Ones to Watch: Hatsu 18 Wrap-up

With the New Years basho having concluded this past weekend with a wonderful and unexpected result, it’s now time to take a look down the banzuke and check on the overall performances of this tournament’s Tachiai Ones to Watch™. Last time out, we posted a 17-3 kachi-koshi record and collected 2 yusho from the 4 lower divisions.

Results

So, how did our picks do this time?

Kachi-koshi: 1️⃣2️⃣
Make-koshi: 8️⃣
Yusho: 🏆
Juryo promotions: 1️⃣
Hattorizakura-watch: ⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️

Makushita

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – One of our dear favorites locked in his kachi-koshi at the last chance, posting a 4-3 record. We are unabashed fans of Enho, he is exciting and amazing to watch. However, that he was even in the promotion conversation with this record at this rank is a testament to the mess at the bottom of Juryo. He has now been receiving (semi) daily stern tests against rikishi of similar pedigree and veterans who have seen the promised land and do not appreciate being exiled from it. On the face of it, the trip to Juryo may be extremely challenging to him so let’s hope he can gain some good pounds in the right places.

Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – The Arashio bros combined for a 15-6 record driven largely by Wakatakakage’s impressive zensho yusho, which should place him at or near the top of the division for Haru. Like Enho, Wakamotoharu found it tough in the insanely congested top of the Makushita division, falling to a 3-4 record, and should find himself near enough to Wakatakamoto whose 5 win basho should propel him near enough the top quarter of the division. Should those two post similar records next time out it might make things interesting for the schedulers! If we’re going to look at areas of improvement, Wakamotoharu may need the opposite plan as Enho going forward as he handled the veterans nicely but tended to struggle against the up and coming rikishi.

Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – Murata, who debuted at the same time with Wakatakakage and who had largely matched his progress, will fall back behind his rival having suffered the narrowest of make-koshi. In fairness, having come through a horrendous start, he recovered nicely in the last couple of matches to ensure his demotion will not be too extreme. If we’re going to look for a highlight, his second bout match against the triple lower division yusho winner and Kokonoe up-and-comer Chiyonoumi might provide a key for future success – he’s able to stand his ground against a composed opponent and use his mass and pushing/thrusting to keep moving forward and move him out (hat tip to One and Only for the video coverage):

Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – It’s another solid kachi-koshi at 5-2 for Nishonoseki’s university man, who just continues to progress. Ichiyamamoto is an extreme pusher-thruster and it will be interesting to watch his results as he starts now to come up against rikishi with a better plan at the tachiai. Gochozan’s revenge win against him in this tournament was a case of a match that started as a pushing festival and ended up with Ichiyamamoto’s arms getting locked up and not really having much of a plan B. If someone’s going to lock up his arms he may struggle, but if he can establish his pushing attack he’s a difficult rikishi to beat at this level.

Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Owing to the flu circulating Isegahama-beya, we’re going to have to give Nishikifuji a pass on an awful 1-5-1 tournament that blighted an otherwise brilliant start to his career. The banzuke makers of course will not be so kind, but the last time that a 1 win tournament at his rank wasn’t enough to keep a rikishi in this division was 1948. He put up 6 wins at Ms52 last time out and that’s probably about where we’ll see him next time and will expect him to restart his progress.

Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another solid tournament for Ryuko who makes it three consecutive 5-2s to follow the three consecutive 6-1s to open his career. Intriguingly, he used a greater variety of winning techniques here than some of his contemporaries higher up on this post. While he certainly gets his share of oshi- wins, over the last two tournaments he has started mixing in throws. Only one of them seems to have been particularly well executed (in Kyushu against Ikeru) but that also may come down to the quality of opponent. It’s going to be interesting to see how he mixes and matches and whether his strategy will continue to develop as he reaches the higher levels.

Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – It’s another really solid start to Tomokaze’s career, and after 4 basho he should find himself placed solidly in the upper part of the division after putting up 5 more wins here. Had he not run into Wakatakamoto in the middle of the tournament, it would have been interesting to see if he could challenge for yet another yusho, but as it stands the Oguruma man (who dealt with Ryuko for the first time in the early stages of Hatsu) will be pleased with his progress as he develops into a large and physical rikishi. What happens to his mobility as his size increases will be an interesting watch.

Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – I had picked Musashikuni almost more as a “draft and follow” kind of guy than an immediate one to watch. I thought he had a good chance this time out at handling the opposition at this rank, but it never really came together until the end of a 3-4 tournament that will leave him as very much an edge case for remaining in the division for Osaka. This is more of a long term choice and we’re going to stick with him next time out and, like his stablemate Wakaichiro, continue to bet on his potential.

Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe had absolutely coasted through the bottom 3 divisions and even started here with 2 wins from 3 but in truth I could tell after seeing him in person on Day 2 that this was not going to be his basho, and from the midway point he completely unraveled with 4 straight losses (to end 2-5), the lowlight of which was a shocking ashitori from Amanoshima on Day 11. He has “bouncebackability” to be sure, but he’s going to need some serious keiko to right the ship and prepare for another assault on promotion back to Makushita.

Sandanme

Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama pulls out a last ditch kachi-koshi which will secure his promotion up to Makushita. While he started his career strong with 3 straight 6 win tournaments, his progress has slowed and it will be interesting to see if he can better the results of his rival Tanabe, who he has never beaten, in his debut at the next level.

Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – We doubted Shoji’s ability to pull off the third consecutive yusho on his Sandanme debut and that hesitation proved to be well-founded as he finished with his first career make-koshi at 3-4. That all being said, he improved in the latter half of the basho and won’t fall so far down that a good tournament next time won’t propel him forward, so the Musashigawa man will hope this is a minor setback. This is the first tournament where it could be argued Shoji didn’t face anyone of a similar pedigree or level of progression (and that may continue to be the case) so how he deals with more of a mixed bag of veteran opponents will determine his future.

Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Kotokumazoe’s hot comeback run was stopped dead in its tracks with 3 straight losses, but the Sadogatake man did well over the last week to finish 3-1 and end with a narrow make-koshi at what was his highest career posting to date. His thrust-heavy attack didn’t look especially inspired in either of the matches for which there is video footage but his persistence in his day 15 win against Tochikasuga at least gives some reason for optimism.

Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – A tournament to forget for Torakio who started strong and ended injured. We thought he’d fare better than Shoji this time out, and he started strong at 2-0 but dropped 4 straight before going kyujo, the final two of which culminated in injury-inspiring and frankly very painful looking throws. However before this, what was clear from all 4 losses was that despite how strong we have seen Torakio to be, he suffered from a very weak tachiai which was beginning to be exploited even at the bottom of Sandanme. After his make-koshi clinching under-arm throw inflicted by Ryuki on day 12, he remained on the floor for a very long time. Obviously we wish the strong Torakio the best of health, and hope he can make a comeback in the upper reaches of Jonidan next time out.

Jonidan

Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As has been covered extensively already on the site, Wakaichiro had a fantastic return to form at 5-2 (winning his first four) and one that will see him almost certainly repromoted to Sandanme for his second crack at the division in Osaka. The last time this record at this rank wasn’t good enough for a promotion was 1958, so it’s as close to a banker as you can get.

Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The Amatsu comeback story continues as his 5-2 record keeps him on pace to return to the higher divisions after his years long layoff!

Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – “Mike” Hayashi opened his Jonidan account with 4 straight wins, looking to grab the yusho that eluded him at the first time of asking on his banzuke debut at Kyushu. Despite nursing a heavily bandaged right knee, Hayashi looked pretty composed most of the time here en route to a 5-2 result that will place him alongside Amatsu in the top 10 ranks of Jonidan in Osaka as they continue their unlikely rivalry which Hayashi leads 2-0.

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – The pre-tournament projections of the hyped Yoshoyama and his mae-zumo results made him feel like a bona-fide yusho challenger to us but we whiffed on that as he had to rally to secure a 4-3 kachi-koshi in which he did not particularly impress.

Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – As noted in our mid-basho roundup, the Sadogatake debutant was winning with little effort owing to his size and strength differential. He ran into some trouble when pulled up to Jonidan for a match and ended up losing the playoff to finish with the jun-yusho, but it’s an encouraging start and one which should portend decent results in the bottom half of Jonidan next time out.

As for Hattorizakura… as Herouth noted he did show some improvement and some fight early on in the tournament before returning to his usual ways. The match he really should have won was his (actually quite lengthy) Day 8 match against the tiny Takita, whose two career victories to date both came against Hattorizakura. If he can at least be less afraid of the tachiai, he might be able to sneak one or two. We shall cheer for a victory in Osaka!

Day 13 – It’s Georgia. Not the US state, the country.

The Makuuchi Chamipionship is all but determined, as Tochinoshin goes from chasing to being chased. But before we make ourselves familiar with the Caucasus and the Georgian cuisine, rich in walnuts and cheeses, we already have a champion today – in the Makushita division.

wakatakakage
Your shikona is Wakatakakage. Now repeat that 10 times at high speed.

The schedulers matched Wakatakakage (Ms #17) with the other yusho contender, Tochiseiryu (Ms #47). Both came into the bout with 6-0.

Tochiseiryu’s pre-bout looks similar to Tochiozan’s, doesn’t it? Anyway, W.T.K. dispatches of him easily, as the difference in rank would suggest, and wins a zensho-yusho. I believe his position is just below the Juryo promotion line, though, and in any case the upper Makushita have many kachi-koshi wrestlers waiting for one of the (probably 7) open Juryo positions.

One of those on line for those 7 positions is Prince Enho, who today had a battle for the kachi-koshi with Shonannoumi. Both coming into this match 3-3.

Ah… Enho… I guess with Hakuho’s royal feet being kyujo, Enho has to settle for taking lessons from Ishiura. Which is not something I’d recommend. What’s with the henka? Was that really necessary?

OK, I’ll try my hand at a bit of demotion-promotion speculation. Here is a summary of the situation of the bottom of Juryo:

#14E Akua Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#14W Kizenryu Make-koshi, only three wins so far.
#12E Yamaguchi Make-koshi, only two wins so far.
#12W Tochihiryu Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#11E Ura Full kyujo due to surgery.
#9W Toyohibiki Full kyujo due to injury.
#8W Osunaarashi 1 win. Kyujo due to scandal. Drop from Juryo certain, may face retirement.

The others in between are either kachi-koshi or minimal make-koshi. So these are seven potential slots, though I suppose Tochihiryu may still be saved.

The situation at the top of Makushita is:

#1E Yago kachi-koshi
#1W Terutsuyoshi kachi-koshi
#2W Shimanoumi kachi-koshi
#3W Tobizaru kachi-koshi
#4W Akiseyama kachi-koshi
#6E Enho kachi-koshi
#7E Takayoshitoshi kachi-koshi

So Takayoshitoshi is on the bubble, it seems, but he still has one bout to go, and if he wins it, he’ll have a better kachi-koshi than Enho and may pass him in on the promotion line.

Down in Sandanme, unfortunately, Torakio suffered an injury. I will not post his bout from yesterday as I don’t like to share videos of people rolling around in pain. He could not return to the dohyo for his bout after his loss, and he is now on the kyujo list. He will be make-koshi. Too bad to have an injury at such an early stage of his career, let’s hope it’s not as bad as it looked – shoulder and arm issue).

I’m not going to give you the Hattorizakura video this time – because the kid is back to his old way, walking backward just being looked at, which is a real shame. Anyway, he has now completed is usual set of 7 losses, and will have to wait until Haru to show us some progress again.

Tomorrow Yoshoyama-Osumifuji, both 3-3, vying for the kachi-koshi.

Up in Juryo, Kyokutaisei has ensured his kachi-koshi, and being Juryo #1, has ensured his promotion to Makuuchi. The papers make much of the fact that he is from Hokkaido, but I’m making much of the fact that he is from Tomozuna beya (Kaisei’s heya), and will therefore help the Isegahama ichimon a little bit in the coming power rankings. 🙂

kyokutaisei-kachi-koshi
Kyokutaisei vs. Takagenji

Mitoryu has also ensured his kachi-koshi and will continue wearing his kesho-mawashi for a second tournament.

If you’re interested in the Juryo bouts, there’s this channel where the owner seems to upload each of the lower division’s complete bouts a few hours after each day ends.

So… we go up to Makuuchi, and what do we see?

Sokokurai trying hard to stay at Makuuchi. Today he faced Yutakayama who is still looking for a kachi-koshi. He can’t get a mawashi hold on Yutakayama, but eventually sidesteps and gets a hikiotoshi.

Today Ishiura decided to go for plain, forward-moving sumo. Maybe because Daishomaru is not much taller than he is. And what do you know, it worked! He grabs Daishomaru’s mawashi with his left hand and shows him the way out, yori-kiri.

Kotoyuki gets an easy one against Daiamami. They call this a tsukitaoshi, but I’d say it was a tsukite (which is a hiwaza).

The ghost of Terunofuji meets Takekaze and gives the old man a little more padding against the Juryo drop. Terunofuji unable to do a proper tachiai, let alone keep from being pushed.

A… Asanoyama… where are you? Who is that scarecrow who mounts the dohyo in your place in the second week? Chiyomaru needed exactly half a second to pull Asanoyama to the ground. Is Asanoyama sitting too close to the Isegahama guys in the shitakubeya or what?

Shohozan makes short work of Daieisho, who seems to have lost his will to do sumo once he secured his kachi-koshi. Shohozan gets in a couple of harite, then wraps Daieisho’s body and flips him for a sukuinage.

Abi really looks like he is enjoying his work, even during the actual bout. He got Kaisei, who has a huge weight advantage on him. He starts as usual with a “morotezuki”, which means he thrusts with both hands. Then he sidesteps and nearly gets Kaisei off-balance. Kaisei stays on his feet but it’s enough for Abi to grab at his mawashi, turn him around and send him out by okuri-dashi. What weight advantage? The youngster is 9-4, and may actually get one of those sansho prizes he talked about.

