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SUMO: Haru Basho 2018 (Day 3)

It’s Day 3 of the Haru Basho and I think I’m going to just quit making any predictions at all. Yesterday saw yokozuna Kakuryu continue to look strong, with ozeki Goeido following suit. On the other hand, both ozeki Takayasu and sekiwake Tochinoshin looked out of sorts and lost their Day 2 matches.

One thing that Tochinoshin did wonderfully in January was to keep his feet moving quickly. No matter who his opponent was, he stayed close to them and never over-extended his reach. If you ask me, THAT was the one main key to his yusho [tournament championship] win. Yesterday against Tamawashi, though, he seemed to have fallen back on his old habit of relying on his arm and upper body strength, and let his opponent keep some distance between them, which in turn left Tochinoshin in an unbalanced posture and vulnerable to a slap down. If the sekiwake wants to have a chance to repeat his January success (or even just to register a strong performance at his new rank), he needs to stay fast on his feet and keep the action chest-to-chest as much as possible.

Takayasu, on the other hand, just looked unprepared . . . against komusubi Ichinojo, no less! Pundits are saying that Ichinojo seems to have had some kind of epiphany and may finally start living up to his potential. That could be, but the fact of the matter is that Takayasu just walked head first into yesterday’s match without a plan and suffered just the sort of defeat that type of sumo begs for. And I’ll grant that Ichinojo was more aware and more reactive than he usually is, doing much more than merely lumbering forward (as has been his wont for the past three years), but he’s going to have to beat some opponents who aren’t sleepwalking against him before I’ll give him any real consideration for being a contender. Meanwhile, at 0–2 Takayasu has gone from one of the likely yusho contenders to a dark horse who has to hang with the pack and hope for other rikishi to slip and let him back into the race (a long way to slip in just the first two days of the basho).

Kakuryu did well in seeping up with M1 Endo, but I think I saw him shaking his injured fingers at the end of the match, as though he’d stung them . . . which is just what he needs to AVOID doing if he wants to stay healthy and in this tournament all the way to senshuraku [the final day].

Sekiwake Mitakeumi looked strong for the second day in a row. It’s possible that this could be his break-out tournament as he tries to get double-digit wins for the first time since being promoted to sanyaku (a full year ago). He’s proving to be a strong sanyaku rikishi, but if he ever wants to have a chance at promotion to ozeki (and for sure he does) he must begin winning ten and eleven matches per basho.

Further down the banzuke, I’m a little worried about M14 Ikioi who, despite having won both of his first two matches, has an obviously painful inner thigh injury that makes him appear to be doing his sumo on one leg. At that rank, he should be dominant (which is lucky for him, and why he’s currently 2–0), but even lesser opponents are going to start pressuring his bad leg . . . and if he can’t get kachi-koshi [majority of wins] at that level he’ll for certain be demoted down to Juryo in May. I hope he can quickly run off eight wins and then sit out for the rest of the basho.

Also doing well in the lower ranks is M12 Ishiura, the tiny but muscular rikishi who comes from the same stable as yokozuna Hakuho. He’s won his first two bouts with the kind of speed and cleverness he showed last year when he first made the trip up to the Makuuchi division. The key for him is to always keep his opponents guessing as to which of his several strategies he will employ, and to every while try something completely new. The second he becomes predictable, out go his chances.

M14 Ikioi (2–0) vs. M16 Hidenoumi (1–1)—Ikioi is clearly fighting injured. Just watch him grimace every time he has to squat. But he seems to be using the pain to help him focus. He needs to get eight wins to stay in the Makuuchi division, and he wants to get them ASAP. I’ll be keeping an eye on his efforts to do just that. (1:40)
M12 Ishiura (2–0) vs. M13 Asanoyama (1–1)—So far this basho, Ishiura has had an answer for everything that his opponents have thrown at him, twisting, turning, and wriggling his way into a couple of victories. How long can he keep it up before one of the bigger rikishi manages to get a good grip on him? (2:50)
M3 Kotoshogiku (1–1) vs. sekiwake Tochinoshin (1–1)—Tochinoshin’s focus faded a little bit yesterday, the question is whether he can get it back today. He’s got what it takes physically to beat Kotoshogiku, he just needs to get his mind in the right place. Meawhile, Kotoshogiku is still trying to prove that he’s got most of his old ozeki moves intact, and beating the shin-sekiwake would be a good way to do it. (11:15)
Komusubi Chiyotairyu (0–2) vs. ozeki Goeido (1–1)—Goeido’s one-and-one so far this basho, but he hasn’t really looked sharp in either bout. However, Chiyotairyu has looked worse. Historically, these two are about evenly matched. We’ll see which one has more on the ball here in Osaka. (12:50)
Ozeki Takayasu (0–2) vs. M2 Arawashi (0–2)—Takayasu needs to shake off the previous two days and get back to his style of sumo. More than anything, that entails simply relaxing and trusting in himself. Unfortunately, he’s not so good at that . . . he’s a fretter. If he’s not careful, though, he could fret himself all the way into a make-koshi [majority of losses]. (14:00)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (2–0) vs. M1 Tamawashi (2–0)—Kakuryu jammed his already-injured fingers in his win yesterday, but he’s still looking calm and confident. I guess that’s what being the only active yokozuna in the tournament will do. In Tamawashi, however, he’s facing an opponent who has already beaten an ozeki [Goeido] and last tournament’s winner [Tochinoshin], so he’s going to be equally confident. (15:00)

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