Hatsu Day 10 Highlights

With a thunderous kyujo, act 2 comes to a close. I do mean Takakeisho, yes. While he has had poor performance from the start, he was was the center of attention in the days before the basho, as he had taken the cup in November and had an opportunity to make a bid to be promoted to Yokozuna. It seems at some point early in the tournament he injured his ankle, but frankly I think there may be more than that. He has looked unwell since the joint practice in the basement of the Kokugikan. I hope that he can get his body together a bit later this year and try again.

In the rikishi still active, there was no change at the top of the leader board as both Daieisho and Shodai won their matches today, and remain #1 and #2 respectively. This only gets interesting if someone can drop Daieisho at least once during act 3, which starts tomorrow. Personally I like the chances of another loss (at least 40%) due to the mental pressure of considering the yusho may cause some loss of focus during the daily bout. The chance is high we won’t know who will take the cup until day 15, and that is how it should be.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Akiseyama – Akiseyama has now lost 4 in a row, and is on a genuine cold streak. He had been tied for the lead at one time, and is now struggling. Is it a cold streak, or did he pick up an injury? Either way, Azumaryu picks up a much needed win to improve to 3-7.

Hoshoryu defeats Kotonowaka – Ok, Hoshoryu seems to have found his sumo for real! He beats Kotonowaka for the first time in 4 attempts by slamming him to the clay after a leg trip attempt. He has won the last 5 in a row after losing the first 5 from opening day.

Ichinojo defeats Midorifuji – You have to admire Midorifuji’s courage, he has to have seen Kiribayama’s day 9 attempt to grapple Ichinojo, and he somehow said to himself, “I am going to try that too!”. Well, it was just as pointless as once you get a hold of Ichinojo, he gets a hold of you, and you realize you have no way to let go. So you try to bide your time, but Ichinojo is quite comfortable and possibly napping. You then realize that you are simply going to have to make it look good. Ichinojo advances to 7-3 to remain at the edge of the group chasing Daieisho.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama had the early advantage, and fired up his thrusting attack. Sadanoumi took the punishment and got inside and them got Aoiyama moving back. I notice that Sadanoumi’s leg was not as heavily wrapped today as it had been in earlier matches. Maybe that gave him some of his speed and mobility back. Both end the day 5-5.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Myogiryu – Well, they traded push back mattas, and it was clear they were annoyed with each other. When they got underway on the 3rd attempt, Myogiryu attempted a double hand slap down, but could not make it stick. Myogiryu found himself without any defensive elements to the match, and Terutsuyoshi blasted him out to improve to 4-6.

Akua defeats Tokushoryu – Sharing is caring, they say, and today Akua gave Tokushoryu the gift of make-koshi, which he received on day 9 from Tobizaru. This was another extended chest to chest match, though nothing on the scale of Ichinojo’s long duration endurance challenge. I did not like the way Tokushoryu’s left knee / leg collapsed at the end. I hope he is not injured. Both end the day at 2-8.

Meisei defeats Kiribayama – It was a battle of the slap / pull down attempts, and while it was not pretty, it all worked out for Meisei. Meisei tried one first, giving the advantage to Kiribayama who responded moments later and that loss of forward pressure was all Meisei needed. Why do these guys try to respond to a dumb move with their own version of the dumb move? I see it far too much in sumo. Meisei improves to 7-3 and stays 2 behind Daieisho.

Kotoeko defeats Tobizaru – Another day with a flying hands of fury match involving Kotoeko. He has the right partner for that activity in Tobizaru, and they two went at it like a pair of tabbies jacked up on catnip. Sometimes I do love a good “kitchen sink” match, and this was pretty close to that, with Kotoeko ultimately giving Tobizaru a powerful shove over the bales for the win. Both end the day 4-6.

Ryuden defeats Yutakayama – Ryuden did a fantastic job of robbing Yutakayama of his offensive tools. He locked him up early and drove him back and out within 5 steps, leaving Yutakayama no room to maneuver, and no room to push back. Ryuden has won 3 of is last 4 and improves to 4-6.

Kagayaki defeats Shimanoumi – Possibly the best sumo from Kagayaki so far this tournament. He stayed low, kept his stance wide, kept his feet heavy and his shoulder square. Shimanoumi battled back well, but once Kagayaki gets into this mode, he’s quite powerful. Kagayaki improves to 5-5.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho continues his relentless drive toward a 0-15 result, which is slightly easier to obtain than a zensho result. Its heart breaking, as the guy really has some excellent sumo. Kotoshoho came close today when Takarafuji fell out of the ring with Kotoshoho, but it was clear that Takarafuji’s hand touched down after Kotoshoho’s foot it the janome. Takarafuji improves to 6-4.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with (once again) The Most Powerful Make-Koshi in Sumo! Hokutofuji had a couple of good hits, but this was all Daieisho, and he improves to 9-1 and maintains sole possession of the lead.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Takayasu had some great hand placement, catching Tochinoshin under the armpits with a meaty shove that ruined his balance and left him wide open to be attacked and moved out. Takayasu improves to 6-4.

