For all of the sumo fans that were able to watch the lower division action on day 13 were treated to a prime example of why I consider the lower ranks, with specific focus on the Makushita joi, the most brutal part of sumo. Many rikishi are at 3-3, and will throw all caution to the win to get that 4th win and secure their kachi-koshi. We saw a lot more dives off the dohyo, and people coming back up looking pained than in all the prior days combined. That will continue day 14 as some of the last of our rikishi finish out their Haru matches.
In the yusho races, Both Terunofuji and Roga won their bouts, finishing the tournament with perfect 7-0 records. They will meet on day 15 for a tie-breaker match, which will decide the yusho. Naya lost his match against the higher ranked Churanoumi, but finished with a stellar 6-1. We will see him much higher on the banzuke for May. And just to make sure the universe still works as expected, Hattorizakura finished the basho with a flawless 0-7 record.
Terunofuji’s day 13 win, he throws Sadatsuyoshi like a sack of fertilizer.
Day 14 Matches
Hoshoryu vs Kaisho – One of the deadly 3-3 bracket matches, this pits fan favorite Hoshoryu against Makushita 4 Kaisho. This is a Darwin match, with the winner kachi-koshi, and the loser make-koshi. All stops will be off for this match, and I expect a throw-down of epic proportions
Midorifuji vs Hokaho – Another dreaded Darwin match, this time these two are also settling a 1-1 career record. Both of their prior matches featured them tossing each other about with vigor. Given their speed and mobility, it could get brutal.
Wakaichiro vs Hokutoshin – Our own favorite Texan, Wakaichiro, is in a Darwin match as well, against a hefty fellow from Hakkaku heya named Hokutoshin. Winner advances, loser probably ends up in Jonidan.
Many of our “Ones to Watch” were competing day 10 in Osaka, with Hoshoryu picking up his second win, improving to 2-3 in a lengthy match that saw both rikishi struggle for a dominant position. Although it seems to me that Hoshoryu is getting frustrated by the fierce competition in the Makushita joi, the struggle will improve his sumo. It also gives Naya a chance to catch up, as Otake heya yusho hopeful goes into his day 11 yusho elimination match. We are also happy to point out that Wakaichiro managed to pick up his third win with a recovery at the tawara after his balance almost sent him over the edge.
We also have Terunofuji returning to continue his Jonidan yusho bid, and Amakaze competing as well. It’s a full slate for day 11, so grab something to snack on, fire up the stream from Japan and enjoy the lower divisions.
Day 11 Matches
Midorifuji vs Tochinobori – Midorifuji will be looking to pick up win #3, and draw even prior to his final match for Haru. A loss today would mean make-koshi, and a trip down the banzuke for May. His opponent today is Kasugano heya’s Tochinobori, who won their only prior match.
Wakatakamoto vs Kaito – Wakatakamoto has already locked in his kachi-koshi, and now he’s just seeing if he can run up the score. He has two brothers to join in the salaried ranks, and it seems to have motivated him. Day 11 he faces Kaito, who he has a 2-1 career lead against.
Musashikuni vs Horyuyama – Musashikuni is looking to avoid a second straight make-koshi in 2019, and needs to “win out” his remaining 2 matches. Day 11 he faces off against 167 kg (370 pound) Horyuyama. Musashikuni is no tiny fellow, but this is a lot of rikishi to battle. But Horyuyama seems to be having health problems and has been make-koshi for the last 2 basho.
Naya vs Kotoseigo – Naya continues in the yusho bracket, now at 5-0. Day 11 he takes on Makushita 58 Kotoseigo, from Sadogatake heya. Kotoseigo has had 3 extended periods where he sat out multiple tournaments, presumably for health reasons. He is currently fighting at his highest rank.
Torakio vs Baraki – The Naruto heya scion has yet to pick up even a single win for Haru. Is he injured? With lower ranked rikishi, one never gets to know. But we hope he somehow finds a reserve of genki energy and lands at least one win.
Wakaichiro vs Kasugamine – Texas’ own Wakaichiro returns to the Haru dohyo, with kachi-koshi on the line. A win today against Kasugamine would be his 4th, and jubilation would break out across the great state of Texas. As with day 10, Wakaichiro will need to overcome a sizable opponent, who outweighs him by at least 100 lbs.
