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SUMO: 2018 Hatsu Basho (Day 10)

Welcome to Day 9 of the Hatshu Basho. Yokozuna Kakuryu remains in sole possession of the lead in the yusho [tournament championship] race with his perfect 8–0 record, making him also the first to secure kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. I’m honestly a little torn about how I feel regarding Kakuryu. It’s good to see him in full health again, but I’d also very much like to see the yusho won by someone who has never before hoisted the Emperor’s Cup.

Of course, after yesterday, there is only one competitor with a 7–1 record, so it’s not like there’s a bundle of competitors for the title. When M3 Tochinoshin showed off his raw strength by power-lifting sekiwake Mitakeumi out of the ring, he grabbed that spot, leaving just three rikishi with 6–2 records behind him—Mitakeumi, M9 Shohozan, and M13 Daieisho. The wheels would have to come off several different wagons for anyone below that level to get back into the competition.

Bad news: As of today, komusubi Onosho will be going kyujo [absent due to injury] apparently due to a leg injury suffered when M1 Ichinojo threw him around like a ragdoll yesterday. If he can’t come back and somehow get eight wins, this will be Onosho’s first ever make-koshi [majority of losses] in the Makuuchi Division.

In the good news department, M10 Aminishiki returns from four days kyujo thanks to the shin bruise he suffered on Day 5. His record is 1–5–3 at this point, so he doesn’t have even a hope of reaching kachi-koshi, but if he performs well enough he can mitigate how far he’ll drop on the March banzuke [ranking sheet] and hope to remain in the Makuuchi Division for one more basho.

M8 Tochiozan (6–3) vs. 13 Daieisho (7–2)—I haven’t shown much of Tochiozan this basho, which is a shame because he’s looked pretty strong. It’s just that he didn’t get off to a good enough start to be in the yusho mix, and his matches haven’t been especially exciting. Today, though, he faces one of the rikishi still within striking distance of the leader. Of course, if Tochiozan has his way, Daieisho won’t be able to say that again tomorrow. (4:05)
M3 Tochinoshin (8–1) vs. M2 Kotoshogiku (4–5)—Tochiozan really is on a tear. The fact that his only loss has come to the one rikishi who doesn’t have ANY losses says even more about how he’s doing. Today, he takes on former ozeki Kotoshogiku, who is also having a pretty good tournament. Should make for another entertaining match. (8:50)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7–2) vs. M4 Arawashi (4–5)—Mitakeumi fought hard and lost on both the last two days. It’s taken him out of a share of the lead, and out of second place, but he still is well poised to have a great basho AND contend for the yusho if things get tight in the final weekend. But that requires him to shake off these losses and get his head back in the game. For all that I praise, Mitakeumi for his skills, his biggest drawback is that he’s still only been in the Makuuchi Division for a couple of years and he still makes newbie mistakes. THAT’S what he needs to avoid right now. He has to avoid the temptation to get up a head of steam over his back-to-back losses, and just go back to doing the smart, patient, methodical sumo he did in Week 1. (11:10)
Sekiwake Tamawashi (3–6) vs. ozeki Takayasu (6–3)—Everything I just said about Mitakeumi is true about Takayasu, EXCEPT that he’s an ozeki and he’s been around awhile. He SHOULD be smart and seasoned enough to shake off his recent losses and just get back to business. His win yesterday over Shodai made it seem like he’s on that path. I want to see him follow up with more of the same today against Tamawashi. (12:55))
Yokozuna Kakuryu (9–0) vs. M5 Okinoumi (3–6)—I’m beginning to think that this is Kakuryu’s tournament. Certainly, at this point, it’s his to lose. This middle-third of the basho is a dangerous place for him historically. He often gets himself in trouble by losing focus in bouts against the folks he ought to beat leading up to the final weekend. The minute he finds himself thinking “this is the easy bit,” or anticipating his next-day opponent, that’s when things can go off the rails.  (14:15)

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