Chiyonokuni seems to have improved once he got his make-koshi. He starts with his tsuppari attack before Nishikigi completes his tachiai, and then pulls for a tsukiotoshi.

Chiyoshoma gets in for a fine tachiai, but Kagayaki gets a grip on his belt, and they start dancing around the dohyo. Although Chiyoshoma manages to escape from that grip, that wild dance ends with him putting a foot outside the dohyo. Kagayaki secures his first kachi-koshi since Natsu.

The shimpan gave poor old Aminishiki a real scare. This match was nervous for both him and Ikioi (which one is more injured?), with two mattas to begin with. And then he threw a flying henka and somehow managed to get Ikioi down  before he ran out of dohyo. Not his usual precision, though. Anyway, Konosuke called it Aminishiki’s. The shimpan called a monoii. And as Kintamayama will tell you, a monoii on Konosuke’s shift is an exercise in futility. Finally the shimpan agree that Konosuke is right, and the head shimpan tries to explain the decision. But he seems to be in his cups – mutters and forgets what he wanted to say. He goes as far as saying that it was a “gunbai sashi-chigae” – which it certainly was not, before the crowd’s murmur wakes him up and he corrects himself and lets Aminishiki get his kensho. Poor Uncle.

Ryuden gets a better start than Takarafuji, but Takarafuji manages to get his left hand inside, which is his favorite grip. Ryuden circles and squirms and gets rid of that hand, while himself maintaining a hold on Takarafuji’s mawashi. A battle of grips ensues. Takarafuji gets Ryuden’s hand off his mawashi, but Ryuden still has a hold on his body. Ryuden tries to make a throw. Loses the mawashi grip he momentarily regained. Takarafuji manages to lock both Ryuden’s arm in front of his chest. But at this point Takarafuji runs out of stamina and eventually Ryuden yori-kiri’s him. I hope Takarafuji hasn’t contracted that Isegahama flu. Ryuden is an excellent wrestler, and I believe we’ll see him in sanyaku at some point. And yes, he has 9 wins, like Abi, and may also become a sansho winner.

Endo starts by pulling and sending a couple of slaps in Kotoshogiku‘s direction. Grabs at Kotoshogiku’s hand, then converts that into a right-hand-inside mawashi grip with Kotoshogiku between him and the tawara. Kotoshogiku dances and gains some ground. Grabs at Endo’s right hand and tries for a kotenage. Endo manages to retain his footing. Kotoshogiku still has his right hand, but he has his left on Kotoshogiku’s torso. He then pushes against the right hand – the one Kotoshogiku is still latched onto – for a yori-kiri. Excellent match, and Endo gets a kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo and Tochinoshin… what is a yusho-related bout doing here, so early in the day? Well, Ichinojo and Tochinoshin grab at each other’s mawashi right off the tachiai. It’s a migi-yotsu and both of them have firm mawashi grips on both sides. So who’s going to be stronger? For a moment it looks undecided, but Ichinojo loses his left hand grip, and Tochinoshin goes for the kill. Ichinojo sticks to the tawara – good boy! But Tochinoshin applies some sideways force and gets Ichinojo out. Titanic.

ichinojo-tochinoshin
Note to self: don’t try tsuri-dashi again on this guy

Hokutofuji comes in strong at Yoshikaze. The man in the green mawashi seems not to have completely recovered from yesterday’s Force-choke. Hokutofuji finally gets to show the sumo he became famous for. Oshidashi.

Chiyotairyu overwhelms Takakeisho who once again finds himself flying off the dohyo (and into Arawashi’s lap). Oshitaoshi.

Shodai once again comes straight off the tachiai into a morozashi. But Tamawashi gets himself released and answers with an expert tsuppari attack that sends Shodai outside, looking for his kachi-koshi elsewhere.

Arawashi, still suffering the effects of a Takakeisho bomb landing on him, has to suffer yet again as the Takayasu locomotive slams into him. Boom! Seismographs around Tokyo register a level 3 tremor while the Eagle flies into Goeido’s arms. Sitting on the East side of the dohyo today has been a serious health risk. Takayasu gets double digits for the first time since his Ozeki run.

Goeido gets a grip on Okinoumi‘s body and pushes forward, though it looks half-hearted. Gets his 7th win. Will try to get his kachi-koshi vs. Mitakeumi tomorrow.

And now, the musubi-no-ichiban. It’s a bit of an anti-climax as we already know that Tochinoshin maintained his lead. But let’s see…

Mitakeumi just lifts the Yokozuna’s upper part with his left hand and pushes forward. Kakuryu finds himself backpaddling again. And out again. And… the yusho flies away, probably never to return.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day13

The Yokozuna has his Yokozuna kachi-koshi, that’s true. But this crumble at money time is bound to raise murmurs among the YDC this Monday. One of the guys on Twitter wrote something along the lines of: “In the first few days, all my friends were saying Kakuryu stands up to pressure much better than Harumafuji. I had to nod. But now we can see the real difference, because Harumafuji’s nerves held up much better once the yusho was on the table”.

The Yokozuna still has a couple of days to improve his score. But the chances that Tochinoshin will drop two consecutive bouts are very slim. And who knows if it’s the Yokozuna who’ll be doing the playoff with him if that happens.

Yusho Arasoi:

Leader (12-1): M3 Tochinoshin

Chasers (10-3):

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Ozeki Takayasu

Tomorrow those two face each other, and oh boy, Takayasu looks much better at the moment.

So, start learning about Georgia, because it sure looks like the Emperor’s Cup is going there right now.

 

Day 10 – Sanyaku crumbling

As two thirds of the basho are behind us, things start to boil up… or crash down. Let’s start at the bottom. Enho gets matched with Wakamotoharu, who certainly doesn’t want to lose, in a bout that produces one of the most beautiful sumo photos I’ve seen in a while:

enho-wakamotoharu

Here is the One And Only version:

And here is the TV version (C/O Kimihiro Suzuki):

Wakamotoharu looks pretty frustrated at being the receiving end of this shitatehineri. Enho gets his third win and gets closer to a kachi-koshi. One And Only seems to expect him to be in Juryo next basho, but the top of Makushita is very, very hot at the moment.

And hey, Enho didn’t dive head first off the dohyo this time!

Another Tachiai favorite has returned to the dohyo today. This one after a flu-related short kyujo. Please welcome Shunba!

Shunba looks so genki he nearly bounces up the dohyo. Keep up the good work!

However, not all of my favorite fare as well. Torakio continues his downfall:

He seems to have hurt his elbow, and now something about his shoulder as well? Hmmm… not good.

 

So, let’s climb up to Makuuchi.

The first bout features a visitor from Juryo, Azumaryu, facing Ryuden. The two take their time synchronizing their breath for the tachiai. When it finally starts, although Azumaryu gets the inside grip, Ryuden gets an outside one on the same side, and pushes him out without much resistance.