Roga vs Wakayamanaka – Jonidan yusho bracket match, Mongolian rising star Roga is looking to improve to 6-0, and knock Wakayamanaka out of the race. Wakayamanaka is a former Sandanme rikishi how dropped out of sumo for a time and re-entered, whereas Roga is a young powerhouse who has yet to lose a match.
Kenho vs Sakai – In the really disappointing bracket, the already make-koshi Kenho is clearly not functioning well, and has not generated much offensive or defensive sumo during Haru. Hopefully he can survive his last 2 matches without further injury, and can recover in time for May.
Terunofuji vs Shimomura – Another Jonidan yusho elimination match; former Ozeki Terunofuji is unbeaten in his first basho back in sumo since taking an extended leave of absence to get his health under control. Although not looking quite healthy or fit, he has been fighting well and as a result is in the thick of competition for the Jonidan yusho. His competitor today is 18 year old Shimomura, who is only in his 2nd tournament as an actual ranked rikishi.
Amakaze vs Sakaefuji – Amakaze has a good day of sumo ahead. He is already kachi-koshi in his return to active sumo, and he is safe from further demotion. So the schedulers give him the gargantuan Sakaefuji for his 6th match. Amakaze is a skilled sumo practitioner, but it’s always quite a difficult to battle a human being that large.
Hattorizakura vs Sawada – Having run out of people in Jonikuchi to lose to, they have brought Hattorizakura up to Jonidan to face off against Sawada, whom has beaten him once before. Hattorizakura is my reminder that there are many paths to happiness in this world, including many I don’t understand.
We reach the end of act 2, and the yusho races are in full swing. Sadly for several of our “ones to watch” they are out of the yusho race, and some are already make-koshi. Ichiyamamoto lost his bout on day 9, and dropped out of the yusho race, but will be moving higher for May, thanks to his kachi-koshi. Meanwhile in Sandanme, Torakio is still looking for his first win of the basho. The Makushita yusho is down to 4 rikishi, and should be decided by the 7th match sometime later this week. Included in the group still in contention is none other than Naya, who returns to the dohyo and day 10.
In the Jonidan race, Terunofuji overpowered Daiyusho to improve to 5-0, and remain in the hunt. The Jonidan race is 6 rikishi wide, and that means it’s likely going to require a tie-breaking match or two. Top of the yusho race is 20 year old rising star from Mongolia, Roga. Roga has yet to lose a match in professional sumo, and took the Hatsu Jonikuchi yusho.
Day 10 Matches
Hoshoryu vs Kairyu – Its clear that young Hoshoryu is getting frustrated with his poor performance at Osaka. Some fans have pointed out a lapse in post-match manners, which is easy to improve. Given that he has had little resistance up to this point, the fact that he can’t blow through the Makushita joi may be a new enlightenment for him. But I am certain that given his fighting spirit, it’s going to drive him to train for higher levels of performance. This is a 1-3 bracket match, and the loser will get a make-koshi. In fact Hoshoryu has to “win out” to get a kachi-koshi.
Akua vs Nogami – A 2-2 bracket match, Nogami beat Akua in their only prior match. Kachi-koshi is still quite possible for Akua, and would allow him to take a step closer towards the Juryo-Makushita line, and possibly contest to return to the lime green mawashi for Nagoya.
Musashikuni vs Oki – These two have had 4 career matches against each other, and Oki has won 3 of them. Right now Mushashikuni is at 2-2, so like Akua he still has a clear, wide path to a kachi-koshi. But he is going to have to overcome Oki to get there.
Shoji vs Tagonofuji – Shoji won their only prior match. Once again the schedulers have stacked up all of the Mushashigawa clan on the same day, and most of them are 2-2! Tagonofuji is about 20kg lighter than Shoji, so I am expecting he will retain an upper hand.
Wakaichiro vs Kaorufuji – Up from Jonidan, Kaorufuji is a 180kg bunker-buster of a rikishi. As we have seen in the past, Wakaichiro is still working to figure out how to overcome the big ones, and today is another chance for him to get a win on the board. Hint to our Texas rikishi – aim for center-mass and accelerate your thrusts through his body. Oddly, visualizing the endpoint of that shove on the other side of his body seems to increase the transfer of energy….
Kenho vs Terumichi – A 1-3 bracket match, the loser will go home with a make-koshi. We hope Kenho can rally and bring his “big man sumo” out today. He has looked hurt and immobile for the past 3 matches.
