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SUMO: Nagoya Basho 2017 (Day 2)

It’s Day 2 of the Nagoya Basho and already there’s been a BUNCH of surprises. All the ozeki and half of the yokozuna lost their opening matches! More than anything else, this certainly brings home the notion that the sport of sumo is sitting at the crossroads of a generational shift. The old guard isn’t as invincible as they once seemed, and the new “kids” are coming into their own and are ready to show the world what they’ve got. 

One sign of this is the number of former sanyaku-level rikishi who are now in the bottom third of the banzuke [ranking sheet], along with a bunch of others who over the last few years have often been in ranked at M1–3. Look at all the familiar names ranked M10 or lower—Takarafuji, Kotoyuki, Shohozan, Takekaze, Sokokurai, Arawashi, and Gagamaru (who only just fought his way back up from the Juryo division).

On the other hand, look at all the relatively young rikishi who are debuting at their highest rank ever—Ishiura (M8), Onosho (M6), Kagayaki (M4), Ura (M4), Hokutofuji (M2), Mitakeumi (sekiwake), and of course Takayasu (ozeki). There is a seismic shift in power (as measured by ranking) to the young folks. The question is who among them is strong enough to contend for the yusho (tournament championship)?

Guess we’ll just have to keep watching to find out. In the meanwhile, here are the best of today’s matches.

M6 Onosho (1–0) vs. M5 Tochiozan (1–0)—Onosho is one of the most exciting young rikishi to come break into the top division recently. Despite being only 21 years old, he fights with confidence and poise, and seems to have no fear or hesitation in the shadow any opponent, no matter what his rank. Tochiozan, on the other hand is the mirror-world Takayasu. Two years ago the pair seemed evenly matched and seemed to move up and down the banzuke in sync. In the last year, though, Takayasu has found his groove while Tochiozan continues to search for consistency. He has what it takes to be in sanyaku, or even to rise to ozeki . . . he just doesn’t always show it. (4:50)

M4 Kagayaki (0–1) vs. M3 Endo (0–1)—Kagayaki is a strange case. He’s tall, strong, and quick on his feet . . . but he doesn’t seem to have the “killer instinct” it takes to finish off opponents who refuse to fall after the first or second charge. He could be a contender if he would learn to go out and GET wins instead of waiting for them to happen to him. Today he’s facing Endo, another very popular rikishi with stellar skills, but a knack for FINDING ways to lose matches that he ought to win. (5:35)

Ozeki Takayasu (0–1) vs. M3 Ikioi (0–1)—After a surprise loss yesterday, Takayasu is still looking for his first win as an ozeki. Today he faces Ikioi, who lost because of an inadvertent step outside the ring (kind of an “unforced error”) on Day 1. Both are looking to change their fortunes right away. (7:30)

Komusubi Yoshikaze (1–0) vs. ozeki Goeido (0–1)—Yoshikaze started the tournament by proving why folks call him a “giant killer,” beating yokozuna Harumafuji on Day 1. Today he faces ozeki Goeido, who got out-muscled by Tochinoshin yesterday. Goeido needs to get as many wins as possible in Week 1 because he’s unlikely to do well against his fellow ozeki and the four yokozuna in Week 2, and he really NEEDS to stop this pattern of being kadoban (threatened with ozeki demotion) every other tournament. (8:00)

Yokozuna Hakuho (1–0) vs. M2 Tochinoshin (1–0)—Two of my favorite rikishi going head-to-head. Of course, in twenty-four previous matches Tochinoshin has NEVER managed to beat Hakuho even once. But he always comes back strong and puts in a good showing. This match is worth watching if only for the close up shot of Hakuho’s face in the middle of the bout. THAT’S a look of focus and determination … that’s the face of a YOKOZUNA! (8:30)

Yokozuna Kisenosato (0–1) vs. M1 Takakeisho (1–0)—This is the biggest, baddest, meatiest slap-fest of the day.  (10:00)

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