Abi (who has the curious habit of arranging his butt strap right on camera when he goes to the salt corner) starts off as usual vs Yutakayama, with some fierce tsuppari. But Yutakayama somehow picks on Abi’s bandaged arm, and this seems to throw Peter Pan off course completely, and he finds himself down from the dohyo in short order.

yutakayama-abi

Takekaze finally manages to land a W, vs. Ishiura, with a quick push down – no henka. Hatakikomi.

takekaze-ishiura
Sumo, Ishiura, not artistic gymnastics

Sokokurai starts with a harite and an ottsuke vs. Nishikigi. He manages to secure a right-hand outside grip, while Nishikigi secures his own left hand on Sokokurai’s mawashi.  Nishikigi can’t get an outside grip on Sokokurai’s mawashi, and in the grip battle that ensues, eventually it’s Sokokurai who manages to hold both sides of Nishikigi’s mawashi, when suddenly Nishikigi turns the tables on him and gets him out by yori-kiri. Very nice match.

Kagayaki and Daiamami start their match, both pushing as hard as they can. Eventually, Daiamami throws Kagayaki to the ground, but a monoii is called: Daiamami had a foot out. You can see that Kagayaki noticed that immediately. Of course he said nothing and waited for the shimpan, who came to the right conclusion, and gave him the oshidashi.

Asanoyama seems dazed and confused. Daishomaru pushes him out almost with no resistance. Mental issues?

Daieisho starts with some strong nodowa at Tochiozan, but suddenly his arm gets stuck at an awkward angle. However, he quickly recovers from that error, and pushes Tochiozan outside before he can make anything of it. Daieisho now kachi-koshi.

Aminishiki looks well enough as he ascends the dohyo and performs his Shiko. Chiyoshoma opens with a harizashi (slap-and-grab), and Uncle looks in pain. I don’t believe it’s just the harite. He said that his “knee got in” at the Tachiai and he couldn’t put any power into it. As soon as Chiyoshoma has that grip he gently leads Aminishiki to the edge. Yori-kiri. Aminishiki is determined to continue until all four wheels drop off.

chiyoshoma-aminishiki

Chiyonokuni finally manages to scrape another win against Kotoyuki. His barrage of tsuppari quickly gets the larger man out. He really should be more than 3-7 at this point.

Kaisei has a huge weight advantage over Takarafuji. Takarafuji manages to secure his favorite grip, but Kaisei uses the Ichinojo tactic and just leans onto him. In an effort to get out of the stalemate, Takarafuji loses the grip and has to start over. He gets his hidari-yotsu again, this time without an underhand grip on Kaisei’s mawashi. But no matter, he uses that left hand inside to grab Kaisei’s arm for a sukuinage. Takarafuji is on a roll, and needs just one more win for a kachi-koshi.

Ikioi faces Chiyomaru, who pushes and then pulls and finishes the bout in the blink of an eye. According to the NHK announcer, Ikioi’s problem is not just his ankle injury, but also “lower back issues”, which I take to mean that his bulging disc is giving him trouble again. It’s really hard to do sumo with a bulging disc. Ikioi make-koshi.

Shohozan starts his bout with Endo with all guns blazing, and tries to catch Endo’s arm. Endo manages to break loose. Then there’s a barrage of tsuppari, which Endo somehow defends against and stays alive. Then Shohozan tries capturing an arm again, dragging Endo to the rim, but here Endo reverses the charges and leaves Shohozan outside for a yori-kiri.

It seems strange to see the match between Tochinoshin and Kotoshogiku this early in the day, given the level of Tochinoshin’s game lately. I have to remind myself that both are maegashira. Most sane rikishi would not want to get into a belt battle with Kotoshogiku. But we are talking about the Incredible Hulk here, and his strategy continues as usual: get one huge arm inside, one huge arm outside, get the belt, and drive. Kotoshogiku’s gaburi is no match to the Georgian Hulk.

Hokutofuji will want to forget this basho. In the final battle of the rank-and-filers, he faces Chiyotairyu, only a couple of days ago the welcome mat of the entire Makuuchi. One kachiage and a few tsuppari later, the gentleman from Hakkaku beya finds himself out by tsuki-dashi, and with a make-koshi.

Now we go up to the san-yaku matches, where rank-and-filers are wrecking havoc.

Ichinojo faces more of a problem with Takakeisho than he did with Onosho. Takakeisho has his attack-and-retreat style which prevents the boulder from getting a mawashi grip or any other kind of grip. So Ichinojo finds himself in an unfamiliar oshi territory, and for a while looks like he is trying to swat an annoying mosquito. As he tries to pull Takakeisho down, Takakeisho advances and nearly gets the mountain off balance, but Ichinojo is very careful about his center of (ultra) gravity this tournament. They go on, and Takakeisho tries a sidestep to usher the boulder out, but the side that he stepped to still includes Ichinojo’s arm. And that arm just takes Takakeisho along for the trip before its owner starts the journey himself. The result of all this mess is the Takanohana man lying in a heap at the bottom of the dohyo, only one loss away from a make-koshi.

The next bout is supposed to be Onosho-Yoshikaze. But the Komusubi is kyujo, and won’t be a komusubi next time. In fact, other than Mitakeumi, who will probably stay Sekiwake once again, it appears that there will be a purge in the lower sanyaku, and this time there will be a lot less of a logjam for the available slots. Two more wins for our boulder and he is Komusubi for sure. Though maybe for him they should change it from “komusubi” (小結 – small knot) to “omusubi” (大結 – big knot), or even “kyomusubi” (巨結 – “giant knot”). 🙂

Moving right along, Arawashi got to meet Mitakeumi who was trying to maintain his position in the hunt group. Arawashi seems to want to get Mitakeumi’s mawashi on the left side, but at the second attempt, his right arm is already folding around Mitakeumi’s left, for an arm-bar throw – tottari. Mitakeumi finds himself face down at the dohyo’s corner.

arawashi-mitakeumi

Shodai bounces back from the loss that frustrated him so much yesterday. Straight from the tachiai he gets a morozashi on Goeido and drives forward. He does lose one of those arms as Goeido tries to create some kind of a throw, but gets a good mawashi hold and forces the Ozeki out.

Takayasu, the other Ozeki, stares hard at Tamawashi as they get ready for the tachiai. Takayasu’s kachiage happens to hit Tamawashi’s face. A hard tsuppari exchange ensues, and eventually Takayasu pushes the sekiwake out of the ring. Tamawashi one loss away from a make-koshi.

And in the musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu starts of with the low tachiai he has been sporting of late, and gaining many compliments for. No grip at first, but drives Okinoumi back. Then gets his hand on Okinoumi’s mawashi with his right hand, and that’s about the end of Okinoumi. Kakuryu just swings him out, as one of the comments said on one of the previous days, “with a mighty hand and outstretched arm”.

The Yokozuna finally secures his “Yokozuna kachi koshi”. Now he’ll be facing some harder opponents. Or are they? The sanyaku seems to be a mess. Nobody with a kachi-koshi yet, some nearing make-koshi.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Yusho Arasoi

  • 10-0: Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • 9-1: M3 Tochinoshin
  • 8-2: M13 Daieisho

Ones to Watch: Hatsu 2018 Midpoint

While much of the conversation of the past week has been about how the Kakuryu-meter runneth over, the basho has been in full swing for the folks that we don’t get to see on the highlights every day, so let’s catch up on the Ones to Watch for Hatsu and see how we’re doing. As a reminder, we picked up 17 kachi-koshi and 2 yusho from our Kyushu picks, and well, that might be a bit of a challenge this time.