A quick update on the lower divisions for day 7, another roster full of action. Day 6 action saw Amakaze, Terunofuji and Naya bring in white stars.
Akua vs Toyohibiki – Former Makuuchi mainstay Toyohibiki takes on Akua, as the next stop on Akua’s drive to return to Juryo. Toyohibiki has struggled since going kyujo from Juryo in Hatsu 2018.
Midorifuji vs Kototebakari – A 2-1 bracket match, compact powerhouse Midorifuji will face fast rising star Kototebakari from Sadogatake heya. Kototebakari has been in professional sumo for 8 basho, and has been on a rapid upward ascent. Given their size and sumo style, this could be a barn-burner match.
Musashikuni vs Takaryu – Like Musashikuni, Takaryu rose quickly into Makushita, and has been trying to find a way past “the wall”. This 2-1 bracket will see who advances, and who will struggle to get to kachi-koshi this tournament.
Naya vs Kotoryusei – This 3-0 bracket match does in fact have Makushitia yusho implications. The winner will take home a kachi-koshi on day 7 (quite a feat) and advance to the increasingly narrow yusho contender group. Naya continues to look strong, confident and absolutely sure of his sumo.
Shoji vs Hagane – A 1-2 bracket match, Musashigawa’s Shoji will be fighting to pick up his second win, and pull even for the tournament.
Wakaichiro vs Kotourasaki – Our Texan sumotori will be facing Sandanme 100 Kotourasaki from Sadogatake heya. A relative light weight (68kg), he has a Jonidan yusho to his name. After an opening win, Wakaichiro has left the dohyo disappointed for the past 2 matches. A win today would put him even for the tournament.
Terunofuji vs Teraosho – After dispatching the gargantuan Sakaefuji on day 6, Terunofuji is 3-0 for Haru, and faces a long serving lower division rikishi, Teraosho. Thus far, Terunofuji seems to be maintaining his knees well, even against truly massive opponents.
The Amakaze – Terunofuji match ended without injury, and Terunofuji was able to execute a somewhat clumsy kotenage for the win. Elsewhere, Hattorizakura did in fact lose again, even though Houn looks even more malnourished and underdeveloped than Hattorizakura, if that were possible.
Naya also picked up a win, and looked really strong doing it. He improves to a solid 2-0 start. The crowd was really into this match, and you can hear by all of the hooting and hollering in the video below:
Day 5 Matches
Ichiyamamoto vs Kaito – Both rikishi have made it to the 2-0 bracket, and this is their first ever match. Kaito is another young, hard-charging rikishi who actually had to talk almost a year off to recover from injury in 2015, and is fighting near his top ever rank. They are evenly matched in size and weight – it should be a solid bout.
Wakatakamoto vs Asakoki – Also a 2-0 bracket match, the lowest ranked Onami brother enters this rematch with Makushita mainstay Asakoki looking to advance to the increasingly narrow undefeated bracket. Asakoki holds a slight size advantage, but Wakatakamoto won their single prior match.
Musashikuni vs Tsurubayashi – An additional 2-0 bracket match in Makushita, the scion of the Musashigawa stable holds a distinct height and weight advantage over Tsurubayashi, who has been fighting in Makushita since 2012. Musashikuni does indeed seem to have overcome his injuries and physical problems, and is back to strong power-sumo.
Torakio vs Kotokino – Torakio has yet to win his first match of the basho, and he tries his luck against Sandanme 11 Kotokino. Kotokino is about 180 kg, and is a seriously bulky guy, so I expect Torakio to have his work cut out for him.
Shoji vs Koshinishiki – Another Musashigawa rikishi in action on day 5, and Shoji is looking to improve his 1-1 record against long-ranked Sandanme rikishi Koshinishiki.
Wakaichiro vs Kiryu – Our Texas sumotori, Wakaichiro, lost his day 3 match after he found himself too far forward against a skilled opponent. In their only prior match, Wakaichiro was able to defeat the much larger Kiryu via hatakikomi.
Kenho vs Fukuazuma – Kenho lost his day 4 match, and enters day 5 with a 1-1 score. At 107 kg, Fukuazuma is less than half of Kendo’s size. Kenho has terrible mobility on most days, so I expect that Fukuazuma is going to use this to his advantage.