Natsu Day 7 – Ones To Watch

Day 7 is loaded down with action for our “Ones to Watch”; it’s the middle weekend, and some of our favorites will be 4-0 by Sunday. Day 6 saw Musashikuni finally get his first win of the Basho to improve to 1-2, and hopefully put himself on the road to kachi-koshi. Elsewhere in Makushita, Wakatakamoto picked up his first win as well against Ayanoumi, while Akua lost his first to drop to 2-1. In Sandanme, Roga won to improve to 2-1, as did Shoji. Amakaze won against Hikarifuji to improve to 3-0.

Day 7 matches

Wakamotoharu vs Tamaki – Wakamotoharu finds himself in the 1-2 bracket going into the middle weekend, needing 3 more wins out of 4 matches to make kachi-koshi and likely punch his ticket back to Juryo. The problem with that plan is that out of the 3 prior matches with Tamaki, Wakamotoharu has won only one.

Kotokamatani vs Takanofuji – This 3-0 bracket match will determine who goes into the yusho playoff ladder, and it features both Makushita 2 rikishi, both of which have yet to lose. Kotokamatani has really been impressive thus far, and looks to be a good candidate for promotion, which the winner of this bout likely clinches -lksumo.

Ichiyamamoto vs Kizakiumi – What a difference a win makes, as Ichiyamamoto has 2 wins and only needs 2 more out of 4 to get to kachi-koshi. His Juryo promotion is not as certain, due to him being ranked Makushita 3, but his first goal has to be that 4th win. Okinawan Kizakiumi has rocketed up the banzuke after joining Kise heya from Nihon University’s sumo program. Ichiyamamoto is going to have his hands full.

Wakatakamoto vs Takakento – It’s an Onami brothers day of sumo, with all 3 on the dohyo during the afternoon. Wakatakamoto won the previous match against Takakento, which took place a year ago.

Akua vs Kototebakari – Kototebakari has been on a rocket ride up the banzuke since he joined Sadogatake in 2017. He is fighting at his personal highest rank ever, and could present a lot of fight to Akua, who I am convinced is still not completely recovered from his September 2018 injuries that caused him to withdraw from the Aki Basho on day 12.

Roga vs Wagurayama – After taking the first loss of his professional sumo career, Roga is back to dominating every match. Perhaps some of the pressure was relieved, and he can focus more on each match as it comes? This 2-1 bracket match means that Roga is most likely not going to contest for the Sandanme yusho, which may have also relieved some worries.

Wakaichiro vs Harimanada – After a cold 0-2 start, Wakaichiro looked like a completely different rikishi for his 3rd match, confidently launching Amamidake across the tawara and into the zabuton. With any luck we will see that kind of sumo again on day 7 as Wakaichiro goes up against Onoe heya’s Harimanada. Harimanada has never been ranked higher than Jonidan, and in fact was banzuke gai for about a year.

Kitanowaka vs Ito – Mr Fabulous takes on Ito in this Jonokuchi 3-0 match, where we will watch a former high school Yokozuna battle Saitama native Ito, a graduate of the Tokyo University of Agriculture. Will this one be less lopsided than the prior 3?

Hattorizakura vs Garyu – Good news for Garyu! He finally gets to pick up his first win. Perpetual soft sumo pro Hattorizakura shows no sign of getting fierce any time soon. It’s ok, the fans adore him.

Hatsu Day 6 – Ones To Watch

Amakaze – Keep Winning Please!

First, the day 5 action did not disappoint. For starters, Wakaichiro reverted to form and blasted Amamidake off the dohyo with little resistance from Amamidake. He advances to 1-2, and he still has a fair shot at kachi-koshi. Terunofuji made similar swift work of Komakiryu, and former high school Yokozuna Kitanowaka dispatched the helpless Yabugasaki along the same lines. For those who made it to Makushita, Midorifuji lost, Hoshoryu lost, Wakamotoharu won, as did Ichiyamamoto in his visit to Juryo – forcing out Tobizaru to improve to 2-1.

