Aki Day 14 Highlights

Both top gyoji took to the clay today, as the action amplified on the penultimate day of the Aki basho. Both Kimura Tamajiro and Shikimori Inosuke got Kokugikan clay on their ornate robes as they found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully neither one was hurt.

We also saw what I would happily call the most polite ashitori in all of sumo from none other than Ura. No matter what you think of his sumo, he seems to always be a super nice guy in almost every facet of his life. Its what really highlighted him in his first rise up the ranks. Yes his sumo was creative and many times a lot of fun to watch, but he has always shown good character, and nice manners.

As expected, a lot of rikishi ended the day 7-7, fueling a big crop of Darwin matches for day 15, to compliment the last match of the day, which should decide the yusho.

Highlight Matches

Tokushoryu defeats Kotoeko – Tokushoryu is able to execute his “stand you up – slap you down” combo with great effect, ending Kotoeko’s 5 match winning streak, and relegating Kotoeko to a day 15 Darwin match. Tokushoryu improves to 4-10.

Chiyonokuni defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama like Tokushoryu’s win so much, he decided to try it himself. He grabbed Chiyonokuni’s face, and pulled down. Sadly for him, he did not have an effective grip on anything and pulled hard enough he touched the clay. Kimarite is listed as tsukite, or hand touch down (non winning technique). This mechanical failure sends Aoiyama to 7-7 and a Darwin match against Kotoeko, while Chiyonokuni improves to 9-5.

Tobizaru defeats Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto was clearly on offense this match, and Tobizaru puzzlingly seemed content to just absorb whatever long-arm thrusting and hitting Ichiyamamoto wanted to try out. This nonsense continued until they started pulling each other, resulting in a helter-skelter tumble of off balance rikishi. Ichiyamamoto hits first, and the win goes to Tobizaru, who improves to 6-8.

Shimanoumi defeats Tsurugisho – Shimanoumi left hand mawashi grip was the deciding element in this match. He used to to get Tsurugisho on the move, and then swing him out. Tsurugisho’s sumo has been very soft since his cellulitis kyujo earlier in the basho, and it’s a real shame. Shimanoumi improves to 7-7, and gets to visit Mr. Darwin on day 15.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyonoo – I really liked Terutsuyoshi’s “clockwork” kakenage. Chiyonoo got a grip early, and Terutsuyoshi carefully set his hands as the two were chest to chest. Then came the slow motion, tick-tock style throw, one little stop at a time. Terutsuyoshi improves to 5-9.

Ura defeats Kaisei – Ura had a good match plan, every breath, take a step to the side, to keep Kaisei turning. This preventing Kaisei from settling into a defense and allowed Ura to continue probing attacks. A matter of fact leg pick and walk gave us possibly the most polite ashitori ever seen in sumo. Ura improves to 6-8.

Chiyoshoma defeats Hidenoumi – At the tachiai, both go for a left hand inside position, with Chiyoshoma lower, and looking primed to control the match. Chiyoshoma executes a series of test moves, none of which find any opening in Hidenoumi’s strong defenses. A grip shift, and Chiyoshoma is set for a throw, that takes Hidenoumi to the clay, sending him to his 8th loss, and make-koshi. Chiyoshoma improves to 4-10.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki gets a hazu-oshi (armpit attack) going immediately in the tachiai, and it moves Takarafuji back. Finding himself on the cusp of his 8th loss, Takarafuji executes a pivoting tsukiotoshi at the bales, sending Kagayaki to make-koshi, and improving Takarafuji to 7-7 and headed to a day 15 Darwin match.

Chiyomaru defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi opens strong, and gets Chiyomaru into defense mode, and moving to the rear. But Chiyomaru manages to break contact, and sets up his favorite pull, a blistering hikiotoshi that drops Tamawashi to the clay. Chiyomaru picks up his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi for September.

Daieisho defeats Yutakayama – Daieisho is low and strong at the tachiai, and applies maximum force at center mass. In spite of Yutakayama’s fairly good defense, he can’t hold ground against Daieisho’s attack. Daieisho improves to 9-5 and Yutakayama goes to 7-7 to join the group eligible for Darwin matches on senshuraku.

Kiribayama defeats Tochinoshin – Kiribayama finally gets that 8th win, that has evaded him for the last 3 days. Kiribayama starts with a left hand inside, and puts Tochinoshin into an unworkable position. But they stalemate chest to chest. Both attempt a grip change, and Kiribayama gets both hands inside. He’s unable to really lift Tochinoshin, so he resorts to a leg trip, and topples Tochinoshin into the tawara. Tochinoshin ends the day 7-7 and joins the Darwin group, Kiribayama improves to 8-6 and is kachi-koshi.