As some of you will know, I was at Day 2 of the basho earlier this past week and so, for this first time, we’ve got some of our own video to add as well. I had a great vantage point but was surrounded by some elderly friends of the site who walked in front of the camera a few times, so please don’t mind them. They were having a great time too, and newcomers to sumo have much to learn from seasoned fans who like to get there early and cheer enthusiastically for the good matches that they can take in at the lower levels.

Makushita

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – We’re now at the stage, with so many of our picks involved in similar areas of the banzuke, that success here is going to look like 4 and 5 win records rather than 6 and 7. And that’s ok, as I suspect Enho would be happy with a kachi-koshi at this stage where he sits at 2-2 after 8 days. He exacted revenge over Jokoryu on Day 1 and picked off another of our picks, Murata on Day 8, but a disappointing loss to the inelegant (no matter which way you look at it) Akiseyama leaves him in somewhat precarious territory as he looks to continue his advancement.

Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – These guys should all be very happy with their performances. Wakamotoharu sits on 2-2 having run into some tough traffic at the top end of the division, but both his brothers are 4-0 and cruising. Let’s not waste any more words on this and instead check out some VT:

 

Here’s Wakamotoharu’s Day 2 match against our friend Takayoshitoshi. A good old fashioned grapple before he gets dumped out at the end to much cheer from the crowd, with a guest appearance from a gift-bag delivering usher.

Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – The schedule is not kind at this level and Murata has been faced with 3 talented up and comers and a rikishi who’s just been unceremoniously dumped out of Juryo in Daisedo, with a 1-3 record to show for it. He faces the equally monovictorious Jokoryu on Day 9, as he attempts to stave off a make-koshi.

Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – I feel good about this guy and caught the end of his Day 2 bought against Kiribayama (a win) and he is looking good. He sits at 3-1 and is poised for another steady move upward if he can finish the job in the next few days.

Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – If anyone knows what on earth is going on at Isegahama-beya please let us know in the comments (EDIT: a bunch of folks have got the flu. Thank you to commenter Sakura for the tip-off). We all know about what has beset the top end of their roster but a number of their lower division rikishi pulled out for a couple days in week 1, so the very promising Nishikifuji sits with a 1-2-1 record that is going to make further promotion difficult for him this time out. He gets to face Kise-beya’s one-time Juryo man Takaryu on Day 9.

Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Now we get to a nicer part of the division where 3 of our picks (Ryuko, Tomokaze and Wakatakamoto) have only lost to each other. So that’s cool and makes us look smart. He’s 3-1.

Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – See above. Tomokaze’s having a very good time of it on his debut in the division and gets matched up with Tokitsukaze’s 22 year old Hamayutaka on Day 9, who like Tomokaze is 3-1.

Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – Oh boy. Well, we were right about the pedigree being there, but sadly the Musashigawa man is off to a rough 1-3 start. I got to see him in action in person earlier this week and after two mattas it was clear there was something a little wrong with his timing and composure. He had a good old match against Mugendai though, and unfortunately ended up on the wrong side of history. Let’s take a look:

 

Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe is the 15th rikishi from Kise-beya in the Makushita division – that’s more than Miyagino has in their whole stable and even more than Isegahama have had go kyujo in this tournament! Tanabe has built a bit of a rivalry with Fukuyama but must be missing him as he has only been able to muster a 2-2 start. He gets 21 year old Nakazono from Nishonoseki-beya on Day 9.

Sandanme

Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama is on the brink of promotion and he’s got 3 chances to find the 2 wins to do it and join Tanabe in the next division as he’s 2-2. He’s had the misfortune to run into the streaking Aonosho who looks like he may contend for the yusho here.

Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – A few commenters mentioned that Torakio would be more likely than Shoji to compete for the yusho at this level, despite Shoji going 2 for 2. His hopes of matching Enho’s hot 3-yusho start have been thoroughly quashed with a rude awakening and a 1-3 start. He needs to be perfect from here on out if he is to continue progressing.

Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Kotokumazoe had been on a hot comeback run but he seems to have hit an icy patch as well, as he is also 1-3. We won’t see him in action again until at least Day 10.

Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – As Herouth has covered elsewhere in the past few days, something seems not right about Torakio at the moment and after a couple wins he’s cooled off to a 2-2 start. Hopefully he can recapture his spark and give himself a nice boost up a division that’s proving difficult for our picks.

Jonidan

Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Well this is more like it. The Tachiai favorite has shown some much developed sumo to start 2018 and that in itself fills us with much encouragement for his progress. Then you look at his 4-0 start and wonder how far he can go. As Bruce has covered, he gets Tomozuna’s Kaiho on Day 9.

Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The Amatsu comeback continues apace as only Hayashi has been able to stop him so far. He’s 3-1 and in action Day 9 against 22 year old Nakao of Onoe-beya. The only question seems at the moment to be whether we will stick or twist next time out and continue to follow the comeback story of a veteran of relatively advanced age.

Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – “Mike” Hayashi’s off to a 4-0 flyer this time and looking good. He gets Fujihisashi on Day 9 and should he and Wakaichiro win, it’s not out of the question we may see them in action against each other yet in this basho. But hopefully they can both pull it off and we can go from there.

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – We loved the projections of the “beastly” Yoshoyama but he’s having a really rough debut tournament. I thought it would not be a shock for him to grab the yusho but he’s been getting handled and his second match loss to Shinfuji was ugly. He may do well to repeat the level.

Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – At least we got one pick to click at this level! The Sadogatake man is winning with very little effort right now and so as he gets matched up with stronger rikishi, we’ll see if he can carry on and win the title. It’s difficult to say if he actually looks good because he really hasn’t been pushed.

And of course there’s Hattorizakura – winless, but managing to put up more of a fight. Will his first win in over 70 matches come before the end of Hatsu 2018?

Day 8 – What an exciting “nakabi”!

The 8th day of a basho is called “nakabi” – 中日 – “middle day”. This exciting basho produced a no-less exciting nakabi, from bottom to top!

One nakabi tradition is the presentation of shin-deshi – new wrestlers who passed their maezumo this basho. So, leading the group is the young Naya, wearing his grandfather, Taiho’s, kesho-mawashi. Third, in the yellow kesho-mawashi, is Hoshoryu. No, he’s not wearing his uncle’s kesho-mawashi. That’s actually Akua’s spiffy new kesho-mawashi.

I believe this is the last we’ll see of these two for a while. Now they have to work hard to make promise reality.

Once again, I give you Hattorizakura. No, he still hasn’t managed to win, but the boy is showing real tenacity of late, and I’m sure that win is going to come:

This bout was nearly 2 minutes long!

Now, how long do you think Enho can hold on without breathing? His bout today was certainly an attempt to answer that question:

Talk about David and Goliath… By the way, that yobidashi who calls their names in the beginning sure has an impressive voice.

And what is happening with Torakio? Does he have the flu or what? His bout today was… somewhat disappointing:

Ouch.

