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SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho Senshuraku [Final Day] (Day 15)

Welcome to senshuraku [the final day] for the 2018 Nagoya Basho! With his win over M13 Tochinoshin yesterday, sekiwake Mitakeumi improved his record to 13–1 and secured his haru-yusho [first tournament championship]. The closest competitors remain M9 Yutakayama and M13 Asanoyama with 11–3 records, which is also pretty dang good! That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to watch today, though. A handful of rikishi are still on the bubble with 7–7 records, and hoping to get one final win to get their kachi-koshi [majority of wins], and many others are looking bolster their upcoming promotions, or mitigate their certain demotions.

There are some pundits and fans that will put a metaphorical asterisk next to Mitakeumi’s yusho win given the unusual number of high-ranking kyujo [absence due to injury] this basho, meaning he didn’t have to fight ANY of the yokozuna OR the previous yusho champion. I disagree with such nitpicking. The competition was the same for everyone, and Mitakeumi gave by far his best performance as a sekiwake—getting double-digit wins for the first time as a sanyaku rikishi, breaking his personal best consecutive-win streak, and setting himself up for a run at an ozeki promotion in September. On top of all that, Mitakeumi was awarded botha gino-sho [technique special prize] an a shukun-sho [outstanding performance special prize] for his break-out performance over the past two weeks. 

If he wins today in his bout against Yutakayama and finishes 14–1, Mitakeumi will have 23 wins over the course of his last two tournaments, and only need 10 more in the Aki Basho to hit the magic “33 in 3” mark that would get him promoted to sumo’s second-highest rank. (And even if he loses today, he’ll still be within reasonable striking distance of that goal.)

This was a very strange Nagoya Basho. Not only were there the previously mentioned absences, the two remaining ozeki—Goeido and Takayasu—BOTH started the tournament kadoban [in danger of ozeki demotion] and struggled in their attempts to reach kachi-koshi. In the end both succeeded, and saved their ranks, but neither covered himself in glory. 

There were some stand-out performances in the lower half of the banzuke [ranking sheet] by young up-and-coming rikishi. Indeed, the fact that both of the runners-up for the basho were ranked below M8 is a signal for how unusually this tournament progressed. As recognition, both Yutakayama and Asanoyama were awarded kanto-sho [fighting spirit special prize] for their spectacular efforts. 

As I usually do, I will highlight ALL of the matches featuring “bubble” rikishi . . . since that’s where the greatest drama will be. Here, then, are the top matches for senshuraku. 

M8 Chiyoshoma (4–10) vs. M14 Okinoumi (7–7)—While Okinoumi may be on the bubble, this ISN’T a match to watch, mainly because there was NO match. Chiyoshoma broke a toe yesterday and reported kyujo for the first time in his 498-bout career. So Okinoumi gets his kachi-koshi without having to earn it, which is even more shameful considering how low he was ranked this tournament. (4:00)
M7 Takarafuji (6–8) vs. M15 Ryuden (8–6)—Takarafuji started off terribly this tournament, and is for sure make-koshi [majority of losses]. But he struggled back gamely and if he can win today and finish 7–8 it will certainly keep him from dropping too far on September’s banzuke. (5:50)
M5 Daishomaru (5–9) vs. M12 Sadanoumi (7–7)—The next of our bubble rikishi is Sadanoumi. He’s got a tough draw in that he’s fighting someone ranked seven rungs above him, but then Daishomaru is having a pretty lackluster tournament and will likely be ranked down around M12 in September. (7:35)
M9 Yutakayama (11–3) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (13–1)—There’s nothing in particular riding on the outcome, but it’s always fun to see the leader square off against his closest challenger. In fact, this is probably the best match of the day. (12:30)
Sekiwake Ichinojo (7–7) vs. M6 Endo (8–6)—Ichinojo is on the bubble, and given how he’s performed this basho, he’s lucky to be there. He’s got to beat fan-favorite Endo in order to retain his rank. (15:00)
Ozeki Goeido (9–5) vs. ozeki Takayasu (9–5)—And in our final match of the day, “the two ozeki who couldn’t.” Both of these guys have had lukewarm tournaments, and although both successfully survived being kadoban, I think it’s safe to say that both are disappointed with their overall performance. In the end, only one of them will wind up with double-digit wins (which basically is the minimum for a “successful” basho when you’re an ozeki). (15:50)

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