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SUMO: Natsu Basho 2017 (Day 4)

Here we are on Day 4 of the Natsu Basho, and something like a leaderboard is starting to come into focus. The number of undefeated rikishi is down to seven—yokozuna Harumafuji, yokozuna Hakuho, sekiwake Takayasu, komusubi Mitakeumi, M4 Tochiozan, M10 Ura, and M13 Daishomaru. Of course, there are thirteen rikishi with 2–1 records, so it’s still pretty much a big scrum . . . but an INTERESTING one. In fact, some of the most notable moments have been the “near thing” upsets-that-didn’t-happen. 

Yokozuna Kakuryu got his first win yesterday against M1 Endo, but the match very nearly went the other way. Endo had the yokozuna on the run, but got a little overzealous and so Kakuryu was able to turn the tables on him. There’s a lot of that, when you’re a yokozuna . . . everyone is out to beat you, and they’re all a little too anxious to grab at the first opening they see. And Kakuryu’s opponent today is komusubi Yoshikaze, who usually doesn’t make those kinds of mistakes. 

M1 Chiyokuni very nearly toppled yokozuna Kisenosato yesterday. The younger rikishi was showing the same quick moves fluid maneuvers that let him get a kinboshi [gold star award] for beating Kakuryu on Day 2, but despite his injuries, Kisenosato was able to keep up with him step for step and run the youngster out of the ring before toppling to the clay himself. It was arguably the most exciting match of the day yesterday, not least because the fans are all rooting so hard for the yokozuna.

In the match between two sekiwake, the once-ozeki Kotoshogiku and the future-ozeki Takayasu, Takayasu again showed why everyone is talking like his promotion is a shoe-in. At the tachi-ai [initial charge] he bounced Kotoshogiku like a rag doll and then just slapped him to the ground. It was a very important match that was completely dominated by the rising star.

All of this leads us to today’s matches. There are some exciting match-ups on the schedule—Kisenosato vs. Endo, Yoshikaze vs. Kakuryu, Chiyonokuni vs. Harumafuji, Mitakeumi vs. Takayasu, just to name a few. Lots of chances for excitement and minor upsets that could change the shape of the leaderboard and the emotion of the basho.

M10 Tochinoshin (2–1) vs. M10 Ura (2–1)—You can’t get two rikishi whose sizes and styles are more different than these two. Tochinoshin is a big bear of a Georgian who specializes in overwhelming his opponents with power sumo. Ura is one of the smallest rikishi who seems to prefer being literally underfoot of his opponents. Both are ranked at M10, Ura on his way up the banzuke, Tochinoshin still struggling with persistent knee problems. This should be as interesting a pairing as we’re likely to see all basho. (2:55)

M4 Tochiozan (3–0) vs. M6 Ikioi (2–1)—Two rikishi who spend about half each year in or around the sanyaku ranks, and the other half recovering from the losses they suffer against such elite opponents. They’re both at rankings where they ought to be able to excel this basho, so the question is which one is feeling more genki [energetic] today? (6:25)

Komusubi Mitakeumi (3–0) vs. sekiwake Takayasu (3–0)—Another match of two rikishi who are both at the top of their game. Takayasu, of course, wants to get double-digit wins so that he can secure a promotion to the rank of ozeki. Mitakeumi, on the other hand ALSO wants Takayasu to get that promotion so that there’s room at the sekiwake level for him to advance, too. Of course, he’d rather beat Takayasu along the way, just to establish a strong rivalry. It seems likely that this will be one of the marquis pairings for many tournaments to come. (8:25)

Sekiwake Tamawashi (2–1) vs. sekiwake Kotoshogiku (0–3)—Kotoshogiku’s goal this basho is pretty simple. He only needs eight wins to hold on to his sekiwake, just like the rest of the field. But starting the tournament winless over the first three days is not a good way to make that happen since the quality of his opponents hasn’t lessened at all with his new lower rank. He still has all four yokozuna, both ozeki, and the four other sanyaku rikishi. He’d better start socking away some wins before things get really tough in Week 2. (9:00)

Yokozuna Kisenosato (2–1) vs. M1 Endo (1–2)—I have to say, I’m impressed with Kisenosato’s performance yesterday. He showed that he’s not jut out there on the dohyo because it’s expected . . . he’s still trying to PROVE that he’s worthy of his yokozuna rank (not that there should be any doubt at this point). The problem is, he CLEARLY is hurting, and I’m afraid that he’s going to do himself some more serious injury. After all the time it took him to finally get promoted, I want his reign to be as long as possible and that means he has to stay healthy. (11:31)

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