid, well constructed attack plan against the Nagoya yusho winner. None of that mattered as Kakuryu did not give him a chance to unpack any of it. A little dodgy winning with a hatakikomi, but he needed to shut Endo down quickly before the man in gold could get started.