Now on to day 6, and we find the remainder of our rikishi stepping on the clay to have their 3rd match of the basho. For the undefeated, this weekend could bring the first kachi-koshi scores, and we are eagerly waiting to see if any of our favorites will make it into yusho playoff brackets.

Day 6 Matches

Wakatakamoto vs Ayanoumi – A misery match as both rikishi come to the dohyo with 0-2 records. Thankfully at least one of these guys will leave with their first win. Wakatakamoto can still get to 4 wins, but he needs to turn his sumo around and start dominating his matches.

Akua vs Kaito – On the other side of the score, we have the so far undefeated Akua, who if he can continue his momentum can put himself within range to return to the top of Makushita for Nagoya. Day 6 he faces Asakayama’s Kaito who is on a bit of a surge since Hatsu, going 5-2 for the first 2 basho of 2019.

Naya vs Ryusei – Also in the 2-0 bracket is Naya, who seems to have come to a level of comfort with his larger body, and his sumo. He faces 32 year old veteran Ryusei, who has been struggling for the past 6 months with 2 consecutive kachi-koshi scores.

Musashikuni vs Goryu – Sadly we find that Musashikuni has yet to win a single match, and day 6 is his best chance to stave off a path to make-koshi by overcoming 29 year old veteran Goryu, who is moving back up the banzuke after an extended period in Sandanme.

Roga vs Hokuyozan – Roga finds himself in the 1-1 bracket at the top third of Sandanme, and can cleanly move to Makushita should he pick up the remaining matches. Hokuyozan has struggled with 3 kyujo periods in his career, and is currently fighting at his highest ever rank.

Shoji vs Saionji – Shoji has faced Saionji before on Hatsu 2019 day 6, which he lost to Saionji. This rematch in the 1-1 bracket will put the winner in positive score going into the middle weekend of the basho. Mushashigawa heya could use some wins today, as many of their kanban rikishi are under-performing at the start of Natsu.

Amakaze vs Hikarifuji – Amakaze continues to quietly go about the business of winning matches, he comes into day 6 2-0, and frankly looking fairly sharp. Hikarifuji is a 20 year old rikishi who peaked at Sandanme 24 in January before falling down the banzuke to his current rank of Sd81.

Natsu Day 4 – Ones To Watch

After a fairly light schedule on day 3, we are back in the thick of things for day 4. Sadly Wakaichiro lost his second match after a shaky tachiai led to problems with balance and foot placement. He starts Natsu with 0-2, which I am sure is frustrating the daylights out of him. In Jonokuchi, Kitanowaka improved to 2-0 over Tokisakae. Watching Kitanowaka fight, you can see there is a great deal of potential in need of refinement. The good news is that the Hakkaku heya has a strong program, and he will have every chance to make the most out of his sumo years.

Ichiyamamoto dispatched Fujiazuma to improve to 1-1, Hoshoryu took Jokoryu apart with a yoritaoshi, and improved to 2-0 as well. In the battle of the “Ones to Watch”, Akua forced out Midorifuji to take the white start and join the 2-0 cohort, joined by Naya, who slapped down Koba. There is a lot of potential for the “Ones to Watch” to face each other even before they cross the kachi-koshi line, and the next few days may see so very exciting action in Makushita. Many of these young men may be the stars of the near future, and we could be witnessing the beginning of rivalries.

Day 4 Matches

Wakatakamoto vs Nogami – Midorifuji defeated Nogami on day 2, and now he faces another of our cohort. Nogami is close to his highest ever rank, and I am sure he is going to be a chew-toy for all of the budding sumo monsters that are stomping around the top echelon of Makushita this basho.

Musashikuni vs Higonojo – Musashikuni still looks really rough, which is a huge disappointment of his fans. Higonojo is a 34 year old former Juryo man, who is fairly far down the banzuke after taking a 7-0 Makushita yusho at Osaka 2018. Good luck Mama!