Up we go to Makuuchi.

Abi decided to start the Makuuchi bouts with a flying henka. Attempts to pull Daiamami down, but it doesn’t work, so he works in some of his usual tsuki-oshi. Daiamami ends out flying outside for a tsuki-dashi. If you’re so strong, Abi, why do you have to henka?

Takekaze continues to slip slidin’ away. Yutakayama is lucky that the veteran is in such dire straits. He can’t seem to find his footing anymore. Too bad.

Sokokurai, on the other hand, finally shows some of the effects of experience. Keeps Ishiura‘s head away from his body. Ishiura tries to grab him by the arm. Doesn’t work. Holds Ishiura at arm’s length by his shoulders, but Ishiura manages to land his head in for his specialty torpedo… only Sokokurai grabs his mawashi from above, squats, and Ishiura finds himself on his knees.

Asanoyama manages to get a quick grip at Kagayaki. With Asanoyama being the yotsu man and Kagayaki the tsuki-oshi man, you’d think this favors Asanoyama. But Kagayaki is the one who lands a convincing uwatenage and Asanoyama finds himself on all fours and says bye-bye to the yusho race.

Now that we know that Daiamami pulls at his nose in his prebout, let’s introduce you to Ryuden‘s pre-bout routine: ragdoll on springs. He shakes and bounces. Kotoyuki starts this bout with an oshi attack, but bouncy-ball Ryuden bounces back from the tawara, gets a grip on Kotoyuki and yori-kiris him.

Daishomaru  makes short work of Nishikigi in the battle of the bottle-green mawashis, simply overpowering the Isenoumi man.

And in the bout of the wine-red mawashis, Daieisho puts an end to Chiyomaru‘s little series of wins. Comes at the eternally-round Kokonoe man from below and pushes him right out despite his tsuppari.

Takarafuji fights Shohozan for a grip – it’s really fascinating to see the battle of arms down there below their chests. The Isegahama heya-gashira (highest ranking deshi in a heya… yes… he is…) lands first a right-hand-outside, then his favorite left-hand-inside. From this point it’s all Takarafuji, in a battle of two very muscular men. We keep laughing at Takarafuji for having no neck, but the man certainly has shoulders and arms. Takarafuji: “I’m glad I broke out of my consecutive loss habit”.

Kaisei gets a firm grip on Ikioi‘s mawashi. Ikioi tries for a morozashi, but fails to get one before being pushed out. Apparently he has an ankle injury, which may serve as an explanation for his really bad form this basho.

Chiyonokuni tries every trick in the book against Okinoumi. First tsuppari, nodowa, then grabs on to Okinoumi’s arm. Tries a trip. Then finally he pulls at Okinoumi’s neck for a hatakikomi. The shimpan call a monoii, questioning whether Chiyonokuni may have pulled on Okinoumi’s mage. It looked like it from one angle – but no, the replay is very clear. Konosuke is right as usual, and Chiyonokuni got his white star fair and square.

Tochiozan doesn’t wait much time before landing Endo on the floor. Endo’s sumo is not stable.

Now, the next match was between Chiyoshoma and Arawashi. I have to say, though some pictures make them look very similar, I don’t really see why people will be confused between them. Anyway, Chiyoshoma on his fast attack, going for a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab) again,  then helps Arawashi out with his knee. Yori-kiri.

Tochinoshin got Yoshikaze today. Yoshikaze wisely not letting the Incredible Hulk anywhere near his Mawashi. So Tochinoshin just runs a tsuppari attack, which turns out to be effective and Yoshikaze finds himself out. Tochinoshin keeps himself in the chaser group.

tochinoshin-yoshikaze

Tochinoshin: “I just couldn’t grab the mawashi. So with my heart thumping I went for the tsuppari.”

Next we had two tadpoles meeting – Hokutofuji and Onosho. This was a push-me-pull-you bout which ended with Hokutofuji on his knees. Personally, I don’t like that sumo. Red mawashi comes on top. Hokutofuji not having the best basho of his life.

Mitakeumi, with 7-0, got intimate with the Mongolian boulder, Ichinojo, who quite quickly got a left hand outside. Mitakeumi works hard to deny Ichinojo the right hand inside on his mawashi, and tries to be patient. But patience doesn’t necessarily pay when you have 215kg leaning on you. Ichinojo can sleep riding a horse. He can also sleep leaning. Eventually Ichinojo wakes up, decides Mitakeumi is not so warm and fluffy that he should stay there much longer, and pushes the sekiwake to the edge. Mitakeumi drops to the chaser group.

mitakeumi-ichinojo

Tamawashi finally looks a little more like a sekiwake, pushing Kotoshogiku quickly away. I suspect the coconut clash there at the beginning might have had something to do with it. Tamawashi has had his skull rattled rather a lot this basho, I hope this doesn’t have long lasting effects.

Goeido goes into a nirami-ai (staredown) with Chiyotairyu right when they are supposed to be matching their breaths. This backfires, and Chiyotairyu gets his first on-dohyo win in this basho, giving the Ozeki the same de-ashi (forward-moving sumo) he usually gives his opponents when he boots up in the proper mode.

Takayasu is matched with another tadpole – Takakeisho – and decides to do some tadpole sumo. Push, pull, and now it’s Takakeisho on all fours. Did I mention that I don’t like this sumo? Anyway, the big bear wins. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, he opened up with a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab). Do you want to be a yokozuna, Takayasu?

Finally, the musubi-no-ichiban. Could the new Shodai dent the invincible Kakuryu’s dragon scales? The tachiai looks pretty convincing, and Shodai begins to advance, but by his second step Kakuryu has a secure overarm grip on his mawashi, and just pulls. Pulls so hard, in fact, that Shodai finds himself flat on his face, and Kakuryu is checking to see if his elbow is still connected.

kakuryu-shodai

Michinoku oyakata, who served as Abema TV’s commentator for today, is asked about Kakuryu’s performance following his kyujo issues and all. He says “His sumo is much better than it was before he went kyujo”. Kakuryu hasn’t had a 8-0 opening since he won his last yusho in Kyushu 2016.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Our kakuryumeter remains the same, full to the top. The papers make much of the fact that Kakuryu secured his kachi-koshi, but we all know that this is not a Yokozuna kachi-koshi just yet, and Kakuryu himself says “I don’t care about that, there are 7 days to go”.

Yusho arasoi

8-0: Yokozuna Kakuryu.

7-1:

  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M13 Daieisho

But tomorrow this chaser list will be down to no more than two, with Mitakeumi facing Tochinoshin.

Day 5 – New Hopes, Dashed Hopes

So let’s start at the very bottom.

naya-hoshoryu
Naya and Hoshoryu – didn’t look like maezumo

There are mae-zumo bouts in every tournament. They usually pass almost unobserved, with only the sumo database to recall them from oblivion. But this tournament, we have two sublime scions who promise to make sumo interesting 10 years from now.

These are, of course, Taiho’s grandchild, Naya (who also happens to be Takatoriki’s son, but that fact is not paraded on TV and the press as much), and Hoshoryu, formerly known as Byambasuren, Asashoryu’s nephew.

