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SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho (Day 14)

It’s Day 14 of the Nagoya Basho and sekiwake Mitakeumi is still in the lead! In fact, with a 12–1 record he only needs one more win to secure his very first top division yusho [tournament championship]. To make matters even more interesting, the only rikishi who are even mathematically still in the running are M9 Yutakayama and M13 Asanoyama. They must win both of their remaining matches AND hope that Mitakeumi loses both of his, and even then it would only get them into a playoff on Sunday afternoon when the regular matches are done. 

Many pundits were worried that after his controversial loss to ozeki Takayasu on Day 12, Mitakeumi might suffer from a bit of depression or anxiety that would put him at a disadvantage against ozeki Goeido yesterday. However, the sekiwake seems to have just let Thursday’s bad luck flow away like water under a bridge, because he came back strong on Day 13 and beat Goeido quite handily. Today he is scheduled to face M13 Tochiozan, who fell out of the yusho race with his loss yesterday to Asanoyama. (The interesting thing about this pairing is that is seems plain that the Kyokai [Sumo Association] WANTED to set up a high stakes match between the leader and one of his challengers, but since they announce the next day’s pairings BEFORE the current day’s competition, they had to GUESS at who would win the Tochiozan/Asanoyama bout. Clearly, they expected Tochiozan to have come out on top. Oops!)

As much Mitakeumi looked strong in yesterday’s match, Goeido went back to looking a bit lost. He made a strong tachi-ai [initial charge], but when Mitakeumi met him with an equally strong opening move, Goeido seemed to have no back-up plan, and the sekiwake rather easily maneuvered him out of the ring. All in all, I think that Goeido should count himself lucky that so many of the top rikishi were kyujo [absent due to injury] this basho or he very likely would have been make-koshi [majority of losses]—and since he was kadoban [threatened with ozek demotion] this tournament, he’d have lost his rank. Now he’s secure again for at least the rest of this year.

Much to my surprise, ozeki Takayasu—who was also kadoban this tourney—did not take his suspect eighth victory and report kyujo because of his twisted left arm. He came back today to try to get a ninth win against M6 Endo. Takayasu’s performance on Thursday made it seem like he was favoring his left arm (which he injured in May, and re-injured when komusubi Tamawashi pinned it in a pretty vicious kotonage [arm bar] earlier this week), and he performed the same way against Endo. At the tachi-ai he reached his left arm underneath in order to get a safe-if-not-terribly-secure grip on his opponent’s belt, and then trusted on his superior size to give him a chance to use his right arm to make a winning maneuver. Luckily enough, that’s just what happened.

Sekiwake Ichinojo lost for the seventh time yesterday in a match against M6 Chiyotaryu. The big Mongolian now has to win BOTH of his remaining matches in order to get kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and retain his spot at sumo’s third highest rank. He faces Goeido today, and the question really is which of these two faltering rikishi will pull themselves together enough to earn a victory?

Today’s top matches include:

M12 Sadanoumi (7–6) vs. M15 Ryuden (7–6)—The first match of the day turns out to be one of the best matches of the day. Two rikishi, both needing one more win to secure kachi-koshi. The loser will get another chance tomorrow, but neither one wants to wait that long. (0:15)
M6 Endo (8–5) vs. M13 Asanoyama (10–3)
—Asanoyama is one of the two remaining rikishi still with a chance to vie for the yusho. He MUST win BOTH of his remaining matches, starting with today’s bout against Endo. (4:10)
M13 Tochiozan (9–4) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (12–1)—If Mitakeumi wins this match, he takes the yusho. Tochiozan is going for pride, hoping to prove that he deserves to have been one of the front-runners so deep into the basho. (10:00)
Ozeki Goeido (9–4) vs. sekiwake Ichinojo (6–7)—For me, this is a “top match” for completely perverse reasons—I just want to see which one tanks the hardest. (11:40)
M9 Yutakayama (10–3) vs. ozeki Takayasu (9–4)—By the time this match happens, we’ll know the result of Mitakeumi’s bout, and that will decide whether this is a chance for Yutakayama to stay in the yusho race, or just a pairing of two also-rans. However, maybe it will shed some light on how Takayasu’s left arm is doing. (13:00)

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