Hoshoryu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu supplied all of the attack power today, with Hoshoryu being uncharacteristically defensive. Chiyotairyu had Hoshoryu moving back, and moved to finish him, but a last moment move at the bales sent both men tumbling, with Chiyotairyu hitting first. They listed to kimarite as tottari, and it added Chiyotairyu to the Darwin group, and improved Hoshoryu to 5-9.

Wakatakakage defeats Takanosho – Takanosho opened on offense, with Wakatakakage unable to really set his feet to defend, or find a route to counter attack. He instead gave a bit more ground than he needed, opening a gap that allowed him to execute a hatakikomi at the moment Takanosho rushed to close the distance. Wakatakakage picks up his 8th win and is kachi-koshi. Takanosho heads to join Darwin.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – Even a high-skill rikishi like Endo is bound to struggle with Ichinojo when he is genki, focused and has a goal. Endo’s early grip attempt misses completely, but he does get a hand inside. Ichinojo switches direction twice in two steps, completely unbalancing Endo and opening the thrust down, which lands like thunder and sends Endo to the clay. Ichinojo picks up his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi. Endo gives up the chase of yusho leader Terunofuji, dropping to 2 wins behind.

Okinoumi defeats Mitakeumi – When Okinoumi is genki, he can really wreck just about anyone on the right day. Today it is Mitakeumi’s turn, who finds himself captured and chest to chest yet again, and unable to really do much other than struggle in place. After a brief dance to get Mitakeumi in a good position, Okinoumi rolls him to the clay, sending gyoji Kimura Tamajiro scrambling. Okinoumi improves to 10-4, his best score in 2 years, which was an Aki basho where he was also ranked M8E. It must be his luck spot.

Meisei defeats Onosho – If you want to drop Onosho in a hurry, that’s the way to do it. As the junior tadpole lunged forward, Meisei managed to get both hands behind his neck and slap him down. Onosho never had a chance to get started, giving Meisei his 7th win. Sadly no Darwin match for him on day 15. Onosho drops out of the group 1 behind Terunofuji.

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – This match is exactly why readers here think I hate Shodai. This was total crap sumo from him, and Myogiryu knew exactly how to exploit his sumo malfunctions to make him a an accessory in this match. Rapid frontal grip, lift and heave him back and out. Myogiryu improves to 11-3, remaining one behind leader Terunofuji.

Terunofuji defeats Takakeisho – I used to describe Takakeisho as a bowling ball with legs. It warms my heart to see Terunofuji put that moniker in motion as he rolls Takakeisho to his 6th loss. Takakeisho gets a few good thrusts in, and then to my surprise, initiates the chest to chest belt battle. I thought Terunofuji was a bit surprised as well, and it almost gave Takakeisho a big offensive opening. But Terunofuji’s Yokozuna hallmark is to capture, control and wait. It pays off yet again when he sets up the uwatenage, and takes out not only the Ozeki, but tate gyoji Inosuke. Sadly there is no bonus kensho for such a result. Terunofuji improves to 12-2 and remains the sole leader for the Emperor’s cup.

Osaka Day 9 Preview

Time for day 9, the day I originally predicted might be the final day of this basho. Given the slow forward grind of COVID-19 in the world, there was a brave attempt made to conduct this Osaka tournament, in spite of the risk to the over 600 men competing. A number of new rules were put in place to keep everyone as safe as they could, and allow the competition to go forward. There have been a few withdraw with fevers, the most high profile of which is none other than Chiyomaru. Is it influenza? a cold? the dreaded doom virus? Well, we won’t know any time soon. So let’s just wish him well and press ahead. I am sure there will be plenty of time later to worry about it once the tests are back.

It’s time to start week 2, and our march toward next Sunday’s awarding of the Emperor’s Cup. In spite of the concern and lack of crowd, the sumo will go on. During the second week, some of the veterans may run low on stamina, and some of the rikishi with a lot on the line may lose their mental edge. It’s a fascinating time to be a sumo fan – who has the steel to accelerate into the final weekend?

With Chiyomaru out, we get a Juryo rikishi visiting to fill the torikumi. No, not Terunofuji, none other than Kise heya’s Hidenoumi, who was last seen in the top division at Osaka 2018, where he finished with a pride obliterating 3-12. Still, it nice to see him, even if just for a day, and we hope he has a good match.

High interest matches today? Asanoyama has to beat Shodai in the Sekiwake battle, Takakeisho needs to gamberize and win against “Big Unit” Yutakayama, and Hokutofuji takes on Mitakeumi in a match that may feature a lot of action.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: Takanosho, Aoiyama
Hunter Group: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Chiyotairyu, Ishiura, Kotonowaka

8 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Kotonowaka vs Hidenoumi – Welcome back for the day, Hidenoumi. We know it’s been a while, so with any luck you will rally and make a return to the top division this year. Kotonowaka as split the series 1-1 with you, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen today.

