SUMO: 2019 Haru Basho-Day 12
Day 12 of the Haru Basho and there’s one undefeated rikishiâ€”yokozuna Hakuhoâ€”and one one-loss rikishiâ€”M4 Ichinojo. Meanwhile, a group of five rikishi are one further step behind with 9â€“2 records and hoping that the two leaders both stumble enough for them to get back into the hunt for the yusho [tournament championship]â€” yokozuna Kakuryu, ozeki Takayasu, ozeki Goeido, M7 Aoiyama, and M8 Kotoshogiku.
Hakuho had an important win yesterday, beating sekiwake Takakeisho in a scrappy match. The sekiwake beat Hakuho when the last fought in January, and used the same strategy this time. But rather than take the bait, this time Hakuho played it cool and patient and forced Takakeisho to be more aggressive, eventually giving up an opening for the yokozuna to move in, establish a belt grip, and then throw the sekiwake to the ground. This kept Hakuho with a perfect 11â€“0 record and dropped Takakeisho to 8â€“3â€”not a bad record, but he still needs at least two (and better three) wins if he hopes to be promoted to the rank of ozeki.
Ichinojo faced Aoiyama on Wednesday, each of them entering with 9â€“1 records. This match with two very tall, very heavy, slow moving rikishi who like slap and thrust attacks is probably as close to what most Americans imagine sumo is always like. But it also was a very deliberate, closely contested bout that had the whole stadium on the edge of their zabuton [floor seating cushions]. Ichinojo came out on top and really is looking like a serious threat to Hakuho (who he’ll probably fight on Friday).
Ozeki Tochinoshin’s hopes to overcome his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] status took a turn for the worse when he lost yesterday to Takayasu. With a 6â€“5 record, that means that Tochinoshin must win half of his remaining four bouts, and we know that three of those opponents are going to be Hakuho, Kakyryu, and Goeido with Takakeisho most likely rounding out the group. When he’s healthy, Tochinoshin could be counted on to at least make a good run at that performance. But as bad as his leg has been all tournament, he’s really going to have to pull out all the stops to get those two wins.
Let’s have a look at some of today’s most interesting matches.
M8 Asanoyama (7â€“4) vs. M4 Ichinojo (10â€“1)â€”The big question for me here lies entirely on whether Ichinojo continues to keep his focus. It’s strange, given how well he’s doing, but he has a long history of letting himself down mentally just when things seem to be going well. (6:30)
M1 Endo (4â€“7) vs. sekiwake Tamawashi (4â€“7)â€”Another desperation sumo match between two big name rikishiâ€”the loser will be make-koshi. (9:15)
Sekiwake Takakeisho (8â€“3) vs. ozeki Goeido (9â€“2)â€”Takakeisho needs three more wins to cement his hopes for a promotion to ozeki (although he might get it with only two). Goeido wants to remain in the hunt for the yusho here in front of his hometown fans. (10:00)
Yokozuna Hakuho (11â€“0) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (6â€“5)â€”Tochinoshin needs two more wins or he’ll lose his ozeki rank. Hakuho is on the hunt for a zensho-yusho [no-loss tournament championship]. Tochinoshin has only ever beaten Hakuho once, in twenty-seven tries. (11:05)
Ozeki Takayasu (9â€“2) vs. yokozuna Kakuryu (9â€“2)â€”One of these two will fall out of contention for the yusho. (12:35)