And today, these two were matched against each other.

Hoshoryu is certainly channeling his uncle there when the gunbai points to his rival. Anyway, this looks a lot better than maezumo usually is.

Moving up a little bit, Torakio suffered his first loss today, after two wins.

The technique is not quite there yet.

And unfortunately, my main man Terutsuyoshi also suffered his first loss, in the battle of the former sekitori with Yago:

A valiant attempt at an ipponzeoi there at the end, but Yago had him from the get-go.

Let’s get up to Makuuchi, then. It was my day off today, so I was able to watch some live sumo for the first time. I caught the stream (Abema TV + VPN) right when Kakuryu was finishing his dohyo-iri. I must say I prefer the NHK broadcasts (which I got to watch recorded, never live). Too much stuff on the screen obscures the view, and the “female guests” that they promised only enhance the image of the “stupid broad who doesn’t understand sports and needs to be told basic things”. Bah.

But all this doesn’t make for bad sumo, right? So let’s go through the bouts:

Asanoyama got a Juryo rival today, Kyokutaisei, who was not really a match for the revamped Asanoyama. Yorikiri within the blink of an eye.

Ishiura was impressive in the first three days but now seems to be slumping back. We’ll have to see if he really improved when the sample size grows a bit. Ryuden did not let him do anything, really, and rebalanced his score a bit.

Daiamami, tells us Abema TV, has a pre-bout routine in which he pulls at his nose. Hmm… I prefer Arawashi’s salty mawashi. His bout with Yutakayama starts with some tsuppari, he follows with a nodowa. Yutakayama overcommits as he pushes him forward, but who got out first? Quite a long monoii ensues, and although Yutakayama was already flying out of control, Daiamami touched first, so Yutakayama gets the oshidashi win.

Nishikigi seemed to be in control of the bout, but Daieisho circled, causing Nishikigi to lose balance and winning by hatakikomi.

Abi and Kagayaki are of the same age. Abi just advanced from Juryo, and Kagayaki has more Makuuchi experience and looked strong in the beginning of the basho. He also has a slight height advantage over the Shikoroyama Peter Pan. But all of this list of advantages doesn’t do much for the buxom rikishi, as Abi moves quickly and pulls him down for a hikiotoshi.

Takekaze‘s game plan has been pulling down Daishomaru. Tried once, didn’t work, tried again. Tsukiotoshi and the old man’s first win this basho.

Sokokurai can’t seem to produce whatever magic he produced in Juryo. Kotoyuki pushes him out very easily for a tsukidashi.

Shohozan and Chiyomaru start with a tsuppari barrage, but Shohozan tries to get a mawashi grip. Chiyomaru evades and evades, but eventually Shohozan catches on and pushes him towards the edge. Chiyomaru only manages to stop himself when his toes are already outside. Hikiotoshi.

Now, the Aminishiki vs. Chiyonokuni battle did not look good. First, there’s Uncle Sumo’s sumo. I mean, it isn’t there. He can’t catch a grip on his rivals nape for one of the pull downs he likes, and he can’t get inside for a mawashi grip. But the worst part is that as Chiyonokuni rolls him to the exactly same corner when he ended up yesterday,  Uncle lands badly and hurts his right leg – the one with the snapped ligament and the brace. He had to go to the shitaku-beya leaning on someone’s shoulder. He will make a decision whether to go kyujo or not tomorrow morning.

aminishiki-hurt
Aminishiki. Couldn’t get back on the dohyo for the bow.

Next to Kaisei, Chiyoshoma looks like a teen. However, after he finishes his Harumafuji-like shikiri, they both struggle for a mawashi grip. Chiyoshoma gets a secure shitate grip, and uses it for a shitatenage. Once Kaisei is on the floor, Chiyoshoma gives him a helping hand up. Now that’s the Chiyoshoma I want to see.

Tochiozan doesn’t manage to get any grip on Ikioi, and starts to back away as Ikioi pushes, but then manages to catch at Ikioi’s neck and pull him down for a hatakikomi.

In the battle of the “Ikemen” (manly men), Okinoumi just can’t repeat his success from the previous basho. Endo fights him for the grip, and they end up in a hidari-yotsu, but apparently Endo’s hold is stronger and he pushes relentlessly for the yori-kiri.

Takarafuji, however, is back in the land of white stars. Arawashi doesn’t seem to even pose a problem for him. A harite, a nodowa, and an oshi-dashi. This despite the TV team (Kasugano oyakata commentating) speaking at length about the type of yotsu each of them prefers.

Shodai gets a good grip on Ichinojo, and proves to him that even mountains can be moved. Losing to Shodai, Ichinojo? Ichinojo gets his favorite grip first, but Shodai manages to switch grips without penalty, gets him all the way to the edge, and then dances a bit on the tawara and lets Ichinojo’s momentum do the rest. The Yokozuna must be thinking “Is it that easy?”.

BTW, In the “fun facts” box on Abema TV, they wrote that Ichinojo can sleep on the back of a horse. The TV team – especially Kasugano oyakata – start to crack jokes about the poor horses in Mongolia and Ichinojo’s weight…

What was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, the tadpole battle, ended up with Takakeisho doing the splits within seconds, and Onosho with another easy win.

Mitakeumi and Tamawashi get into a pushing battle. But Mitakeumi is the stronger one of these two, and Tamawashi can do nothing but retreat until he’s out.

Although he lost to Hokutofuji twice already, in addition to one fusen, Takayasu is fearless as he comes to the dohyo today. Takayasu combines a mawashi grip with oshi, and expertly gets Hokutofuji out in an oshidashi. Keeps himself within one loss of the leader group.

Now, Tochinoshin‘s bout with Goeido is one for the history books. Kasugano oyakata at the commentator seat looked like a cat who swallowed a bowl of cream. At first, the two battled for a grip, each denying the other his hold and looking for his own opening. Tochinoshin managed to secure a firm grip, and started pushing Goeido relentlessly towards the tawara. Goeido didn’t go out without a fight, though, and tried a leg trip. Tochinoshin maintained perfect balance, and kept applying his unbelievable force. Goeido joins Takayasu in the “1 behind” group. Great match.

tochinoshin-goeido

Kakuryu keeps sailing from one bout to the next with poise and hinkaku… Chiyotairyu is really no match, as Kakuryu gets a grip on him right off the tachiai and lifts and pushes, lifts and pushes until the Sumo Elvis passes the bales. I was relieved to see that Kakuryu’s attempt at gaburi-yori yesterday vs. Ichinojo (didn’t work, he had to change tactics and move the mountain sideways to win) did not cause him to wake up this morning with his back wrecked again. Keep up the good work, Yokozuna!

And now, to the musubi-no-ichiban. The last bout of the day. Yokozuna Kisenosato vs. Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze. And the man in the green mawashi was not giving the crippled Yokozuna an inch of slack. Yoshikaze tried a pulldown at first, then got into a morozashi, and dropped him unceremoniously off the dohyo. He went down to offer him a hand up, which Kisenosato rejected. Things are not looking good for the one-year-old Yokozuna.