Roga vs Yamaguchi – I know a number of fans have Roga fever, and there are good reasons why. But his first ever professional sumo loss came on day 2, and hopefully it has helped re-focus the young man on the match at hand. Today he faces on of my favorites in former Maegashira and Nihon University man, Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi’s rank has been falling since he went kyujo at Hatsu 2018, and it’s likely he is fighting hurt. Good luck Roga, you may be in for a rough ride.

Terunofuji vs Kasugaryu – Terunofuji looks less pasty, flabby and worried than he did in Osaka. He seems to have some of his ring sense back, and a good measure of his aggressive fighting spirit. Kasugaryu’s highest ever rank was near the bottom of Makushita, so this may be one-sided.

Shoji vs Tokimaru – A bright spot for Mushashigawa heya is that Shoji seems to be in good health and fighting well. He faces another young, hard charging rikishi in Tokimaru, who hails from Miyagino heya, where Hakuho practices.

Amakaze vs Daishoki – I should also mention that Amakaze continues to look solid. The Oitekaze heya returnee seems to be over his physical issues, and is fighting well. He’s on a shallower climb back up the banzuke than Terunofuji, but I am liking what I see thus far.

Hattorizakura vs Yamamoto – Hattorizakura did in fact state he was going to try to achieve kachi-koshi during the Reiwa era. These eras can last a few decades, so don’t try to set your calendar by Hattorizakura’s prediction.

Natsu Day 1 – Ones To Watch

Kitanowaka’s Ready For His First Match As A Rikishi

We start the Natsu basho with a light schedule of our “Ones to Watch”, with most of the first matches for our favorites coming day 2. But the schedulers are still kicking off the Makushita doom brawl in proper style. Let’s get straight to the matches

Wakamotoharu vs Kotokamatani – After his Juryo debut make-koshi, Onami brother Wakamotoharu simply needs a winning record to stamp his return ticket to the paid ranks. But at this level of competition this will be no easy matter. His opening match is against rising star Kotokamatani, who has been on a steady upward climb through the upper strata of Makushita.

Wakatakamoto vs Chiyosakae – More Onami sumo! This time the lowest ranked of the Waka brothers faces off against Chiyosakae, a long-serving Makushita veteran who is fighting at his highest rank after 40 tournaments in sumo’s 3rd highest division.

Akua vs Ayanoumi – We have been following Akua for the past several tournaments, and he seems to still be struggling to put his sumo back together after withdrawing from the 2018 Aki basho due to injury. Today he will face off against Ayanoumi, who has foregone the typical sumo bulk in favor of strength and agility.

Amakaze vs Taranami – The former Juryo mainstay will face a 17 year old Taranami, who is fighting at his highest ever rank. Only in his 13th basho, Amakaze may find Taranami a fairly straightforward opponent, as long as Amakaze’s body is still in good condition.

Kitanowaka vs Garyu – Kitanowaka’s first every ranked sumo match finds him against another newcomer from the generous flock that participated in Maezumo in Osaka. At this level of competition, it’s typically difficult to tell what is going to happen…

Preview – Tachiai’s “Ones to Watch”

At Tachiai, we have a group of talented or unique rikishi we follow each tournament in the lower divisions. Some of them are young up-and-coming potentials who are fighting their way to the top. Some are injured veterans struggling to return to the limelight of the top divisions. We call them the “Ones to Watch”.

The Osaka basho featured intense competition in the lower divisions, with some of our favorites going down in flames, but others rising to the cusp of promotion into the salaried ranks. The Natsu basho looks to have some of the most full-throttle action in a while, with an elite crop of rikishi gathering in the top 10 ranks of Makushita, and a few beloved veterans pushing hard up the ranks to return to their former glory. Lets take a look at who we will be following this May.

Wakamotoharu – After a 1 basho visit to Juryo, Wakamotoharu’s 5-10 record sees him relegated back to the top of Makushita. A simple kachi-koshi should be enough to return him to sekitori status, but in Makushita this is no easy task. He will be in fierce competition against the likes of Kotokamatani, Kizakiumi and Ryuko.