Mitakeumi defeats Onosho – Ok, maybe Mitakeumi has his act together now. He takes down fellow tadpole Onosho and knocks him out of the group 2 losses behind Daieisho. Mitakeumi guessed that Onosho would bring his center of balance as far forward as he could, and timed his release of pressure and pull down superbly. He improves to 5-5.

Takanosho defeats Terunofuji – I am gobsmacked by this one. On what planet was Takanosho the winner. Oh well, anyone surprised that Terunofuji got the short end of another monoii? I sure am not. Takanosho’s gymnastics to stay airborne as they both went out were spectacular. Both end the day 6-4.

Asanoyama defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi opened with a powerful combo, which Asanoyama absorbed well, got his hands around Tamawashi and took control of the match. He improves to 7-3 to remain 2 behind Daiesho.

Shodai defeats Endo – Endo is a master tactician, and had a great formula for today’s match against Shodai. He had the Ozeki off balance and dancing around to maintain footing, and then the cartoon sumo kicked in. Shodai’s in the middle of being thrown, and suddenly he pivots and its Endo thats off balance. Shodai continues the rotation and they both crash over the bales. The gumbai goes to Shodai, and I am left wondering what I just saw. Of course there was a monoii, as they all say in unison “What the hell was that?” But no, the cartoon sumo worked once again, and Endo lands first, and it’s kachi-koshi for Shodai.

Osaka Day 8 Highlights

Chiyomaru image shamelessly stolen from the NHK web site, to whom we apologize

There was excellent sumo action on the dohyo for nakabi, but there is no doubt the story with the most potential impact to the basho is that Chiyomaru (5-3) is kyujo due to a persistent fever. Word from the NSK is that he is being tested for influenza, and they will take appropriate action to treat him. What? Not COVID-19 you say? Japan is a very orderly place, and the current medical protocol states that they test for influenza first. A reminder to readers, if any rikishi pops positive for the dreaded corona virus, the remainder of the basho will be canceled. I hope for the sake of Chiyomaru, whatever he has is not serious, and not long lasting. It’s a shame because in spite of whatever encroaching illness, he was fighting better than any basho in the last year.

While we hope that Chiyomaru is comfortable in his quarantine cell at the local CoCo’s Ichibanya, showing them the terror of “Tabehoudai”, I was thrilled to watch a match I have been waiting more than a year to see – Asanoyama vs Yutakayama. There was a lot wrapped up into this match. The two of them had a fierce rivalry going as they climbed the sekitori ranks, and it was Yutakayama who broke into the joi-jin first. But an injury sent him back down the banzuke, and by all indication, it took a while for him to get his body back, followed by him recovering his sumo. The outcome of that match has serious implications for Asanoyama’s hoped for Ozeki bid, as the numerical count of wins matters, but the quality of those wins (and any losses) are considered as well. Fans will remember that the lack of “Quality” was the reason stated for rejecting Takakeisho’s first bid for promotion. In true Ozeki style, he shrugged it off and continued to dominate matches in the following tournament.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Chiyomaru – Any virus that inhabits Chiyomaru must feel like the luckiest protein chain in the world. There’s just so much space for you and all the kids. Poor guy, please get better soon.

Shimanoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Plain and simple, those knees just could not maintain the pressure against Shimanoumi. The Kyushu Bulldozer had an unaccustomed grip on Shimanoumi, and struggled to use any of his “quick kill” moves that could have saved the endurance check against what is left of his knees. Kotoshogiku fans worry, as we know that his knees get worse in week 2.

Aoiyama defeats Daiamami – Big Dan Aoiyama shrugs off the loss on day 7, and completely disrupts Daiamami. Normally pulling like Aoiyama did is a very risky move, but he just managed to execute and complete it before he ran out of clay. A win tomorrow and Aoiyama is kachi-koshi.

Ishiura defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi has nothing to offer any of the top division rikishi this March, and as a Nishikigi booster its sad to see. While Ishiura could have half-efforted this match and probably still won, he yet against brings some solid sumo to the dohyo. I think with a bit of work, he could replicate the Harumafuji death-spin that I miss so much. I am starting to think Ishiura might be a serious rikishi. Nishikigi now one loss from an early and brutal make-koshi.

Ikioi defeats Azumaryu – Classic Ikioi densha michi-sumo. Azumaryu had zero chance today. Sadly there were thunderous roars for the home town hero, only heavy breathing.

