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SUMO: 2017 Aki Basho (Day 10)

It’s Day 10 of the Aki Basho, and we have only one rikishi atop the leaderboard with an 8–1 record—ozeki Goeido. The other two co-leaders, M3 Onosho and M12 Daishomaru, both lost yesterday dropping them into a tie with M3 Chiyotairyu and M9 Takanoiwa for second place.

Truth be told, Goeido did not look great in his victory. He lost the tachi-ai [initial charge] to M2 Aoiyama, but the big Bulgarian is just back from having missed the first seven days of the basho with an injured left knee. After Goeido got shoved back, he made a jog to the left just as Aoiyama reached for the back of his head (presumably to try a slap down) and Aoiyama’s knee left him unable to catch his balance. Goeido still looked a little dazed as Aoiyama fell to the ground of his own accord. So while it’s a definite win for the ozeki, it’s hard to call it much of a victory . . . and it’s hard to think that it provided much boost to his confidence.

One thing it DID provide was Goeido’s eighth win, making him kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and eliminating his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] status. No matter how the rest of this tournament goes, Goeido will still be an ozeki in November.

Onosho was a little too overconfident in his match against fellow M3 Chiyotairyu. Actually, for the first time, he looked the way I kind of expected him to be at the beginning of the basho—a 21-year-old rikishi who’s just a little out of his depth. Chiyotairyu didn’t do anything that the higher ranked rikishi didn’t do in earlier matches, it just seemed that Onosho had decided the match result was a foregone conclusion, and so he got sloppy. I actually chuckled out loud at the perplexed look on his face as he got up and wiped off the clay. 

At the end of today we’ll be two-thirds of the way through the basho . . . and at the moment Goeido is in the driver’s seat. He is alone in the lead, and he’s only has to face one more rikishi ranked equal to or above him (that’s yokozuna Harumafuji, who he’ll fight on Sunday). But he’s got some tough competitors headed his way over the next few days—komusubi Tochiozan today and sekiwake Mitakeumi tomorrow—so there’s still a lot of uncertainty left in this tournament.

Let’s look at today’s big matches.

M8 Chiyoshoma (3–6) vs. M12 Daishomaru (7–2)—Having dropped out of his tie for the lead with yesterday’s loss to Takarafuji, Daishomaru now must get back to his winning ways if he wants to stay in the hunt for the yusho [tournament championship]. However, the way he lost proved that he’s nowhere near as strong, patient, or skilled as his performance so far would make it seem . . . he just was on a tear. Can he get back on it again? (3:45)
M10 Ishiura (2–7) vs. M8 Takarafuji (6–3)
—In his win over Daishomaru yesterday, Takarafuji proved that he’s stronger than other rikishi his size (and even a little bigger). He’s a tough bulldog of a fighter with lots of experience fighting against top-level competition. Meanwhile, Ishiura has been having trouble this basho. It seems like folks have gotten wise to his favorite moves and he’s having trouble sneaking past their defenses. He’s going to have to go back to the heya [training stable] (or watch more videos of earlier diminutive rikishi, like Mainoumi) and figure out some new tactics. Still, he’s fast and clever, and never should be underestimated. (4:15)
M6 Ichinojo (5–4) vs. M9 Takanoiwa (7–2)—Takanoiwa never had a slice of the lead in this tournament, but he’s been quietly putting together an impressive performance and has been one win behind the leaders pretty much the whole way. On the other hand, Ichinojo seems to have reverted to the man who has no maneuvers or tactics other than being huge and nearly impossible to move. Don’t get me wrong, those tactics can win when your opponent is impatient or lacks the pure strength to carry off a victory. (6:50)
M1 Tochinoshin (1–8) vs. M3 Chiyotairyu (7–2)—Chiyotairyu is another rikishi who has trailed the leaders the whole way and seems to be lurking in wait of his chance to strike. Luckily for him, Tochinoshin’s right knee is so bad that he can barely move himself around the ring. Much though I hate to admit it, Tochinoshin is unlikely to get ANY more wins this basho, let alone steal one from someone in the yusho hunt. (8:15)
M3 Onosho (7–2) vs. M1 Kotoshogiku (5–4)—Onosho lost his second match yesterday, and he did so looking like an over-anxious, over-confident rookie . . . which pretty much is what he is. He may have looked like a veteran during Week 1, but the truth is that he’s still learning the ropes here in the Makuuchi Division. Still, he’s shown us he CAN perform against tough competition and in tough situations. Today he gets to show us if he can do that the pressure is on and he truly NEEDS to. Kotoshogiku started the tournament looking like the ozeki he until recently was. But after four straight wins, he suffered four straight losses and is still fighting only a little better than even. In point of fact, he’s still fighting to get his kachi-koshi while Onosho is fighting for a chance at the tournament title . . . which cause is more compelling? And which rikishi wants the victory more? (9:53)
Komusubi Tochiozan (3–6) vs. ozeki Goeido (8–1)—Goeido has sole possession of the tournament lead for the first time. His fate rests in his own hands. As long as he keeps winning, no one can catch him. But he hasn’t been looking very confident, and recently has taken advantage of opponents who were either inexperienced or injured. Today the man standing in his way is Tochiozan, who  has been struggling a bit this basho. He’s been moving pretty well, but hasn’t been able to generate enough power to notch wins at this level of competition. Can he summon the strength to topple the ozeki? (14:10)
M5 Takakeisho (5–4) vs. yokozuna Harumafuji (6–3)—Harumafuji seems to be back in the groove after some major missteps in Week 1. It would take a lot of rikishi making several mistakes each to get him back into yusho contention, but he can still play the role of spoiler. All of the competitors must come through him on their way to senshuraku and a possible date with the Emperor’s Cup.  (15:10)

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