Ichiyamamoto – Returning to his highest ever rank of Ms3e, he will need to maintain a winning record to press for promotion. He has been kachi-koshi in his past 3 basho, and he will be working hard to overcome the same competitor that Wakamotoharu must out-shine to gain a handful of possible promotion spots to Juryo.

Hoshoryu – The young Mongolian powerhouse finds himself inches away from breaking into the salaried ranks, and he has yet to rack up his first make-koshi tournament. But the top 4 ranks of Makushita feature 4 rikishi who are fighting at their highest ever ranks, and a pair who are near their top posting. The competition in this bracket may be some of the toughest in many years.

Wakatakamoto – Just outside the Makushita meat grinder at the top, the lowest ranked Oanmi brother will be looking to pick up his 4 wins and inch closer to “the Wall”. His two prior tournaments have resulted in solid 5-2 results, and he looks to have his sumo in good form.

Midorifuji – Competing at his highest ever rank of Ms13e, he will face off day 1 against flagging former Juryo man Gokushindo on day 1. The top half of Makushita is frequently inhabited with former sekitori struggling to find a way back to the top. Note: Gokushindo has since withdrawn from the tournament.

Akua – Speaking of men who bounced out of Juryo and are still trying to find a way home, we find Akua, who I would predict is still suffering from one mechanical injury that saw him go kyujo from the 2018 Aki basho on day 12. If he has his body in good condition, he should be a tough competitor and we will see him start is long climb back upwards.

Naya – Another young rikishi with a lot of promise, Naya has size, his family heritage and all of the training they imparted on him in his favor. He finished Osaka with an impressive 6-1, and will find the competition quite a bit more challenging.

Musashikuni – Two consecutive make-koshi tournaments have put the scion of the Musashigawa heya back into the bottom range of Makushita. Musashikuni has had physical problems with his undercarriage, and his fans are simply waiting for him to get his body in good working order, and return to his normally powerful ways.

Ura – Note that we are unlikely to see Ura any time soon. He has once again had surgery to reconstruct his knee, but both Ura and his Oyakata have stated flatly they are looking for nothing short of perfection in the repair before he begins training again. I would guess no sooner than next year, by which time he will be well down the banzuke.

Roga – After finishing 7-0 in Osaka, and taking the Jonidan yusho, risking Mongolian star Roga finds himself in the top quarter of Sandanme. Given the strength and focus of his sumo thus far, I am guessing he will be a strong contender against the Sandanme regulars.

Terunofuji – The injured Ozeki made his return in Osaka, and finished 7-0 in Jonidan, losing the yusho in a playoff match with Roga. He is subsequently ranked a bit further down the banzuke at Sd49e. Terunofuji looked physically out of sorts in Osaka, and we hope he has been training and working on his conditioning since then. If he’s mechanically well, he should be able to make swift work of most of his opponents.

Torakio – It has been announced that the one time scion of Naruto heya has left sumo. He was struggling quite a bit as of late, and he has decided to pack it in and return to Bulgaria.

Shoji – A one time up and coming rikishi, Shoji peaked at Makushita 52 last year at Natsu, and has been trending lower since. Now near the middle of Sandanme, he has a real opportunity to regroup and get his sumo back on track.

Amakaze – A former Juryo mainstay, Amakaze became injured and took and extended kyujo, re-entering competition in Osaka, and turning in a respectable 6-1 from Jonidan. Now ranked towards the bottom of Sandanme, he should have a fairly easy kachi-koshi if his joints stay healthy.

Wakaichiro – Tachiai favorite Wakaichiro has yet to find the formula to hit and stick in Sandanme. During 2018, he faced a number of physical challenges, and each consecutive match saw him mount the dohyo with an increasing amount of tape on his body. Since then it seems he may have turned a corner on his health, which will delight his fans.

Kitanowaka – New sumotori Kitanowaka will have his first professional sumo matches in Tokyo this may. An impressive young man from Yamagata, he starts his sumo career at Jonokuchi 16e.