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day5

So Hakuho is out for repairs, Kisenosato has a serious kinboshi leak, and only Kakuryu is in a state of “Need a Yokozuna? I’m right here!”.

Yusho Arasoi

The leader list is now down to four:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

(Asanoyama? “Been there, done that, got the sansho”)

Ones to Watch: Hatsu 2018

Enho

Real sumo starts back up again on Sunday, and while we wait with anticipation to see what will happen on the return of some of the premiere stars of the sport, there will be a whole lot of rikishi mounting the dohyo early on in the day, and some of them belong to the next generation of superstars. With that, it’s the return of our Ones to Watch series where we highlight 20 upcoming rikishi from the bottom 4 divisions (and one other special friend of Tachiai).

This time, a slot opens up due to the promotion of Ones to Watch alum Mitoryu of Nishikido-beya, who makes his Juryo debut amid much fanfare. Descriptions here may be somewhat abbreviated as your humble correspondent needs to get on with the business of boarding a plane and going to the basho, but we’ll continue to check in with these guys throughout the tournament and see how they’re getting on, with further analysis.

Finally, as we’ve been following some of these guys for several tournaments now and they’ve repaid our faith by performing well, this month’s set of picks is very Makushita-heavy.

Makushita

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – There’s only one place to start. Miyagino-beya has been involved in some strange controversies in the last few weeks but the good news is that this man continues his trajectory. After acing his first 3 tournaments, he put up a solid 5 win record in November and finds himself nearer the cusp of the sekitori ranks.

However, here’s where things start to get really interesting: his match-ups this time will likely come from a combination of yo-yo rikishi who have bounced up and down from Juryo, grizzled vets trying to make it back to the big time and fellow members of the next huge wave of up-and-comers (more of whom, imminently). Not that he didn’t have solid rivals last time out at Ms14, but I anticipate this tournament will be his first real test.

Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – The three brothers Onami and stablemates (who also all took/changed shikona in the last year presumably in tribute to their grandfather Wakabayama) have all taken up places for the first time towards the upper reaches of the Makushita division. We’ve put Wakatakakage under the spotlight as the university man with some pedigree has flown up the divisions, but he suffered his first make-koshi last time out. Will any of these men reach the next level – and if so, who will reach it first?

Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – We’ve been measuring Murata against Wakatakakage who debuted at the same time and more or less matched his records over several basho, but now it’s time to split them up. I was impressed with how Murata rebounded from a narrow make-koshi last time out to post a sterling 6-1 record and bound into the division’s top 10, but even more impressive was how he easily despatched the much heralded Shonannoumi in so doing.

Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He had been blitzing his way up the banzuke and I had even tipped him as a sleeper yusho candidate last time out before he came a little unstuck and scraped a narrow 4-3. His match against Kiribayama is going to be interesting, and he’ll likely come up against our next man as well. This part of the banzuke always has an odd collection of mostly declining veterans and rikishi whose peak will be this level with the odd talented youngster thrown in and I’d like to see a more emphatic kachi-koshi here this time out.

Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Here’s one of the bright spots for Isegahama-oyakata, as this man just continues his fast progress and the 21 year old put up his best record in 5 tournaments as he cruised to a 6 win basho last time out. As with Ichiyamamoto, how he navigates a mixed bag of opponents will determine how quickly he can join a pretty solid collection of rikishi in challenging for Juryo.

Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Ryuko celebrates his anniversary in sumo here having never put up less than 5 wins. I think he will be challenged to continue this impressive feat this time out, as actually this area of the ranking sheet looks a bit tougher to me than where Ichiyamamoto and Nishikifuji find themselves. The 19 year old is off to a great, solid start to his career.

Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – An almost spotless opening to Tomokaze’s career has him 20-1 with two yusho. Now he takes on the 3rd division and will face some challenging rikishi (I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t run into Ryuko) in his bid to further clog up the Juryo promotion queue.

Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – I really hemmed and hawed about whether I wanted to include him, and his heavy oshi- attack is a little rough around the edges, but I just have a good feeling here. The rank feels good for him and while the results by the numbers haven’t been especially spectacular, I think he’s a good follow for a few tournaments. Obviously, the pedigree is there.

Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Kise-beya needs some good news and it’s possible that Tanabe’s promotion to Makushita might be the start of it. Obviously there are an enormous number of rikishi ahead of him just within the stable both inside and outside of this division but I like his match ups at this level. He has done exceptionally well so far and has managed to break apart from Fukuyama who had managed to stay ranked in front of him despite what I saw as slightly poorer performance.

Sandanme

Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama gets his third crack at a division where he’s finally unlikely to have to face his bogeyman Tanabe any longer (Tanabe won all 3 of their match-ups). Only promotion will do this time out.

Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – He’s 2 for 2 so far with a perfect record, despite the fact that rival Torakio has really pushed him to the max. Now he competes to match Enho’s stellar 3 straight yusho achievement from last year. This will be a tougher challenge. Also I’m interested to see what state his hair is in when he turns up this time.

Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – There are so many Sadogatake rikishi in this division including the fabulously named Kotozensho, but this man repaid our faith as he continued his comeback from a long injury layoff last time off and again the rank here feels good for success.

Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – Oh boy. Torakio is a fireball with massive strength and even a bit of a temper as we saw last time out after his match with Shoji, and now he takes a crack at a new division at the bottom end where anything can happen. The big question for me is whether he can run his record to 6-0 and end up running into Shoji again, though this time I expect that will depend more on Shoji. If he has been performing well in training and continuing his progress, then I think we’re going to see a BIG tournament from the Bulgarian this time.

 

Jonidan

Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – The debut in Sandanme wasn’t what we all hoped at Tachiai, but a strong tournament here may reverse his fortunes and send him back up – or close to it.

Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The 27 year old’s comeback after an extremely long layoff started well last time out as he notched 6 wins and earned a promotion. How far can he go?

Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – The debut basho was mostly a success for the half-Filipino “Mike” Hayashi. His utter dismantling of the also promoted Bando (one of Izutsu’s few rikishi) was a fun watch but he won multiple matches in similar fashion and it’ll be interesting to see him come up against hopefully stronger competition.

 

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – If you liked the way that Hayashi manhandled most of the opposition in his debut, then you’re going to love Yoshoyama, who makes his bow here and has been described as “enormous” and “a beast.” He makes his debut presumably a tournament ahead of fellow hotly tipped Mongolian Byambasuren and by all accounts it’s going to be fun to watch these two climb the banzuke. I’m going to be very surprised not to see a yusho here.

Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – Another debutant rolls off the Sadogatake production line. This isn’t a pick made looking massively down the line but rather one specifically for this tournament – Kototebakari has a sizeable mass advantage over most of his twig-like competitors at the level and having breezed through maezumo, it will be interesting to see how his match with Yoshoyama goes as it will maybe even give somewhat of an indication to how the Mongolian can deal with more developed rikishi at higher levels.

Our bonus is the man at Jk24, Hattorizakura, who enters the tournament again ranked above two rikishi and looking to avoid what would be a tenth consecutive winless tournament.