Azumaryu vs Daiamami – Daiamami has lost 2 of the last 3, and Azumaryu has lost 3 of the last 4. It’s a battle to try and save a kachi-koshi for these two today.

Kaisei vs Meisei – After a terrible start, Kaisei has won 4 of the last 5, and I think his Newtonian sumo is going to continue strong today in his first ever match against struggling Meisei, who clocks in with an astonishing disadvantage of 70 kg. Advice to Meisei – go find a music store and spend a couple hours bench pressing whatever pianos they have in the showroom.

Ishiura vs Ikioi – In spite of his age, and apparent bodily damage, Ikioi has been doing well. He has split the prior 6 matches with Ishiura 6-6, but I hope his normal high-energy tachiai is tempered today, as Ishiura may be feeling henka-envy from his stable mate Enho.

Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both rikishi come in with 4-4 records, and are looking to get closer to the magic 8. Both can work in high-mobility matches, so I expect this one will be a running fight that will come down to who loses balance first.

Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama – Oh my this is a good one. Both of them big, strong and quite genki this March. Both have solid winning records, and if Aoiyama wins today, its his kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – These two have met 41 times over the years, and Kotoshogiku holds a 1 match edge after all of that. But today is not a good day to put that rivalry to the test. Its clear that Tochiozan is a shade of his normal self, and will offer only token resistance to Kotoshogiku, provided the Kyushu Bulldozer has any mojo left in those knees.

Shohozan vs Nishikigi – A loss today, and Nishikigi is make-koshi. Sad though it is, its pretty obvious he too is hurt.

Takanosho vs Tamawashi – Also prominently featured in the “likely damaged” list is Tamawashi, who comes into day 9 with just 2 wins. A Takanosho victory would be kachi-koshi for him. This is their first ever match.

Takarafuji vs Kiribayama – Another glorious first time meeting, veteran and patience sumo master Takarafuji will take on Kakuryu’s stable mate Kiribayama. Both are in good shape to make their 8 wins this March, and I am interested to see if Takarafuji’s defensive style is less effective against Kiribayama, given his training sessions with Yokozuna Kakuryu.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – One day, maybe today, Sadanoumi’s speed sumo is going to be the deciding factor in a match. He has to win 5 of the next 7 matches for a kachi-koshi, where Kagayaki only needs 3.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – 24 career matches between these two, and where did it get them? Even at 12-12. Both of them are having terrible tournaments, with Tochinoshin one bad fall from a extended outage with that gamey leg, and lord knows what is hampering Myogiryu. Should Myogiryu lose today, that would be his 8th and a make-koshi.

Onosho vs Tokushoryu – Much as we have loved the Tokushoryu Cinderella story, a loss today and the Hatsu yusho winner will be make-koshi. He seems to have reverted to mostly Juryo class sumo, rather than his winning style in Tokyo. Onosho is still on a solid path for a kachi-koshi, which might put him closer to the named ranks. I am eagerly hoping for Onosho – Takakeisho battle in week 2.

Daieisho vs Okinoumi – Both of these rikishi have managed to keep a respectable record through the first half of the basho, and both have a kachi-koshi in reach. If Okinoumi can make it to 8, it would be his highest ranked kachi-koshi since 2016. He leads their career series 10-4.

Enho vs Endo – Its the Ishikawa home town battle of the cutest, and which one will end up the most kawaii? Their only other match up (Hatsu), Enho was declared fairest of the land.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – I expect Hokutofuji to continue to work on “The most powerful make-koshi in sumo” today, although I have to ask what the hell happened to Mitakeumi on day 8. They are evenly matched, but right now Hokutofuji needs to win 6 out of the next 7 to save his position at a named rank.

Asanoyama vs Shodai – The Sekiwake fight we have anticipated. Shodai shrugged off his his losses on day 5,6 and 7 to bounce back against Ryuden. He could well and truly destroy Asanoyama’s Ozeki bid for March with a win today. I am sure Asanoyama knows this, so this is a great test of how he performs in the clutch.

Takakeisho vs Yutakayama – These two oshi-zumo hard hitters are going head to head, and they have only met once before (Takakeisho win). Given some of the visuals from day 8, Takakeisho might not be quite alright. I am going to guess Yutakayama will go low and inside at the tachiai and try to shut down the tsuppari machine before the first wave.

Abi vs Kakuryu – Is Abi even healthy enough for this match? He looked a bit shattered at the end of his match with Hakuho on day 8, and I have to wonder if that knee is going to make it the final 7 days. Fingers crossed.

Hakuho vs Ryuden – Calling it now, Ryuden gets a flying lesson. Hakuho continues his march towards 15.

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.