Kotonowaka defeats Chiyotairyu – Soft tachiai from Chiyotairyu, with an early pull down attack that released forward pressure. My compliments to Kotonowaka for recognizing that gambit from Chiyotairyu and exploiting it to good effect. Kotonowaka improves to 6-2.

Kaisei defeats Terutsuyoshi – Much as I enjoy Terutsuyoshi, sometimes good old Newtonian sumo carries the day. Kaisei used his enormous body to overwhelm Terutsuyoshi’s offense, and kept him moving back, never giving him a chance to set his feet and attack. Kaisei improves to 4-4 after a rough start to Haru.

Shohozan defeats Tochiozan – The battle of sadness, it was make-koshi for Tochiozan. His sumo is still there, but it has no power to win. Each day that goes by, there is more tape on Tochiozan, and you have to assume that the injuries are accumulating. Painfully.

Takarafuji defeats Sadanoumi – Takarafuji did not engage in his “defend and extend” sumo today. In fact this bout could almost be considered hasty by Takarafuji standards. Sadanoumi charged in with energy, but Takarafuji defended well at the tachiai, and quickly found he could move Sadanoumi back. One final shove sent Sadanoumi down the hanamichi for a Takarafuji win.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Did anyone else cringe when Tochinoshin pivoted on that bandage right leg? I admire that win, but good lord, I have no interest in seeing the big wheel chair again this basho. That injured looking hop to take weight off of the right leg following the shitatedashinage to win the match told the story for me.

Takanosho defeats Myogiryu – Takanosho continues to be overwhelmingly genki this tournament, as there is something physically amiss with Myogiryu. It’s the only way I can explain that he is just 1 loss away form make-koshi on the middle day of the bahso.

Kagayaki defeats Kiribayama – I loved that Kagayaki tachiai. He came inside with both hands from underneath, and completely shut down any attempt at offense from Kiribayama. To his credit he got a left hand inside grip while he staggered to regain balance. But Kagayaki’s stance was solid, and he forced Kiribayama down, back and out.

Enho defeats Onosho – Wow! Both of these rikishi exceeded expectations today. Enho finally cooked off his best sumo, and I was baffled that Onosho’s balance had improved enough that it took 3 high maneuverability, high energy attack sequences form Enho to finish him off. First off, that flying henka. Beautifully executed, but Onosho recovered well. The tottari almost finished him, but Onosho kept his feet! Onosho rallied and attack with power, but it only set up the katasukashi. Great sumo offense from Enho, and surprisingly good defense work by Onosho today.

Daieisho defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu has reverted back to Juryo level sumo, and he’s really out classed by the upper echelons of the banzuke this March. One more loss for the Hatsu yusho winner, and its make-koshi for him.

Okinoumi defeats Endo – Endo was lower, stronger and inside at the tachiai. But Okinoumi got a strong right hand outside grip, and went to work. Again, some element of Newtonian physics was at play, as Okinoumi had better leverage, and much better foot placement. Both men end the match at 4-4.

Yutakayama defeats Asanoyama – Oh the match I was waiting more than a year to see. Welcome back Yutakayama, we need your sumo to drive Asanoyama to higher levels of performance. Yutakayama set the form and cadence of the match, Asanoyama tried for too long to drive the match towards something resembling yotsu, but Yutakayama tore him up. I personally think this impacts Asanoyama’s Ozeki bid, as he was ransacked like a fully stocked Walmart facing a horde of corona virus panic shoppers by a Maegashira 3. That loud, fleshy thud at the end of the match? That may have been Asanoyama’s Ozeki promotion for March.

Shodai defeats Ryuden – Much as I knock Shodai, I hope (as I do for all rikishi) that they can do well and win every time they step on the dohyo. One of Shodai’s biggest problems is that he lets his worries and his mind defeat him, rather than letting his frankly good technique take care of business. So I was delighted to see him shake off his losing streak today, and in very good form. He did not give Ryuden even a moment to get started, inside, back and out.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – I did enjoy watching Takakeisho deliver multiple volleys against Hokutofuji today, as Hokutofuji continues his trek toward “The most powerful make-koshi in sumo”. My only knock is that Takakeisho did not quite finish him on the 3rd volley and eased up. Follow through, Grand Tadpole.

Hakuho defeats Abi – After Abi jumps early for a matta, it’s over in a flash in what looks like at least 40% slippiotoshi. Abi got at least one good blast in, but nothing was stopping Hakuho today. The dai-Yokozuna racks yet another day 8 kachi-koshi in his somewhat unbelievable career.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – Our second delightful densha michi match today. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, Mitakeumi decided to try to pull Kakuryu straight out of the tachiai. I can’t recall the last time I saw Mitakeumi look more like a wheel barrow full of compost on its way to the garden. Wow.